Culpeper East NW Block – VA Breeding Bird Atlas 2

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.

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Midland NW Block – VA Breeding Bird Atlas 2

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.

Catlett SW Block – VA Breeding Bird Atlas 2

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.

Catlett SE Block (Priority) – VA Breeding Atlas 2

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.

Townsend CW Block – VA Breeding Bird Atlas 2

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.

Elkhorn SE Block (PRIORITY) – VA Breeding Bird Atlas 2

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:

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)

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) is 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 Goose, Mallard, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Acadian Flycatcher, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Tufted Titmouse, Song Sparrow,* and Blue Grosbeak.

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

The Nature Conservancy Stroll at Brownsville Preserve

On August 11, 2016, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) hosted an early evening public stroll on their Brownsville Preserve located in Nassawadox, VA. Brownsville is the headquarters for TNC’s Virginia Coast Reserve. It is a beautiful property of over 1,000 acres near the water. On the property is a 3-mile trail known as the William B. Cummings Birding and Wildlife Trail. The trail winds through marshes, forests, grasslands, and tidal creeks.

DSC_0779TNC Land Protection Manager, Jim McGowan led the stroll along TNC Outreach and Education Coordinator, Margaret Van Clief. Before the stroll, Jim showed participants a map of coastal Virginia and provided an overview of TNC’s extensive land holdings that provide critical habitat for birds, especially migratory species. The area is also an important fish and shellfish habitat.

TNC’s Virginia Coast Reserve has 14 barrier islands along with mainland property, and works with private landowners to promote conservation. TNC is actively protecting the Virginia coastal areas through land acquisitions and conservation easements.

During the stroll, Jim and Margaret explained the history of Brownsville Preserve. We learned about the family that used to own the land and how TNC acquired the property. We walked through fields, wetlands, and an area with beautiful trees.

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When we reached the former family house, we learned about how it is now used for TNC programs.

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We eventually, made it to the shore where TNC docks two boats. These boats are used to take school children and others out on educational trips.

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The Virginia Coast Reserve is a great spot for birding. According to TNC, at least 380 resident and migratory species have been found on the reserve. Although birding was not the focus of the stroll, TNC had binoculars to loan out to participants.

Egrets and ibises passed over head while we walked through the Brownsville Preserve. There were also Red-headed Woodpeckers and Great-crested Flycatchers taking advantage of some of the older trees on the property.

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Protecting Virginia’s Watershed and Enhancing Wildlife Habitat

On April 17, 2016, Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR), John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Piedmont Environmental Council hosted, From the Rappahonnock for the Rappahannock, a conservation event at Marriott Ranch. Before the event, I joined a group of FOR volunteers to plant trees and put up bird nesting boxes on Marriott Ranch’s property.

During the event, I learned about efforts to protect land and water resources in the headwaters of the Rappahannock River. There were experts on hand to explain the conservation work at Marriott Ranch and other properties near waterways.

Tree planting is an important part of mitigating storm runoff along with keeping cattle out of the rivers by providing alternate sources of drinking water. Tom Turner, Conservation Manager, John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District, provided visitors and volunteers an excellent overview of the use of waterers to provide clean, fresh water for livestock.

During the morning hours, I participated in putting up bird nesting boxes. I traveled around the property with Woodie L. Walker, FOR Community Conservationist, and Maggie Magliato and Jackie Bucher, two college students from University of Mary Washington. We evaluated the land for spots to install bird boxes. We hung up two large boxes on trees for American Kestrels and small nest boxes on fence posts aimed at housing Eastern Blue Birds. After nailing up the last small nest box, we spotted a pair of Eastern Blue Birds right nearby! We were excited that they might move into this box!

After we finished with the nest boxes, Woodie drove us over to Fiery Run where we planted trees with other volunteers. In total, 50 volunteers planted several hundred trees near the waterway to reduce soil erosion and absorb storm runoff. This will improve water quality, enhance wildlife habitat and protect the watershed.

 

The following organizations host volunteer opportunities, training, hikes and more:

Friends of the Rappahannock 3219 Fall Hill Avenue Fredericksburg, VA http://www.riverfriends.org

Piedmont Environmental Council 45 Horner Street
Warrenton, VA
http://www.pecva.org

John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District 98 Alexandria Pike, Suite 31
Warrenton, VA
http://www.johnmarshallswcd.com

Meadowview Biological Research Station: Preserving Ecosystems for Unique Plants in Virginia and Maryland

 Meadowview Biological Research Station held an open house in March to inform the public about their preservation projects to restore bogs and associated ecosystems in Virginia and Maryland. I had recently learned about Meadowview being a hotspot for birds in Caroline County, Virginia. I was curious about the spot, but knew that you needed permission to bird at Meadowview.

Curious to learn what Meadowview was researching, I went online and found their Facebook page. I learned that Meadowview is a non-profit organization focused on preserving and restoring rare wetland plants, habitats, and associated ecosystems. They specialize in an endangered habitat known as pitcher plant bogs or seepage wetlands. These unique areas are endangered, because many of them have been drained for development. The plants found in these wetlands are threatened with extinction, unless conservation efforts are successful.  Meadowview’s goal is to return Yellow Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia flava) and Purple Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia purpurea) to their historic ranges in Virginia and Maryland. They are also planting longleaf pines.  Meadowview advertised their open house through Facebook. I am glad I was able to make it to the event, where the staff and volunteers did a great job organizing and hosting.  Attendees toured the greenhouses and open planting areas to see the plants that are propagated there for eventual reintroduction into the wild. We also toured the back woods where their plants are growing. My tour was led by a long-time volunteer, who shared stories of Meadowview’s goals and pointed out plants as we walked and learned about the rare gravel bog located there.  While at Meadowview, I learned that that there is another site they maintain in Sussex County, Virginia. This preserve is known as Joseph Pines Preserve and is 232 acres of land where Meadowview is restoring the longleaf pine/pitcher plant ecosystem. This preserve is unique and quite special as it contains the last remaining yellow pitcher plant populations in Virginia.

Meadowview hopes to attract the rare Red-Cockaded Woodpecker to Joseph Pines Preserve. This species of woodpecker lives in longleaf pine stands and its population has declined drastically with the loss of this habitat. Meadowview also hopes that the preserve will attract Bachman’s Sparrow, an enigmatic resident of mature pine woods and open habitat.

Meadowview’s headquarters in Caroline County is a bird hotspot for both local and migratory birds. When I was there, I looked across the road to Meadow Creek and saw a Bald Eagle perched in a tree. The research station is home to a variety of wetland birds. During migration season, it is a stopover spot. There is a pond on site that was full of birds, and I was told that owls can be found in the woods behind the station. Meadowview welcomes birders to their headquarters in Woodford, VA. Please call them ahead of your visit to make arrangements.

Meadowview sells plants to the public through an online catalog.   Meadowview is located in Woodford, VA. It is supported by membership donations and volunteers. They conduct research, preserve and restore wetlands, and promote the preservation of our natural heritage through education. 

To learn more visit their website: http://www.pitcherplant.org