Today, Saturday, January 16th proved to be another mild weather day for 2016. I started the day in Hopewell at the marina. Best bird of the day was another immature Iceland Gull, the apparent 3rd different individual observed this winter based on plumage, age and morphology.
I then traveled to Prince George County to check waterfowl numbers. Here I encountered large flocks of Canada Geese, 5500+, one blue morph Snow Goose, 425 Tundra Swan, some N. Pintail, N. Shoveler and a few other dabbling ducks. The geese were for the most part to distant to review easily for Cackling Geese or possible other species.
After leaving Prince George County, I briefly stopped in a few select areas of Charles City County and the most interesting observation(s) were of four (4) Clouded Sulphur flitting around in a field.
2016 continues to be a year of first for me. On January 3rd I had my first ticks ever in Virginia during this month. Two were removed after a walk in Goochland County.
Then today, January 10th, while in Charles City County I encountered a Eastern Box Turtle crossing the road.
Also noted today were Spring Peepers calling in both Charles City County and Goochland County.
As for bird observations I have noted three (3) different Baltimore Orioles over the last two (2) weeks in Charles City County. These birds, as many noted in this area, are not affiliated with feeders but are observed foraging at the various plantations along the James River. The habitat usually consist of mature Magnolias and trees covered in ivy.
I visited Hopewell Saturday, January 9th, to check on the gull flock dispersal up the Appomattox River at the City Marina. The number of Laughing Gulls has drastically declined with only 38 observed (still a large quantity for the date). Herring Gulls appear to have increased. One (1) immature Iceland Gull was observed at the boat launch.
I visited downtown Richmond in the early afternoon to see if any white-winged gulls could be observed but I was unsuccessful.
On Saturday, January 2nd, I participated on a pelagic birding trip out of Virginia Beach with Brian Patteson. I won’t divulge the results as that is Brian and team’s responsibility but I will share some photographs of the day:
The new year, January 1, started out with continued mild temperatures and unusual first occurrences for me. Upland Chorus Frogs and Spring Peepers calling in both eastern Henrico County and Charles City County. One of my azaleas at home is currently in bloom? Animal and plant life will have a confusing year if these temperatures continue to manifest themselves.
I got up early and got Screech Owl in eastern Henrico County, Great Horned Owls in Charles City County, 9 American Woodcock in eastern Henrico County and 2 King Rails in eastern Henrico County. I then headed over to the City of Hopewell to view the gull roost. My conservative estimate is between 20,000 and 25,000 gulls are on the water here. Because of distance and the varied flock locations I could not discern any rare gulls and/or the exact ratio of gulls but here is my best estimate:
Ring-bill Gull 15,000
Herring Gull 7,500
Laughing Gull 1,350
Great Black-backed Gull 13
Lesser Black-backed Gull 6
And yes the number of Laughing Gulls is on the conservative side. Here is a photograph of some of them at the marina in Hopewell.
Also observed in Hopewell were 3 different Orange-crowned Warblers.
I then visited Charles City County in an attempt to relocate the female Painted Bunting found there on the Hopewell CBC. I was fortunate to relocate it on this visit after missing it on my previous attempt.
The Spring-like temperatures continue on Saturday, the 26th of December. Spring Peepers calling in western & eastern Henrico County, Charles City County and Prince George County. Temperatures at daybreak were in the mid-60’s rising to the upper 60’s and light to moderate fog was noted in many areas in the piedmont to upper coastal plain. Highlights for the day were a Iceland Gull at City Point in Hopewell and a pair of calling King Rails in eastern Henrico County. The Iceland Gull appeared to be a 3rd winter bird an unusual occurrence here in the upper coastal plain.
The date indicated December 25th, Christmas, but the weather and fauna told me otherwise. I awoke early with my window open and a Spring Peeper calling in the neighborhood. The temperature read 69 degrees, unbelievable. I traveled to North Carolina for the day to visit with family. Right a dawn while in Granville County, N.C. I spied my first dawn rainbow and on Christmas Day! No rain had occurred it was just due to high humidity in the atmosphere.
On Sunday, December 20th, I participated on the Hopewell CBC. I started during the pre-dawn hours listening for owls. In eastern Henrico County I stumbled onto a Great Horned Owl along the side of the road which had made a recent kill (opossum). It remained with the prey while I photographed the bird in my headlights. It was able to drag the opossum but not able to carry it off.
I then went to Shirley Plantation and during the early morning caught up with Chris Foster who along with me was covering this sector. We spent the morning walking much of the plantation, covering about 4+ miles. Highlights were one (1) Painted Bunting (probably a female or 1st year male), one (1) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, two (2) Common Yellowthroats, two (2) Orange-crowned Warblers, one (1) Baltimore Oriole and one to two (1-2) Palm Warblers.
I departed Shirley Plantation around 1:30 to head home but made one quick stop in Hopewell and stumbled upon a Black and White Warbler.
