Oriole Central, Red-shouldered Hawk pups (fuzzy-wuzzy) & more – Harpers Ferry bird walk

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It was a beautiful warm morning that 10 of us enjoyed thoroughly down in Harpers Ferry, along the river and wetlands, on a PVAS-sponsored bird walk. We got an early start – a good thing – by 10 AM the sun’s heat was becoming intense.

Most fun to watch were the 20+ BALTIMORE ORIOLES darting here & there & singing at the treetops; one of the males was chasing an OSPREY with a fish in its talons clear across the Shenandoah River. We saw clearly 2 oriole nests with both parents at them. Also – about half dozen ORCHARD ORIOLES, at least 2 of them 1st summer males, yellow with black masks, singing away.

We got to see several newbie WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHES scaling the sycamores with parents nearby to feed them occasionally.

Perhaps the highlight of the walk was seeing 2 fuzzy, fluffy big-eyed RED-SHOULDERED HAWK juveniles on the nest near the Shenandoah Canal. They looked down at us so sweetly with their large dark eyes.

The WARBLING VIREOS and COMMON GRACKLES filled the air with lots of song and noise. Loads of CEDAR WAXWINGS buzzing all along the way.

Also, Birdmom alerted us all to a pair of red fox kits – we turned to look back on the rr tracks and there they were: one sitting upright like a small dog, the other standing beside him, they looking at us and we at them. Another sweet moment of the morning. Later, about 15 Tiger Swallowtail butterflies convened in one spot on at a beachy area along the river, feeding on some salty shells.
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PVAS sponsors bird walk at NCTC

PVAS sponsored a bird walk at the National Conservation Training Center this morning. We walked up Sagamore Hill, around the eagle’s nest and onto the Riverview Farm trail, over to the landing and back. We had very good looks at the eagle and the eaglet in the nest. We also had some dramatic acrobatics by an Osprey and Red-shouldered Hawk. We had 4 warbler species – Northern Parula, Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush. We had 46 species including:
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PVAS-sponsored Murphy Farm walk – Birds and Wildflowers

11 birders walked the perimeter and woods at Murphy Farm, part of Harpers Ferry Nat’l Historical Park, on this beautiful morning. We started with temps hovering at 48 degrees, but started shedding clothes when we emerged from the woods and the sun had warmed things up to about 60. Thanks to Teri Holland for her patience & diligence in finding us the BLUE-HEADED VIREO; we also came away with one each RED-EYED VIREO and GREAT-CRESTED FLYCATCHER, 2 EASTERN KINGBIRDS, one WORM-EATING WARBLER (heard in the woods), and several LOUSIANA WATERTHRUSH singing. About 15 BROAD-WINGED HAWKS circled above the fields in waves on their way migrating north. Hordes of BLUEJAYS flew over – and kept coming. We figured their numbers reached 400 or so.

Kathy Bilton shared her knowledge of local wildflowers by pointing out the various species present in the fields and woods of Murphy Farm as we walked. Her list appears below. Continue reading

Any local Peregrine sightings – please inform!

Harpers Ferry peregrine (adult female)
I met up with Matthew Olear down in Harpers Ferry the morning of Saturday, March 2 to show him where the peregrine(s) has been sighted here in town. He has been very involved in local (DC area) peregrine-watching for a number of years and is keen on discovering if there is a new local pair nesting in the Harpers Ferry vicinity. Some of you may know the recent history of peregrines in our area. Apparently, since 1883 Maryland Heights has been consistently documented as hosting peregrine nests – and up until 1952 these have been successful. Recent attempts to re-introduce the peregrine have not been completely fruitful.
Harpers Ferry peregrine 2008 (adult male)
In the meantime, please keep me in the loop or post online about any peregrine sightings you may have in the Jefferson County/Harpers Ferry area. I plan on keeping Mr. Olear informed…. Thanks!
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Waterfowl Trip in Jefferson County

