Ducks constantly flew in and out of the dense, brush-covered wetlands. We found some Northern Pintails, American Black Ducks, Mallard X American Black Ducks, and a Hooded Merganser. We reached the end of the wetlands and walked out onto a newly built boardwalk through cattails. I imagined how much easier it would be to see Least Bitterns here now; I still needed them for my life list.
After walking the boardwalk, we continued past Henricus Park and arrived at the overlook of the James River. It was quiet, aside from a few distant Ring-billed Gulls and Double-crested Cormorants. After waiting for a few minutes, we heard the sounds of chaotic honking in the distance: geese. We made out long, faint lines over the tree-line across the river. The several thousand Canada Geese approached, slowly becoming louder and louder. We scanned for rarities, finding two Snow Geese mixed in: a very nice bird for the area. Not everyone saw the bird, but the flock fortunately reappeared a few minutes later, and everyone got their eyes on it the second time.
We walked down to the retention pond, finding some Bufflehead and Canvasback.
Our next stop was City Point in Hopewell, where we were hoping to see Orange-crowned Warblers. We arrived and found essentially nothing other than some Bald Eagles.
We set off for our final planned birding location of the day: the Gullmart. As we approached the renown gull Mecca, I noticed two large corvids with nicely-wedged tails: ravens. They were a nice rarity for the location. I had broken my previous record for easternmost raven in Virginia only hours after setting it.
We arrived at the Colonial Heights Ponds and began to scan. We worked our way around the pond to get a better vantage point of the thousands of Ring-billed Gulls and hundreds of Herring Gulls, finding a good number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the process. As we were completing the scan, a stunning Iceland Gull was spotted on the hillside overlooking the pond. A lifer for several, we enjoyed the white-winged beauty before the flock flushed.
We returned to a parking lot laden with gulls.
By Max Nootbaar