Current 2012 year total of bird species:

211 (most recent addition: Dickcissel, June 2 2012)

Life bird total:

470 (most recent edition: Black Rail, June 2 2012)

2012 Black Bear count:


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May finishes..sort of a repeat of last year

The 5th month of 2012, the year after my Junior Big Year is coming to a close.  This is not a Junior Big Year, however my birding is shaping up similarly.  The trips last year are what gave me the big numbers.  So far I have not flown anywhere this year and only have one flying trip planned for the rest of the year.  Obviously, my list is lower at this time than it was last year at this time.  Right now my "year list" is at 209 species, last year at this time that number was 302.  Call it 100 below, it is very close.   Although that is a big difference, the way the birds are shaping up is VERY SIMILAR to last year, only with less bird species since there have been less trips.  As an example, last year from mid April-mid May I was adding more than one year bird every day, on average.  Some days there would even be 5 or 8 "new ones".  This is because a large percent of wood-warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, vireos, etc. winter in Mexico or South America.  When the birds return for breeding, a lot of them pass through or breed here in Virginia, so the birds just "racked up".  A very similar scenario happened this year.  I had multiple days with 5-8 year birds and few days with none, from mid April-mid May.  However, at the end of the third week in May, here in Virginia the migration turns the "off switch" with not much notice.  By May 25th, Blackpoll Warblers and a few other "late warblers" are the only ones trickling through, and in very small numbers.  You still have the breeders (Redstarts, Ovenbirds, Black-and-whites, Chestnut-sideds, Hoodeds, Ceruleans, Waterthrushes, and so on) however they are all fairly common and I will have likely "picked them up" by the first week of May.  So come mid May last year year birds all of a sudden became few and far between.  In the first half of May last year I added 21 year birds.  In the second half of May last year I added 4 year birds.  A very similar thing happened this year.  In the first half of May I added 21 (do you see the pattern here?) year birds and so far from May 15-May 29 I have added 1 year bird.  

This shows you, that even when 2 birding years are very different, same patterns can and do occur with bird migration.

Even with birds being slow I've had lots of adventures with non-new birds and bears, etc. lately and I will hope to post an update from my recent adventures tomorrow.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

How plans change

This morning my mom and I had planed to go on a bird walk..but PLANS CHANGE.  We woke up and I checked my emails to find that my friend, who's birthday was today was going to be at Shenandoah National Park for wildlife photography.  I wanted to get to the park myself, so my mom and I were off to the national park to look for Black Bears & our friend.  We found the former first, an apparent adult female bear.  She gave wonderful looks before wandering off into the woods.  Thank you special bear!  We then did find our birthday friend and spent time with him and treated him to a birthday breakfast.  Happy birthday, buddy!

That about raps it up for now.  Tomorrow should be a more-or-less so-so day but Friday I'm off to Shenandoah National Park with my dad and Saturday I'm birding with a friend.  Next week I go camping.  Stay tuned!

I wish I had to go to the dentist more often..

I have a great dentist, but he is over 2 hours away in Fredericksburg, Va.  I love going to the dentist!  Afterwards I get to go birding over in that area, which always yields some birds that are not around/rare in this part of the state.  A trip to the dentist got me my life Greater White-fronted Goose and # 368 for my Junior Big Year last year.

Yesterday my trip to the dentist yielded a wonderful day of birding with a day list of 79 species.  The highlight was a Black Tern, a rare visitor to Virginia.  It had been reported by other birders and my dad and I stopped off to see it on the way back from the dentist.  Other good birds for yesterday included Yellow-breasted Chat (I had heard it before but yesterday was the first time I saw it), Ospreys, and more.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Black Tern

I am very tired and are to get up early tomorrow but I wanted to post this quickly.  My trip east was a success and the highlight was a new year bird for me, Black Tern # 209 for this year.  I have only seen a few in my life so it was a real treat.

I will post a full trip report tomorrow.

Good night, :)


"everyday birding" yesterday--maybe not today

Hi everyone,

yesterday was rainy and wet here in the Shenandoah Valley of VA and I just did some normal "everyday birding"  I did find the usuals which are still nice--Grasshopper Sparrow, Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, Least Sandpiper, etc.  It was my mom's birthday so that made it a great day in itself.  Happy birthday, mama!

Today I'm off to see my dentist, but since he works in Fredericksburg, VA some 2+ hours away I'm going to be going birding over there trying to work up my "Fredericksburg City List"  If I find anything but a Starling, House Sparrow, and Pigeon I will post a report on my blog.

I have a couple of exciting days coming up.  Tomorrow I go on a bird walk with the Rockingham Bird Club, Thursday is a bit of a so-so day, but Friday I am going to Shenandoah N. Park to look for bears and Saturday I am birding with a birder friend.  It's going to be great times!

That about raps it up for now.  Wild times,


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Flycatcher ticked and grosbeak found

Keeping this short as it is late but in the same area this evening I ticked my first of year Acadian Flycatcher and saw a Blue Grosbeak, my first for Augusta County.



Since my list post i've done a lot more birding adding 7 more birds to my "2012 year list": Glossy Ibis, Kentucky Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Common Nighthawk, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and Tennessee Warbler.  The Glossy Ibis was a rare inland ibis, at a pond in Albemarle County, Virginia. The Alder Flycatcher was the first one I had ever seen, although I had heard one before so it was not a true 'lifer'.

Two days ago, a group of 3 birding friends and myself took the day and spent some 13+ hours in Highland County, Virginia having a blast and logging at least 70 bird species, as well as a Red Fox.  That is when/where I added LEFL, ALFL, and CONI.  The CONI was back in my home county, Augusta County Virginia right after we got back from Highland County.

That about raps it up for now.  Stay tuned for more adventures as I look for bears, birds, and other wild things!


Sunday, May 6, 2012

A flycatcher, 2 warblers, and a thrush

Keeping this very short as it is very late but while doing the Augusta County Big Spring Day today I had 4 new year birds: Willow Flycatcher, Prairie Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and Veery.  That brings my 2012 year total of bird species to an even 200.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

7 year birds, 4 bears, and loads of fun ahead of the last post

Hey everyone,

it's been a little while since I've posted..I've been very busy as I think every nature-enthusiast has been because this is a busy time!  Here's why: for one, it's MIGRATION.  I've posted about this before..warblers, vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks, and all the other neotropical migrant birds are returning..passing through and arriving to breed.  And also it's EMERGING time..well, a little past emerging time...Black Bears, my favorite animal are coming out of their winter sleeps and the new cubs are enjoying the world for their first times.

Since May swung around 5 days ago I've ticked 7 new birds for my 2012 year list: Chuck-will's-widow, Canada Warbler, Bank Swallow, Double-crested Cormorant, Least Sandpiper, Warbling Vireo, and Blackpoll Warbler.  The first 6 were added on May 1st when I spent all day birding around my local county in Virginia: Augusta with my good friend Vic Laubach.  That day we found 106 species in the county alone!  The Chuck-will's-widow was a life bird for Vic.

The 7th year bird of may, Blackpoll Warbler was one that I ticked this morning.  The Augusta Bird Club had it's annual birding and brunch picnic and I attended, and there we found 57 species including my FOY Blackpoll, which is my favorite warbler.  The first warbler I ever saw was a Blackpoll Warbler (at least 3 years ago) and then it was the first bird that I ever held, at the Kiptopeke Songbird Banding Station.  With these 2 things, it makes since Blackpoll is my favorite warbler and one of my favorite birds...

Tomorrow the Augusta Bird Club is having it's annual Big Spring Day and many teams will be out around the whole county.  My mom and I have a lot of territory and I can't wait.  I will post an update.

Moving away from the birds topic, I've also seen 4 special bears in May so far.  The first 2 were both young (1-4 year old bears) that I saw while birding on May 1st with Vic.  The third and fourth were a mom with a yearling, while looking for bears in Shenandoah yesterday.  There's a long story to go along with that that I will post sometime but not right now.

Happy wild times,


Monday, April 30, 2012

6 birds ahead of 12 hours ago

I'm very tired so am keeping this short but had 6 new year birds today!  They were Magnolia Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Dunlin, and Bobolink.

Tomorrow I'm birding with my good friend and expert local birder Vic.  I'll post a report from our day.


2 minutes late and a dollar short

The regular saying goes "a day late and a dollar short" but yesterday I was 2 minutes late, and I guess you could say a dollar short.  Here's the story:

My dad and I were walking our dog on the roads near our house yesterday evening at dusk when "whip-poor-will whip-poor-will whip-poor-will whip-poor-will" sounded off.  An Eastern Whip-poor-will, a new year bird!  I was ecstatic for the time being, until I remembered that EWPW would be a new "year bird", and an important one, the 100th species that I heard or saw from my yard.  I sprinted to my driveway, a 2 minute dash at most until I set foot on our property, now I could count the bird if it called again.  I waited, and waited some more.  Come on whip, just call one more time!  I waited at least 10 minutes, even played tapes, but to no avail.

Yard bird # 100 will just have to wait for another day.

Happy birding,


Sunday, April 29, 2012

38 species on my first field trip

Today I led my first field trip ever, for the Augusta Bird Club out to Riprap Trail, a trail I bird often.  Our party of 8 found 38 species on the wonderful morning.

Of the 38 species 8 were warblers.  A very surprising and nice find was a Golden-winged Warbler, both singing and giving wonderful looks!  It was a new year bird (182) for me as well as a new Augusta County bird.  It was a year bird for everyone on the trip and a life bird for one person, their 304th lifer!

I hope everyone enjoyed the trip as much as I did and GOOD BIRDING,


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Life bird: "BZZZ_zitt"

Got my second life bird of 2012 today, which puts my life list up to 469 species.  It was a Blue-winged Warbler singing "BZZZZ_zitt" on a Monticello Bird Club field trip here in Virginia today.  How super exciting!  Even without the blue-wing the walk was quite worth while with 6 additional first of year birds: Nashville Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole, Grasshopper Sparrow, and White-eyed Vireo.

Tomorrow I lead my first field trip ever, out to the Riprap Trail, a location I bird often.  I will post a report on how it goes on this blog.

Happy birding,


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pec, Pec, Pec, Pectoral!

Hi all,

today I checked a couple of ponds near my house and found a sandpiper that with a little studying I narrowed down to Pectoral.  It was my second of year and the best looks I've had at one in my life.  Terrific!

Stay tuned for more news.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Sora, Baltimore Oriole, and Indigo Bunting on board

Subject birds have been added to my year list within last 30 hours.  Sora was a nice surprise.  Heard it, at a location that it was previously reported by other birders.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Yellow-throated Warbler photo

Not a great photo by any means but identifiable.

Yellow-throated Warbler 
Rivanna Trail between Pen Park and Dunlora
Charlottesville, Virginia
Saturday, April 21st, 2012
New year bird for me, and the 3rd one I've ever seen

Yellow-throated Warbler has arrived!

Today I joined fellow birder Leigh Surdukowski on her bird walk that she led for the Monticello Bird Club along the Rivanna Trail in the Pen Park area of Charlottesville.  All in all the group found 35 species highlighted by excellent looks of another spring arrival, Yellow-throated Warbler!  The YTWA was a year bird for me and only the 3rd one I've ever seen!  It was a life bird for two people on the walk.  

We also enjoyed wonderful looks of a Swamp Sparrow, and Field Sparrows.

Stay tuned for more news from me as spring progresses.


Friday, April 20, 2012

On they come..Spotted SPiper

Spent some time along 2 nice trails in Albemarle County Virginia.  Found 43 species on the one trail and 23 on the other one.
A Spotted Sandpiper was a new spring arrival for me and # 163 for the year.

Back on board

It's been a long, very long, way too long time since I've posted on this blog!  I've spent all most all of my time on the computer the last couple of months putting together the slide presentation about my 2011 Junior Big Year last year that is finally completed.  I gave the presentation at the Augusta Bird Club about a week ago and have been invited to 3 other bird clubs in Virginia.  Unfortunately while I was putting together that presentation I had almost no time to even think about this blog.  But now I do and I AM BACK ON BOARD.

Although I spend a lot of time birding, my ultimate favorite thing to do is watch and be with Bears.  I miss them in the winter when they are asleep in their dens but THEY ARE OUT NOW!  I saw my first bear a week and a half ago and 6 days ago I found a mama bear and 3 young cubs just emerged from their den.  Bears are very lethargic after they emerge and this mama bear stayed in the area for 4 days straight and I got to see her and her cubs for 4 consecutive days.  It was amazing.  I got some photos that I will post on this blog in the coming days.  I went back the fifth and sixth days but they were not to be seen.  They must have moved on.

But the birding is still awesome and this is an awesome time for it!  My "2012 year list" currently sits at 162 species.  The migrants are returning.  For the last week, I've been birding most days and have ended up with about 8 warbler species each day.  In the deep of winter you can only reliably find 2 here, Yellow-rumped and Palm.  So you get the concept, they are migrating!  And not just warblers but FOY Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Kingbird, 3 vireo species, and more have been placed on my year list in the recent times.  And I'm just waiting for that first Indigo Bunting.

So stay tuned for my news on my Wild adventure in this exciting time!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trip north and east

I will post a full summary about my trip to Maryland-Delaware-Chincoteague, Virginia later but for a quick update I found a White-winged Dove (very rare for Virginia) at Chincoteague, my life Razorbill in Delaware, and loads more.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Great GBBC and off to Maryland soon

Had a terrific weekend participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count.  I'll post a full summary tomorrow.

In a couple of days I'm off to Maryland to chase a Virginia's Warbler and a Pink-footed Goose has just shown up there now.  Wouldn't that be amazing to get 2 lifers in that trip including the goose, an ABA code 4 bird!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Quick update

Hey folks,

here's just a quick update to tell you my plans.  The Great Backyard Bird Count (you can participate too, whether you're an expert or novice birder, please participate! is starting tomorrow, so I'll of course be participating.  On Saturday the Rockingham Bird Club is doing it's annual Waterfowl & Raptor Count so I'll be participating in that with a birding friend of mine.

Also, I'm scheduled to lead a field trip with the Augusta Bird Club this coming April 28th.  That should be loads of fun.

That's about it for now.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yard bird 98!

Late this morning-early afternoon a group of approx. 1100 starlings were feeding in the fields around my house.  I decided to get my scope out and sift through for blackbirds.  Found were 2 Rusty Blackbirds (a new yard bird for me) and a few BH Cowbirds.  Yard bird #98 for me!  What will be # 99 and #100?  Common Yellowthroat?  Swamp Sparrow?  American Woodcock?  Red-eyed Vireo?  Who knows!

On another note I decided to chase a not-so reliable Greater White-fronted Goose that's been reported about 45 minutes from where I live.  I could not find it.  If it is reported again, well then, I'll chase it again.

Good birding!


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Harriers and Owls, all hunting, oh my!

This evening a few of my birding friends and I ventured about an hour or so east out to Zion Crossroads to watch the Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls that are overwintering at a certain field out there.  I was there back in January, before I was blogging on this blog.

It was an incredible show both times.  Tonight we had AT LEAST 15 harriers (more likely 17, or 18) and 8 Short-eared Owls.  Both the harriers and owls would fly low all over the fields hunting.  It was incredible!  The Short-eared Owls were a life bird for two of the 5 people in our birding party!  Congrats Vic and Josh on a WONDERFUL lifer!

We also saw Tundra Swans, various ducks, Red-tailed Hawks, a Kestrel, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and loads of Meadowlarks plus "the regulars".


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dinner's here!

My suet re-stock arrived today..a case of 16 wonderful suet cakes..dinner for the nuthatches, woodpeckers, wrens, and more!  The birds were on it within 5 minutes of me loading up my suet feeder.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Doing a Junior Big Year?

Heck no!  I wondered if some of you (especially those of you that were familiar with my 2011 Junior Big Year) would wonder if I'm doing another Junior Big Year this year because I have a what seems to at least me like a good year list of 95 species this early in the year.  That's because I've been birding nearly every day here in Virginia so have been 'sweeping 'm up' but since I won't be doing much traveling (other than to Montana) my year list will come out with far fewer birds than a 'Junior Big Year' list.  In addition to the lack of 'big traveling', I'm also doing none or next-to-none local state chasing.  I will do a few 'chases' this year, but probably only in-state and for hard-to-get life birds only.

Also, there are a couple of kids out there that are doing Junior Big Years this year.  Please visit Skyler Bol's blog: and Omeganook's blog:   Good luck guys!

Time to CATCH UP!

I've been very busy lately and haven't found time to post until now.  

I'll review this past Saturday through today.  On Saturday I went on a bird walk at Ivy Creek Natural Area over in Charlottesville with the Monticello Bird Club.  We had some nice birds including some of my best-ever looks at Pileated Woodpecker but no too unusual birds.  On Sunday I guided James Fox from Front Royal around Augusta County.  We had a TERRIFIC day spotting Lark Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Rough-legged Hawk, 3 Bald Eagles, and my year and fairly out-of-season Brown Thrasher.  

Early week was rather uneventful but yesterday was a great day.  We went on a morning bird walk with the Rockingham Bird Club.  We saw lots of great birds, 23 species in all, with the sure highlight being my year Fox Sparrow which gave great looks!  After that we went out to our friend's property.  She has an amazing property chock full of great birds!  I was very pleased to find Rusty Blackbirds and my first-of-year Pine Siskins.

Today I did day one of a feeder watch count highlighted by goldfinches returning to my yard after a few weeks of absence.  Welcome back goldfinches!

