Mid-July birding in Virginia can be a challenge. Not only does one have to consider heavy foliage making birds hard to locate, but hot and humid weather with the frequent chance of afternoon thunderstorms dampens the enthusiasm. However, it is also a good time to look for juvenile birds, even though juveniles of some similar looking species can also be a challenge.
I hadn't been to Swoope (a bit southwest of Staunton) for a more than a month, and with a forecast of several consecutive rainy days starting in the next day or so, I wanted to take advantage of the partly cloudy skies while it was still dry. As I drove along Hewitt Road, I saw several avian species.
Juvenile Tree Swallow
Juvenile Eastern Bluebird
My first stop was at Smith Lake (on private property where I have persmission to go birding). I usually park just off the drive at the east end of the lake, and hike along the south side of the lake. However, the path hadn't been mowed, and the vegetation was waist high and included quite a bit of Queen Anne's lace. As the flowers of similar looking, and highly toxic,giant hogweed had been reported near Staunton, as well as the high probability of ticks, I decided to bird from the drive, even though that meant my missing the western end of the lake and having distant views. I saw a lone Wood Duck near a Green Heron, a few Killdeers and Solitary Sandpipers, and a Lesser Yellowlegs.
Wood Duck and Green Heron
Solitary Sandpiper and Killdeer
Along the drive were Easten Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, and I heard a Willow Flycatcher.
I stopped at a few places on Cattleman Road. At one of the stops I saw a flycatcher that looked too yellowish to be a Pewee, but didn't have the bold eye-ring of a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. I wondered if it were a juvenile Willow Flycatcher?
Juvenile Willow Flycatcher?
I continued driving through Swoope, heard a Bobwhite and saw an American Kestrel fly from a power line. By the time I left Swoope, I had logged 31 avian species there.
I decided to drive to the Augusta Springs Wetlands from Swoope and hike the two mile loop there. I usually don't see much at this wetlands, but added four more avian species to my day's list.
Juvenile American Robin
Juvenile Eastern Phoebe?