Breeding Bird Atlasing at Breaks Interstate Park and Surrounding Areas: Elkhorn City SE (Priority), Elkhorn City CE, Elkhorn City CW

This summer, I have spent many hours birding Elkhorn City blocks SE, CE, CW looking for evidence of breeding to contribute to the Virginia Breeding Atlas II. I managed to complete Elkhorn City SE block, which is a priority block by confirming 30 breeding species. The CE block still needs a lot more atlasing during the remaining years of the atlas. The CW block also needs more atlasing, however, it is remote and difficult to get to the small area covered in Virginia (most of the block is in Kentucky which doesn’t count).

Throughout the summer, I heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo calling from the woods in the priority block and Elkhorn CE. I never actually got to see it. I wonder if there is only one. There are not many hairy caterpillars around, which they like to eat. This may mean that they are not successfully breeders at BIP. More observation is needed. On the other hand, there are plenty of moths at BIP, and Whip-poor-wills are present (they eat lots of moths). I was unable to confirm breeding though I suspect that there may be a nest that was predated by a bobcat! I heard a confrontation between the species during the night!

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds birds were present at BIP this summer. I never found breeding evidence. Mostly they buzzed by without pausing. Only once did I see one perched on a branch! It was a male located right at the entrance to the park.

Notably absent from the area: No Northern Mockingbirds or House Sparrow were observed in Elkhorn City SE, Elkhorn City CE, and Elkhorn CW breeding blocks! In fact, I only found two Northern Mockingbirds in Dickenson County.

In Buchanan County, I found one pair with fledglings. Interestingly, as soon as you cross into Russell County, Northern Mockingbirds become common.

Here are my findings for breeding activity broken down by breeding blocks:

Elkhorn City SE (Priority) Block – Breeding Birds Observed 2017

The priority block falls in the developed area of Breaks Interstate Park (BIP). Observing breeding activity from late May to early August, I noticed patterns of breeding success. Some of the species that were confirmed breeders for this block were seen outside of the park at a wetland area and a golf course. I have noted them separately below.

In the priority block within the developed area of the park:

Chipping Sparrows
I witnessed Chipping Sparrows having up to three successful broods.

Carolina Wrens
A pair of Carolina Wrens appeared to have two or three broods also. A family of Carolina Wrens were still feeding older fledglings in early August.

American Robins
American Robins had nests near the visitor center and at least one pair had a nest in the woods. The nest in the woods was predated by a Red-Shouldered Hawk at least twice. I do not know if any of the nestlings survived from that nest.

Eastern Phoebes
The Eastern Phoebes were breeding at many buildings and structures. They had the most nests of any species in the park of those that I was able to find.

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Barred Owls
During my first birding outing at BIP, I heard a Barred Owl singing. There was no activity for awhile that I detected. The next thing I noticed was Barred Owl fledglings calling (more like…Hissing) in the trees. I heard them a lot for a few weeks after that they finally stopped hissing. In August, I heard Barred Owls singing again.

Red-Shouldered Hawks
I believe they had a nest in the woods near Cold Springs Trail. A pair was there consistently. I witnessed predation of the American Robins nest and a Red-Shouldered Hawk carrying a robin nestling in the direction of Cold Springs Trail.

Hairy Woodpeckers
I observed four different pairs with nests with young.

Northern Flicker
The pair had two broods in the same nest located in a utility pole.

Common Ravens had a nest near Pinnacle Rock Overlook. Once the nestlings fledged, they moved around the park quite a bit traveling between the CE and SE block. Then they all left the park.

American Crows
They nested in the park and the fledglings stayed close to their parents all summer. They primarily spend their time in the priority block. I think that there is only one family of crows that raised at least two fledglings.

Red-eyed Vireos (REVE)
I never found a REVE nest. It was not until July that I confirmed breeding when I started to see fledglings chasing adults and getting fed in trees. Then it seemed for about two weeks, I keep seeing and hearing the fledglings!

Wetland Area/Golf Course/and Buchanan County area nearby:

Scarlet Tanager
A male was observed from outside of the park carrying food into part of the woods that I believe belong to BIP.

White-eyed Vireo
I heard a White-eyed Vireo singing at the wetlands area outside of the park just south of the village of the Breaks. I finally confirmed breeding when I spotted a fledgling in the same spot. I did hear a White-eyed Vireo singing once at the BIP Campground in Elkhorn City CE block. I never heard or saw one in the BIP again though.

