11 young birders showed up for the Hog Island Wildlife Management Area field trip. We had planned to search for shorebirds but the water was high. We saw Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons in the water. We got out of our cars and walked down the road. We saw Pine Warblers, Eastern Kingbirds, Caspian Terns, an Osprey, a Blue Grosbeak and even a Veery. We went to the top of the observation tower, where a Least Bittern had been seen a few days before. We missed the bittern, but saw a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron. We walked down a trail to several ponds where we saw Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons, tons of Caspian Terns and Great Egrets. We even saw Least and Spotted Sandpipers on a mudflat.
After heading back to the main road, we decided to head to Piney Grove Preserve, the only place in the state to see Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. On our way, we saw two Mississippi Kites. We missed the woodpeckers, but saw an early Red-breasted Nuthatch. This was the earliest fall record in the costal plains region! We were excited about this bird because the sighting could mean it's an irruptive year for the species, and if that were true we would see a lot more of these later in the year.
Photo by Baxter Beamer
Our last stop was Dutch Gap, another spot where we could see a Least Bittern. However, when we scanned the marsh, we didn't see much. We walked to Henricus Park, and scanned the James River. We saw Laughing Gulls, Killdeer and a Great Egret. We walked down a path near the boat ramp and did a better scanning, and noticed two Spotted Sandpipers. We were looking at our sandpiper pictures, when Paul noticed a second species in one of his pictures. This one was darker than the Spotted, so Ezra ran to the car to get the scope, and we started scanning. We ID'ed it as Semipalmated/Western Sandpiper. Semipalmated is pretty common, but Western is only on the coast in winter, and is rare in migration. They both look very similiar, and we couldn't see the distinguishing features from all the way across the river. We eventually had to leave, and were never able to confirm the species. When we got back to Pantops, we had dinner at a nearby Chipotle restaurant. Although this trip wasn't terribly great for shorebirds, we still had a fun day of birding and were able to get some cool species, including a few shorebirds.
By Ira Lianez
Young Birder's Blog
BRYBC members take turns sharing field trip reports, musings about their bird encounters, meeting highlights and club history.