What a difference a week can make. Awoke to more seasonal temperatures, i.e.- 26 today, December 19th. I went to Louisa County to be there before daybreak to see if I could locate any Short-eared Owls. I was not successful in my effort. However, I did get to enjoy a couple of good observations during the couple of hours I was present. Raptors appeared to be in present in a variety of forms with Merlin, Kestrel, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Coopers, Bald Eagle and Northern Harrier all being observed. The largest single flock of Purple Finches for the year was observed with a count of 23. Finally I also observed two (2) Sandhill Cranes feeding in a corn field.
The MILD Winter continues today, December 13, with the unseasonably warm temperatures. (The temperature reached ~75 degrees.) I visited a couple of marshes this morning, one being in eastern Henrico County and the other in Charles City County. I had three (3) King Rails in Henrico County and one (1) Virginia Rail in Charles City County. American Woodcock put on a show with at least six (6) individuals heard. I then visited the City of Hopewell and had three (3) different Orange-crowned Warblers. I next gained access to one of the private plantations in Charles City County and enjoyed a Nashville Warbler and yet another Orange-crowned Warbler. With this Nashville Warbler in Charles City County and the two (2) potentially still in Hopewell there may be up to three (3) in the general area.
Spring Peepers were heard at a few sites during the morning. In the afternoon I walked my route in West Creek, Goochland County. Here I encountered lingering Autumn Meadowhawks (3) and a Robberly- Laphria affinis (2). Also heard were a couple of Upland Chorus Frogs.
Is it REALLY Winter? I ventured up to Highland County, Virginia today, December 12th. IT WAS MILD! Low temperature before daybreak was 49 degrees. At about 11:20 a.m. when I left the county it was already 62 degrees. Have never seen these temperatures in December in Highland County. The day was positive for two of the target species, Golden Eagle (2+) and American Tree Sparrow (1). I missed Rough-legged Hawk. Finches continue to be present in all counties I have visited this winter with both Pine Siskins and Purple Finch observed. Some photographs are as follows:
I traveled to MacKay Island National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina today, December 11th, which happened to be hosting “open roads day” on the refuge allowing access to the usually restricted impoundments. I was not alone in my visit as many others took advantage of the access for both the enjoyment of the wildlife present or to fish. The day was very mild with temperatures starting at 56 degrees and climbing to 67 by noon. On the causeway prior to daybreak I got to enjoy the cacophony of rails celebrating the arrival of the sun. Many King and Virginia Rails called with both Sedge and Marsh Wrens chiming in. The King Rails for which the refuge is recognized made their presence known off and on for the remainder of the day. Also impressive following daybreak was the exodus of hundreds of Tree Swallows from the marsh area.
Total observed bird species for the day was 78. This was highlighted by one (1) Yellow-breasted Chat found off the refuge in Currituck County along Marsh Causeway Road as I made my way back to Virginia. Other warblers were Orange-crowned, Palm, Pine and Yellow-rumped. Waterfowl were not in any impressive numbers probably due to the mild temperatures. Again Pine Siskins appear to be having a fair year with them seen and/or heard at various locations both on the refuge or in the county.
Mammals observed were River Otter and Nutria. Late butterflies observed were Monarch (1) and American Lady (2).
I visited Prince George County, Virginia on Sunday, December 6th. Conditions were calm with freezing fog on vegetation occurring at 27/28 degrees at daybreak. Tundra Swans (23), Snow Goose (1) and Canada Geese (2750) were in fair numbers. Finches were present with around 40 Pine Siskins, Purple Finch (1) and American Goldfinch (25) being heard/observed.
Warblers for the day included Palm (1) in Prince George; Black & White (1) and Orange-crowned in Hopewell; Pine Warbler (1) at home in western Henrico and Yellow-rumped in all locations.
In the afternoon I walked in Goochland County at West Creek and observed six (6) Autumn Meadowhawks (5 female, 1 male) and one (1) butterfly (Colias sp.).
On Saturday, December 5th I started the day out at the City of Hopewell. I arrived right before day break and scanned the rivers (James & Appomattox) for gulls. My rough estimate was approximately 30,000 gulls being present this morning. (I did not estimate the species due to the distance involved and some distortion present over the water. However as the morning unfolded and I visited Charles City County, some of eastern Henrico and the Prince George/Colonial Heights area I projected the following breakdown: Ring-bill Gull 20,000; Laughing Gull 6,500; Herring Gull 3,500; Lesser Black-backed Gull 7; Great Black-backed Gull 15; Bonaparte’s Gull 7. I continue to be amazed at many and how long the Laughing Gulls remain present at this site.) The overall day was normal for bird activity and species. Highlights were Orange-crowned Warbler, Merlin, Brown Thrasher, G. Catbird in Hopewell. Good numbers of sparrows of the expected species were observed in Charles City County. I was surprised around 10:00 a.m. to observe a lone Monarch Butterfly flying southeastward in Charles City County.