Elkhorn SE Breeding Block (PRIORITY) Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020)

Virginia Breeding Atlas II, as of June 2017, 15 breeding bird species have been confirmed for Elkhorn SE, Dickensen County. This is a priority block. Fifteen of 20 probable breeding species have been confirmed.

Confirmed breeding birds 2016 to Present:

Peregrine Falcon
Hairy Woodpecker
Brown Thrasher
American Crow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Tufted Titmouse
Blue Jay
Chipping Sparrow
American Robin
Eastern Towee
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Phoebe
Common Raven
Carolina Chickadee
Northern Flicker

SOURCE:
eBIRD, 2017. eBird: An online database of bird distribution and abundance [web application]. eBird, Cornell University of Ornithology, Ithaca, New york. Available: http://www.ebird.org. (Accessed: June 20, 2017)

 

Update: Catlett SW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 

Catlett SW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020) (known as Catlett Block 5 during the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 1 1985-1989) 

During the current Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (2016-2017), thirteen breeding bird species have already been confirmed for Catlett SW. This already represents an increase from the first breeding bird atlas as only seven were reported to be breeding from 1985-1989. Results so far: 

 • The only species that was found during the first atlas that has not been confirmed for the second atlas is: American Kestrel. All other species from the first atlas have been re-confirmed during 2016-2017.

 • The current atlas has already identified seven newly observed breeding species: Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, House Finch, Eastern Blue Bird, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Phoebe, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Chipping Sparrow. 

Update: Catlett SW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Catlett SW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020)
(known as Catlett Block 5 during the Virginia Breeding Atlas 1 1985-1989 -Fauquier County.)

This block contains most of the Weston Wildlife Management Area and the a woodland area of C.M. Crockett Park.

So far for 2017, one additional species is breeding in this block: Blue-gray Gnatcatchers!

During the first year of the current Virginia Breeding Atlas (2016), ten breeding bird species were confirmed for Catlett SW. This already represents an increase from the first breeding bird atlas as only seven were reported to be breeding from 1985-1989. 

Results so far:

Only three species so far have been found breeding during both atlas periods: Carolina Wren, American Robin, and Barn Swallow. 

The current atlas has already identified eight new breeding species: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, House Finch, Eastern Blue Bird, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Phoebe, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Chipping Sparrow. 

 Three species were identified during the first atlas that were not found breeding during the first year of the second atlas (however four years still remain to confirm these species): American Kestrel, Blue Jay, European Starling.

Remington CE Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Remington CE Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020)
(known as Remington Block 4 during the Virginia Breeding Atlas 1 1985-1989)
-Fauquier County.

This block contains the center of Bealeton; a growing town. It is primarily residential and commercial with few remaining agricultural fields. Route 28 and 17 coverage here and the rail road runs through this block. 

During the first year of the current Virginia Breeding Atlas (2016), 16 breeding bird species were confirmed for Remington CE. This already represents an increase from the first breeding bird atlas as only four species were reported to be breeding from 1985-1989. Results so far:

  •  Only three species so far have been found breeding during both atlas periods: American Robin, Common Grackle and Barn Swallow. 
  •  The current atlas has already identified seven new breeding species: Northern Mockingbird, House Finch, House Sparrow, European Starling, Brown-headed Cowbird, Red-winged Blackbird, Gray Catbird, Willow Flycatcher, Carolina Wren, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal and Mourning Dove. 
  •  Only one species was identified to be breeding during the first atlas that was not found breeding during the first year of the second atlas (four years still remain to confirm this species): Yellow-throated Vireo. However, the Yellow-throated Vireo has not been observed in the breeding block yet. 
  • During the first breeding atlas, Northern Bobwhite quail were observed. No breeding was confirmed. During the first year of the current breeding atlas, no Northern Bobwhite have been observed in the block. There has been significant development in the block since the first breeding atlas that probably has negatively impacted habitat for quail.

Catlett SW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Catlett SW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020)
(known as Catlett Block 5 during the Virginia Breeding Atlas 1 1985-1989)
-Fauquier County.

This block contains most of the Weston Wildlife Management Area and the a woodland area of C.M. Crockett Park.

During the first year of the current Virginia Breeding Atlas (2016), ten breeding bird species were confirmed for Catlett SW. This already represents an increase from the first breeding bird atlas as only seven were reported to be breeding from 1985-1989. Results so far:

  •   Only three species so far have been found breeding during both atlas periods: Carolina Wren, American Robin, and Barn Swallow. 
  • The current atlas has already identified seven new breeding species: House Finch, Eastern Blue Bird, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Phoebe, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and Chipping Sparrow. 
  •  Three species were identified during the first atlas that were not found breeding during the first year of the second atlas (however four years still remain to confirm these species): American Kestrel, Blue Jay, European Starling.

