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On Monday, December 12, the Augusta Bird Club held its annual Holiday Party for the first time since 2019, before the covid-19 pandemic. For the time being, at least, normality has returned! As usual, Linda Matkins was in charge of the festivities, handing out bird books and other fabulous prizes to the lucky attendees. Club President Rich Wood put together a visual display consisting of special bird photographs taken by club members over the past few years. The pot luck dinner provided great nourishment to all.
In late November, a MacGillivray's Warbler was spotted among the reeds at the west end of Lake Shenandoah in Rockingham County. It is only the third one of this species ever recorded in Virginia. It breeds in the Rocky Mountain states, as far northwest as British Columbia. That may explain its hardiness in enduring cold weather in this region.
Well over a dozen club members joined Penny Warren's walk along Bell's Lane on November 28, enjoying pleasant temperatures and clear skies. Some of the highlights are shown below, and a few members also had a great closeup view of a Red-tailed Hawk.
The Augusta Bird Club field trip to Augusta Springs on October 15 proved to be very fruitful, thanks in great measure to Kristin Fuoco (who gave the presentation at our September meeting) and her colleague, Javier. The highlights are shown below, including some unusually late migrating species as well as one of the many warblers seen in Swoope by some of the members on the way back to Staunton.
On September 10, five members of the Augusta Bird Club took a four-mile hike through "uncharted territory" to Bother Knob, a forested mountain peak on the West Virginia border. We had brief views of a variety of warblers, excellent looks at Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, as well as a Bald Eagle soaring up above.
On the morning of September 12 five members of the Augusta Bird Club joined in on a bird walk on Bell's Lane. Sun and blue skies greeted us, as well as quickly rising humidity levels again! We tallied 30 species plus one warbler yet to be identified... Some highlights: Wood Ducks; Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy Woodpeckers, and N. Flicker; American Kestrel, E. Phoebe, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, and Indigo Bunting. I thank those who participated and helped to find and to photograph many of the birds!
Early on September 17, Allen Larner led several ABC members on a field trip along Rt. 610 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Highlights included a Swainson's Thrush, Baltimore Oriole, Blackburnian Warbler, and male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Afterwards, the participants joined the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch open house at the Afton Inn.
On Wednesday June 29 Andrew Clem went for a six-plus mile "field trip" hike along the Shenandoah Mountain trail south of the Confederate Breastworks. He was later joined by Huck Hutchens, in spectacular weather conditions with numerous neotropical migrants along the trail. Besides the seven warbler species shown below, Ovenbirds, a Worm-eating Warbler, and a Black-and-white Warbler were seen, a Yellow-rumped Warbler was heard, and several Indigo Buntings, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-eyed Vireos, Eastern Wood Pewees made appearances as well.
The second day of Summer (June 22) was quite warm but four intrepid birders from the Augusta Bird Club conducted a great outing to McCormick's Mill Farm in Raphine. Fifty species were recorded with a new species for the Farm (#172) being a Yellow-breasted Chat. Other highlights included Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, American Goldfinch, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
On Saturday and Sunday, June 11-12, over a dozen members of the Augusta Bird Club went to Highland County to look for specialized birds that are seldom seen closer to home. On Saturday morning, they hiked for over two miles along trails lined by Mountain Laurel blossoms at the Laurel Fork Sapsuckers maple sugar farm, and in the afternoon they went to Bramble Hill, where the late Margaret O'Bryan used to live. On Sunday morning they stopped at a number of places along Laurel Fork Road, and the highlights were a Blackburnian Warbler and a Canada Warbler. A total count of species that were observed is pending, but these photos give a rough idea of the more notable sightings...
On May 20 Andrew Clem led a field trip at the Mountain Home picnic area along Ramsey's Draft in western Augusta County. There weren't that many birds in the low area, so we hiked uphill for just a bit along the Road Hollow trail. Among the birds seen were a Blue-headed Vireo, a Blackburnian Warbler, Scarlet Tanagers, a Black-throated Green Warbler, and a Black-and-white Warbler. On our way back to Staunton, we stopped at the Georgia Camp trail head and had a nice closeup view of an Acadian Flycatcher!
On May 11, the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watchers team (Vic Laubach, Penny Warren, Rich Wood, and Ezra Staengl) conducted our 10th annual Raptorthon to raise funds for the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) and our local Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch. We spent the day birding in Highland and Augusta Counties, ending up with 98 species total, including 15 warblers and 7 raptors (Barred Owl, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Kestrel, and Cooper's, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks). The weather was beautiful: sunny all day with light breezes and gradually warming in the afternoon.