Revised 2011 bird total:
437 species

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vesper Sparrow and Red-breasted Merganser added!

Vesper Sparrow, a lifer for me and year bird #242
Photo by Penny Warren

Today I attended a field trip to Lake Moomaw and area, a location in my neighbor county Bath with the Augusta Bird Club which I'm part of (it's a really awesome club!).

In the early part of the day on the way into an area we saw about 3 birds "graveling" and flying off but noticed them at the last minute and couldn't ID them but our first thought was American Pipit which if they were would be a lifer for me.  On the way back we carefully searched the area and I was a bit disappointed when they were first identified as Song Sparrows as that's an easy to get bird that I've seen plenty of already this year.  Then trip leader Allen Larner said something like ", those are 3 Vesper!".  Sure enough, that's what they were, 3 Vesper Sparrows which is a lifer for me.  Awesome bird -- worth the trip for sure and the trip wasn't close to half over yet!  We then went to Lake Moomaw where we observed some fantastic birds like Common Loons and Horned Grebes in breeding plumage, DC Cormorants, Fox Sparrows, Bonaparte's and Ring-billed Gulls, and much else although no year birds.  Next thing you know, while trying to locate an UI duck, 5 ducks flew in and Allen told the tale of what they were an I was happy because they were Red-breasted Mergansers which I have been searching for for a long time and is a well needed year bird!  All in all a very fantastic, memorable day and extremely productive for my big year.  Thanks tons to Allen for everything and to the birds for showing themselves!  A truly terrific day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pine Warbler added!

I birded Shenandoah National Park today and saw 6 Pine Warblers in a small stand of pines which is a year bird.

Super exciting!

The year total is currently 241!


Monday, March 28, 2011

A note about my year

Just wanted to let you all know of this:

somewhere along the way in listing the birds for my Junior Big Year I accidentally added about 40 to 50 year birds that I didn't have so for a while I was saying "and year bird # 280" but now am back at 240 which IS correct once I made the official list that I'm keeping up to date.  It's too much work for me to go back now and correct the numbers in my blog, but just wanted to clarify that the latest numbers (Ross's Goose # 240, Long-tailed Duck # 239, etc.) are correct.


Ross's Goose added!

I took the trip for the Ross's Goose this afternoon to try for the bird even though it was a roll of the dice to wether it would be there or not.

Arrived at Willow Lake, the site of the Ross's Goose and there it was with 30 Canadas!  Observed it for 30 minutes.  What a beautiful and great bird!  Awesome to add it as that was a bird that I thought it would be really hard to get this year.

I forgot the camera, so no picture.  Oh well.

Currently at 240 for the J. Big Year!


Ross's Goose update

The Ross's Goose I mentioned in Yesterday's report has not been reported seen today, but not been reported to have left either.  It has not been talked about on the listservs.  This afternoon has freed up for me so in an hour or so I'll be off to try for the bird.  A bit of a long-shot I guess because it could have left since it was last reported at 7 pm yesterday, but who knows.  When a lifer is on the board of possibilities just 45 minutes away it's a must go look!

The Violet-green Swallow has not been seen today either so I'm putting that as a possibility for the Junior Big Year out of the picture.  I can't get every bird that just stays around for a few hours.

I'm still at 239 for the year but hopefully that number will be 240 after the goose trip.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Long-tailed Ducks added!

                                       4 Long-tailed Ducks, a lifer for me and year bird #239

Disappointed that a Violet-green Swallow had been just 45 minutes away from home and that I missed the bird, I decided to check my emails to see if any new reports had come in of the swallow.  No, no reports of the swallow.  However, I was struck to see an email headed "Oldsqaws in Augusta County".  I opened up the email, and to my delight somebody had seen 4 Long-tailed Ducks (aka Oldsqaws) on a pond just 15 to 20 minutes away!  As I'm 11 years old and dependent on my parents to drive me and my mama was scheduled to be my driver today had the Violet-green Swallow showed back up, I went to her to talk about driving me for the Long-tails as I needed that for a lifer:)  She agreed to go so I quickly ran around to grab clean clothes, a coat, socks and shoes and my equipment (camera, spotting scope, binoculars, etc.).  Within 10 to 15 minutes we were off.  Arrived at the pond and after searching just a minute or two we easily picked up the Long-tailed Ducks.  We got great, close views of them for about 45 minutes before they swam off further into the pond and we left.  What great birds!

