Friday, November 7, 2008

Occoquan Bay NWR

Occoquan Bay NWR has it all in the fall. Sparrows rule in October, of course, and while the sparrow show continues in November, late migrants and arriving winter residents can also be fun to find.

Where did I hear that fall color might not be too good this season? The yellows and reds were brilliant today, with sweet gum, red oaks, and maples showing off in bright sunlight.

Driving past the entrance a little before 8 AM, a small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, the first I’ve seen this season at the refuge, caught my eye. They were actively foraging in the meadow grasses on both sides of the road. An immature Red-shouldered Hawk, present on almost every trip I've made this fall, was again perched on a limb of the big snag, to your left as you drive from the entrance to the parking lot. This is one spot where early morning light is superb for photography.

Near the parking lot a House Wren was vigorously chipping. As I caught a view, I wondered if it wasn’t departing our area a bit late, but apparently this species can generally be seen here in the Coastal Plain as late as Nov. 25.

I've been aware of reports of King Rails that were seen where Catamont Creek passes under Charlie Road, but until today, no reports were generated from me. Yes, today was my day. A rail in the creek! All I had was a two-minute back-lit view, but I relished all 120 seconds. The bird was mute this morning, although others have reported hearing it but not seeing it. I tried to salvage a back-lit photo, and my efforts are reflected below.

With temperatures rising to the 70s, butterflies and dragonflies responded, flying about like it was September. Even one spring peeper chirped along Easy Road. I saw at last 20 Eastern Buckeye butterflies, a handful of Orange Sulphurs, and a Pearl Crescent or two. A small red dragonfly wouldn't yield to identification and I watched two dragonflies of some other mystery species fly about the parking lot in the “wheel” position.

Orange Sulphur

Pearl Crescent, open and folded wings

Common Buckeye

Eastern Comma

Since waterfowl will soon be front and center when the wintering flocks build to great numbers on the bay, I stuck to birds of the meadows and marsh today, like this immature White-crowned Sparrow.

A few other birds that brought a smile to my face were Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe, Brown Creeper, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Rusty Blackbird. I hope the Northern Harrier that I saw a few times during early October visits has not decided to move on to winter at another location.

No comments: