Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge – April 23, 2016

By Michael Lott

Despite the prediction for rain, 12 intrepid members of the Fredericksburg Birding Club assembled in the parking lot at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge for a morning of birding. The forecasters proved to be correct and the overcast sky soon turned to rain. Never the less, many birds were seen and heard by all.

The first birds heard by many were the numerous Prairie Warblers singing near the parking lot and along Fox Road. The dense vegetation and gloomy weather made the prairie warblers, along with several White-eyed Vireos and Field Sparrows, difficult to spot

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

. Several Common Yellowthroats were more cooperative and sang from visible perches. Much easier to observe was a large flock of at least a hundred Blue Jays streaming overhead in their migration northward. Also spotted flying above were seven Laughing Gulls in breeding plumage and several Purple Martins. The group assembled at a viewing gazebo for a look out over Occoquan Bay. Although the bay was not as birdy as in the winter months, we were still able to observe several Caspian Terns hunting over the bay, as well as a group of nine Double-crested Cormorants roosting on a duck blind. Four Black Vultures were also hanging out on the shore just below the gazebo.


Goose Family

Canada Goose Family

The group then made their way up Deephole Point Road to the bird banding station where, despite being a slow day, the group was able to get a nice look at a cooperative Palm Warbler moving about low in the shrubs bordering the road. We then turned back down the road to the edge along Occoquan Bay and were rewarded with views of a Forester’s Tern and four Blue-winged Teals. Numerous Yellow-rumped Wablers were observed foraging in the trees along the edge of the road, however a Northern Waterthrush, singing in the forested wetlands, proved too elusive to spot. We were luckier with a Spotted Sandpiper that finally sat still long enough for observation, after repeatedly flying further up the shoreline. Numerous Tree Swallows zipped overhead and many roosted in trees along a tidal channel. Also seen at this location was an Eastern Kingbird, the first of the season for many of us, and a pair of Canada Geese with four goslings was seen swimming just off shore.

As the rain intensified, several of the group hurried back to the parking lot and an adjacent picnic shelter. Those willing to continue on in the rain were finally rewarded with a nice look at a Prothonotary Warbler. Also seen along this stretch of trail were several Swamp Sparrows, an Orchard Oriole, and a female American Redstart.

Occoquan Group

Intrepid FBC Members!

After meeting up at the picnic shelter, several of us enjoyed lunch at a local barbecue restaurant. Thanks to William Colling for sharing his bird photographs. A total of 51 species were seen on the trip. A full list appears below:

Canada Goose 8
Blue-winged Teal 4
Double-crested Cormorant 9
Great Blue Heron 2
Black Vulture 4
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 4
Bald Eagle 2
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Laughing Gull 7
Ring-billed Gull 2
Caspian Tern 2
Forster’s Tern 1
Mourning Dove 2
Chimney Swift 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Downy Woodpecker 2
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Eastern Kingbird 1
White-eyed Vireo 8
Red-eyed Vireo 2
Blue Jay 100
American Crow 1
Fish Crow 1
Purple Martin 5
Tree Swallow 12
Barn Swallow 2
Carolina Chickadee 8
Tufted Titmouse 1
Carolina Wren 5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 8
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Waterthrush 1
Prothonotary Warbler 4
Common Yellowthroat 7
American Redstart 1
Yellow Warbler 1
Palm Warbler 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 12
Prairie Warbler 9
Field Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 3
Swamp Sparrow 3
Eastern Towhee 2
Northern Cardinal 6
Red-winged Blackbird 7
Common Grackle 4
Brown-headed Cowbird 2
Orchard Oriole 1
American Goldfinch 2

FBC Participants:
Mike Lott – Leader
Sally Knight
Brenda Chase
Linda Chaney
William Colling
Alton Dick
Maureen Hamm
Hanne Hansen
Michael Killian
Sarah Perry
Joyce and Mike Bathke

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