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. 

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.

                    

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.

Signal Hill Park Needs More Birders

Ebird records show little birding activity at Signal Hill Park in Prince William County, Virginia. In fact, for all eBird record years, Signal Hill had only 43 bird species reported and only 11 checklists submitted. I thought I understood why during my first two visits about a year ago. The park seemed to be small and not have many birds. I had no plans to return, however, I was in the area recently. I had some free time, so I headed over to Signal Hill Park to check for breeding birds.

Signal Hill Park ended up impressing me. The construction that was happening during my first two visits was over, leading me discover that the park was much larger than I thought. Behind the construction area in the upper lot was a lot more park to bird.  

I ended up birding for about two hours and was pleased with my observations. I ended up adding 12 new bird species to eBird for this spot. There are now 55 species reported. 

For 2016, including my visit, only four lists were submitted to eBird for Signal Hill Park. Besides my one list, there was one other birder who submitted three lists: two in February and one in March. There were no visits reported to eBird between March 19 and my visit on August 4. Clearly, Signal Hill Park is under-birded. I bet we could increase the species list for this spot significantly with more birders visiting in the future.

Breeding Birds: 

I was surprised by number of male breeding birds singing in the middle of the day whereas other parks are largely silent this late in the breeding season except at dawn and dusk. 

I found a pair of Blue Grosbeaks that were quite agitated and were showing signs of territorial defense chasing a Gray Catbird out of a certain tree. I think they may have a nest in this tree. 

Other breeding bird observations: 

An American Robin pair that I observed foraging on the ground and carrying food off to somewhere in the trees. 

A fledgling Eastern Kingbird with a short-tail calling from the top of a tree. 

A male Eastern Blue Bird singing vigorously from a spot in a tree above a nest hole. I looked for a female and was unsuccessful. At this point, a Cooper’s Hawk was hunting and all the birds were hunkered down.

I moved on into the woods trail and found singing Eastern Pewees, a fledgling Downy Woodpecker, and many other birds along the trail. Meanwhile, a Wood Thrush sang deep in the woods. 

The mosquitos were present here although there were not as many as other parks in Northern Virginia in summer. 

Overall, the park is well maintained with hardly any trash compared to other parks. Unfortunately, the understory of the woods appears to be overgrazed by deer, and there is a problem with invasive species like Japanese Stilt Grass. The main attraction at this park is a water park. There are also sports fields. However, you can get away from these areas on the woods trail. 

I hope I have got some of you interested in birding at Signal Hill Park, especially if you are participating in the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas! 

Signal Hill Park, 9300 Signal View Drive Manassa Park, VA 20111 

Tips: 

Plenty of free parking in numerous parking lots. 

Easy trails through the woods. 

Close by are plenty of options for eating such as Panera, Chik-fil-A, etc.

Not Exactly Christmas Decorations in Virginia Parks

What comes in different shapes and sizes and can be found hanging from trees this time of the year?

DSC_0101

Unfortunately, some things hanging from trees are ugly and dangerous. People who fish leave behind fishing tackle and trash in parks all over Northern Virginia.

DSC_0165Fishing tackle can cripple wild birds and turtles. Along the waters edge at most Virginia parks that allow fishing you will encounter fishing lures and fishing line stuck in trees and bushes and on the ground. These lures and fishing line are ugly to look at and they both pose a threat to local and migratory wildlife.

Birds and other animals may get entangled in the fishing line or injured by fishing hooks. Wildlife can even get stuck in plastic containers or drink cans.

Some people that fish seem to have no problem carelessly leaving their trash behind. This is unfortunate because of the severe injuries this debris can cause.

Fishing hooks may be swallowed by wildlife and present life threatening injuries. Discarded monofilament line is very durable and persists in the environment for very long periods of time. This line can become wrapped around a leg, wing, anything and acts like a tourniquet slowing cutting off blood and nerve supply and damaging muscles and tendons, according to Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

Apparently, the reason so many discarded lures can be found in Virginia parks is because people are casting their fishing line close to shore to fish for small fish to use as bait to fish for bigger fish. When lures get caught up in trees and bushes, they are simply cut loose and left in the park.

DSC_0153

Unsightly lures hang in parks for months and months. They are much more obvious during winter when most leaves have fallen leaving branchless trees. Surprisingly, there seems to be no effort by park and recreation employees to cut them down nor remove fishing line that is strewn about in the same areas.

You can help prevent wildlife injuries and death by keeping an eye open for lures and fishing line when you are near ponds, lakes or rivers. Discard items in the trash or alert park officials to the problem. Hopefully, Virginia’s county park and recreation departments will become more proactive in removing debris from parks.

DSC_0090
I found this fishing line at the water’s edge at Germantown Lake in Northern Virginia. It was one long piece that I estimate at 30 feet or more.