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Allen Larner spotted an Eared Grebe at the Stuarts Draft Waste Water Treatment Plant on November 17, and took some photographs. The Eared Grebe is a western species that visits the Atlantic coast on rare occasions. It has been sighted in this area only three times before, most recently on October 1, 2006.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Eared Grebe left the area almost as soon as it arrived. Here today, gone tomorrow. You snooze, you lose.
Neither cold nor snow nor fierce winds could stay the hardy volunteers of the Augusta Bird Club from their appointed rounds on Saturday, October 29, for the 2011 ABC Bird Seed Sale. Most folks picked up their purchases in the back of the Augusta County Government Center in Verona, and deliveries were made to various places around the county. In the photo below, you can even see snow on the pavement! Total volume of sales declined somewhat compared to the year before, probably reflecting the hike in prices for most seed varieties. Nevertheless, the total proceeds were satisfactory, and will be of great use in supporting club activities and causes such as Nature Camp, where youngsters from the area learn about wildlife and conservation issues.
In case you haven't stopped by the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch lately, here is a sample of what you've been missing. The recent cold front has accelerated the pace of the hawks' migration, and there have been several thousand Broad-winged Hawks recorded on more than one day since mid-September. Hawk migration season will continue for several more weeks, so head on up to Afton Mountain and join the fun!
Augusta Bird Club members have been busy with a variety of endeavors in recent months, including the annual Riverfest celebration on the banks of the South River in Waynesboro, and the Annual Meeting of the Virginia Society of Ornithology, which was held in nearby Harrisonburg, May 13-15. This year's VSO meeting was hosted by the Rockingham Bird Club. As fall gets underway, many ABC members are participating in the annual hawk watch on Afton Mountain. Brenda Tekin is coordinating that program, assisted by Vic Laubach. There will also be several field trips as the autumn migration season peaks.
In April Penny Warren led a field trip to Springdale Water Gardens, postponed by one day due to bad weather. It is a wonderful setting with a variety of habitats that attract many different birds.
On Thursday, March 3, Beth Lumadue spotted a Common Redpoll on her balcony in Fishersville. It was a life bird for her, and according to YuLee Larner, it is the first one reported in Augusta County since 1994. Before that, this species had been seen in 1978 and 1972. Wendy Ealding told Beth that there have been reports of scattered sightings of the Common Redpoll throughout the State this winter.
Angela and Peter Nebel spotted and photographed what they believe to be a juvenile Trumpeter Swan in the quarry near the Wendy's at the Fishersville exit off Interstate 64. It would be only the second time a Trumpeter Swan has been reported in Augusta County. The first time was December 2000 - January 2001, in the same general location, according to Birds of Augusta County. The photos below might help confirm this sighting for sure. The bird lacks the yellow markings in the bill which are characteristic of most Tundra Swans, which is the other possibility. Angela and Peter also saw a female Common Merganser at the same location, another rarity for this region.
UPDATE: It is now generally agreed that this bird is in fact a Trumpeter Swan. It was last reported by Allen Larner at Hestons Farm Ponds, near Stuarts Draft, on March 2.