On Sunday, December 28, the weather again proved mild with a low of 51 degrees and a high of ~65 degrees. Skies were for the most part overcast and winds were calm to minimal. A Spring Peeper was heard prior to daybreak in eastern Chesterfield County and both Spring Peepers and Upland Chorus Frogs were heard in an early afternoon walk in Goochland County. Hopewell once again proved a great location for wintering warblers as the Chestnut-sided Warbler was relocated and a new location disclosed an Orange-crowned Warbler. A nice surprise in Charles City County was a Common Yellowthroat in a clearing along Route 5. This proved to be my eight (8th) warbler species for the month in central Virginia.
I did not disturb the Canada Goose flocks in a couple of locations in Charles City County but there were about 3000+ observed and mixed in amongst them were ~33 Tundra Swans. Also in Charles City County were 5 Laughing Gulls and several thousand Ring-billed Gulls.
Saturday, December 27, was a mild winter day. Temperature was near 32 at daybreak in Hopewell and ended up at 55 degrees around mid-day in Colonial Heights. The day was sunny and winds were calm. Hopewell continued to provide interesting warbler activity with both a Nashville and a Black & White Warbler being observed. The Black & White Warbler gave me 7 warbler species for the month of December in the Hopewell, Prince George and Charles City County triangle. A Baltimore Oriole also fed along the river in Hopewell. A presumed Iceland Gull (Kumlien’s)/Thayeri was at the marina but offered less than optimal views.
In Prince George County an Orange-crowned Warbler was found foraging in a wood lot near where it has been observed previously. I continued on to Charles City County and found two feeding Baltimore Orioles, one an adult male, at one of the plantations.
After leaving Charles City County I headed to Turkey Island Road in eastern Henrico County. I found a good quantity of feeding Canada Geese in the fields here and why present was pleased to observe a Cackling Goose fly in and then have four (4) Ross’s Geese fly by without landing.
Lastly, I visited the Colonial Heights area and observed at least 125 lingering Laughing Gulls.
On Friday, December 26, I visited Highland County, Virginia. The day proved mostly clear with temperatures ranging from a low of 23 degrees to a high of 46 degrees. I visited SR 601 right at daybreak and was rewarded with 4 Snow Bunting foraging in the road. The observation did not last long as some hunters came up the road and the birds took flight to a location far away. As I was traveling eastbound on highway 250 I encountered a strutting Ruffed Grouse who proved quite photogenic.
The remainder of the day was spent looking for Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk and American Tree Sparrow. I unfortunately struck out on all of the above with the exception of Golden Eagle, in which I observed three (3) different immature birds.
Above is immature Golden Eagle in comparison with Common Raven which was soaring with it.
During the day four (4) finch species were observed: American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, House Finch and Purple Finch.
The weekend of the December 20/21 was for the most part cloudy for Saturday and through about mid-day on Sunday. I visited e. Henrico County, Charles City County, Prince George County, Hopewell and Colonial Heights. Activity was average on Saturday with the “usually” expected species being observed. On Sunday, I didn’t sleep well so I got up early and went in search of rails and owls and much to my surprise struck out on both. I then went to Hopewell in search of any lingering species and I was not disappointed. At one of the stops I encountered the Chesnut-sided Warbler observed a week ago and then to my surprise it was joined by a Cape May Warbler. These birds were in a mixed flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Kinglets.
After leaving Hopewell I traveled to Prince George County and got to enjoy a four (4) Goose Day. At least 5500 Canada Geese were observed, 17 Greater White-fronted Geese, 2 Cackling Geese and 1 “Blue” Snow Goose.
After viewing the geese I visited several fields for sparrows with nothing major to note but did encounter a flock of ~60 Pine Siskins flying around.
Above are images of Pine Warbler and Palm Warbler from Charles City County, Va. on December 20th.
The night/early morning started off wonderfully with a great showing of the Geminid Meteor Shower on Sunday, December 14th. Anyone who was out hopefully had some of the same experience/viewing that I did. I traveled to Westmoreland, Richmond, Essex and through King William Counties during the day. Birding was enjoyable with good to average numbers for the expected species. I started the predawn hours near Leedstown on Liberty Farm Road attempting to locate Short-eared Owls but instead encountered Fred Atwood who was participating on a Christmas Bird Count. We got to enjoy several Great Horned Owls and the display flight of American Woodcock. The most unusual birds of the day were eleven (11) Brown Pelicans still “up river” at Tappahannock in Essex County. The “Pocket” in King William County still holds good numbers of waterfowl but numbers appear down from just a couple of weeks ago. Some photographs for the days are as follows:
Clear, cool and calm for the start of the day on Saturday, December 13th in Hopewell, Virginia. A fishing tournament got the gulls up off the river early but for the most part they bypassed the marina area. I proceeded to check various points in the City and found some good flocks but early on had no unusual sightings but did hear a warbler chip that was not “normal” (Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned, Yellowthroat, Palm) for this time of year but could not find the bird. Later in the morning I found another loose flock of birds and surprisingly a Chestnut-sided Warbler sprung out from their midst and proceeded to provide excellent views.
