Walt Childs and I headed west and then south down to Rockbridge County. We drove along Guthrie Road in Stuart's Draft (Augusta County) on the way there, and stopped to view a male American Kestrel.
Our first stop in Rockbridge County was a McCormick's Mill. It wasn't very birdy, but we did see a few Gadwalls and some woodland birds.
Our next stop was at Willow Lake in Raphine. There were Canada Geese and a fair number of ducks at the far end: Mallard, Ring-necked, Lesser Scaup, Redhead, American Wigeon, and Wood Duck.
The highlght of the stop at Willow Lake was a pair of Ospreys. The female was perched in a tree and was eating a fish, and then took off, while the male was diving for a meal.
We headed west to New Providence Road, and saw our only Great Blue Heron of the day on the way there.
Great Blue Heron
Provience Road was fairly quiet compared with other times birding there. We stopped on that road to look at a large nest almost completely invisible in a coniferous tree. We could see the top of a raptor's head, and our best guess is that it was a Red-tailed Hawk.
We drove a short distance on East Field Road where we saw a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, a distant accipiter that looked to be the size of a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but flew like a Cooper's (two wing flaps and then long glide), another Kestrel (female), a pair of Belted Kingfishers, a Common Merganser, and several smaller bird species.
We turned on to Dutch Hollow Road. Soon thereafter, we passed a Red-tailed Hawk that was taking off from a field next to the road.
A little while later, we saw three American Kestrels perched about 100 feet apart on a power line: female, male, and juvenile male.
Female American Kestrel
Male American Kestrel
Juvenile male American Kestrel
As we drove along, we saw a few new bird species for the day in the woods.
We continued north to Swoope, seeing more American Kestrels, a few more Red-tailed Hawks, and stopped at Smith Lake where we have permission to go birding. One of the resident Bald Eagles was in its nest.
We saw a lone Common Merganser near the east end of the lake, but it soon took flight.
It looked like there were a few ducks at the west end of the lake. I started to hike in that direction when a couple of them took off, and then wave after wave of ducks took to the air. There must have been about 200 ducks there: Mallards, Green-winged Teals, Blue-winged Teals, Wood Ducks, American Wigeons, and Hooded Mergansers.
As we headed east on Hewitt Road, we saw our last American Kestrel of the day, and a quick look at a Northern Harrier.
We ended the day trip with 52 avian species, including Red-tailed Hawks (6), Cooper's/Sharp-shinned Hawk (1), Bald Eagle (1), Northern Harrier (1), American Kestrels (14), and 11 duck species.Today's trip list: