Happy news about animals
While the peak bird migration occurs during April and May, many species have already passed through on their way to summer breeding grounds farther north.
For example, of the 24 species of ducks that occur in Augusta County, only two nest in our area: wood duck and mallard. We may see a few waterfowl from now into May, but most of the wintering and migrant ducks are well on their way.
Certain species migrate in large flocks during March, with some remaining to nest here and others moving farther north. For example, on March 18 Allen Larner counted large numbers of three species throughout the county, the most that have ever been seen in one day during spring in Augusta County. The three book-breakers include:
# American robin — 797, including 600 in the Swoope area and 197 throughout the county.
# Red-winged blackbird — 750, including 350 in the Swoope area and 400 throughout the county.
# Brown-headed cowbird — 465, including 250 in the Swoope area and 215 throughout the county.
Other early migrants include the fox sparrow and eastern towhee during late February and early March. Many readers have reported seeing one or two of these birds at their bird feeders.
Bird-watchers enjoy the migration when they look for species that can be seen only when they are passing through. Of the 38 species of warblers that occur in Augusta County, 21 will stay and nest here, some only at high elevations. Seventeen species of warblers will move on to the northern United States and Canada, raise their families, then pass through again in September and October. Then there are the 31 species of shorebirds, of which only the killdeer and American woodcock nest here on a regular basis and, occasionally, the spotted sandpiper. The other 28 species move on.
Birds that have spent the winter in Augusta County, including white-throated and white crowned sparrows and swamp sparrows, will soon be on their way north. The dark-eyed juncos may migrate to the northern spruce forests or may choose a “vertical” migration and nest in Augusta County at highest elevations such as Reddish Knob, Elliott Knob and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
While bird-watchers enjoy their hobby year-round, there is increased excitement and extensive field work in spring and fall. For us, migration is the best time of the year.