Date: 7/1/18 12:01 pm
From: Rob Bielawski via VA-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: [VA-bird] Late June Observations for Virginia Beach & Some Atlasing Information
Fellow Birders,

The full write-up with photographs and hyperlinks to all the mentioned
eBird reports / sources is available on the web here: Past entries of this
thrice-monthly report are available here: http://www.beachbirding.
Extreme heat and humidity permeated the region throughout late June, easily
notching a new high mark for the average of daily high temperatures for a
thrice-monthly period this year. Pop-up thunderstorms were common,
occurring most evenings, with torrential downpours and impressive lightning
storms noted along with high winds on several occasions. The unstable
weather didn’t appear to dampen the efforts of local birds however, as the
number of eBird submissions did rise over the doldrums of mid-June. Unusual
finds were hard to come by, as expected during this time frame, but,
knowing fall migration for shorebirds is about to begin, it’s hard to feel
anything other than anticipation. Top records for late June in Virginia
Beach included continuing rarity reports for the Ashville Park WARBLING
VIREO as well as unseasonal occurrences for RUDDY DUCK, PIED-BILLED GREBE
and TUNDRA SWAN. Only one late species was noted, with a single report for
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER to kick off the period.

Continuing from the mid-June reporting period, the WARBLING VIREO first
detected along Ashville Park Boulevard on 14 Jun (a.r. Michael Linz & Patty
McLean), managed to stay in the same general area all the way through 26
Jun (obs. Karen & Tom Beatty). All observations of this remarkable
individual have occurred in the willow oak trees just east of the clock
tower roundabout (the first traffic circle east of Princess Anne Road).
While the bird has, at times, been observed in flight crossing the storm
water pond on the north side of the road, it hasn’t spent much time in the
sycamore trees there before returning to the boulevard’s tree-lined edges.
Given this remains the only summer individual of its kind so far noted in
eBird on the coast south of Delaware, it seems highly worth the effort of
continuing to track its presence. Virginia Beach has never had a July
record for Warbling Vireo, and come Sunday, we may have our first
legitimate shot at one!

A big surprise this period was the emergence of a report from Mt. Trashmore
Park detailing a single RUDDY DUCK present on the lake on 27 Jun (obs. Kent
Millham; later ph. Rob Bielawski). Highly unusual this time of year, with
the last records for this species in the city occurring way back on 18 Apr
(obs. Steve Myers). Interestingly, the last few spring reports all
originated at this same location, and it makes me wonder if this individual
actually stayed here all this time and was just never noticed. The other
explanation would be that it is a dispersal bird from perhaps Craney Island
in Portsmouth or Chincoteague NWR in Accomack, as these two locations see
summer reports of individuals almost annually. Whatever the case, it is
certainly a waterfowl species that we don’t expect to find here in summer,
with the last Jun/Jul record occurring back in 2014, and the only others in
2002. Perhaps like the Warbling Vireo mentioned above, we’ll see this bird
linger into July at this location.

During the late June impoundment survey at Back Bay NWR, a pair of
waterbirds turned up that really shouldn’t be present at this point in the
year. The first, a true surprise, was a single PIED-BILLED GREBE noted on
the Back Bay NWR eBird account as being identified by Bob Ake. June records
are difficult to come by for this species, but Back Bay surely provides the
best habitat we have in the city for one to over-summer or attempt to
breed. Usually by mid-to-late July, we’re starting to see these popping up
again in the region, but this record stands out for being the only late
June record since 2014. Additionally, the (likely) injured TUNDRA SWAN that
has been present at Back Bay for about a month now appears to continue,
having showed up also in the impoundment survey report. Just a couple of
more days, and we could be documenting the first occurrence of this species
here in the month of July.

At least one RED-BREASTED MERGANSER persisted into late June in Virginia
Beach, while as many as three were noted in the early part of the month.
The Gold Book notes the summer month distribution of this species as,
“Small numbers often linger into late May and early June; relatively rare
summer visitor along the coast (very rare inland)”, so given we’re now
about to hit July, if one pops up again, it will be noted here as an
unseasonal occurrence rather than simply a late bird, because at this
point, it’s like the bird is going to attempt summering rather than simply
being a late straggler. While the only report of a single female occurred
at Pleasure House Point NA on 21 Jun (ph. Andrew Baldelli), it’s possible
that we’ll see this one, or other again moving forward…there’s a lot of
water out there, and even more vegetation to hide among. In an average
year, we don’t typically see this species returning to the area until late
October, so any reports between now and then will certainly be noted.

Now that we’re in the heat of summer, it feels important to remind all
birders in Virginia Beach that the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas is
moving full-steam ahead into its third season of data collection. For those
folks who aren’t familiar, this five year project is aimed at mapping out
the breeding ranges for every bird species that nests within the state of
Virginia. It is intended to provide a comparison with data from the 1st
Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas, which took place in the 1980s, to identify
species whose populations have deteriorated, and to use this knowledge to
build plans on how these species-in-need might be better assisted by
federal agencies and conservation organizations. Co-sponsored by the
Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fishers, the Virginia Society of
Ornithology and the Conservation Management Institute at Virginia Tech,
this project relies heavily on volunteers for data input using eBird, so if
you’re already an eBird user, this project is a great way to help make your
checklists potentially count for more than just numbers on your personal
life list, by helping document the shifting distributional patterns of
species that can directly benefit from your observations! A large array of
information regarding the project is available online, with the Atlas
Website being a great starting point for anyone who might be interested, as
well as the Atlas eBird Portal News Page. Additionally, I help run the
Atlas’ Public Facebook Page (where information is shared to the broader
community of those folks who have shown an interest in the project), as
well as the Atlas’ Facebook Group (where active Atlasers can share their
sightings and discuss various aspects of the project with one another).

