Date: 5/2/18 12:46 pm
From: Gabriel Mapel via VA-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: [VA-bird] Augusta County area yesterday: 115 species, SB Dowitcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Foxes, Bear and more
Hi all,
Vic Laubach and I spent 15+ hours in the field yesterday birding all around Augusta County (with a few stops in Rockingham County and the city of Waynesboro as well).  It has become an annual tradition for us to do a "Big Day" in this area during the height of spring migration.  Despite an overall lack of warbler and flycatcher diversity, as well as a hot, sunny mid-afternoon, we ended up finding 115 species including a couple big highlights (a Short-billed Dowitcher at Smith Lake in Swoope and a Philadelphia Vireo on Hite Hollow Rd).  For those interested here is a detailed account of our day of birding:

We left Waynesboro by 5am and started pre-dawn at Big Levels along Coal Rd and Lake Rd where we found 4 Chuck-will's-widows and 7 E. Whip-poor-wills singing away.  We also saw several of the Whips in our headlights.  We were at Humpback Rocks along the Blue Ridge Parkway for sunrise but bird activity was quiet with just a few warblers (Ovenbird, Hooded, Redstart, Yellow-rumped, BT Green).  We then headed down Route 610 and had a few decent birds: 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, 1 Great Crested Flycatcher, 1 Veery, 1 Hermit Thrush, 6 Wood Thrush, warblers (13 Ovenbird, 4 Worm-eating, 3 L. Waterthrush, 2 B&W, 5 Hooded, 9 Redstart, 2 Yellow-rumped), 7 Scarlet Tanagers, and an Indigo Bunting.

At China Clay Road Wetland we had 2 Green Herons, and the first Solitary Sandpipers, Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs of the day.  Almost all ponds/mud puddles we stopped at yesterday held these three species and we finished the day with 34 Solitary, 37 Lesser Yellowlegs, and 25 Greater Yellowlegs total.  We also had our first of two Red Fox families with young pups at China Clay Rd.  (Along Lipscomb Rd we had our first Eastern Kingbird and Palm Warbler, as well as our only Rusty Blackbird of the day.  We added two species (a Merlin and 2 Horned Larks) along Guthrie Rd.

In the Swoope Area we had 47 species with many highlights: 1 Great Egret, two adult & one young Bald Eagles on nest, shorebirds at Smith Lake (the Short-billed Dowitcher, 6 Wilson's Snipe, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, plus Solitary & Yellowlegs), 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers (Livick Rd), 1 White-eyed Vireo (Hebron Rd), 6 Yellow Warblers, 15 Palm Warblers, 2 Savannah Sparrows, and 1 Baltimore & 1 Orchard Orioles.  In Swoope we had our second Red Fox family with young pups.

From Swoope we headed south to try and head over the mountain on Troxel Gap Rd but found the entire area burning in a fairly large wildfire or controlled burn, so instead we decided to head north towards Briery Branch Gap, but saw a lot of smoke up there too and remembered Diane's message regarding the controlled burns.  Instead, we opted for Plan #3 which was to stay between the two fires and bird at Augusta Springs Wetlands and Hite Hollow Rd towards Deerfield.  Augusta Springs was quiet, but we ran into some visiting birders who had earlier found a Blue-winged Warbler in the usual spot back by the power lines.  Along Hite Hollow Rd our highlights included: 2 Broad-winged Hawks, 8 Blue-headed Vireos, the Philadelphia Vireo, 1 Black-capped Chickadee, 1 Brown Creeper, 1 Wood Thrush, warblers (8 Ovenbird, 6 Worm-eating, 1 L. Waterthrush, 7 B&W, 1 Hooded, 7 Redstart, 2 Parula, 2 Pine, 9 BT Green), and a yearling Black Bear.  Up at Elkhorn Lake we had 3 Spotted Sandpipers, 2 Black-capped Chickadees, and a Blackburnian Warbler.

At Nazarene Church Rd Wetlands in Rockingham County we had 4 Blue-winged Teal, a Least Sandpiper, and a Hummingbird.  We added E. Collared-Dove at the usual spot on Dry River Rd.  At Silver Lake there was a Coot.  At Leonard's Pond we were pleasantly surprised to find 3 Dunlin.

Back in Augusta County we had some good finds along Craig Shop Rd: 1 Osprey, 1 Cooper's Hawk, 1 Warbling Vireo, 3 Grasshopper Sparrows, and a Blue Grosbeak.  The pond along Humbert Rd had two more Wilson's Snipe.  We finished the day down in Waynesboro at InVista Pond with a female Hooded Merganser, and finally, a Great Blue Heron!

A few big misses included several warblers (including BT Blue and Common Yellowthroat), E. Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, RB Grosbeak, and others.  Nonetheless, it was a great day.  Thanks Vic, and Good Birding all,
Gabriel Mapel
New Hope

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