Locations Visited: Great Falls Park (Fairfax County, VA), Pleasure House Point Natural Area, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Atlantic Ocean from The Rudee Flipper. Sightings Included: American Bittern, Humpback Whale & Red-throated Loon.
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This week was a short week of work, and I’m very grateful for that! I worked Monday & Tuesday, then Ruth & I headed up to Fairfax, VA for the Christmas Holiday in the evening. Ruth’s mother (Connie) lives in Lorton specifically, which is just a small component of Fairfax County. Her older sister (Heather), and her nephew (Christopher) were meeting us there, having left a couple days earlier from Charleston, SC. Also meeting us there were my mother (Peggy) and step-father (Bob) who had travelled all day from northwest Indiana. So Connie was to have a very full house, and when we arrived around 7 PM, Ruth’s aunt & cousin were also there. So we all had dinner and stayed up probably later than I’m used too. I’d planned on going hiking on Wednesday (Christmas Eve) morning, but when I awoke at 6, 7, and then at 8, it was consistently raining so that plan got scrapped.... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Locations Visited: Kings Grant Lakes, Pleasure House Point Natural Area. Sightings Included: River Otter, Ring-necked Ducks, Brants, Snowy Egrets, Buffleheads, Great Egret.
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Yet another week of working during all the sunlight hours as we head towards the shortest day of the year (Sunday). Friday, I brought my camera to work in the hopes that it would stay sunny outside long enough for me to at least swing by my local King Grant Lakes on the way home at 3 PM. It did, and I stopped first at the main park off Kings Grant Road to try my hand at getting some waterfowl shots. The typical birds were all present, with Canada Geese and Mallards leading the way and some stray Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeons, Northern Shovelers, and Hooded Mergansers also out on the main lake. Driving around to the different points surrounding the lake, I also got to see a group of Wood Ducks (near the lake outlet). And also, I was stopped along the roadway near the smallest of the ponds watching a Great Egret and some ducks when a River Otter came swimming by through a mat of floating vegetation. It swam in a few circles, going under water and.... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Locations Visited: Back Bay NWR, Rudee Inlet, Pleasure House Point Natural Area, South Thimble Island (Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel), Stumpy Lake Natural Area, Princess Anne Road, Knott's Island Causeway (Currituck County, NC). Sightings Included: Merlin, Common Eider, American Bittern.
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After what seemed like the longest week of dreary weather of all time, the clouds and rain finally cleared here on Thursday/Friday. Prior to the weather breaking, myself & Ruth, Karen & Tom Beatty & Pam & Joe Monahan got together for a dinner party up on the Chesapeake Bay at Jane Scott Norris' beautiful home. We all enjoyed a great evening. Amusingly, Ruth & I also spotted a Raccoon in Jane's neighborhood while en route to her house, so the wildlife must have known we were all convening! On Thursday, I was very excited to see that our own Karen Beatty & her husband Tom had made it out to Rudee Inlet on Thursday and sighted a pair of Common Eiders close in to shore, a very uncommon sight around our area, though eBird doesn't state them as a rarity for some reason. Because of this sighting, one that many members followed up on Friday and re-sighted.... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Locations Visited: Kings Grant Lakes. Sightings Included: Double-crested Cormorants, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck, Red-bellied Woodpecker.
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My apologies for the lateness of this blog, and also for the shortness! This past week, we had a Nor'easter scrape the coastline, providing us with tons of rain & wind and all around dreary weather. I did not get the opportunity to get out at all Monday through Friday, and Saturday was pretty miserable conditions. I decided to go down to Kings Grant Lake since the waterfowl have showed up in the area now. I drove over about 1 in the afternoon to Kings Grant Lake Park off Kings Grant Road to start. From the small park, plenty of waterfowl were visible out over the water, in order of their abundance: Mallards, Canada Geese, Domestic Geese, Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeons, and Hooded Mergansers. In addition to the waterfowl there were also large numbers of Double-crested Cormorants and Ring-billed Gulls. Not seeing anything out of the ordinary, I took some photographs and then headed over to the next viewing spot along Edinburgh Drive. Here, there was a Great Egret and.... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Locations Visited: Francis Marion NF, Pitt Street Causeway, Shem Creek Park (Charleston, South Carolina). Sightings Included: Hermit Thrush, Marbled Godwit, Purple Finch, Horned Grebe, Clapper Rail.
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Thanksgiving week has arrived! After working a 6-day week this past week, and only getting out for about an hour to Back Bay on Sunday, this week is getting here just in time. On Monday, we in Southeastern Virginia were treated to the first ever recorded sighting of a Crested Caracara, which was spotted Sunday by Julie Coari & Karen Roberts in Virginia Beach near the intersection of Blackwater Road & Hungarian Road. Over the next couple of days many individuals went out and observed the bird. By Thanksgiving Day though, it had left the area, and hasn't bee reported again since. While seeking out the Caracara, Keith Roberts also located what might be either a Couch's or Tropical Kingbird, but it was also unable to be re-found. I did not get the chance to see either bird, being that I had a full time job and this time of year, the sun is pretty.... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Locations Visited: Kings Grant Lakes, Back Bay NWR. Sightings Included: Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads, Canvasbacks, Bald Eagles, Cooper's Hawk, Tundra Swan.
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This was a busy, busy week for me! Monday, was my 31st Birthday, and more importantly, it was the day Ruth & I finally got to get our cat, Buster, in to the vet to have his neck-cone removed after having been fixed about 10 days prior. I was very excited to see our little guy in full happy mode for the first time in a couple weeks! Tuesday through Friday, no hiking for me, and to make this the most difficult week of the year for me, Saturday I had to spend in my office at work. My company gives us the option to work the Saturday before Thanksgiving, in order to get the Friday after it off as a holiday. So its a no-brainer for us to work one day to get a 4 day weekend, however, it makes for a rough week, and one that started with my birthday nonetheless! On Saturday, Ruth's sister Heather and her nephew Christopher had also come up to visit so they all spent the day together. After I left work at 3 on Saturday, I did a quick stop off at Kings Grant Lake and the surrounding ponds to try.... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Since I now cannot get out hiking after working hours Monday through Friday thanks to lack of sunlight, my first outing was on Saturday. With my 31st birthday coming up on Monday, Ruth & I decided to go down to the Outer Banks very early Saturday morning with plans to hike our way south towards Hatteras, and then stay overnight around Nags Head so we could do some more hiking on Sunday morning. We left home about 6:30 AM and were in the Outer Banks around 8 AM. We made our first stop at Bodie Island Lighthouse which is a few miles south of Nags Head, and a couple of miles north of Oregon Inlet, the large water crossing between the peninsula containing Kitty Hawk / Nags Head / and Currituck County and Hatteras Island to the south. The lighthouse has a short boardwalk the goes out onto an observation platform overlooking a freshwater marsh. We must have been the first ones there on the crisp & breezy morning since all the waterfowl and wading birds were still tucked close in to the platform. Slowly walking up, we flushed a few Song Sparrows, and then immediately noticed a large group of adult White Ibis just beyond the reeds. As we crept on them, a few Green-winged Teal took to the air, and as they did, so did all the other birds, which included some Northern Pintails and American Black Ducks, and many Tundra Swans. After flushing all the.... Click Here to Continue Reading!
