Red-headed Woodpecker

Photo Courtesy of Alice Knight


The last three evenings I've observed a first year Merlin at Spring Hill Cemetery, which is located on a hillside and ridgetop that overlooks downtown Charleston.  The habitat is a mix of tall trees and open space.  I've watched the bird fly to a perch on the same tree at the same time (around 5:00) each evening.  It watches for prey and occasionally arranges its feathers with its disproportionately large talons.  It seems indifferent to my close approaches.  When it does decide to fly, it becomes a feathered fighter jet.  I watched it pursue another bird, attempting a midair capture.  It missed, but it was an exciting miss.

Jim Waggy
Kanawha County



Kanawha / New River Birding Outing - November 3


The Handlan Chapter of the Brooks Bird Club made an outing on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012, up the Kanawha River to Gauley Bridge to look for waterbirds and possible erratics brought in by Superstorm Sandy. We stopped at the Marmet locks and dam, Kanawha Falls, Glen Ferris and the New River Campground just above Gauley Bridge.

Our thanks go to Chuck Wirtz and Jim Triplett for organizing this outing.

We had about 14 people attend.  Some of us stopped at Glen Ferris Inn for a well earned lunch.

Highlights of the trip included a Bald Eagle at Marmet, Gadwalls and Ring-necked Ducks above Glen Ferris, and Common Loons and American Wigeons at the New River Campground.  Here is the total list of species observed

(counts >6 are approximations):

Canada Goose  -  40
Gadwall  - 2
American Wigeon - 10
Mallard - 50
Green-winged Teal - 5
Ring-necked Duck -8
Ruddy Duck  -  18
Common Loon  -  3
Pied-billed Grebe - 45
Double-crested Cormorant  -  5
Great Blue Heron  - 5
Turkey Vulture  - 24
Red-tailed Hawk  - 3
American Kestrel - 1
Killdeer  - 7
Mourning Dove - 6
Belted Kingfisher  -  2
Downy Woodpecker  - 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  -  1
Northern Flicker  -  4
Pileated Woodpecker  - 2
American Crow - 8
Blue Jay  -  2
Carolina Wren - 1
Northern Mockingbird  -  1
European Starling - 80
Song Sparrow - 4
Northern Cardinal  - 2
White-throated Sparrow - 1
American Goldfinch - 6
House Sparrow  - 5



Greater White-fronted Goose,                                                        Narrative and photos by Jim Waggy

Bill Mills, the general manager for TerraSalis, which is located on the Kanawha River at Malden, spotted a single Greater White-fronted Goose amidst a small flock of Canada Geese feeding in the open fields between TerraSalis and the Dickinson farm (which has the unusual black and white cows) on December 4th.  Bill informed Handlan member Connie Bergmark, who spread the word.
This is a highly unusual sighting.  John Smith, in Birds of the Kanawha Valley, calls the species a "very infrequent transient," and George Hall, in West Virginia Birds, labels it an "accidental visitant."  WV records for the Greater White-fronted are few and far between.  Hullet Good observed one on the Elk River several years ago, but, after the publication of an article and photo in the Charleston paper, Hullet received a call from a man who explained that he had raised this bird domestically and it had escaped.  The Malden bird gives every indication of being a wild bird, so this is the first Kanawha County record for this species.
Jim Waggy observed the bird on December 7th and 8th, and the 8th marked the fifth straight day that it had been seen. 
The pattern seems to be that this small flock shows up in the fields in early morning and feeds off and on for several hours.  In the afternoon, they come and go, sometimes flying off along the river and other times settling into a field on the west side of the grazing cows. 
It will be interesting to see how long this goose stays in the area.  Sibley says that this species will hybridize with either Canada Geese or with Snow Geese, and geese have long-lasting pair bonds, so if this individual stays here it could mean that it's wintering with its mate.  As of this writing, it hasn't left.
The Greater White-fronted nests in the low arctic regions and winters in the Pacific-coast states or along the Gulf of Mexico and into Mexico.  Its migration is almost entirely conducted west of the Mississippi River.  Within its range, it is fairly numerous and it is a favorite target for waterfowl hunters.  It is sometimes called the Laughing Goose, because its call has a melodious, laughing quality.


A Merlin at Charleston's Spring Hill Cemetery          by Jim Waggy     


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