Saturday, November 9, 2013

King Rail, Snipe, and Other Firsts

What a day at Occoquan Bay NWR! Our very large group started off this gorgeous autumn morning with a few sparrows and kinglets, but things really picked up once we reached our first body of water. Two life birds appeared just 2 minutes apart, with a Wilson's Snipe taking flight (and making two pass-overs!) and a King Rail taking to the air just long enough for a lucky few of us to get a glimpse. Not long after, the King Rail vocalized quite clearly, much to the amusement of all. It was really quite a performance, albeit a short one.

We proceeded to the bay in hopes of a waterfowl show, and boy did we get one. One of the first things we noticed was 4 Bald Eagles patrolling the waters, periodically swooping down in hopes of picking off some ducks. The most noticeable prey were the Ruddy Ducks (another life bird), but American Coots (yet another life bird) and Mallards were also targeted.

Someone spotted a silhouetted Horned Grebe in the distance, though I wouldn't have counted it for my own life list had Elton not managed to give me a clearer shot through the scope some minutes later. Sure enough, though, the Horned Grebe was in full view, the red eye as clear as day. In the same vicinity, we had views of two Bonaparte's Gulls, life bird #6 on the day!

And then just minutes later, Kurt ID-ed a Rusty Blackbird, a life bird for me and clearly a treat for a few others in the group. (Some of my best pics of the day can be found of this Rusty and one of his "chums.") And just beyond these Rustys was a view of some Gadwalls, life bird #8 on the day. Amazing!
But... despite these great results, the highlight of the day for me was the discovery of two Bald Eagles perched together in a tree. We all had relatively prolonged views of these two magical creatures before each went its separate way. I'll just let the photos do the rest.

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