I just got notified of a Ross's Goose at a pond about 45 minutes away.  That's also a lifer I need.  However, the rest of today, tomorrow, and Tuesday is already booked on my schedule and I probably won't be able to make it Wednesday or Thursday either so it's probably a real long shot that it will still be there Friday but who knows.  Maybe I'll be able to make it Tuesday or Wednesday but only a small chance.

Current total for the J. Big Year is 239.

Until later,


The Swallow has gone missing

News on Va-Bird listeserv this morning is that the VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW reported in Crozet yesterday at Old Trail Pond has gone missing this morning.  Birders on site this morning reported that the Tree Swallows stayed mainly perched, flying out only occasionally.  The Violet-green has not been sighted.  If I hear about a report of it being re sighted I'll try to hurry to get there if I can.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Shenandoah Nat. Park birds -- Louisiana Waterthrush added!

Yesterday and today I've spent the daylight hours in Shenandoah Nat. Park in hopes of finding early birds and mammals, too.  Yesterday, Field Sparrows were plentiful assuring me that the warm weather of spring was just around the corner, but 1 each of Fox Sparrow and Brown Creeper reminded me that winter was still in the air.  However, then, another sure sign of spring was observed when I saw a Louisiana Waterthrush along a mountain stream, a life bird for me!  It was a great day of winter and summer birds.

Today did not support any year or life birds but a Barred Owl was extraordinary!  At dusk, it perched in a tree right in front of us for several minutes.  What a treat!

I got home to hear about the exciting report of a Violet-green Swallow just 45 minutes from home!  That's a state record.  I hope to be after the bird tomorrow but bad weather may stop me.  If it does, I'll do my best to try for the bird on Monday.  Stay around rare swallow!

Until later,


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cliff Swallow added!

Today I took a swing around my "big backyard" and turned up some swallow species.  First, I saw a Tree Swallow which was a nice sighting but not a life or year bird.  Then a Barn Swallow which was the same (not life or year bird but nice bird).  THEN..I spotted what I thought to be another Tree Swallow flying.  But now, watching the bird for 30 seconds-1 minute, no way, it's reddish/orange colored throat and short, square tail made this bird an easy call to Cliff Swallow.  Lifer for me and year bird #281!

Until later,


Friday, March 18, 2011

Chipping Sparrow added!

Drum roll please!  I just saw a Chipping Sparrow in my yard, transitioning into breeding plumage which is year bird #280!  Yippee!  Only 70 away from my 350 goal for the year!  Come warblers come (they'll easily get me over the 290 mark and hopefully to 300)!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

American Woodcock added!

This morning I went on a bird walk at a local park with the Rockingham Bird Club which I'm part of.  We saw some good birds like YB Sapsucker and Eastern Phoebes but no year/life birds.

The same bird club had a woodcock trip this evening.  Since I first heard about it I was antsy to do it.  I got out in woodcock habitat with the club at 7:10 pm at someone's home near a town called Bridgewater and after 20 or 30 minutes I heard the first peent and then followed by more peenting and the sound of their wings in the air.  Awesome display!  Although I never saw a woodcock the sound was more than incredible and what an awesome bird to add for the J. Big Year.

Until bird #280-()*


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Update on the year

Just an update on the Junior Big Year's progress.  Since the Western Tanager trip, no year birds or lifers have been added in the "local part" of Virginia.  However, I have had the amazing opportunity of going out with raptor biologists Jill and Lance Morrow and seeing several of my favorite raptor: the American Kestrels get trapped, and banded in the hand.  Thanks for the amazing opportunity Morrows!

Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll add some more year birds.

Until later,


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Western Tanager added!