Eastern Kingbird
I observed a nest with young and both adults carrying food to the nest in a tree at the golf course! No Eastern Kingbirds were observed in BIP.

Red-winged Black Birds
Multiple pairs successfully breed in the wetlands. After the young had fledged, I think they traveled into the park as I observed them in a wetland area in the priority block once. They didn’t stay though.

List of Confirmed Breeding Species in Elkhorn City SE block 2016-2017

Red-shouldered Hawk
Mourning Dove
Barred Owl
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Black-throated Green Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird

Update: Blue-headed Vireo (August 10)

American Robin
all rights reserved Kelly KRechmer

Elkhorn City CE Block – Breeding Birds Observed 2017

This block covers the area of Stateline Overlook, the Geological and Ridge Trails, the Campground, Deer and Beaver Pond Trails, Much of the woods where the Mountain Bike Trails are located, and the area of the park that is along the road on the drive north from the village of Breaks up to the Kentucky-side of the park. It also covers the area under the new bridge on Conaway Road, Happy Hollow Road and Breaks village.

All of the birds listed below were observed breeding in BIP, with the exception of Wood Ducks and House Finches, which I explain:

Wood Duck
I stumbled onto the Wood Duck family when I pulled over to let a car go by in Buchanan County area of Conaway Road. There was a small waterway right there and I flushed a female Wood Duck with her fledglings. This was the only observation of Wood Ducks I made in the area. So for once, I actually appreciated a speeding tailgater!

House Finch
I have not observed any House Finches in BIP. They were observed breeding along Happy Hollow Road, Buchanan County.

List of Confirmed Breeding Species in Elkhorn City CE block 2016-2017

Wood Duck 
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Gray Catbird
Brown Thrasher
Ovenbird
Black-and-white Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Pine Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch

Elkhorn City CW Block – Breeding Birds Observed 2017

No breeding birds observed. This block covers only a small area of Virginia within Breaks Interstate Park. It is difficult to access this area. It requires a hike up a rocky trail for a few miles from the Kentucky side of Breaks Interstate Park. I traveled up the trail with a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. We hoped to observe Peregrine Falcons that nested in the park in 2016. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in finding the falcons this year. A few birds were heard singing, however, no birds were observed during our hours long visit except for vultures.

Amazing Moths of Breaks Interstate Park

Luna Moth ©️Kelly Krechmer

Breaks Interstate Park (BIP) is home to a variety of unique and beautiful moths. These moths play an important role in the ecosystem of the park. Adult moths and their caterpillars are food for frogs, toads, lizards, bats, birds. Caterpillars are an important source of nutrition for baby birds. Two birds found in the park eat a lot of moths: the Eastern Whip-poor-wills and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Moths also pollinate flowers while feeding on their nectar, which benefits the wildflowers at BIP.

Giant Leopard Moth ©️Kelly Krechmer.jpg Giant Leopard Moth ©️Kelly Krechmer

The diversity and quanitiy of moths found in BIP provides insight into the health of the environment of Breaks, Virgina. They are an indicator species because they are sensitve to changes in air quality and use of pesticides.

Sycamore Tussock Moth Sycamore Tussock Moth caterpillar ©️Kelly Krechmer

Monitoring moths at BIP can be easily accomplished by anyone with the free citizen science tool, iNaturalist (avaiable on the Internet and as a smartphone app).

At night, moths are attracted to the lights of buildings throughout the developed section of the park. Keep an eye on these areas at night, and first thing in the morning, and you will observe many species of interesting moths.

Snap a photo of any moths you observe and upload all photos to iNaturalist to share your observation with the world. Who knows? You may even find a moth species no one else has seen at the Breaks!

1.jpg Imperial Moth ©️Kelly Krechmer

Citizen Science at Breaks Interstate Park

You can help map the biota of Breaks Interstate Park by making observations at the park or identifying observations online!

A bi-state state park, Breaks Interstate Park, is located mostly in southwestern Virginia though it also stretches into southeastern Kentucky. The park is rich in biodiversity, and has plenty to be discovered by participants. The area is known as The Breaks and also as the “Grand Canyon of the South” because of the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River being located in the park. Come out to the park and be sure to bring your smart phone or a camera. Binoculars are also recommends for spotting migratory and local birds.

https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/biodiversity-of-breaks-interstate-park

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.