Midland NW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Midland NW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020)
(known as Midland Block 1 during the Virginia Breeding Atlas 1 (1985-1989)

Birding hotspot, C.M. Crockett Park is located primarily in this block (most of thr parks wood trails fall under Catlett SW). John Marshall’s Birthplace (another birding hotspot) are also in this block. This block contains most of Midland, VA, including the main area of the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport.

During the first year of the current Virginia Breeding Atlas (2016), 24 breeding bird species were confirmed for Midland NW. To date for the second breeding atlas: observed: 62, possibly breeding 27, probably breeding 24, confirmed breeding 24, total 75.This already represents an increase from the first breeding bird atlas as only 22 were reported to be breeding from 1985-1989. Results so far:

  • Only 12 species so far have been found breeding during both atlas periods: Eastern Bluebird, Wood Duck, European Starling, House Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Tree Swallow, Common Grackle, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal and Mourning Dove. 
  • The current atlas has already identified 12 new breeding species: Carolina Chickadee, Eastern Phoebe, Purple Martin, Carolina Wren, American Robin, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Kingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Chipping Sparrow, Red-eyed Vireo and Indigo Bunting. 
  •  Ten species were identified during the first atlas that were not found breeding during the first year of the second atlas (however four years still remain to confirm these species): American Kestrel, Canada Geese, Mallard, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Tufted Titmouse, Song Sparrow,* Blue Grosbeak. 

*Song Sparrows were noticeably absent in this block in 2016, however, many have been observed in 2017.

                    

Nelson County: The Quarry Gardens Opens in April

Next month, a new garden will open to the public in Schulyer, VA, at a former soapstone quarry. The property is being converted into a native plant garden by the owners, Armand and Bernice Thiebolt. I got a preview tour of the park organized by Amber Ellis of the James River Association.

The Thiebolts hosted our tour taking us around the garden on the main trail, which is approximately one mile in length around the perimeter of two water-filled former quarries.


At the end of the tour, a small group of us opted to continue with an additional walk of the adjacent woodland trail that transverses different ecosystems, including a rare hardwood wetland. 

The Center of Urban Habitats conducted a survey of the property, and according to Bernice, identified over 300 plant species. The property includes 14 ecozones and seven conservation zones. 

The gardens are works-in-progress, with plans to plant many local native species. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at the gardens. To learn more visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/The-Quarry-Gardens-at-Schuyler-435127836674149/

Birding in Virginia: From the Coastal Plain to the Piedmont

By Kelly Krechmer, Winner of Bird Studies Canada’s 2017 Great Backyard Bird Count Story Contest 

I had assumed that the Great Backyard Bird Count was for birding exclusively in backyards. I do not have a backyard. However, I learned that the count can be done anywhere, so this year I set out to do what I considered my Great Beyond Bird Count!

 I started my bird count in a number of under-birded Virginia counties. I was rewarded with my first-of-the-year sightings of Northern Bobwhites, Wild Turkeys, and Pine Warblers.

The next day, I headed out to the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Along the way, I stopped at a nearby marsh and flushed an American Bittern from the reeds. I considered the bittern to be a harbinger of what lay ahead.

At the wildlife refuge, I headed out to the beachfront. The beach walk was great, with unseasonably warm weather and only a handful of people, who were also birders! There were Sanderlings probing the sand. Not far from shore were loons, gulls, scoters, and many diving Northern Gannets, along with a pod of dolphins headed south.

I scanned the ocean continuously and witnessed a Northern Gannet come up with a fish stuck in its throat that it was trying to swallow. Soon, other gannets were attempting to steal the fish and were mobbing the struggling gannet. Loons and gulls circled the melee. It was quite a sight.
On day three of the count, I headed inland to Hog Island Wildlife Management Area. The weather was unexpectedly warm again. I was searching for the American White Pelicans previously reported at this hotspot. Another birder showed me where they were. The pelicans were on a mud bank offshore, and appeared to be enjoying the sun as much as we were. I was thrilled to see them for the first time in Virginia.
During the final day of the count, I travelled around my home county for about 12 hours straight. I ended the day at sunset with two Short-eared Owls.
I observed 100 bird species during the four-day count. I also simultaneously contributed data to the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas. It is great to have a fun birding activity that is also a Citizen Science project important to bird and habitat conservation efforts.

Ants and Fossils, Turtles and Trees: Virginia Master Naturalist Conference

Virginia Master Naturalists from across the state gathered at Smith Mountain Lake for the annual conference this past weekend. Blue Ridge Foothills and Lakes Chapter (BRFAL) did an amazing job planning and hosting this conference. Around 250 Master Naturalists attended making it the biggest conference in Virginia to date.