All that said, we had some great confirmations documented for the project
during late June in Virginia Beach. Most notable was the that of a highly
interesting record submitted for a species rarely seen outside of an
expected portion of the city. While birding-by-kayak in the Lynnhaven
Estuary just south of Pleasure House Point NA on 21 Jun, Andrew
Baldellidiscovered an adult LEAST BITTERN vocalizing from one of the
marshy-vegetated islands that are inaccessible by any other means. While
searching for the bird, it flushed along with a juvenile, which was then
fed by the adult, allowing for the first confirmed breeding record for this
species in the city for the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas! Least Bittern
is a species known to inhabitat the marshes that surround Back Bay, but it
is very rarely reported away from the southern portion of the city. To not
only get a positive sighting documented by an audio recording, but to then
get a breeding confirmation at this location is nothing short of
incredible. Additionally, other scattered breeding bird confirmations were
photographically documented around the city this period as follows:
recently fledged WOOD DUCKS and MALLARDS in Southgate on 22 Jun (ph. Karen
& Tom Beatty); an adult WHITE-EYED VIREO carrying food at Princess Anne
WMA’s Whitehurst Tract on 23 Jun (ph. Rob Bielawski); an occupied nest of
OSPREY, recently fledged KING RAILS, and an adult BLUE GROSBEAK carrying
food at Back Bay NWR on 25 Jun (ph. Charlie Bruggemann); recently fledged
KILLDEER at Camp Pendleton SMR on 26 Jun (ph. Mary Catherine Miguez); an
occupied GREEN HERON nest in Kings Grant on 29 Jun (ph. Pamela Monahan); a
female RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD carrying food at Pleasure House Point NA on 30
Jun (ph. Rob Bielawski) and lastly, a recently fledged RED-BELLIED
WOODPECKER at Dam Neck NA on 30 Jun (ph. Karen & Tom Beatty). Keep up all
the great work Atlasing folks!

WEATHER: Easily our warmest reporting period for 2018 so far, and perhaps
expectedly so as temperatures are typically on the rise from February
through July, before dropping from August through January. The Summer
Solstice occurred on 21 Jun, being our longest day and shortest night in
the northern hemisphere. That said, we’re now on a path that will have us
losing precious minutes of daylight until we reach the Winter Solstice in
late December. Over all, average daily high temperatures rose 2.6° from
84.5° F to 87.1° (-0.1° from prior 10-year average), with average daily low
temperatures also increasing, 4.4° from 68.0° to 72.4° F (+1.7° from prior
10-year average). Daytime temperatures ranged from a minimum of 70° F (26
Jun) to a maximum of 91° (23, 24 & 30 Jun). A total of 2.06” of rain fell
during the period, spread across seven days with measurement amounts, with
a maximum of 1.41” falling on Saturday, 23 Jun. Maximum sustained winds at
Oceana this period were 29 mph and gusts reached 37 mph (24 Jun) as a
strong front passed over the region. No significant tidal surge events (2’
or greater) impacted the Sewell’s Point tide gauge during this reporting
period. Sunrise/sunsets varied from 5:46 AM/8:27 PM (21 Jun) to 5:49
AM/8:28 PM (30 Jun), which, for the first time in 2018 means we lost 2
minutes of daylight during this period (due to the Summer Solstice
occurring) with a total of 14 hours, 39 minutes of ‘Length of Day’ to close
the period.

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach
during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of June
located on eBird’s Media explorer by clicking here! Please remember, anyone
with an eBird account also has the ability to rate these photographs (1-5
stars), and based on the average rating, this is how eBird populates
anything media-driven on the website, particularly the Illustrated
Checklists! So, if you're one of the many folks who enjoy looking at
photographs of birds, take some time to click them all and rate them, it
helps make eBird better and better each day!

LOOKAHEAD: Ironically, what makes late June such an exciting period, is
that it officially ends the periods lacking in excitment! Moving forward,
we finally have fall arrivals to look forward to from early July all the
way through November. The month of July is typically dominated by
observations of arriving shorebirds, which have already started departing
from their breeding grounds in the Canadian tundra. Technically speaking,
SPOTTED SANDPIPER is set as a 30 Jun arrival (our only June arrival for
that matter), and while we did have two records for the species in June, we
should expect far more moving forward into July. Additionally, during early
July we have expected arrivals for GULL-BILLED TERN, SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER
& LEAST SANDPIPER (5 Jul average expected arrival date) and WESTERN
Jul). The coastal beaches, as well as any low-tide marshes and flooded
fields will become highly sought after locations to search for shorebirds
during July. So, please pay close attention to the weather, and to the
status of crops in fields throughout southern Virginia Beach, as fall
migration is now almost upon us!

For further information regarding this thrice-monthly, online publication,
please visit the Journal Overview Page which provides an in-depth
explanation of the format, layout and composition of the journal. As
always, thank you for reading, and please leave me a comment below (you may
use your Facebook, Gmail or other accounts to easily do so), or just click
the Heart icon to the lower right of this post to let me know you stopped

Thanks All,

Rob Bielawski
Virginia Beach, VA
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