With recent additions of Brown Thrasher, Fox Sparrow, and Pine Siskin my 2012 year list is 95 species.

Sometime in the near future I'll post some photos from recently.  



Friday, February 3, 2012

The colorful nuthatch

Got my year Red-breasted Nuthatch on a beautiful walk at the base of Shenandoah National Park this afternoon.

April in February

It's a beautiful sunny and warm day here in New Hope Virginia.  It's a balmy 50 degrees but with calm wind and full sun it feels much warmer.  It surely doesn't feel like Feb. 3rd!

Once in a while I see one of the resident kestrels dive-bomb a Red-tailed Hawk.  Today I was fortunate to see the resident adult male kestrel dive-bomb a  Red-tail right above our house!  Beautiful.  I'm never sure why the kestrels dive-bomb red-tails (if it was a Merlin, well, then I'd know!) but I figure it's because red-tails might eat kestrels so the kestrels want to get the red-tails "out!"

I did a feeder watch count yesterday-today, not much interesting but a pair of cowbirds was a bit of a surprise.

I'll make a post on Sunday evening, because I have a fun weekend coming up.  Will be going on a bird walk and meeting with fellow Monticello Bird Club board member tomorrow, and Sunday will be guiding someone from Front Royal around looking for new "Virginia birds" for him.

I have a photo of the kestrel-red-tail encounter but it's having trouble loading now.  I will post it later.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Merganser update

 The female merganser from today was a Common.  Thanks to the "expert" birders that ID'd it for me.

February off with a bang!

To start out February, my mom and I went birding in northwestern Augusta and Rockingham Counties today and we could not have asked for better weather or better birds!  

On Badger Road, a location familiar for being one of the few spots in the area where you can reliably find Red-headed Woodpeckers, we found them as well as a PEREGRINE FALCON!  Those were both new "year birds".  

We also found American Tree Sparrow, Canvasback, and either a Common or Red-breasted Merganser as new 2012 year birds for me.  My 2012 year total is now 91 species.  I will update when I get an ID on the merganser from some more expert birders.

Enjoy a few photos from today.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Book reading trip

In case anyone's interested, my book reading to the kindergarten class went great.  I was hoping to see some birds along the way and I did not fail to do that.  I found lots of hawks, mostly red-tails but a couple of kestrels and a Red-shouldered Hawk or two.  I also found 2 Mute Swans, they were at a pond at a vineyard so they were most likely domesticated but still an interesting find.

To start out February, I'll go birding for several hours tomorrow.  I'll post if I find anything interesting.


"Oh No, Gertrude!"

In 2010 I wrote a book called "Oh No, Gertrude!" accompanied by Rodney Cammauf's excellent photographs.  It is about a mama bear named Gertrude and her 3 bear cubs to help keep bears safe.  It is being carried by a number of national parks and I have sold over 2,000 copies.  Please visit the "Oh No, Gertrude!" website:

I am heading off now to do a book reading for the book at a Kindergarten Class in Orange, Virginia.  Maybe I'll see some birds along the way!

That's about it for now.


Monday, January 30, 2012

January 2012 birds

Hello there!

This is my first post on my blog, I started blogging early in 2011 to cover my "Junior Big Year" from that year.  To view that blog, please visit

Now that my Big Year is done I will keep this blog up to date and will cover my birding adventures and also bear viewing, and any other wild things that I do.   I will plan to post every week or when I have a great day/great sighting.

As January 2012 comes to a close, let me reflect on that month a little bit.  Birding was my main focus this past month as the bears are asleep in their dens, the bucks have lost their antlers so the birds are the best right now.

I'm keeping a "year list" of all the birds I see and I have 86 so far for 2012.  Most recent additions were Black-crowned Night Heron at a local pond in Waynesboro, Virginia and Ruddy Duck at a pond in Crozet Virginia, both this past Saturday.  Some highlights from January 2012 include a Lark Sparrow, a rare visitor to Virginia that has been hanging around locally in Augusta County all of January.  Yesterday a second Lark Sparrow was confirmed by me at the location where the one has been seen for a long time.  Other notables include Cackling Geese, and Rough-legged Hawk in Augusta County and Golden Eagle in nearby Highland County.  The Rough-legged Hawk in Augusta County is an over-wintering bird that has returned to a certain road for several winters.

Also, I have guided several people around Augusta County and gotten them notable birds and even life birds.  If any of you are ever in Augusta County I would be happy to guide you around if we can pick a day that's free on my schedule and yours.  Good birding!