Date: 5/14/18 7:06 pm From: kurtcapt87--- via VA-bird <va-bird...> Subject: [VA-bird] On the Atlas Trail, May 12-13, 2018
On the Atlas Trail, May 12-13, 2018
The birds deal with it, so why should a little sun or rain stop us from Atlasing? Sure, we have all heard the new adage, "a bad day of birding beats a good day at work" - which I think is mostly true. But this past weekend really didn't test the adage. Saturday wasn't too bad - a bit warm by noon but manageable. Sunday was a little tough - rain and showers until nearly 9 am - which then repeated 45 minutes later! But, the sun came out and it was beautiful for a few hours before the next batch of clouds rolled in. And so, the birds dealt with it. And the patient observer will be rewarded.
Saturday Marc Ribaudo joined me to Atlas two priority blocks - Quantico CE and Widewater CW; both are less than an hour from my house. These, and other priority blocks are important for state-wide systematic data analysis when the Atlas ends, in 2020. I wanted to start near sunrise, but a little wrench got thrown into the mix. You see, I thought early morning Saturday would be good to look for owls. So, I left home a tad early to go visit the Nokesville area. And, as usual, I did not leave nearly enough to give sufficient time for the owling portion.
I arrived near Nokesville about 10 to 5 am. I headed for an old silo that Rich Rieger, Sherman Suter and I scouted out about 2 months earlier. Then, it had an old plywood box mounted in it and there were lots of pellets. I visited it a few weeks later and heard a Barn Owl. But, subsequent visits were unproductive. Undeterred, I gave it shot this past Saturday. And wow did it work! The audio lure brought out 3 Barn Owls which beelined for me and my car - I shut down the lure and ducked by the car as the birds circled my location. OKayyyy - that's a good sign. The owls returned to the silo and one ducked inside after a vocal exchange with either one of the flyers or an unseen bird. So, I mark it as ON.
I tried a few more places for Barn and Eastern Screech but got nothing other than a distant Great Horned and Barred (the latter, calling from the nearby river); I got in about 40 minutes of owling - ugh! Not enough time! I then left and drove to Possum Point Rd to meet Marc
Possum Pt Rd, and the connecting Cockpit Pt Rd, are not the easiest places to Atlas. Only a few places to get out and walk a bit - lots of private properties along Possum Pt Rd and the power plant jealously patrols its boundaries. Plus, there is also a bit of traffic on the roads in the morning. Yet, it can be productive, especially on the forested stretch of Cockpit Pt Rd. We tallied about 80 species in 3 hours, no particularly stand out migrants although the diversity was seasonal. We managed 3 new species confirmations with notables being Red-winged Blackbird and a Belted Kingfisher continues in the probable category, being present and "singing" for 2 or more weeks running.
We left a bit after 9am and arrived at Widewater CW 20 minutes later. Our first stretch was along Brent Pt Rd through this forested valley - I call it Owl Valley for the Barred Owl nest Rich Rieger and I found. The young Barred was not in the nest cavity having fledged over the last few days. Marc and I did luck out and confirm LA Waterthrush CF plus a Scarlet Tanager CN. We also moved Eastern Pewee, Hooded Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler up to Probable status due to interactions.
The next morning, Rich Rieger and I started Atlasing the Rectortown SE block. The showers slowed our start, but we managed using a few cloths to wipe the water from the car window sills and our arms! After a slow start, our efforts paid off well with few simple confirms like starlings and bluebirds. The interesting species were Dickcissel, probably a female, foraging in a tree in the showers. And a late Ruby-crowned Kinglet feeding in foliage of an old broken tree that had sprouted twigs anew.
When we came to Rock Hill Mill Rd the wooded edge produced a fledged Barred Owl - its head feathers quite wet from the recent weather but we could see the wing feathers growing in well having the brown and white adult pattern. The young owl perched no more than 20 yds from where the adult attempted to distract me two weeks earlier. When we moved to a new location a bit to the north, I saw an adult fly to the wooded grove and hoot a bit, followed by another hooting at a different pitch - I suppose the adults were re-assuring the young owl that all was well.
Our new spot found us gazing at 2 Green Herons inspecting a potential nest site near a pond. We also tallied a Chipping Sparrow near here holding a grass bit as its mate copulated. Then, both flew off to an unseen nesting location. When we left, the forested stretch produced a Gray-cheeked Thrush beating a worm into submission. By the way, this forested stretch also produced a few other migrants such as Northern Parula, Cape May Warblers, American Redstart and Chestnut-sided Warbler. Oh, and the Raven nest was empty. We heard a Raven flying west with another Raven behind it - one or both were making this low frequency "dup" noise. Very odd to hear.
Further east on Rock Hill Mill Rd we tallied a fledged Mourning Dove and noted Eastern Phoebe nest building under a bridge. Plus, a Belted Kingfisher. And more Ravens, likely 2 young following an adult. Our efforts added 7 species to the Confirm list for this block plus elevated a few to Probable status.
After Rectortown SE, we drove east and tried Bull Run Mt Rd - a nice forested track with a stretch into Middleburg SE, which was our ultimate target. The Bull Run road was productive as we quickly saw 2 or 3 different Wood Thrush CN. Lots of Ovenbirds, a few Pewees, and some other odds and ends. Our stretch on Hungry Run Rd which is in Middleburg SE produced more of the same, plus a Worm-eating, but not confirms. Considering it was late in the day, 2pm, this did not surprise me.