Western Tanager at feeder with Northern Cardinal

Today I made the 4 hour round trip drive for the Western Tanager near Roanoke as that would have been a lifer for me.  We arrived at the James Residence, the people that have the feeders that the male Western Tanager has been coming to.  After a 45 or so minute wait, the Western Tanager made it's first appearance. Over the following 20 minutes, the bird continued to give great looks.  What an awesome bird!  Also present in their yard was a Fox Sparrow, nice to see, although not a year or life bird.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Green Kingfisher and Sprague's Pipit!

Well now I'm back in Virginia..planning to make the 2 hour drive tomorrow for the Western Tanager!

On the way to the San Antonio Tx. airport this morning we made some stops.  We stopped at a small park and I said to my papa "there's a kingfisher..could it be my Green?" (because I hadn't gotten a Green Kingfisher yet).  Getting the binos on the bird..sure thing, green back, orange belly band it was indeed a Green Kingfisher for a lifer!

Then we went to Choke Canyon State Park where I spotted a small bird.  I rushed through WET grass to get to the bird to identify it as it looked rather unusual.  Once I got my delight I saw that it was one of the 2 pipits (American or Sprague's) and once I got back to the car I looked it up in the book.  It was clearly a Sprague's with it's what-to-me looks like a black neck collar (but officially it might be called something else) and palish colored breast.  Yippee!

As mentioned briefly above, there's a Western Tanager 2 hours from my home so we're going to go try to get it tomorrow.

Until later and good birding..


Sunday, March 6, 2011

3 more lifers!

This afternoon we went to Estero Llano Grande State Park for birding, where we were yesterday morning.  We heard that the White-throated Thrush seen there, a really rare bird had been seen recently.  We went to look for the WT Thrush but no luck.  Then a friend, Huck Hutchens (see Estero Llano Grande Specialties post for more info on Huck) showed up and we looked for the thrush with him a while.  He told me of a spot nearby where there are often Yellow-headed Blackbirds.  Huck (what a good guy!) took me to look for them.  On the way we saw and got good lucks at Eurasian Collared-Doves which was a lifer for me.  That was super.  Then sifting through TONS of Red-winged Blackbirds, Huck said "there it is" and sure enough, there it was, a male Yellow-headed Blackbird!  We then spotted 2 more males and 2 females.  What an awesome life bird and THANKS to Huck!

Then, back at Estero, I saw a Yellow-throated Warbler for a lifer for me!

Tomorrow the great Texas adventure ends.  The flight home is in the morning.  However..I just saw on the Va-Bird listserv that there is a WESTERN TANAGER in Virginia got a lifer to go get back at home!

Until later and good birding,


Another awesome morning!

Crimson-collared Grosbeak female

This morning we headed to Allen Williams' backyard wildlife sanctuary which has attracted a Blue Mockingbird and many other vagrant birds over the year in nearby Pharr for the Crimson-collared Grosbeak female there.  On the way to Allen's we saw a flock of White-faced Ibis which was a lifer for me. Soon after arriving, the grosbeak appeared and several close, great looks were very rewarding.   Great bird and thanks to Allen for hosting this awesome bird!  Allen said he sees Lesser Goldfinches in his yard every day so we waited for them as that would be a lifer for me.  Finally, after a wait, a female appeared!

At this point it was only 10:10 am and I had already had 3 lfiers!  We now went to Bentsen where we were yesterday and got the Black-vented Oriole.  I was hoping for the Blue Buntings, Lazuli Buntings, Gray Flycatcher, or Rufous-backed Thrush that had been also seen there.  We arrived at the Nature Center Feeders where I was excited about getting to add Clay-colored Thrush as a lifer.  We then at the Ebony Grove feeders saw the Black-vented Oriole again, this time for longer and even better looks!  Then some birders (that seemed even like non-birders but that enjoyed birds...on bikes without binoculars) and the one person said to her husband "slow down, somebody back there said there was a hawk 200 yards up here".  Then, all of a sudden, to my amazment, a beautiful adult Gray Hawk flew right overhead!  What an awesome lifer.  Then we saw some more Clay-colored Thrushes, Altamira Orioles, Green Jays, and saw a Hermit Thrush.  Then on the way out of Bentsen walking I spotted/heard a Northern Beardless Trannulet for a lifer!