With Daylight Savings Time coming to a close this past weekend, it was a rough work week to get through, knowing that I couldn't make it out birding at all in the evenings. I was beyond ready to get out the door this morning, and hit Back Bay's parking area right around 7 AM. Temperatures were down in the 30s around Hampton Roads over night, and it stayed nice and cool this morning, which really seemed to cut down on the number of visitors to the park. By the time I left around 10 AM, there was still only 4 or 5 vehicles in the main lot, which is great for viewing wildlife. The waterfowl have started showing up now to the park, and the main impoundments are now closed off to the public. I saw a mixed group of Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, and Buffleheads off the Loop Road near the West Dike gate. There was also Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Mallard, American Black Ducks in the area northwest of the parking area. Out over the water, the massive blob of Tree Swallows that have taken up residence at the park could be seen swirling back and forth, and eventually they overtook the entire parking area, it was incredible to see and hear them all streaming by continuously. The Bay Trail was packed with Yellow-rumped Warblers, and should stay this way for a while. Also along the trail I saw a couple of Golden-crowned Kinglets (one showing a good.... Click Here to Continue Reading!
With my engagement weekend having gone the way I'd hoped, I had a whole week of work to look forward to (ugh). I was anticipating another Monday through Thursday of not being able to get outdoors since the sun is setting around 6 or 6:15 PM now. However, thanks to a 2:00 meeting at the City of Virginia Beach on Wednesday that got out at 3:00, I was able to book it home & change clothes, then head up to Pleasure House Point for a short walk. I arrived about 4:15 to Marlin Bay Drive and headed into the park, just excited that on a 75-80 degree day at the end of October I was still able to get out after work hours. The first bird I came across was a cackling Belted Kingfisher that I located far out over the creek. The ponds near the access trail were both empty for a change, typically I'll see Great Blue Herons, or at least some Yellow-crowned Night-Herons along the shorelines. This is the second outing in a row that no Night-Herons showed up, so I'm thinking that the last of them have now headed south and I won't see any in Hampton Roads until the 3rd week of March at the earliest when they migrate back. There was a discussion a while back as to why the Yellow-crowns leave us, but the Black-crowns remain, and it was mentioned that perhaps since the Yellow-crowns feed mainly on crabs, they leave as the crabs go into hibernation, while the Black-crowns, which tend... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week was a very quiet one for me being outdoors. Monday through Thursday I was unable to get outside for photography just because of the sun setting too early in the day now for a trip after working hours to be worth the effort. On Friday, my girlfriend Ruth & I were heading up to Charlottesville, Virginia to stay for the weekend and do some hiking...and also so that I could pull a surprise proposal at the top of Spy Rock just outside of Montebello in Nelson County (I'll try to hit the highlights since this is technically a nature blog). In the plans for quite a while, I had picked out an engagement ring two weeks prior while my mother was in town visiting, and Friday was the day I finally got to pick it up. Naturally, it wasn't there at Noon like it was supposed to be, but after a short panic, it did arrive at 2 PM, so I was able to grab the ring and get it home before Ruth got home so I could hide it in my backpack for the weekend trip. We headed up to Charlottesville around 6 PM or so on Friday evening, and thanks to some truly awful traffic on I-64 up between Newport News and Williamsburg, we didn't make it til close to 10 PM. We grabbed a quick dinner at Ruby Tuesday and settled into our Comfort Inn hotel just southeast of the city proper. On Saturday morning, we were up and out early, before 7 AM, and headed up I-64 westward towards the access at Rockfish Gap / Afton... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This was the first week that I'm now settling down to just Friday evening & weekend outings due to the lack of sunlight after my normal Monday through Thursday working hours. On Monday, after a great weekend spent with my mother, I had to get her off to the airport and headed back to Indiana, hopefully she enjoyed her time, though I'm pretty certain she did. So through the week we had some good weather, definitely feeling moreso like Fall now in Hampton Roads. On Friday, I left work at 3 PM like usual, and decided that instead of going down to Back Bay NWR like I had initially planned, I went up to Pleasure House Point to try and maximize my outdoor time while the sun was still high enough to provide light for decent photography. From my office I can make it up there in about 20 minutes or less which makes it ideal for short duration outings like I can fit in on Friday evenings this time of year. With the sun setting slowly, I parked on Marlin Bay Drive and headed first eastwards to keep it out of my eyes. It was a beautifully sunny day with highs right in the lower 70s, which is my preferred temperature since I can walk and walk and not sweat like crazy. Throughout the week, a number of reports had showed up on eBird.org referencing Saltmarsh & Nelson's Sparrow sightings. Because of this, I was very excited and hoped I might be able to find both species for the first... Click Here to Continue Reading!
After the whirlwind wedding weekend that I had this past weekend, I was ready to see some migrating birds when Monday finally arrived. I would like to stress that I did have a great time over the past few days with wedding get togethers, but it was killing me knowing how nice out it was, and not being about to get outdoors. So Monday I headed up to Pleasure House Point right after work, and got there about 4:15 PM. I arrived about midway between the low & high tide cycle, which will keep getting better positioned later in the week for me to see shorebirds after working hours (Wednesday namely). I parked off Marlin Bay's entrance so that I could walk eastward at first with the setting sun behind me. Even though it is plenty bright still between 4 and about 6, the angle of sun setting slowly makes it tough to get photographs, a lot of animals just get washed out due to the low angle. It also makes it very difficult to shoot photographs amongst any large number of trees, as the shadows are now everywhere. Additionally, walking eastward, your own personal shadow tends to be out 20 or more feet ahead of where you're walking, and tends to spook critters out of the way before you get close enough to even spot them. So really, a rough time of year for after work hours photography. Anyway, I headed eastward, and my first sighting was that of a Painted Lady (butterfly)... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week was one of the craziest I've had this year in terms of trying to get a lot done on schedule. Thursday I had a wedding rehearsal & dinner, Friday I had an all day wedding that I was part of as a groomsman for my buddy Chris, and Saturday I had another wedding to attend for some friends from college. Because of all of this I was only able to get out hiking in the after-work hours of Tuesday & Wednesday this week. We've had absolutely amazing weather all week long, and it was killing me that I couldn't get out more often to enjoy it. Folks are also seeing crazy amounts of migrating birds now, and over 200 Peregrine Falcons were seen over the weekend at Kiptopeke's Hawk Watch, an incredible number, I think I've seen like 5 in my entire lifetime. Merlins and Kestrels were also present so it appears the bulk of the falcons have now made their big move heading southward. Songbird migrations are also ongoing and some of the neatest sightings that were posted to Facebook was a Black-throated Blue Warbler by Donald Freeman at Pleasure House Point, an Orange-crowned Warbler at Back Bay NWR by Barbara Houston, a Magnolia Warbler up on the Eastern Shore by Keith Roberts, and just so many more I don't have time to discuss... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week was quite an intense one for me. On Monday evening after work, my girlfriend Ruth & I went down to the oceanfront in Virginia Beach and walked from 88th Street down the beach around Fort Story. It was a gorgeous night out on the beach, with the sun slowly setting while we walked along. This is one of my favorite stretches of beach in the area since not a whole lot of people like to venture out onto it, since it isn't very accessible the further north you go. Along the beach we saw plenty of Sanderlings, and a few Willets as well. Brown Pelicans is large numbers were flying offshore, probably heading back towards Lynnhaven Inlet for the night to roost. All the typical gulls were seen (Laughing/Ring-billed/Herring/Lesser & Great Black-backed), and a few Royal Terns flew by as well, though I haven't seen any other tern species recently in the area so they may have all moved southward at this point in the season. Up around the large rock jetties that protect the beach we spotted a Least Sandpiper mixed in with a flock of Sanderlings, and shortly after, found a Spotted Sandpiper bobbing its tail up and down on the rocks. Both were the first ones I've seen at this particular location, though neither is anything rare around here. They just usually prefer mudflats more than open... Click Here to Continue Reading!
