Midland NW Block – VA 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)

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


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.

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

John Marshall Soil & Water Conservation District 98 Alexandria Pike, Suite 31
Warrenton, VA

Duckling Rescue, Enabling a New Beginning at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center

 Last week I stopped at a local park to do some birding. When I arrived, I spotted a fellow birder and went to talk to him. We were interrupted by a small feathered visitor that walked up to us in the parking lot. It was a Mallard duckling quacking a few feet away from us. This was quite a surprise for both of us. I knew there were no recent babies at this location, so I wondered where this duckling came from.

I decided to try and catch the Mallard and attempt to find its parents, thinking that perhaps the pair of Mallards that I had seen recently in the park did have babies and that somehow I just missed them. I brought the duckling over to the area where the pair of Mallards was hanging out and put the duckling down. Neither the duckling nor the pair of Mallards seem interested in each other.

Two large lawn mowers moved up the path and I struggled to keep the duckling out of harms way. Then a man walking two dogs was nearby. At this point, I managed to recapture the duckling. I brought the duckling back to where I found it and let it down on the ground. It seemed really hungry, as it was pecking at little bits of rock trying to find something edible.

I decided to call Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, for I did not think the duckling was safe at the park. They agreed that I should bring the duckling in. So I got a container out of my trunk and put the duckling in and started to exit the parking lot for the journey to the wildlife rescue location. I did not get far when the duckling managed to hop out. Luckily I had a beach towel that I used to put over the top of the container.

The drive to the wildlife rescue was 45 minutes long and the whole way the duckling was making funny noises and attempting an escape.

When we got to the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, I took the towel off the container and let the duckling sit on top of the towel. Jennifer Burghoffer, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Associate Manager, completed intake forms for the duckling and brought food and water out for the hungry little one.

While discussing the circumstances in which I found the duckling they determined that if was probably an Easter gift that was dumped by someone at the park. They said that this happens at Easter. We all agreed that the duckling would not have survived on its own. I am thankful the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center was able to help this duckling.

Blue Ridge Wildlife Center is a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization established to provide assistance to Virginia’s native and orphaned wildlife and educate the public in northern Virginia, the Shenandoah region and more. The center presents environmental education programs including a nature discovery camp for children. The center operates a wildlife hotline: 540-837-9000.

Blue Ridge Wildlife Center is dependent on donations. There is no state or federal funding for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. Please consider supporting them with a monetary donation or donating necessary items.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center has some upcoming events (Please check their Facebook page and website for additional details for events):

On April 22, 2016, at 4:30 pm, The Land Trust of Virginia, in conjunction with the Goose Creek Association and Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, will host a free screening of Project Wild Thing at the Hill School for Performing Arts Center, Middleburg, VA. This is a documentary about one man’s personal quest to wean his children away from the couch and get them to experience the great outdoors.

June 12 from 12 to 3 pm: Spring is peak season for the rescue of young wildlife at Blue Ridge Wildlife Center. For this reason, a Baby Shower, will be held to collect items needed to rehabilitate these young ones. This event is open to the public and will take place at Long Branch Plantation in Boyce, VA. Visit this historic property and meet some of the wildlife center’s animal ambassadors. There will be a silent auction and raffle prizes. This is a fun event for people of all ages. I attended it a few years ago. It was held outdoors under a large canopy. There were birds of prey, mammals, turtles and more to see. Please check their website for items to donate and directions.

This beautiful Blue Jay was rehabilitated by Blue Ridge Wildlife Center.

Florida: Roseate Spoonbill Entangled in Tackle Rescued

Paul Waller was birding in Boyntan Beach, Florida this past Tuesday. He was walking through the marsh at Green Cay Wetland when he spotted a Roseate Spoonbill that was caught up in a fishing line. This is what we birders dread. Fishing tackle left behind can be a death sentence for birds and other wildlife.

Paul sprung into action by first contacting the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This call proved fruitless. 

Paul’s next attempt to get help for the bird was a call to Hope Mayer. Hope, a friend of Paul, is a licensed and experienced wildlife rescuer with experience dealing with wild birds. Luckily, Paul had this great contact that was available to assist.

 Paul made a quick trip to pick up Hope and they returned to find the Spoonbill at the same spot because the fishing line prevented it from moving anywhere. Paul climbed down the raised boardwalk and got into the water and waded out to the bird following instructions from Hope about how to handle it and cut the fishing line. 

Paul successfully got the bird loose and carried it back to the boardwalk where he transferred it to Hope. By this time, a crowd had formed to watch the rescue. A couple of bystanders helped Paul get back on the boardwalk.

Hope and Paul placed the Spoonbill into a pet carrier and got it into the hands of South Florida Wildlife Center. The spoonbill had an embedded fishing hook that they will remove and then the bird will need to stay for rehabilitation before hopefully being released back into the wild.


This Roseate Spoonbill is alive today thanks to Paul and Hope. Wildlife Heros!


 If you see an animal in distress please report the sighting as soon as possible to a trained rescuer. A call to a local wildlife rehabilitation center could bring help. Unfortunately, they are not often nearby or they do not have anyone who can respond. They often rely on a network of volunteers. 

Another option is to call the Department of Fish and Wildlife for your state. This may not work either though. I have tried to get help on two separate occasions for injured wild birds and no one came out in either situation. This is often the reality of trying to get help for injured wildlife…and so it was really great the Paul knew a wildlife rescuer nearby. 

South Florida Wildlife Center: If you find injured or orphaned wildlife in South Florida, call 954-524-4302 or 866-SOS-WILD.