After leaving Hopewell I birded both Charles City County and some of Henrico County and found nothing unusual except for one Vesper Sparrow.
This weekend, December 6th and 7th, was a mixture of being overcast and wet for most of Saturday and then clear, cool and windy on Sunday. The Hopewell area held the routine birds of this winter season to date, at least one Iceland Gull, a B-g Gnatcatcher, an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Yellow-throated Warbler.
On Saturday another Orange-crowned Warbler was observed in Prince George County.
On Sunday I spent more time venturing into Prince George County. Horned Larks (30) and American Pipits were observed in several of the fields. In a large flock of Canada Geese resting in an impoundment eleven (11) Greater White-fronted Geese were found.
The surprise continues to be the large numbers of lingering Laughing Gulls still around. They continue to be seen in fields in both eastern Henrico and Charles City Counties. In Colonial Heights at least 1200 linger during the day.
I had an enjoyable morning in Hopewell, November 28, with many lingering warbler species. The day started out at 31 degrees, clear and with minimal winds being approximately 5 mph. I observed Orange-crowned, Nashville, Yellow-throated, Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped Warblers within the town limits. Also observed was a cooperative Baltimore Oriole. The Orange-crowned, Nashville and Yellow-throated have been seen off and on for the month of November.
Gulls continue to be roosting on the James in the Hopewell area. Again, 10-15,0000 appear to be found each morning with what I am sure would be 8 to 10 species if they could be more easily observed. To date in November I have observed 7 species with Iceland being the more uncommon. A Franklin’s in the Laughing Gull mass (3000-4500 birds still) is not out of question and I am sure a Glaucous is probably around.
Today, Saturday the 22nd, was again a cold with morning temperatures hovering near 20 degrees but with winds calm. I again visited Hopewell and some limited areas of Prince George County, Charles City County, eastern Henrico and again a different area of Prince George. I first visited the marina at Hopewell but gull activity was slow with none of the gulls stopping to preen except for a couple of immature Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls and one 2nd winter Iceland Gull.
The James River at City Point held an estimated 15,000+ gulls. At least 4 Bald Eagles were present and several groupings of Ruddy Ducks, Horned Grebes and fly by D-c. Cormorants. Also observed within the city was a lingering B-g Gnatcatcher.
After leaving Hopewell I headed toward Jordan Point in Prince George. While there I encountered a nice mixed flock of birds which contained a surprise N. Parula.
Other birds of interest were 62 Bonaparte’s Gulls in Charles City County and 3500 Laughing Gulls later in Prince George County.
This weekend held a wide range of weather conditions with Saturday, November 15, being cold (27 a day break) and clear and Sunday, November 16 being principally overcast and slightly milder (38 at day break). I visited Hopewell, Charles City County and eastern Henrico County both days. Hunters were actively engaged on Saturday with both waterfowl and deer season in full swing. Highlights for the weekend were the large numbers of gulls that continue to overwinter on the James River at or near Hopewell. The estimate on Sunday was 12,500 plus. Laughing Gulls are still in large numbers with an estimate of 4000+/- still being present. The remaining gulls are made up of Herring, Ring-billed, Lesser Black-backed and some Great Black-backed Gulls. While not observed there is always the chance that some unusual species are around either currently or in the near future. On Sunday, two Orange-crowned Warblers were seen and heard in the Hopewell area. In Charles City County and eastern Henrico, Bonaparte’s Gulls can currently be observed at several of the lakes in the area. Waterfowl numbers have grown with thousands of Canada Geese, 2250+ Snow Geese, 3 Greater White-fronted Geese, 2 Cackling Geese and an assortment of puddle and diving ducks of which a Common Goldeneye on a Charles City County pond were unusual.
Also of interest was a latish Semipalmated Plover in Charles City County and a Snow Bunting in Charles City County.
Enjoy each day!