Central Virginia 12/18-19/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Stoney Creek; December 18, 2012

We have a small coniferous tree in our back yard about 15 feet from our bird feeder, and some of the birds, especially Cardinals, like to hide in the tree, fly to the feeder, and then return to the tree. I have seen at least four male and four female Cardinals at the feeder or on the ground next to the feeder at the same time.

Late in the afternoon, I was looking at the feeder through a window when Cardinals seemed to explode out of that coniferous tree all at the same time. I looked down on the ground and saw a Sharp-shinned Hawk with a female Cardinal. It must have flown right into the tree branches to grab it. I got a few photos through the window, but when I opened our back door to get a better shot, the Sharpie flew away.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Central Virginia; December 19, 2012

I had an errand to run up on Wintergreen Mountain, and decided to take the long way to get there so I could make some birding stops. It turned out to be a day that started out great, but ended up as a poor birding day. It was sunny, bright, and warm, with afternoon temperatures around 60 degrees. There were some breezes down here in the valley from the approaching cold front. On the 10 mile stretch on route 151 north to route 250, I saw two Red-tailed Hawks - one perched and one flying, and hoped that seeing a couple of hawks right off the bat might mean that I was going to have a great day.

My first stop was up at Sawmill Ridge Overlook on Skyline Drive. I went looking for Crossbills in the pine trees there, but the wind was so strong at that elevation that there wasn't anything to see but some great scenery. Along my 14 mile round-trip on Skyline Drive, all I saw were a small flock of Juncos and a flying Red-shouldered Hawk. Four deer jumped out in front of my car at the same location going both directions, but I was able to stop in time on both occasions.

My next stop was Sherando Lake in the Shenandoah Valley - a 24 acre lake in the middle of the George Washington National Forest. You would expect that there would be lots of birds there. But all I saw was a sleepy, unidentified duck, a Kingfisher, one Carolina Chickadee, and one Pileated Woodpecker.

Unidentified duck and Belted Kingfisher

Next stop was up on Wintergreen Mountain (actually two mountains: Black Rock and Devils Knob). On the way up there a Cooper's Hawk flew overhead and out of sight. It was really windy up there, and all I saw were some Crows, Turkey Vultures, Dark-eyed Juncos, Tufted Titmice, and a White-breasted Nuthatch, but in the strong wind, the Nuthatch looled like a White-ruffed Nuthatch!

Tufted Titmouse

White-breasted Nuthatch

On the way home I stopped at the Rockfish Valley Trail. It was about noon when I got there and parked off route 627 near the first wooden bridge, and I saw a juvenile Cooper's Hawk perched on the other side of Reids Creek. I got off a few photos, but when I moved to get a clear shot, it flew away. As soon as I crossed the bridge, I saw a Red-tailed Hawk flying my direction. I only saw a few birds on the trail.

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

American Crow

Belted Kingfisher

In the mid-afternoon I hiked here in Stoney Creek, but only saw a few birds. I think that it must have been a bird holiday today, and they were all sleeping in or at the beach.

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