I'm very excited to announce that I will finally be in the Hampton Roads area for a full week this week! I returned home to Virginia Beach from my trip up to Boone, North Carolina late on Sunday (9/14) evening, and now get to hopefully venture out into our local outdoors looking for some wildlife this week. Over the weekend I got my 201st species of 2014, which is now a new personal best after seeing 200 species on the dot last year in 2013. The bird that put me over was a beautiful Blue-headed Vireo (photo featured in the last blog posted). I was very happy that after the first night of my good buddy's bachelor party I was up at 7 AM to see the sun rise in the mountains, and was rewarded with some great sights of migrating songbirds, including Black-throated Green Warblers, American Redstarts, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and the aforementioned Vireo! Now back to Hampton Roads... On Monday, overcast weather, a lot of work to do at my job, and this ongoing nasty cough (presumably allergy related since I always get sick for a week or two this time of year) unfortunately kept me stuck inside. On Monday, the Kiptopeke State Park Hawk Watch continued showing good results, with 80 American Kestrels and 47 Ospreys as the leaders. Merlins, Broad-winged, Sharp-shinned & Cooper's Hawks were all seen as well, so as I keep saying in my blogs... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Though I was out of town over the past weekend in Nashville, Tennessee, and didn't make it back to Virginia Beach until late Monday night, I heard a lot about how much rain we had over the weekend. On Monday, some parts of the area reported 4-5 inches of rain, which is an incredible amount in a 24-hour timespan! Thanks to this nasty weather to start the week, I'm sure not too many folks ventured out to seek out wildlife. Even at the Hawkwatch site at Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore, only 2 raptors (1 Osprey & 1 Merlin) were observed on Monday. So, for the sake of wildlife viewing, I'm not too bummed that I was traveling back to Virginia beach on Monday, but I do love a good downpour, so I still wish I'd been here to see it. Rainfall is kind of the reason I do the full time job I do (hydraulic engineer), and flooding control is my specialty so it's very interesting to me when I get to see just what nature can conjure up against engineered systems like storm drain culverts & inlets. The weather hung around for Tuesday as well, and yet again resulted in another slow day at the Hawkwatch site, though much better than the prior day with a total of 29 raptors sighted. No new species were recorded, but a Peregrine Falcon (only the 3rd thus far this season) was seen. Wednesday, the weather finally took a turn for the better and it was quite a gorgeous day out. As my luck... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week we were blessed with a 3-day weekend, being that Monday was Labor Day. Because of this, I was fortunate enough to continue my hiking spree for a third day in a row. Late on Saturday night I saw some postings on the Listserver about a lot of birds being spotted down at Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge just over the border from Virginia Beach in North Carolina. Karen & Tom Beatty, and Keith & Karen Roberts both got good photographs of a pair of Hudsonian Godwits, and also took some shots of an American Golden-Plover near the pumphouse junction. Because of those sightings of two species that I'd never seen before, I decided to finally take my first trip into Mackay Island NWR. The drive from my Kings Grant apartment complex is a fairly long one, probably close to an hour, but its a very peaceful one as you travel through the southern, rural portion of Virginia Beach known as Pungo, or sometimes referred to as "Princess Anne County". Once you cross the state line, its just a few miles of beautiful marshland with sparsely populated treed areas scattered about. The first couple of miles in the refuge travel down a gravel road along some freshwater impoundments (very similar to the dikes at Back Bay NWR). Along the roadway there was a number of Bullfrogs seen, and I saw a large Cooper's Hawk perched up on a tree branch, but as soon as I stopped to try... Click Here to Continue Reading!
The week started off with me continuing to furiously work on the website to get it ready for it's public release! However, unlike the previous week, I did get into the outdoors this week, which greatly helps when writing this blog and trying to update folks on what's been seen around the area. Having firsthand knowledge from my own outings gives me some great insight into what others are probably seeing as well. This week, we had yet another tropical cyclone (Hurricane Cristobal) head up along the east coast, but staying out to sea far enough that it's worse effects weren't felt here in our area. We did receive strong, strong northeasterly winds from the hurricane, and as a result, large waves and strong rip currents along the coast. These winds also helped in raising the tidal levels all across Virginia Beach especially, where waters were about 0.5 to 1 foot above normal. Also this week, the Virginia Aquarium released a statement that they had found a sharply cut DVD case in the stomach lining of the Sei Whale that died last week and washed up near St. Julians Creek, a tributary of the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. They have not stated yet as to whether it was the actual cause of death, but something that could have affected it in a negative fashion. More on this as soon as they make the results of the autopsy public... Click Here to Continue Reading!
There was a lot of excitement around Hampton Roads this week, despite the poor weather for getting out and taking photographs of wildlife. Early in the week, a large whale, yes, a whale, was sighted in the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. Unfortunately, later in the week, by Thursday it had been discovered washed up along a tributary bank and wasn't moving. The Virginia Aquarium's Stranding Team then moved in and announced that the whale had passed. Crews eventually moved the body up to Craney Island where it would be given an autopsy by the aquarium staff to determine the cause of death. Whales are quite common along the coastline of Virginia Beach, but to see one so far inland is a rare event. The species, a Sei Whale, has also washed up on shore in Oceanview in Norfolk a couple years ago. The Elizabeth River whale turned out to be a younger female, measuring a massive 45 feet in length. While this was the big news, some other interesting sightings did occur as well. Folks on Listserver have been reporting sightings of Black Terns along the beachfront at Back Bay (Ron Furnish & Keith Roberts), as well as a sighting of a Lark Sparrow at Back Bay NWR by Ron Furnish! I unfortunately did not get out in the field much, having only hiked First Landing State Park on Sunday morning, but not finding a whole lot of wildlife due to the intense northeasterly wind... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Over the past few weeks I've been donating all my spare time to the creation of this website, so hiking & photography time has seemed to go by the wayside most evenings. This week I made it out for my first adventure on Friday, thanks to having taken the day off so that my girlfriend Ruth & I could make her Saturday birthday into a 3-day weekend. Friday morning, we headed down to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and after letting Ruth off at Little Island Park in Sandbridge so she could spend her morning on the beach, I got to the parking area around 9 AM. This time of year, the East Dike Trail is open through the eastern corridor of the park, so I walked that way to begin. The 9 AM tram to False Cape State Park was just leaving as I was out hiking on the Loop Road, so I went to the west side so as to avoid it. Along the East Dike today I encountered a large number of Southern Leopard Frogs sitting along the ditches and the roadway itself. Birds were again scarce as I walked the dike. Most of the ones I saw were Great and Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, and White Ibis. Since the vegetation is at it's max growth this time of year out in the impoundment areas to the west of the trail it is very difficult to spot birds. Also, this time of year the ducks are all in molt, and out hiding amongst the marsh grasses out of sight while they re-grow their flight feathers. So all this... Click Here to Continue Reading!