The Potomac Valley Audubon Society sponsored a waterfowl hop at various locations in Jefferson county . We had a very good day, with 10 duck species, 10 Horned Grebes and a Common Loon, in addition to other birds. We had 44 species in all. We saw Redheads at the Old Country Club Road ponds and at Shannondale Lake, which also had the loon. We stopped at a Great Blue Heron roost just before the power station on the Shenandoah River and counted 9 nests. And we had an immature Bald Eagle on Rissler road. As we pulled into the Martins Supermarket Parking lot at the end of the trip, a Coopers Hawk sat on the telephone wire where we had very good looks at him. The topping for my trip was on the way home driving over the Potomac River bridge at Shepherdstown, a Common Raven was circling.

The full list is as follows:
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PVAS Eastern Shore Bird Trip – 108 Species for the Weekend

Four members of PVAS just completed a fantastic 3 day trip to the Eastern Shore starting at Bombay Hook NWR (BH) and working south to Fowler Beach (FB), Silver Lake (SL), Indian River Inlet (IRI), Ocean City Inlet (OCI), Chincoteague NWR (CH), Cambridge (CA) and finishing at Blackwater NWR (BW). The weather may have been cold but the birding was hot. The trip resulted in 108 species. This included 24 duck species, 13 shore bird species, 5 Gull species, 6 woodpecker species, 20,000+ Snow Geese and 40+ Bald Eagles. We had 84 species on the first day. Every stop had something new to offer. We almost gave up on the Redhead duck, #24, until Sandy yelled “REDHEAD” at the entrance ponds to BW. Typically 20 duck species on this trip is achievable, but 24 is normally out of the question. This was a trip we’ll never forget. One member of the team logged over 30 lifers.

Below are other notables:
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Cats a menace to the bird world?

For anyone who missed it, here’s Washington Post columnist Charles Lane’s take on the recent study identifying cats as a major culprit to bird deaths:What shall we do with these killer cats?

He raises some interesting points:

“Scientific though it may be, the report is not contradiction-free. It brands cats an ‘invasive’ species, imported to North America by humans and unchecked by natural predators. Yet three of the 11 most-victimized bird species in the study are also invasive: the house sparrow, the rock pigeon and the European starling.

In my book, that means every time a cat takes out one of those winged pests, it’s a case of justifiable avicide.”

C&O Canal birdwalk – Harpers Ferry – ducks, gulls, et. al.

The bald eagles were not on their nest, nor did the peregrine falcon appear, but this morning’s PVAS-sponsored birdwalk along the C&O Canal at Harpers Ferry held other surprises. Six birders (incl. Bill Hale & Steve Hartman, two of my “regulars”) joined me on this rather dreary morning. The songbirds were esp. quiet – and hardly woke up even on our return walk, but the ducks delighted; plus we got to witness a huge kettle of Ring-billed gulls forming on the opposite ridge up & along by the Hilltop House hotel. That swarm occurred after 27 of the long & skinny-winged gulls flew closer to us over the Potomac – it was awesome to behold.

Here’s our list of 34 species:
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Lesser Black-backed Gull in Loudoun County, VA

Bob Abrams and I found an adult Lesser Black-blacked Gull at the Loudoun County Landfill during the central Loudoun county CBC on Dec 28th. It was with approximately 750 Ring-billed Gulls and 32 Herring Gulls. Also of note were 400+ Fish Crows.

WV only has three accepted records of Lesser Black-backed Gull and this one is less than 20 miles from Jefferson county.

Eurasian Collared-Dove in Martinsburg

Tom Masters has found a Eurasian Collared-Dove visiting his yard during the last week. If accepted, this would represent the first documented record for WV. Congratulations to Tom! This species has been expanding it’s range in the lower 48 since first making an apperance in the 1970’s. There is a small population about 20-25 miles north of Martinsburg; 1) Just north of Hagerstown, MD and 2) Just east of Greencastle,PA.
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