What a morning and soon we go back to Estero Llano Grande State Park.

Until later,


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Black-vented Oriole!

Black-vented Oriole male
This afternoon we went to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park for the rarity birds though.  Special targets were Black-vented Oriole and Blue Bunting.  We arrived at one feeding station and some birders were there.  They said 30-40 minutes before the Black-vented Oriole had been there.  While waiting to see if the BVO would reappear I got some local specialty birds:: Ringed Kingfisher (flyover), many Altamira Orioles (both lifers), and 3 Indigo Buntings as a year bird.  Then..I said in a soft voice (not to scare the bird!) "there it is..the Black-vented Oriole!".  2 other birders got on it during it's 3 second visit.  Then a while later my dad got on the bird again and many other birders saw it while it ate for a few minutes.  What a treat!  Then..although not a bird, we had the awesome treat of a Bobcat cross the path 100 yards ahead!

A birder that was there said that there was a spot in nearby McAllen where in the last 45 minutes of daylight WILD ABA countable Green Parakeets come to roost and there's often 1 or 2 Mitred Parakeets with them.  We went on our way back to the Super 8 Weslaco and got both parakeet species!

What a day.

Until later,


Estero Llano Grande specialties!

Wow, this morning was to a birder new to Texas, birding at it's best!  A friend, Huck Hutchens led a bird walk at Estero Llano Grande State Park and we had such a great time birding with him.  What a great guy Huck is!  This morning on the walk (and some time on both sides of the walk) I managed to get 23-24 (see below for description of why not 24) lifers!  Lifers are as follows (all at Estero Llano Grande State Park):

Golden-fronted Woodpecker -- many, many
Red-crowned Parrot -- local specialty, a wild bird, flock of 5 I saw
Great Kiskadee -- many.  A local specialty bird. Beautiful bird!
Common Ground Dove -- 5-10, a very nice bird
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck -- local specialty bird, 1 with Fulvouses
Black-necked Stilt -- a pair, such a terrifically beautiful bird!
Long-billed Dowitcher -- several
Least Grebe -- a local specialty bird, very similar but obviously different from Pied-billed
Cinnamon x Blue-winged Teal hybrid -- to me a bird that I can say I've "seen" because I have, but since it's a hybrid it's not an ABA countable bird so I can't count it on my Junior Big Year list
Virginia Rail -- heard but not seen
Purple Martin -- what a nice bird.  MANY!!
Curved-billed Thrasher -- local specialty bird.  Several.
Long-billed Thrasher -- ?? -()*
Common Paraque -- beautiful goatsucker bird.  I really enjoyed seeing them...
White-eyed Vireo -- heard but not seen
Cave Swallow -- a real local specialty bird, many, so nice to see!
Bewick's Wren -- ?? -()*
Olive Sparrow -- heard but not seen
Cinnamon Teal -- 2 drakes.  Beautiful ducks!
Sora -- heard but not seen
Buff-bellied Hummingbird -- several at feeders.  Soooo beautiful!
Couch's Kingbird -- 2 perched in a tree together.
Black-crested Titmouse -- ?? -()*
Ladder-backed Woodpecker -- nice woody.

In addition to the awesome lifers, also saw 5-10 Common Yellowthroats for a year bird.

Also, 1st time seen this year but heard before this year, an Eastern Screech-Owl looked great through a scope.

A terrific morning and this afternoon we got to Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park for Altamira Orioles, a Black-vented Oriole, and much else!

Until later,


Friday, March 4, 2011

Great Texas day

Little Gull lying down with it's other gull and tern friends

Another terrific day in Texas, we're now at Weslaco Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley at the Super 8 for Weslaco.  The birding was again impecible today with 8 more lifers in addition to 5 more year birds underway today.

My first life bird today was White-tipped Dove, in the parking lot of last night's motel in Rockport tx! 