After a bummer of a weekend due to overcast and rainy conditions, this week started the exact same way. Fortunately, it only lasted through Monday, and on Tuesday afternoon the sun finally peeked out of the clouds for the first time since last Thursday. After work I ran home and got my stuff together quickly, then headed down to Back Bay. This time of year the shorebirds begin migrating southward from their breeding grounds on the tundra of northern Canada. They can be found in increasingly large numbers along the beaches and coastlines of the East Coast as a result. I walked a couple mile section of the beach at Back Bay NWR from the parking area south towards North Carolina and back for a couple of hours. A couple hundred miles to the east, Tropical Storm Bertha was moving northeastward away from the coast, but the sea swell could be seen hitting the shores of Back Bay. Large, long period waves were moving into shore and it was quite beautiful with the sun shining overhead. The birds must have enjoyed it as well, as tons of them were sitting on the beaches today. I saw the usual gulls (Laughing, Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed & Lesser Black-backed), terns (Royal, Gull-billed), Brown Pelicans, Ospreys, Double-crested Cormorants, and even a Red-breasted Merganser way down the beach line running on the sand. As far as the land-based shorebirds went, Sanderlings were... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week the weather started off hot, but cooled down nicely on Tuesday into the low 80s for the high and mid 70s throughout the afternoon. After work on Tuesday I ran home & put together my things, then headed up to Pleasure House Point in an attempt to start adding some shorebirds to my yearly list. This time of year, the shorebirds begin their migration from the tundra of northern Canada southward along the coastline. They like to stop on beaches and mudflats where they can feed by their preferred method of probing the wet ground with their bill for insects and crustaceans. Pleasure House Point features a lot of shoreline in the tidal estuary, and during low tide there is a lot of surface area of mudflats exposed so it is a great place to try and find them. Also, the birds have just crossed over the Chesapeake Bay moving southward which is about 11 miles of open water if crossing directly from Fisherman Island to Cape Henry on the south side. Because of this water crossing, the birds are likely very tired and very hungry, so they'll stop at the first place to refuel that they can, the Lynnhaven River estuary. For once, I actually managed to get to the park when it wasn't high tide... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week was one of the most hectic I've had this year! I had to do some travel for work on Tuesday up to our office in Richmond, then had an important vet visit for Buster on Wednesday, and Thursday Ruth & I were to drive to Chicago after a half day's work for my cousin Ryan's wedding on Saturday. Fortunately everything went well at the vet office on Wednesday for Buster, and his bacterial infection is gone, leaving just some belly worms to deal with still. He's doing great, and was officially put on an annual plan since he's considered healthy enough now, so it looks like we're stuck with the little guy! With all that excitement, and the wedding weekend, this wasn't a week of outdoor adventures for me unfortunately, but more so a weekend of getting to visit with my family back home. On Friday morning though, after having arrived at about 3 AM Eastern Time in Munster, Indiana, Ruth, my mom & I went out for a quick walk of Plum Creek Nature Preserve. I had visited the park a couple of times back in June while I was visiting my mother after my trip to Minnesota, and we'd had great luck at seeing wildlife, especially White-tailed Deer of which we saw about a dozen in two outings. Given that, I thought we'd have a good showing and the Ruth would get to experience some up close deer sightings. Somehow between June & now, it appears all the deer have vanished... Click Here to Continue Reading!
With our newly adopted stray kitten, Buster, running around the apartment, I spent my weeknights this week at home. I also spent my lunch break at home playing with the little guy. He seems to be doing very well, though he has a vet appointment next week where we'll see for certain what his outlook is in terms of the infection he had when we caught him, and the worms in his belly issue. He's filled out a lot now that he's had a steady diet, and he took the antibiotics all week long so hoping that he's in the clear, since Ruth & I are extremely attached to the little guy now. I can't imagine what its like having a child, because I'm already feeling the need to be more responsible just worrying about having a kitten at home. He seems to be more and more comfortable with the apartment though, and he hasn't really been running and hiding as much as on Saturday, mostly just playing and running around, or sleeping. We're still trying to figure out what we're going to do with him next weekend when we have to travel, but we'll figure that out later... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Another hot, hot, hot & humid week this week in Hampton Roads! I spent Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday out in the field at work again doing this gas main survey up in Newport News & in Norfolk so once again, no hiking after work those days since I was purely drained by the time the day was over. On Wednesday evening, we had some pretty intense storms move through the area, dumping heavy rain, which I fortunately got to watch from the safety of my home after work. Had I not already been in my comfy, household clothes, I would have run down to some of my engineering project areas to see how the drainage systems I designed at work did at handling the huge amounts of rain. Fortunately for me though, I got another shot the very next day, as we had a huge line of storms move through again on Thursday afternoon/evening. This time, I left work early specifically to photograph some of the effects of the heavy rain. I won't go too into my sever weather outing in this supposed-to-be-wildlife-related-blog since I actually wrote up a whole other article about it for my job (can be found at www.rbnature.com/articles). But, I will say that while I was out near the oceanfront taking photographs of how the ditches were handling rainfall, and where the roadways were ponding and things of that nature, apparently an EF0 (lowest scale) tornado... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week, the full fury of summer's heat hit the area. All throughout the week, weather reached high into the 90s with dangerous heat indices over 100 several days. On Monday, I wrapped up my big project at work that I've been designing off and on for the last six years. Since I finished it up and got it submitted to the City of Virginia Beach, I needed something new to switch over too. Right now my company is working on a job for Virginia Natural Gas, where we are designing new gas mains through a few hundred miles of older neighborhoods. In order to do the designs, we have to have crews go out in the neighborhoods & take measurements to all objects that could end up being in the way (trees, fences, poles, water/sewer/storm mains, electric lines, etc.). Since I needed work, I spent the remainder of the work week out in the field performing these tasks. I had done some of this work earlier in the year when we had temperatures in the teens coupled with snow, now its exactly the opposite, and about 85 degrees warmer. So after working outside all day in the heat it was a little tough to get out hiking. On Thursday, we wrapped up pretty early in the day, and I went up to Pleasure House Point after work just to see if I could photograph anything interesting. It was close to 100 degrees though and I only stayed out for an hour or so because of it. I also managed to hit the park at high... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week was a tough week for photography with me. After arriving home from my 16-day trip to the midwest, and after shooting about 1500 photographs, I didn't have any motivation to get out with my camera during the week after work. By Saturday though I was ready to give it a shot again and my buddy Chris & his fiance Shawnna came down to go hiking with me & to go to the beach with Ruth. We got down to Sandbridge around 9 AM and dropped off the ladies at the beach, then hit Back Bay NWR for a morning hike. In the 3 weeks I was gone from the area, it sure heated up, and we'd had 80s & 90s all week long. Back Bay is notorious for being a difficult place to hike during the summertime just due to not having much shade in the park, and on calm days it can get excruciatingly hot & humid. For the first time this year, the West Dike Trail was now closed off and the East Dike Trail had opened up sometime while I was out of the area. I had hoped the West Dike would still be open since I'd gotten a good idea of where I could find certain species of birds along it after having hiked it quite a few times in the spring. Since this was my first trip down the East Dike, I really didn't know what to expect. One key difference between the two dikes is that there is a lot more surface water visible on the West Dike, with the waters of Back Bay visible to the west and the freshwater impoundments of the... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week got off to an early start. At 4:30 AM on Monday I had to get up, and I was headed down the road from Ely, MN at about 5 AM towards Indiana. Of course, the weekend's dreary weather had gone away, and been replaced by beautiful sunny weather for my day in the car. I drove down Highway 1 & Highway 2 to the North Shore of Lake Superior, seeing what I believe was a Long-tailed Weasel on the way that ran across the road carrying what appeared to be a small bird. This was the extent of the wildlife I saw til I reached the shore, where I did see a couple of White-tailed Deer along the roadway. I decided not to stop at the state parks nearby, just so that I could get a little more driving done early. However, when I got into Wisconsin, it was still so nice out that I stopped at Amnicon Falls State Park for the first time. I got here about 7:30 AM, and just parked along the river that flows through the park (the Amnicon River). The falls & rapids are all very close to the entry road so I didn't have to walk very far. Seeing it for the first time, it was quite a beautiful section of river, very similar to the rivers on the north shore that also flow into Lake Superior. I walked along the rapids and falls for a half hour or so, hearing mainly Chestnut-sided Warblers but not actually seeing any. I left and got back on the road, and did eventually make it to my mom's house in Indiana by about 4 PM after... Click Here to Continue Reading!
After the excitement of Munster had now come to a close, I started this week off at about 4:30 AM heading up to Minnesota in my car. On the way, I got to add Sandhill Crane to my list of 2014 birds when I saw one in a farm field in central Wisconsin. Most of the drive was nice weather, but the last hundred miles or so in Wisconsin ended up being very cloudy and a little bit drizzly. When I reach Lake Superior though, the sun came out and blue sky could be seen all along the water. I made it to Duluth, MN by 12:30 PM and since it was so nice out I decided to try to get a couple short hikes in along the North Shore. My first stop was at Gooseberry Falls State Park, where the water was really flowing. Apparently they've had quite a lot of rain this season so far, and you could really see it in the falls. While walking along the river, I got my first glimpse, and shots, of a Black-throated Green Warbler. Just last summer I added this one to my life list at nearby Tettegouche State Park, which just so happened to be my next stop on the afternoon. When I reached Tettegouche, I could see some thunderstorms moving in from the northwest. Because of this, I ended up walking very quickly along my favorite trail out to Shovel Point, trying to beat the rain that I expected would hit at any time. Along the lakeshore a large flock of probably 50-75 Canada Geese was traveling northeastward (probably away from... Click Here to Continue Reading!
With the soreness in my right ankle still continuing, I tried my best to stay off it this week, knowing that on Friday I would be heading off for a 2 week vacation to Indiana and Minnesota, where I'd be doing a lot of exercising. On Monday, while driving home from work, I spotted a pair of Wood Ducks on a small pond off Kings Grant Road just south of Edinburgh Drive. I went home quickly and grabbed my camera & headed back out to try and photograph them. The Wood Ducks it turned out, also had a full brood of ducklings with them on the pond, and there was another adult female in the group. I took photographs from the pullover spot on Edinburgh Drive just east of Kings Grant Road, and also from Kings Grant Road just south of Edinburgh Drive. This was the first time I'd ever gotten to see a family of Wood Ducks, another wonderful thing about my new neighborhood. The ponds here are wooded & secluded enough that the Wood Ducks don't seem to mind nesting here. On Wednesday, I brought my camera in to work so that I could try my hand at photographing some of the nesting Least Terns over at Lynnhaven Mall. I grabbed a parking spot at Dick's Sporting Goods and set up near the stormwater pond between there and the Toys'R'Us store on Lynnhaven. I watched for about 10 or 15 minutes as the terns visited the pond to get drinks of water, at one point, there was at least 25 of them... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Monday, having just gotten home from the trip to Chincoteague the night before, Ruth & I went down to Sandbridge to enjoy our Memorial Day off of work. Often, I'll drop her off at the beach, and then go for a hike at Back Bay, then meet back up and get myself into the ocean for an hour or so to cool down. It was an extremely hot day, in the 80s, which is about as high as I can take it, being that I'm from the Midwest, and not Southern born-and-raised. We got stuck in traffic heading down the main road of Sandbridge and it took about 30-40 minutes to finally reach Little Island Park, where the road opens up to two lanes & we could get past the jam. Ruth hopped out of the car with her beach stuff, and I continued on into Back Bay NWR to hike. Like I've been doing the last few outings, I walked the West Dike Trail down to the False Cape SP sign & back. As with recent hikes, the Red-winged Blackbirds were out all across the marsh and making quite a raucous. I found a female Boat-tailed Grackle about a mile in that gave me some nice photo opportunities. Nearby, at the first wooded edge, where a Blue Grosbeak had slipped me a couple weeks back, I found a male Orchard Oriole. This is about 4 times in a row out here now that I've found one, though this is the first time that it has been in a spot not right before the maritime forest section of the trail. I noticed that there was no longer any... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Like the past week, this week I opted to get out for a couple walks in the neighborhood after work since it's tough to get home & change, then drive out to a park to take photos all evening and take care of everything else I need too. Tuesday & Wednesday I walked my 6 mile loop through the neighborhood, and on Wednesday I had a great sighting of a Broad-winged Hawk along Harris Street in Little Neck. I heard it screech twice before I finally got a look at it as it flew in low over the street, harassed closely by an American Crow. This was the first Broad-winged I've ever seen outside of Minnesota, where they were a common sight, and sound when I spent summers up there. I was quite surprised when I heard it, it's not a sound you forget apparently. Ruth & I were set to head up to Chincoteague Island for a weekend getaway, courtesy of our Comfort Suites rewards points we had a free night stay on the island on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, when rates skyrocket for everyone else. Since we just had the one night at the hotel, we planned to leave early on Saturday morning. So I was able to get out Friday as well to Pleasure House Point for a short hike, since the weather was near perfect and I couldn't justify not getting out. I parked near Loch Haven Park like usual, and got to see a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron feeding on the outlet weir of the stormwater pond there. I walked... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Another beautiful week, though a bit hotter than I usually prefer. I've found it a bit difficult to keep up with all the photographs I've been taking, if I'm also out shooting during the weeknights, so this week I stepped back a bit. I got in walks around the neighborhood of 6 miles on each of two nights but didn't bring the camera with. Of course, since I didn't bring it, I got a great opportunity to photograph a Pileated Woodpecker that probably was my best shot at one I've ever had. The bird was on the ground pecking on a dead tree when it saw me then landed a few feet away in a clear spot on a still-standing tree, then stayed there just watching me for a couple minutes. I couldn't believe it. Its really tough to not bring my camera everywhere with me, but there has to be some sort of balance between photography and being able to keep up with the hundreds of photographs I can take in an outing. So this week I didn't get out into real nature until Saturday morning when Ruth & I went down to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Fortunately this time I didn't lock myself out of the car, and was able to get started right at 9 o'clock like I should have been able to do last time out. Behind the contact station, I spotted a beautiful Indigo Bunting that was calling from the tops of the trees... Click Here to Continue Reading!
