Remington NE Block – VA Breeding Atlas 2

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):

Canada Goose
Barn Swallow
Carolina Wren – Mintbrook
American Robin – Mintbrook
Gray Catbird – Mintbrook
Northern Mockingbird – Mintbrook
European Starling – Mintbrook
Song Sparrow – Mintbrook
Northern Cardinal
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.

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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.

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

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/

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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Fauquier’s Top Birding Spot in 2016: C.M. Crockett Park

 

Have you birded C.M. Crockett Park? It definitely is a birding hot spot. Records in the eBird database show that 168 species have been found at this park.

It is worth the effort to travel to this park as it has a number of bird habitats within its boundaries.There is a large man-made lake in the center, Germantown Lake (named for the town that was submerged when the lake was created). Great Blue Herons can be found at the edge of the lake often. On occasion, Ospreys and Bald Eagles can be spotted fishing the lake or perched in the trees. Rare visitors, include seagulls, grebes, and terns. Of course, you will likely see some Canada Geese on the lake.

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There is a large grassland area at the top of the parking area. At the edge of the grassland, there is a small woodlands section. The grassland is busy during breeding season. There are numerous Indigo Buntings, Eastern Meadowlarks, Grasshopper Sparrows, swallows and more. The woodlands section hosts Carolina Wrens and Chickadees year around. During breeding season, Yellow-billed Cuckoos can be spotted in the woods although often they are only heard calling.

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Yellow-billed Cuckoos have also been spotted in the parking area. The trees that are in the parking lot are surprisingly productive for birding at times. Neotropical migrants can be found in these trees. During breeding season the Chipping Sparrow, Northern Cardinals, and Northern Mockingbirds, are often in the trees in this area. This past spring, a Prothonotary Warbler turned up in the parking lot…a rare visitor to this area.

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At the bottom of the parking lot is the entrance to a circular trail around a field with picnic areas. There are trees in the picnic areas and on the perimeter. Finally, there is a large woodland area on the far end of park behind the outdoor amphitheater. When there are few people, this area makes for productive birding.

Pileated Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Eastern Nuthatches and Brown Creepers have been observed in the trees in the picnic area. Most of the woodland species can be spotted occasionally in the picnic area. If you venture into the woods, there is a greater chance to see neotropical migrants during spring and fall migration. Also, this is where you will find the Wood Thrushes, Acadian Flycatchers and Eastern Wood Pewees during breeding season.

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eBird Stats for C.M. Crockett Park

2016 – 143 species seen between January 2016 and August 3, 2016
During the last 10 years, eBird shows 168 species have been observed

Personal Observations for Period of July 2015 to August 2016

Mysterious Disappearance of Song Sparrows

Song Sparrows used to be common. I would see them during most visits. For reasons unknown they have almost disappeared. The last Song Sparrow reported to eBird for the park was seen on June 9 by another birder. I have not seen Song Sparrows since March when I spotted one in the parking lot.

Where did the Gray Catbirds Go?

Gray Catbirds showed up in April, however, the last time anyone reported seeing one was my sighting on May 31. No breeding was seen. The previous year they were seen throughout the summer. Their absence was noticeably and I wonder what caused it. Predation? Did they move on to another area?

Most Successful Breeding Birds

Chipping Sparrows, Northern Mockingbirds, and Northern Cardinals. Each species was observed with fledglings throughout the breeding season. Some probably had more than one brood.

Examples of Some Rare Birds Seen Observed Spring 2016

  • Black Tern
  • Palm Warbler
  • Prothonotary Warbler
  • Common Loon

Breeding Failures

  • A group of Purple Martins arrived early in the breeding season, however, the traditional Purple Martin houses (there are two on the farm property at the entrance to the park) were being visited by European Starlings and House Sparrows. The Purple Martins seemed to settle in and did build nests, however, they abandoned these nests with no fledglings seen. The European Starlings and House Sparrows moved right in.
  • A pair of Tree Swallows had an active nest with eggs in an old nest box that was missing its top. There were significant rain storms during this nesting period. This nest failed. Reason unknown. Suspect the major downpours into the nesting box and/or predation with the box being easily accessible from the top.
  • A pair of Northern Cardinals had a nest with young tucked in a tree in the parking lot in a bad spot. This nest failed for unknown reasons but it also was active during the heavy rainstorms. Nest predation could have also left the nest empty

A Domestic Mallard Abandoned in the Park

After Easter, someone apparently dropped off an unwanted juvenile Mallard. Luckily, the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center was able to take it in as it would not have survived on its own. Read the story: Duckling Rescue, Enabling a New Beginning at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

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Bald Eagle Attack on a Great Blue Heron

I did not see how this confrontation began. What I saw was a Great Blue Heron in the lake moving around erratically. At first, I was confused as to what bird I was observing. Then I realized it was a Great Blue Heron. Then suddenly a Bald Eagle swopped down at the heron attacking it. The heron struggled to defend itself with is massive beak. The eagle swopped down a few more times and then appeared to be discouraged by the heron fighting back. However, the eagle landed in a tree and intently watched the heron. The heron swam back to the shore and struggled on to land. It was unable to stand at first and was very wobbly. The eagle started to launch an aerial assault on the heron and eventually landed right next to it on the bank of the lake. They began fighting with their beaks until the eagle again flew up to the tree.

I contacted a conservation officer to see if help could be sent to rescue the injured heron. There was no one able to respond. I also spoke to the staff at the lake who also were not able to respond. I returned the next morning to see if I could find the heron or the eagle. Neither were present. I am guessing that the eagle eventually ate the heron.
Threats to Wildlife at the Park

C.M. Crockett Park is very popular with fishermen. There is a boat launch and you can rent boats seasonally. Fishermen also fish from the banks. Unfortunately, many of these people leave their trash included fishing tackle on the ground here. I am constantly picking up monofilament fishing line.

Other Creatures Found in the Park

The most common animal in the park is the Gray Squirrel. White-tailed deer are rare. I have only seen them inside the park once. Chipmunks are extremely rare. Eastern box turtles can be found occasionally. There are snakes. In 2016, I spotted an adult garter snake and a juvenile copperhead snake. Sometimes, skinks may be seen.

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Garter snake

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Five-lined Skink (juvenile)

Visiting the Park

The best time to visit C.M. Crockett Park is early mornings, especially on weekdays. Also, during winter there are few people. During nice days, you will find the place is often very packed with people having picnics and fishing. It is best to avoid the park at these times as the birds go into hiding and it is often very noisy.

The park is free during off season. Seasonally, there is a charge for non-Fauquier county residents. (On weekdays, during high season, they often do not have anyone collecting fees.)

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