It was mostly cloudy with scattered rain forecasted for the afternoon. Walt Childs and I headed west into the Shenandoah Valley to try birding along some country roads. We started off on Strickley Road in Augusta County, and soon saw an American Kestrel and a low flying Northern Harrier.
The American Kestrel was the first of 10 that we would see on this outing.
We turned off Battlefield Road and made our way along Cline River Road, where we saw a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, the first two of five we saw this day. A short time later, we saw a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk.
We saw a fair number of avian species as we drove, but the dark skies made photography a challenge.
Northern Flicker and juvenile White-crowned Sparrow
American Black Duck
At one point, two unusual looking Navy aircraft flew by, and fairly low to the ground. This wasn't the first time we have seen military aircraft in the Shenandoah Valley. Perhaps they were moving to a new base, or there is a training area here.
We crossed into Rockingham County and stopped at Leonard's Pond - no birds there; not even any Canada Geese, so we headed back into Augusta County. There had been reports of a Loggerhead Shrike in Mt. Solon, and although Walt and I have seen this species many times elsewhere, it is a rare species for Virginia. We didn't have a specific location for where it had been seen, so we drove on Mt. Solon Road for a while, and then turned onto Badger Road. Neither of us had birded on Badger Road before, and the first few hundred feet was loaded with birds on both sides of the road. We birded for about 15 minutes, back and forth along the road, and not a single vehicle came by to disturb us.
And then I got my best bird of the trip. At one end of the wooded area on Badger Road, I spotted a Golden-crowned Kinglet. Now, I have seen and photographed this species many times, but they are tough to photograph. They are usually partially hidden by leaves, and never stay in the same spot for more than a few seconds. This Golden-crowned Kinglet was foraging at the edge of the trees about five to six feet in front of me, and it wasn't bothered by me, nor was it in a hurry to move elsewhere. I got off a lot of photos, but the best ones were either partially blocked by a small branch, or the bird had its back to me.
And then it popped to the end of the branch and was posed out in the open for some great photos. As I raised my camera to get some shots, a pick-up truck came flying by me and the kinglet flew deep into the woods. Sigh. . .
It started to rain, so Walt and I headed back, and saw our 39th avian species of the outing on the shoulder of I-64 - a Wild Turkey.
And that would be the rest of the story, except for ...
When I got home, installers were putting up bedroom curtains in our new house in Crozet. Alice and I haven't had much trouble sleeping with just blinds, but the street lights and early morning sun do make the room a bit too bright for us. We planned to have a good night's sleep.
At 3:45 a.m., I awoke to an alarm going off in our new house. It was coming from the kitchen or great room area, but I couldn't find a smoke detector there, and I didn't remember where all of the smoke detectors were in our new house.
Once every minute, there were five loud alarm beeps, and then I noticed that the 10 year old carbon monoxide detector that we had brought from our old house was the culprit. I opened the door to the patio, woke up Alice to make sure she was okay, and went back to the alarm to try to turn it off, which I could not do. Maybe the back-up batteries were dead? So I had to search for where we had put batteries in the new house, finally found them, put in new batteries, and plugged the unit back into the wall. Did the alarm stop? NO! But we thought that the alarm should have been continuous, so now I started searching for the detector manual - where did we put that? I finally found it, and it took a while, and I finally read that five alarm beeps per minute meant that the detector had failed and needed replacing. I removed the batteries, and did not plug the detector back into the wall socket, and problem solved. Another SIGH. . . Why does this always happen in the middle of the night?!? Edsell Murphy must have designed the alarm. It was now 4:15 a.m, and I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn't, so I got up at 5:00 a.m. The only positive outcome from this nighttime saga was that I got to see a very thin, waning crescent moon rise in the east, with Jupiter close by.
Moon and Jupiter
The only previous time I had seen a thin crescent moonrise with Jupiter nearby (and not that I stay awake to try to see this!), was in 1990, when I photographed a crescent moon occulting Jupiter: Click here to see the 1990 photos.