On Wednesday, my older sister Ellen came into town for her 5-day stay in Virginia Beach. As such, I didn't go out walking that day or Thursday, but did force her to go hiking with me on Friday since I'd requested the day off work to spend with her, and figured I might as well get her to do something I enjoyed. We went out to Merchants Millpond State Park in Gates County, North Carolina. I've taken her here in the past since its a good spot to usually see turtles out walking around this time of year laying their eggs. On the way out, just like the last time we went together, I had to stop on the road to help an Eastern Box Turtle get all the way across without getting smashed. Entering the park, we saw a Northern Copperhead warming up on the asphalt roadway. I pulled over and walked back to take some photographs since this is the first one I've seen since 2009, when I saw one at Northwest River Park in Chesapeake. After watching the Copperhead slither off the road and out into the forest, we went to the parking area for the Lassiter Trail. This trail is a 6 mile or so loop from the parking area, but we only ended up walking about 4 miles this time. For one of my shorter walks, we saw a lot of wildlife. The trail dives down a hillside right away, and then crosses a marshy inlet of the millpond with a boardwalk. From the boardwalk, I heard and then spotted a Prothonotary... Click Here to Continue Reading!
We had an extremely rainy week here in Virginia Beach. Monday through Thursday it rained every day. Parts of northeast North Carolina received several inches of rain and there was also outbreaks of tornadoes across the state. The torrential downpours were very apparent when I went on my first hike of the week on Friday to Back Bay NWR. I first noticed high water when approaching the intersection of Sandbridge Road & New Bridge Road. The ditches along Sandbridge were extremely high, even flowing out onto the roadway edges. The Lotus Gardens were easily a couple feet higher than I've seen at times, with water filling up the grass shoulders around the bridge. All the farmfields and front yards had standing water across them, making all those crayfish 'chimneys' obsolete and allowing the crayfish to have some additional real estate for the time being. Apparently we've also had continuous southerly winds this week, which coupled with the high amounts of rainfall, caused Back Bay to rise up way above the standard elevation. Usually, it is the opposite effect on the bay, since we get northerly winds more often. Again, this is the highest water I've ever seen on Back Bay and the surrounding areas. When I got to the park, I started down the Loop Road's west side, en route to the West Dike Trail. The water was everywhere, filling forested areas where I've never seen... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Made it out for the first time this week on Wednesday evening after work! I went up to the 64th Street entrance at First Landing State Park since it's just the easiest place to get to quickly after my workday has ended. Right away in the swamp next to the bridge on the Cape Henry Trail I saw a Green Heron tucked away back in the cover. This is the first one I've seen at the park this year, though they are quite common in the summer. In the past I've seen them mainly around the tidal creeks that come into the park from Broad Bay, this is the first one I've seen on fresh water. I walked my typical route down the Cape Henry, Long Creek, Osprey Trails to the bridge at White Hill Creek and back. On the Long Creek Trail I got to see an abundance of Hermit Thrushes, as I did the last time out as well. They should be leaving the region fairly soon, since they are just winter residents of the area, but move further north for the breeding season. When I got to the Osprey Trail, I found that the Mourning Dove that nested just above the trail in a nest of Spanish moss last year has again taken up residence there. It is right out in the open, but you can still easily miss it if you aren't looking directly at it. Once you find it, you'll laugh at how you never saw it before, hiding in plain sight. The Canada Goose pair is also still nesting out on the small puddle on the south side of the trail just before you reach the large... Click Here to Continue Reading!
With Friday being "Good Friday", and a holiday for my company, I was able to get out for a hike at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in the morning. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, with completely overcast skies, a strong 15-20 mph northeasterly wind, and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 40s. I walked the western dike from the contact station south to the False Cape State Park entrance sign. While walking the west side of the Loop Road I saw a shorebird with a long downcurved bill fly past out over the Back Bay marsh. The size & shape assuredly made it a Whimbrel, which was my first of the year! On the way down the dike I saw a Pied-billed and a Horned Grebe up very close. Also, a pair of Killdeer must have been nesting near the dike at one spot since they kept circling me in the air and screeching at the top of their lungs. Off in the middle of the impoundments I saw what turned out to be a large cloud of Glossy Ibises circling around the marsh. From the photographs I counted at least 114 of them, which is the most I've ever seen in a day. While watching them land on the marsh, I also saw a young Bald Eagle fly over heading southeast towards where they were at. The impoundments were very choppy with waves today since the wind was screaming across from the northeast. I'm guessing it was because of this strong wind that there was no dabbling ducks to be seen, when... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This week started off with a rainy day Monday, and a mostly cloudy day on Tuesday. On Tuesday however, I did get out for a 6 mile walk through the neighborhoods of Little Neck for exercise, but didn't bring the camera with me since it was completely overcast. I didn't really see any birds to speak of either so it worked out OK. Had I seen something interesting I'd have beaten myself up for bringing my camera with, like has happened so many times in the past. Wednesday proved to be a much nicer day, mostly sunny and in the 60s. I went down to First Landing State Park after work hoping I might catch some more migrating songbirds. I did the usual walk, parking at 64th Street outside the park and walking in along the Cape Henry, Long Creek, and Osprey Trails. I got a later start than I'd prefer, so I only walked to the south shore of White Hill Lake & Back, which is about 5.5 miles or thereabouts. I counted a total 4 Osprey nests up and running along the Osprey Trail so far, though there could very well be others that are just out of sight. The leaves in the park are really just starting to show up, but in another week or so it'll probably be completely greened up. Bradford Pears around the area are still in bloom, but are starting to fade it seems. Also along the Osprey Trail, the pair of Canada Geese still appears to be nesting. This is the 2nd year I've seen them in the same spot. Their nest is on a... Click Here to Continue Reading!
