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

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.

That's All for Now, Best of Luck Birding!

Kurt Gaskill

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