On Saturday, January 31st I traveled to Virginia Beach. The day proved cold and very windy. Activity in the morning saw D-c. Cormorants, scoters, a few loons and gulls flying north from the beach. I then traveled to the CBBT Island #1 and enjoyed all 3 scoter species and 2 Harlequin Ducks. Many D-c. Cormorants and N. Gannets were active around the island and the inlet. That activity was exaggerated when the Aircraft Carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) went through the inlet and the gannets swarmed behind the vessel.
On January 17th I visited Hopewell, Prince George and Charles City Counties. In Hopewell, I encountered the Black & White Warbler feeding along the river that has been seen for the last several months. Other than that I did not happen into any other unusual warblers/birds in Hopewell area. In Charles City County, I encountered the best bird of the day which proved to be an immature Northern Goshawk. It was observed twice, with the first as it flew over my car, caught my attention and as I jumped out of the car observed it “play tag” with a Canada Goose which had just risen from the adjacent marsh. It was an excellent opportunity to appreciate how large a Northern Goshawk is when it still appeared “substantial” adjacent to the goose. I then happened into it again several minutes later as it flew across a wooded impoundment and out of sight.
The Hopewell area continues to host a horde of gulls on both the James and Appomattox Rivers. The challenge is that upon sunrise they rise from the water and disperse to many different and disjunct areas making it challenging to ID the many species present. From the December, 2014 to date period it has produced Ring-billed, Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed, Laughing, Iceland (several) and Bonaparte’s Gulls. I have also observed two (2) different Lesser Black-backed X Herring Gull hybrids. These birds have intermittent colored mantles between the Lesser and Herring Gulls as well as yellowish-flesh colored legs.
On Sunday, January 18th, I traveled to Rockingham County in search of Red Crossbill and Ruffed Grouse. The road was clear to Reddish Knob and temperatures were relatively mild but the birds did not materialize. I continued birding in Rockingham and then headed to Augusta County. In search of Lapland Longspurs I ran into a Peregrine near New Hope.
As I headed to Fisherville on SR 608 I happened into a pond in a residential community which contained 8 Ross’s Geese and 1 Cackling Goose. The Cackling Goose and the Ross’s Geese “mingled” allowing for a great comparison in size.
After leaving Augusta County I briefly stopped by Louisa County in the Green Springs area. The most entertaining bird found was a “marbled” partially leucistic Canada Goose.
On January 11th I visited Highland County, Virginia. The day started cold but the temperature moderated from 7 degrees to about 40 before leaving. I encountered two different birding groups one with Patti Reum and the other with Allen Larner.
Four species of finch were positive with Pine Siskin and Purple Finch being added to the expected House Finch and American Goldfinch. Raptors were somewhat scarce from my perspective total number wise. Red-tailed Hawks were observed in moderate numbers of 8, American Kestrels numbered 2 and Golden Eagle numbered 5. No Rough-legged Hawks were personally observed. The only other regular but sometimes challenging to find species was a lone American Tree Sparrow.
On the way home, I stopped by the ponds at West Creek in Goochland County. Waterfowl numbers were good here with many of the surrounding lakes being frozen over. Amongst the hundreds of Canada Geese present I located one (1) Greater White-fronted Goose, a first for me in the County. Also present were excellent numbers of Mallards (a couple of hundred), Black Duck (25+), A. Widgeon, Gadwall, a lone N. Pintail (4 present the previous day), G-w. Teal, Canvasback (2), Redhead (4), Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Mergansers and Ruddy Duck.
The 1st several days of the year started out well with visits to Hopewell, Charles City County, eastern Henrico County and Colonial Heights. On the 1st I encountered both Black and White Warbler and B-g. Gnatcatcher in Hopewell. This was followed by both Orange-crowned and Nashville Warbler in Hopewell on the 2nd. These two birds have been loosely associating for many weeks now. It is fascinating how on some days you encounter these “wintering” birds in certain areas but not on the next day and vice versa. Also observed in Hopewell on the 2nd was a “fork-tailed” gull (immature Ring-billed Gull) which had unfortunately been entrapped by plastic. (It was early morning so the light was poor as it flew by.)
Another Orange-crowned Warbler was located in Charles City County with a wintering Northern Oriole (Baltimore). The orioles along the James River obviously find enough food to survive without benefit of feeders since they are usually located away from residential areas.
In the Colonial Heights area during these two early January days up to seven (7) Laughing Gulls remained noticeable. Also observed for my first time were Black Vultures taking their turn “bathing” in the shallows of a pond in this area.