As you probably have read by now at the end of my last blog, this past weekend was extremely wet and dreary. Though I made it up to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to take some photographs on Sunday, that was it for the weekend. The weather took a turn for the better on Monday though, and by afternoon it was right around 60 degrees and completely sunny. I drove down to First Landing State Park right after work and was hiking in at 64th Street by 4:15. I did my typical after work 6-mile route through the park (64th Street, Cape Henry Trail, Long Creek Trail, Osprey Trail, Long Creek Trail to White Hill Lake Creek Bridge, and back the same route). Along the Cape Henry Trail before Lake Susan Constant I saw my first butterfly of the season. I believe this one was a species called a Question Mark. It fluttered around a bit before finally landing on a holly tree leaf where I was able to get a couple photographs before some joggers passed by and it flew high up into the canopy. Just after that, I saw an Osprey perched up in a tree near the freshwater lake; it was sitting on a pine branch feeding on a dead fish. The Ospreys are now back in full force around the region. All the nests along the Osprey Trail now have an active pair of Osprey attached to them. The large nest near the detached overflow pond between the two tidal creeks is active once again also. This nest has been unused the past... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Finally back after a weekend hiatus due to a weekend trip to Charlotte, NC last week. The only birding I was able to get in last week was from the car on the way home. I did manage to see my first Wild Turkeys of the season, on a farm field just west of Emporia, VA, and then later in the day on the way to dinner in Norfolk saw my first Yellow-crowned Night Herons too! This was on Sunday, March 23rd, which is early for the Night-Herons. They are starting to build up their nests from last season in the Freemason neighborhood of downtown Norfolk. I'm looking forward to getting back out there to walk around and see how many nests I count. Last year, there was 12 nests in the area, with most of them being on one block of Freemason Street. I will be going out after work one day to walk the area, I miss living right by it where I could walk the streets everyday after I got home, hopefully the wood warblers will also be showing up in the area soon as this is the spot I saw my first Prairie Warbler last year in the first week of April. Well this week, after a gorgeously warm Saturday, the weather dropped back down to freezing level once again. The strongest Nor'easter of the season set up just off the coast of Virginia on Tuesday & therefore we had nasty rain & wind conditions. I had a friend from California in town so got to spend the evening up at Chick's on Shore Drive for dinner. Its nice to sit... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Since Sunday was the start of daylight savings time in Virginia, I finally am able to get out after work some nights to photograph the outdoors before the sun is completely gone. I would have enjoyed getting out on Tuesday night since it was a beautiful 70 degree sunny day, but I caught food poisoning from a local fast food joint and instead spend the evening and night vomiting and shaking with chills. I felt better finally by Thursday and it was a nice sunny day, though a big cold (in the high 30s) after a very strong cold front pushed through on Wednesday night. The winds were really howling but I went up to Pleasure House Point after work and hit the trails around 5 o'clock. I had seen on the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's facebook page that someone had photographed a Harbor Seal resting on the beach at the park so I'd hoped I might be able to relocate it. I saw a pair of seals earlier in the year out on the first island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel but I have never seen any inland in the area. I didn't find the seal but I did see quite a number of birds. The winter waterfowl are still out in force, with Gadwall, American Wigeon, and Northern Shoverler dominating the estuaries around the park. Bufflehead, three Green-winged Teal, a single Ring-necked Duck and a pair of Mallards were also seen. The extreme winds made it a bit tough to photograph with a long lens, as holding... Click Here to Continue Reading!
With the return of warm weather throughout the week, I set out for First Landing State Park on Saturday morning to kick off my hiking. I got a later start than usual since it was cloudy early on, and got down to park towards late morning. I realized right away why this is not the best time to be there, as I encountered tons of people out on the trails. I parked outside the 64th Street entrance and walked in like usual, taking the Cape Henry Trail south and west around Lake Susan Constant. The water was extremely high in the lake as we had just had a nasty Nor’easter pummel its way through the region on Thursday night & Friday. We got a lot of rain from the storm so basically all the lower lying areas in the park were inundated with water. The water was actually so high in the lake that the partially submerged tree that the cormorants always sit on was completely submerged for the first time. With the high amounts of ponded areas, I saw my first Spotted Turtles of the season, one along the Long Creek Trail near the eastern junction with the Osprey Trail, and another at the very far west end of the Long Creek Trail. On the Osprey Trail I photographed a Golden-crowned Kinglet, which stayed still just long enough to get two photographs of it. These tiny birds are extremely hyperactive and I really haven’t photographed them much in the past because of it. When I reached... Click Here to Continue Reading!
Another work week came & went (very slowly), and we had a gradual warmup of weather. This weekend was expected to be a good one. After feeling a bit sick on Friday evening though, I wasn't expecting to get a whole lot of hiking in. Saturday, my girlfriend was going to go shopping up at the Prime Outlets in Williamsburg, about an hour or so northwest of here. I decided to go with but instead go hiking around that area since I haven't been up there to take photographs in quite a while. I have hiked a few times in an area called the Greensprings Interpretive Trail which is actually in James City County and not Williamsburg, but is very near the border. Recently, this trail has been added onto and now connects to the Powhatan Creek Trail. The Powhatan Creek Trail is very similar to the walking/biking paths I've spent a lot of time on in Fairfax County. It wanders through the canyon of a drainage basin. Since the terrain follows the creek, the ground gradually slopes downhill. The local entity in charge of collecting sewage (James City Sewer Authority) also used these areas for their collection systems (underground), since it is easy to slope the systems downhill to allow gravity to drive the passage of sewage towards their wastewater treatment plants. The reason I mention this is because there is a growing trend to place bike paths in these types of areas so... Click Here to Continue Reading!
After several weeks of frigid weather (by Virginia standards), this week we finally got a warm up. On Wednesday, temperatures went up to 70F, and I got my first opportunity this year to get out for a neighborhood walk (6 miles) after the work day. The weather stuck around through the weekend. Saturday morning I was able to get an early start. It was mostly blue sky, except for some clouds that were stacked up right on the coastline. Unfortunately, the sun also rises over the ocean so it was hidden by these clouds. I opted to go to First Landing State Park since I wanted to at least get a long walk in if I wasn't going to get good light for photographs. I was down at the 64th Street entrance right at 8 o'clock, and found a parking spot outside the park to walk in from. I had no plans to detour around my usual walking routes, and stayed to the Cape Henry Trail southbound from 64th Street as always. I didn't find any birds in the strip along Lake Susan Constant, not even any ducks, grebes or cormorants this time. Once I crossed over 64th Street and linked up with the Long Creek Trail's eastern terminus it started to get better though. Deep in the woods, I was amazed when I frightened an adult Bald Eagle that had been perched in a pine tree right over the trail. This was the first time I'd spooked an eagle right on one of the trails, typically they are far off, and much higher up in the tallest... Click Here to Continue Reading!