Then antsy to get a rarity bird, we headed for Goose Island State Park in hopes of finding the Yellow-faced Grassquit.  After about 1 hour of searching with many other birders present, one of the birders said "there it is".  It flew, and although just only about a 2 seecond look, I thankfully did get the female YF Grassquit!

After the grassquit stop, we checked the nearby "Big Tree" where we saw Whooping Cranes yesterday, but no luck. 

Then we headed to Port Aransas for the 2 Little Gulls seen there.  After about 20 minutes, and when we thought we had been skunked, a different birder there excitedly waved us over from our car.  Scope viewing, photographing, etc...yup, the 2 small gulls there were indeed the Juvi. Littles!

Then we did a big drive with only a few stops, however we got another Ferruginous Hawk along the way to our destination: Weslaco Texas.  Once in the Weslaco area, we headed to nearby Estero Llano Grande State Park for a breif stop.  There I added 3 lifers:  Fulvous Whistling-Duck (3 birds sleeping), Plain Chalacala (flock of 3-4 birds), and Inca Dove (2 birds near the chalacalas).

Other lifers for the day were:

Bronzed Cowbird at Grassquit location
Green Jay at a Rest Area on Rte. 77

5 year birds were:

Northern Gannet over the water near our last night's hotel
Lincoln's Sparrow, 2 birds at grassquit locaiton
Ruddy Turnstone on beach at Mustang Island State Park
Common Goldeneye near Corpus Christi
Field Sparrow near Corpus Christi

What a birding paradise TX is!  Wow!

Until later,


Thursday, March 3, 2011

First day of Texas -- many, many lifers!

3 Whooping Cranes

Ah, finally in Rockport Texas after an awesome day of birding with 13 lifers under belt.  Now at the Americas Best Value Inn Rockport TX, I can confidently say this has been a truly impecible day of birding.  Not many days better than this!

13 lifers today in addition to a few other 'year birds' that I've seen before but not this year, so they're still really important to add to the Big Year list.  Lifers were with short descriptions:

Crested Caracara -- many, a common bird, seen primarily in the Three Rivers region and Aransas Nat. Wildlife Refuge
FERRUGINOUS HAWK -- got lucky with 1 bird perched along I-37 north of the Three Rivers region
Harris's Hawk -- a pair of adults in the Three Rivers region.  What beautiful birds!
Chihuan Raven (not sure if I got that spelled right!) -- pair between Three Rivers and Corpus Christi
Reddish Egret -- single bird near Corpus Chrisit.  Have always wanted the Reddish Egret!
Sandwhich Tern -- several, primarilly Aransas Nat. Wildlife Refuge
WHOOPING CRANE -- What an honor to see this Critically Endangered Species with only about 400 remaining in the wild!  And not just 1, 6 Whooping Cranes: 3 at 'The Big Tree' and 3 at Aransas Nat. Wildlife Refuge
Snowy Plover -- 1 bird, out in the middle of nowhere-()*
WHITE-TAILED HAWK -- got really lucky with this bird, it was a juvenile near the entrance to Aransas Refuge
Canada Warbler -- Aransas Nat. Refuge Visitor Center area
AMERICAN AVOCET -- 3 birds, Aransas Refuge
Least Sandpiper -- Aransas Refuge
SANDHILL CRANE -- several large flocks, sooooo beautiful, Aransas Refuge

Highlights among the lifers are (with descriptions):

Crested Caracaras, always wanted to get this unusual raptor, what a treat to see so many!

Ferruginous Hawk, I understand that it's rather rare to the region, and a magnificently beautiful hawk.

Pair of Harris's Hawks, we were stopped at a Gas Station to take care of the car and before getting back on I-37 we decided to travel through the backroads of Texas for a few miles for raptors and other birds.  Kabang!  A beautiful pair of Harris's Hawks and my 2nd caracara!

SIX Whooping Cranes, at one point a flock of 3 flew right by us (my papa and me).  A true "wow" moment!

White-taield Hawk, was driving along northwest of Corpus Christi and I spotted a buteo flying.  I got papa to pull over and after examining it..yup, showing it's tail area and other features, I knew it was a juvenile White-tail!

American Avocet, not anything rare..but!  A bird that has managed to alude me up until today!  I have searched IN VAIN for this bird in so many places from Illisnois (last year), to Florida, to California, many of whch places avocets are common.  However, no luck.  Even the novis birder of my mama got one in California!  When I saw that avocets were common in Texas I was like "another place where I'll try and they'll alude me!" sarcastically because of my 'bad luck' with them in the past.  Not so, luckily!  I finally got 3 at Aransas Nat. Refuge today.  Woo!  Finally avocets!

Sandhill Cranes, several large flocks.  Beautiful!

In addition to the lifers I saw 3 year birds new for the J. Big Year.  These were:

Harlan's Hawk, along I-37 near Three Rivers, previously seen in Duluth, MN in 2010.

Barn Swallow, Aransas Refuge, previously seen many places in 2008-2010.

Lesser Yellowlegs, Aransas Refuge, previously seen in Virginia in 2010.

Also, although not a year/life bird, on the way out of Aransas Refuge, a Great Horned Owl gave incredible looks!

Since I was getting so many birds I decided to do a "South Texas Big Day" and got 77 species in all.

Wow, what an incredible day!

Tomorrow I'll go out to look for a Yellow-throated Grassquit, a Hammond's Flycatcher, and whatever else flys my way!

Until later,


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Great-tailed Grackle added in Texas at night!

I am here in my hotel room in San Antonio Texas. While stopped at a gas station I heard some birds calling near by so I went to check them out.  I found them and observed a flock of 8-10 dark passerine birds.  Wasn't sure what they were as I'm not familiar with Texas birds -()* I called a friend of mine who is an experienced birder from the Weslaco area of Texas.  He said they were probably Great-tailed Grackles from what I had described. Then I checked my CD of Texas bird songs and sure enough they were Great-tailed Grackles, year bird #205 and also a life bird for me!

Until later,


Kestrel Hovering Welcoming me to Dulles!

Now I'm in Wash. Dulles International Airport waiting for my next flight to San Antonio Texas, my final destination.

While landing from my 1st flight from Shenandoah Valley, Va in Dulles, an adult female American Kestrel was hovering right along the runway we were on!  That was super!  Also nearby was a Red-tailed Hawk hunting.

I arrive in San Antonio tonight after nightfall, sleep at a 3-star hotel, and in the morning head for the Goose Creek State Park/Aransas Nat. Wildlife Refuge area in hopes of finding Whooping Cranes, a Yellow-throated Grassquit reported in the area, and the non-bird Alligator.

That's it for now.

Until later,


Off to Texas with a Horned Lark pair wishing me luck!

A quick note before I leave for Texas in 50 minutes:

A quick walk this morning produced 3 notable species: Eastern Meadowlark, Red-winged Blackbird, and most of exciting of all a pair of Horned Larks.  While walking along I heard the classic peep of the Horned Lark and searched for the bird.  Sure enough, there it was, and not just 1, 2 were enjoying the fence-line along the road I live on!  Nice treat before I head off to the southern bird area (where I surly won't see Horned Larks!)! -()*

Alright, that's all for now, I better get my act together now, gotta go fly soon!

Until Texas, -()*


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Getting ready to go

Yesterday and today have brought "getting ready for Texas birds", a lot of time has been focused on getting the locations of the rarities in that area and the directions so not so much time for birding.

Non the less, I've still managed to get a few birds and 3 or 4 Red-shouldered Hawks were the highlight today.  Other sightings included: 10 E. Meadowlarks, many Red-tailed Hawks, 4 A. Kestrels, Carolina Wrens, and others.

Tomorrow we head off to Texas!  I have many, many target birds which include the area specialties that are only easily found in that area like Green Jay, Whooping Crane, and Great Kiskadee.  Other targets are the rarity birds that I have been notified of by the state's birding listserv.  These birds include a Black-vented Oriole at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, a White-throated Thrush at Estero Llano Grande State Park, a Crimson-collared Grosbeak in the town of Pharr, and a Yellow-faced Grassquit at Goose Island State Park.  So exciting!

I may not be updating the blog lots on the travels but I will as much as I can.