RESULTS AS OF JUNE 2018 – OBSERVED: 11, POSSIBLE: 19, PROBABLE: 3, CONFIRMED: 13, TOTAL: 35
The first breeding bird atlas does not have any breeding confirmations for this block. In fact, only one bird was observed during the first atlas (1985-1989): Turkey Vulture.
With only four hours completed so far for the current atlas period, confirmations have already been made. There are 13 breeding species so far. This number is expected to go up over the course of the next two years. This data will provide insight into birds breeding in an increasingly urbanized environment.
This block includes Yowell Meadow Park and a small corner park called Wine Street Memorial Park. Route 15/29 runs through this block. This block also has part of the city of Culpeper and residential areas of Culpeper. There are some agricultural areas in this block. Mountain Run passes through this block.
Eastern Meadowlarks have been observed in this block. This species is in decline in the Piedmont. A breeding confirmation has yet to be made. They are locate on residential private property. This presents an opportunity to develop partnerships with landowners to provide and protect habitat for grassland birds such as the meadowlark.
RESULTS AS OF JUNE 2018 – OBSERVED: 67, POSSIBLE: 22, PROBABLE: 25, CONFIRMED: 34, TOTAL: 81
Midland NW Breeding Block – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020)
(known as Midland Block 1 during the Virginia Breeding Atlas 1 (1985-1989)
As of June 2018, there are 34 confirmed breeding bird species in Midland NW. This marks an increase from the first breeding bird atlas as only 22 were reported to be breeding from 1985-1989.
Four species were identified during the first atlas that have not yet been observed breeding during the second atlas:
American Kestrel, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher and Great-Crested Flycatcher. Of these, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Great-Crested Flycatcher are present and very active in the block. However, they possibly are breeding in the woods located on private property along Germantown Lake.
Of concern, American Kestrel has rarely been observed in the block and has not been observed for the atlas. Moreover, Acadian Flycatchers have not been observed in this block.
Priority database species have been observed in this block during prime breeding season though no breeding confirmations have yet been made: Dickcissel, Swamp Sparrow, and Spotted Sandpiper. Of interest, June 2018 is when the first Dickcissel was observed in this block!
Other priority database species have been observed stopping over in this block during migration season: Hooded Mergansers, Vesper Sparrow, Bobolinks, Common Ravens, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Nashville Warbler.
Midland NW Breeding Block is located in a rural area that is mainly agricultural. There are two eBird Birding hotspots in this block. Busy Route 28 cuts through this block and the noise from vehicles and planes makes it difficult to bird along the roads in this block (there are few places to pull over as most of the land is in private hands).
Midland is a scenic area, however, it is quite noisy often with constant plane and vehicle noise. Other sources of noise are farm equipment and lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Often biosolids are sprayed on the fields and the smell can be quite bad. Agricultural runoff can be detected in waterways.
The first eBird hotspot, C.M. Crockett Park, is located primarily in this block (note: most of the parks woodland trails fall under Catlett SW, which is reported on separately).
The park has a big man-made lake, grasslands, small woods, developed picnic area with lawn and trees, and a paved parking area with trees popular with many birds.
C.M. Crockett Park has a large grasslands area, which is a dam with a flood plain. Grassland birds are most probably negatively impacted by the mowing and bush-hogging done in the middle of the breeding season because of the dam.
This matter was brought up with the park. Park management replied that they are required to cut the field and slopes by Virginia law because of the dam. This will negatively impact a number of species this breeding season. The cutting of the fields and slopes has probably adversely impacted grassland birds for years!
This month, I observed a pair of Blue Grosbeaks nesting on a slope and I have seen fledgling Eastern Meadowlarks in the field. Red-winged Blackbirds probably already have a nest in the field also. There is at least one pair present. There are also Common Yellowthroats and Indigo Buntings probably breeding in the area. At least 10 Grasshopper Sparrows are in the grasses of the slopes. They probably have nests already too. A Dickcissel was observed at the park and could potentially breed in the grasslands.
Grassland birds have very limited undisturbed fields to use for breeding in this block. Eastern Meadowlarks are in notable decline in the Piedmont. Northern Bobwhite are absent from the park. Could policies be amended to promote bird conservation at the park? C.M. Crockett Park could provide a haven for grassland birds if mowing and bush-hogging were to be scheduled before and after breeding season.
The second eBird hotspot is John Marshall’s Birthplace (another birding hotspot). This is a short dirt trail through the trees between a creek next to a large cattle farm and on the other side is an agricultural field. It is noisy as the train runs north and south very close by. Also a cement factory site is near.
This block also contains most of Midland, VA, including the main area of the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport. The woods at the entrance to the airport have hosted Ovenbirds, Eastern Towees and other species. However, a development project that started during the second atlas has resulted in the loss of part of this woodland habitat. This will likely negatively impact Ovenbirds.
RESULTS AS OF JUNE 2018 – OBSERVED: 39, POSSIBLE: 24, PROBABLE: 17, CONFIRMED: 19, TOTAL: 60
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 (2016-2020), nineteen 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, Common Grackle, and Chipping Sparrow.
RESULTS AS OF JUNE 2018 – OBSERVED: 16, POSSIBLE: 24, PROBABLE: 7, CONFIRMED: 10, TOTAL: 41
Remington NE Block contains agricultural, commercial, industrial and residential areas. There are no public parks in this block. All land is in private hands. There are trails in residential areas, wooded and grassland areas abutting a couple of schools. Messick’s Farm market is in this block and they have agricultural fields with woodlands along the perimeter.
Route 15/29, Route 28 and Route 17 all run through this area. It extends from Opal down to the dangerous intersection of Route 17 and Route 28. One large area in Bealeton adjacent to this intersection is being rapidly developed. Former farmland has been developed into a senior apartment building and private homes called the Mintbrook community. Ryan Homes is the company building these new houses right now and additional homes and a planned shopping area are slated to replace an open grassland.
There are rumors that a Sheetz gas station is going in on the corner of 17 and 28. There are already three gas stations at this intersection (they are located in Remington CE block which starts right at the intersection).
Right in the middle of the Mintbrook development is Bowens Run. This area is popular with local and migratory birds. This spot remains one of the most important bird habitats in this block. The Mintbrook development could negatively impact breeding birds as habitat is removed and there is increased human activity in this area.
Surveyors for the Breeding Bird Atlas 1 confirmed only three species for Remington NE Block: American Robin, Northern Cardinal, and Northern Mockingbird. I am happy to report that I have already confirmed these three species for the second atlas and seven other species (I have noted which species were confirmed along Bowen Run (Mintbrook development):
Carolina Wren – Mintbrook
American Robin – Mintbrook
Gray Catbird – Mintbrook
Northern Mockingbird – Mintbrook
European Starling – Mintbrook
Song Sparrow – Mintbrook
Common Grackle – Mintbrook
Notably, a Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, and Orchard Orioles have been observed in June at Mintbrook.
Unfortunately, the only owl found in the block was a deceased Great-horned Owl seen on Route 28 right at the first waterway in the block. This owl was documented in the iNaturalist dead bird project.
This block needs addition survey time. I have almost put in ten hours of survey time (diurnal and nocturnal surveys). With additional surveys, I am confident that more breeding species will be confirmed.
RESULTS AS OF JUNE 2018 – OBSERVED: 23, POSSIBLE: 30, PROBABLE: 12, CONFIRMED: 30, TOTAL: 72
Catlett SE Breeding Block (PRIORITY) – Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (2016-2020)
(known as Catlett, SE Block during the Virginia Breeding Atlas 1 1985-1989)
As of June 2018, 30 breeding bird species are confirmed for Catlett SE. Seven other atlasers have helped me cover this block. Almost 30 hours of diurnal surveys have been done along with .62 hours of nocturnal surveying.
So far the totals for the second atlas falls one confirmation short of the total from the first breeding bird atlas. The first atlas lists possible breeding at 27, probable breeding at 27, and confirmed breeding at 31 (1985-1989). There is quite a difference in the species found breeding during the first and second atlases (see below for details).
Catlett SE block consists almost entirely of private lands most of which are still being used for agricultural purposes. This makes surveying the block difficult as there are no public areas. Route 28 is the major road through this block. Important bird habitat is located on private wetlands in this block. Cedar Run and Turkey Run are waterways in this block. Catlett and Calverton are tiny town centers each with a post office and a few businesses.
Results so far for the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2:
The Following species have been confirmed between January 2016 and June 2018: Cedar Waxwing, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, Barn Swallow, Eastern Meadowlark, Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Green Heron, Eastern Wood-pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Yellow-throated Vireo, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Prothonotary Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Song Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Brown-headed Cowbird, Common Grackle, House Sparrow, and Red-bellied Woodpecker.
The following 15 species were identified breeding during the first atlas and have not yet been confirmed during the 2016-2020 atlas: American Kestrel, Wild Turkey, Kildeer, Carolina Wren, Purple Martin, Chimney Swift, Northern Flicker, House Wren, Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Kingbird, Field Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Prairie Warbler, and Brown Thrasher. Some of these species were observed in this block during April-June 2018. Whereas, Wild Turkeys and House Wrens have not been observed by atlasers from 2016 to June 2018.
For the second atlas only one priority database bird has been confirmed breeding in this block: Hooded Merganser (observed by other birders). Two male singing Dickcissels were first observed in this block in June 2018. They are probable breeders as they have sung for over seven days at same location. American Black Ducks have stopped over during migration though have not been observed breeding in this block.
RESULTS AS OF JUNE 2018 – OBSERVED: 55, POSSIBLE: 34, PROBABLE: 30, CONFIRMED: 28, TOTAL: 92. Block Complete.
Townsend CW Breeding Block in Northampton County, VA, is complete. This block is on the Eastern Shore of Virginia and includes Kiptopeke State Park. It was easy to surpass the data from the first breeding atlas as only two species were confirmed for the first atlas! When I signed up to cover this block, other birders (29 other birders!!) had already contributed many hours to the effort. What was missing was nocturnal hour surveys.
I spent April to May 2018 surveying this block. I completed the night-time surveys, and I added 14 breeding confirmations.
I think that many of the probable breeding species are breeding at Kiptopeke Park. I will update this article to list the confirmed species and the species that I think are breeding there and just need to be spotted!
The first breeding atlas confirmed the following species for Townsend CW: Osprey and Barn Owl. Unfortunately, no Barn Owls have been observed during the Breeding Bird Atlas 2. Great-horned Owls are confirmed in the block and Eastern Screech Owls are likely breeding in Kiptopeke Park where they are regularly observed.
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:
I witnessed Chipping Sparrows having up to three successful broods.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
I observed four different pairs with nests with young.
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.
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:
A male was observed from outside of the park carrying food into part of the woods that I believe belong to BIP.
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.
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
Great Crested Flycatcher
Black-throated Green Warbler
Update: Blue-headed Vireo (August 10)
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:
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Virginia Breeding Atlas 2, 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:
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)