After finding out last Sunday that there was a Glaucous Gull (a bird I've never seen) hanging out down near Rudee Inlet, I decided to try my best to find it after work today. Last Saturday I had been to Rudee, and actually been looking around on the jetty to see if I could find the King Eider that has been seen in the area again, but unfortunately all I saw was gulls. Having not taken any pictures, I couldn't go back and search to see if I'd actually seen the Glaucous and not realized it after hearing that one was there. I left work around 3 o'clock, which is pretty common for me on Fridays unless something important is due. Fortunately, my office is up near Lynnhaven, only about 10-15 minutes from the parking areas at Rudee Inlet. In winter-time you can park right at the inlet since hardly anyone is around, and it is also free to park, as the meters don't begin until April or May I believe. Once at Rudee Inlet, there isn't much space for you to walk around, you pretty much have to observe from behind a railing, or on the beach immediately adjacent to the inlet's protective rock groin (or wall) that runs a couple hundred yards out along the north side of the inlet. The jetty that everyone talks about is a small man-made island that sits about 700 feet at it's closest point to the observation area. his range is a little too far for my 400mm telephoto lens even in ideal conditions so if you have an equal or... Click Here to Continue Reading!
My work week finally came to a close and once again I was able to get out and do some hiking & photography. Started my weekend off early, making it down to Back Bay NWR around 8:30 in the morning, though it was pretty much a photographer's nightmare in terms of weather conditions, 100% overcast, strong 10-15 mph sustained winds from the northeast, and temperatures in the 30s. I thought maybe I'd get a chance at least to see some neat stuff, though getting any quality photographs was probably going to be very difficult. Headed out on my typical route through Back Bay in the winter by parking near the kayak launch and walked the boardwalks to the south toward the Bay Trail. Right off the bat there was the usual suspects out in the small cove of the kayak launch, Mallards, and lots of Gadwalls. The tall reeds around the boardwalk housed several Red-winged Blackbirds this morning, but their all black colors merged poorly with the dimly lit sky in my camera lens. Heading westward down the Bay Trail towards the overlook I didn't scare up anything, and none of the typical birds seemed to be out on the small freshwater pools either. There was a few Tundra Swans far out from the observation point, but that was it. I walked back towards the contact station and then headed southbound on the gravel roads towards pool E & pool D. Stayed to the west and... Click Here to Continue Reading!
So Tuesday night we had the biggest snowstorm I've seen since I moved to Virginia in 2005. Overnight, the region saw totals ranging from 6-12" with about 10" falling on most of Virginia Beach. As a result, I was blessed with a day off of work on Wednesday while the snow plows began their duty of clearing off all the roadways. With below freezing temperatures all the way through Friday, the snow stuck around, as did the icy roadway surfaces up til the weekend. I was ready to go when Saturday morning finally came around, and really wanted to capture some wildlife photographs with snowy backgrounds. Just before I left home I saw that there was a birding walk at Back Bay, so I opted to go to First Landing instead since I always believe I see more when I'm out alone, and wanted to get more miles in than what a typical outing at Back Bay in the wintertime can provide. I made it to the 64th Street entrance around 8:30 or so, and walked into the park to the Cape Henry trail crossing just inside the gatehouse. The ice on the roadway was still really bad, mostly black ice on the asphalt, so I had to walk slow so as to not slip and break my camera/lens. Anyway, I made it to the Cape Henry Trail and like I almost always down, took it south from the road towards the small freshwater lake (called Lake Susan Constant on some maps). Also like usual, I didn't see a whole lot of bird... Click Here to Continue Reading!
After a very very cold week in Virginia Beach it seems that a lot of the local wildlife has been forced further south. On Monday night & Tuesday morning about 4 or more inches of snow fell across the area, and it never got back above freezing throughout the week. Most of the small lakes and even brackish areas have frozen up forcing some of our winter migrants to look further south for acceptable feeding areas. We weren't expected to rise up to freezing today either, but I really wanted to get some wildlife photographs with the snow in the background, so I decided to try Back Bay first thing in the morning. Driving on the entrance road got me off to a great start, as I was given a golden opportunity to photograph a young Cooper's Hawk in a tree from my car seat. It was very quick to fly away but I did get a couple photographs of quality. I parked in the usual spot near the kayak launch and headed out onto the boardwalk en route to the Bay Trail. Right away, another very small hawk (perhaps a Kestrel or Sharp-shinned) took to the air and quickly sped down the trail away from me. Unfortunately I never got a good look at it, and it was gone very fast. The small pond at the end of the trail was completely frozen over, and sadly, a Great Blue Heron was sitting on the shore as if praying for the ice to open back up so it could feed. I decided not to spook it, so I turned around and... Click Here to Continue Reading!
This past weekend I had some friends in town and my usual time alotted for hiking & photography was unfortunately crunched as a result. However, I did still manage to make it out for a little while both Saturday & Sunday mornings. Saturday it didn't appear as though the heavy overcast skies were going to break at all, so instead of going on a long hike through a local park, I opted to just walk around my own neighborhood (Little Neck/Kings Grant) in Virginia Beach. Also, since there was no sunlight or blue sky, I left the camera at home, which is very difficult for me to do. Of course, it proved foolish to do so, as I came across my first Golden-crowned Kinglet of the season just off the bike path I was walking on. I also saw a lot of other songbirds, and several types of woodpeckers in the old-growth trees that line the neighborhood. Little Neck/Kings Grant, 1/18/2014: 6.00 miles, 0 photos taken, and 9 species of birds seen. The full listing of birds I saw on this hike can be viewed Here! Following a non-photography day on Saturday, I at least got to get out and take some photos on Sunday. Off to a bit of a late start, I opted to visit the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to seek out waterfowl & seabirds on a cold, windy, but very sunny winter day. For those unaware, the bay bridge now no longer offers discounts to commuters unless they have an EZ pass, so the rate is now $13 each direction... Click Here to Continue Reading!
After a very stormy day on Saturday, this was my first true opportunity of the weekend to get some new wildlife photographs. I had been looking forward to getting out to Back Bay NWR all week long, as there had been talk of a possible sighting of a Snowy Owl just to the south in False Cape State Park last week. My goal going in was to walk the beachfront all the way down to False Cape in the hopes that I might find one perched along the adjacent sand dunes. Snowy Owls have been sighted up and down the east coast in similar habitats, so I was still holding out hope that I might find one in my hometown area. Starting off near the visitors center (like usual), I walked along the boardwalks and gravel paths of the Bay Trail which takes you out through the tidal marsh to a viewing point of Back Bay, and a pair of small freshwater (rain recharged) pools. Last year, a King Rail made it's home on one of the small pools for quite some time, but hasn't been seen around since. The larger pool held a few songbirds (Carolina Wren, Swamp Sparrow), and also a Belted Kingfisher cruised out of view just as I was getting to the pool. From the observation points, Tundra Swans and Pied-billed Grebe were visible out on the bay. After walking back to the visitor center I took the main gravel roadway south to the Dune Trail. The Dune Trail acts as a bridge from the impoundment access roads to the... Click Here to Continue Reading!
My first entry into blogging began with the proceeding one (Week Ending January 12, 2014), however, to finish off 2014 with a full year of blog entries & galleries, I have gone back and added this short one in as a quick introduction. I hope those who view this blog enjoy what it stands for, and take something positive away from it. As I learn more about wildlife, the contents of this blog will become more educational, while still reminding me in the future of just what I was doing outdoors in any given week of the past. Please enjoy! (Rob, 1/20/2015).