The event kicked off with optional offsite tours on Friday morning. One of these tours was a behind the scenes visit to the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville. I elected to take this tour and it turned out to be fun and informative. The tour was led by Dr. James (Jim) Beard who is the museum Curator of Geology. We began the tour with an overview at the museum entrance.

IMG_0651Next we visited the invertebrate paleontology lab to learn about projects the museum is involved in. Jim showed us a whale fossil that is being reconstructed, and told us that it came from a dig site in Caroline County where apparently quite a few whale fossils have been found.IMG_0554.JPGJim took us to the loading dock where we met another staff member, Ray Vodden, a research technician. Ray showed us a dinosaur cast (a composite of different individuals found in a quarry in Colorado) that was given to the museum by the Smithsonian. Ray explained that he had to cut the cast so that it could fit in the museum, and how he has been fixing it and making sure next time it can be taken apart rather than cut.

IMG_0557We returned to the paleontology lab with Jim and Ray to see the juvenile mastodon skull that is being prepared for display.

IMG_0561.jpgJim took us to meet with Dr. Elizabeth Moore, Curator of Archaelogy. She discussed a current project that involves examining tiny fish fossils with the goal of determining which species were eaten by Native Americans along the Virginia coastal areas near Virginia Beach.

IMG_0572.JPGLater, we visited the entomology lab and met with the Assistant Curator of Invertebrate Zoology, Dr. Kaloyan (Kal) Ivanov. Kal showed us many insect collection boxes, live juvenile walking sticks, and a Black widow spider with a parasite that he is evaluating.

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IMG_0583Kal also explained the history of the lab and discussed a recent field expedition to Wyoming. He collected ants during this trip and showed us a box of them.
IMG_0584.jpgKal passed around a new book, The Geology of Virginia. The first book published about Virginia’s geology in years. This book is available in the gift shop.

Jim showed us the museum’s butterfly collection: a stunning variety of beautiful specimens from around the world.

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Then we were shown where the museum stores additional items, including a collection of bird skins.

After the tour, I visited the public area of the museum.

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IMG_0644Just outside the entrance to the museum, I stopped to admire the butterflies in the small garden. Learn more about the museum by visiting their website: http://www.vmnh.net

This years conference ran from Friday to Sunday at the WE Skelton 4H Center, Wirtz, VA. After the optional tours on Friday, attendees got together at the facility located right on Smith Mountain Lake, an appropriate venue for Master Naturalists and great for doing a little birding! Master Naturalists got to know members from other chapters and share experiences.

Friday evening, an award ceremony was held to recognize chapters, chapter advisors and individual Master Naturalists for efforts during the previous year.


The State-wide Master Naturalist photo competition entries were on display during dinner and the winner’s names were announced.  Here are photos of the entries and winning pics:

IMG_0692IMG_0691IMG_0682IMG_0681Tucker Caldwell, a member of my chapter, Merrimac Farm Master Naturalist, won third place for his photo of a stag in Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park!

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Some of the other winning photos from other chapters:

Saturday morning, there were classes on-site and tours offsite. I traveled to a local tree plantation with 13 Master Naturalists for the Plantation Forestry Field Trip: From Seedling to Sawtimber. Bill Sweeney, Franklin County Area Forester, Virginia Department of Forestry, was our instructor. We visited two separate properties and learned how the property is managed. The property owner took us on a tractor ride to show us the trees he is growing for eventual harvest. 


Saturday afternoon, I attended classes led by other Master Naturalists in their area of expertise. I attended Monitoring Populations of the Eastern Box Turtle with Todd Fredericksen. Todd introduced his ongoing monitoring project. He showed three turtles in class pointing out the differences between males and females. Then Todd brought the class outside along with tracking equipment in search of a turtle he released earlier. It was interesting to watch him track down the turtle, then demonstrate how they measure the turtle and record observations.

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DSC_0772The next class I attended was How to Establish a Successful Pollinator Habitat Project. During this presentation, Jack Price, member of the Central Rappahannock Chapter, discussed a project he is involved in that established a butterfly garden in Washington, VA.

DSC_0775.JPGSaturday night’s dinner was followed by key note speaker, Dr. Tim McCoy of Virginia Tech. Tim talked about the state of pollinators, especially bees. He concentrated his talk on native bees and their importance as pollinators. We learned about different types of bees and how to create a habitat for them.

IMG_0735This conference was my first Master Naturalist conference. I did not know what to expect, and washington pleasantly surprised by how well organized it was (kudos to BRFAL Chapter!). The instructors/speakers did an excellent job, and it was clear that they are passionate about what they taught. I hope to be able to attend next years conference to be held in Front Royal, VA!

Interested in becoming a Virginia Master Naturalist? Look for a chapter near you and learn more about the Virginia Master Naturalist program.