Date: 12/31/18 9:01 am From: Bryan H via VA-bird <va-bird...> Subject: [VA-bird] A Loudoun Year in Review
TLDR; A good year for birding in Loudoun: MIKI, STKI, RLHA, TRSW, NOBO, COGA, ROGO, shorebirds, and more
On Jan 2nd, we went to Dulles Airport to look for the Rough-legged Hawks that had been spotted there irregularly and we finally had success – through a scope at quite a distance. But we missed the Snowy Owl that had been seen regularly throughout December 2017. It was really, really cold in January and the Potomac River froze over; it was actually a little scary, while looking for ducks, we saw folks walking across the ice. One group tied themselves together with rope presumably for safety’s sake, but the cold was brutal and we were convinced they would likely not survive if they fell in. But the brutal cold brought in a White-winged Scoter <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S41749550>*, Long-tailed Duck* and several other ducks! Later in January, I got a text message from a friend, Diane – she said she had a Wilson’s Warbler <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S42101542> at nearby Loudoun Water. I figured that’s impossible and then she sent the picture – wow! That would be the only Wilson’s Warbler that we would see in Loudoun for the year. At the end of January, we participated in the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Raptor Tour and had flyby Ross’s Goose and Cackling Geese. My wife, Allison and I are not serious listers; I didn’t keep a list until I started using eBird regularly and she used to keep hers in the back of an old Peterson’s guide. At this point, we had 80 species on our year lists.
In June, we took a vacation to Maine – it was spectacular and we’d highly recommend it to anyone. The Dickcissels <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S46508363> came to town in June (they were last reported in the area in 2012) and we picked one up in Lucketts. All year, we had amazing luck – we had a Peregrine Falcon fly over us (relatively low) at Loudoun Water – we couldn’t believe our eyes; another flew in the distance shortly after…amazing.
In July, Gerco encouraged us to try and break 200 birds for the year and we decided we ought to try. We had 190 already and about half the year to go. In August, we went to find the Northern Bobwhite <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47636930> that Joe Coleman had in his neighborhood; I had figured we might never get Bobwhite in the county with how quickly the county is developing. And then, Brian M posted his BACKYARD sighting of a Swallow-tailed Kite <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S47763990>. The kite is now the most photographed bird in Loudoun county in eBird. It was so nice that it hung around for so long – what a cool bird! We chased birds in August – picking up a Little Blue Heron in Purcellville, Olive-sided Flycatcher** at Kephardt’s Bridge Landing, and a Black Tern* at Algonkian Park. We wrapped up August with 198 birds. Sometime in August, I remember running into Elton and talking about the real dearth of shorebird habitat in Loudoun county.
And in September, as it did in August, it rained. And rained. So, we checked out two places regularly for shorebirds. Morven Park has soccer and equestrian fields and we’d previously seen lots of Killdeer in them, so we stopped by from time to time to see if anything else would show up. And we found some shorebirds: Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Pectoral Sandpiper. But the jewel of our crazy shorebird September was a tiny patch of dirt/mud on Hibler Road. The farmer who rents the property had stored manure in a giant pile for most of the summer in one spot close to the road. And with the rain, this spot brought some great (at least for Loudoun) shorebirds: Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48700833>, Semipalmated Plover <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48441837>, Pectoral Sandpipers <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48670394> and a White-rumped Sandpiper! The White-rumped Sandpiper <https://ebird.org/va/view/checklist/S48530053> was one of our close misses for the year – it left before we could see it, but Elton and Gerco both got looks/photos. That spot was fantastic in part because the shorebirds were so close – sometimes less than 20 feet away. On one of the trips to Morven after it rained, instead of finding a new shorebird, we found a blue morph Snow Goose <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48725079>; Snow Geese are very uncommon in Loudoun. And to wrap up September, we saw Forster’s Terns* flying down the Potomac from Algonkian Park. What a September! We had gotten up to 209 species and it was getter harder than ever to see new birds. We had again missed one of our nemesis birds - Black-billed Cuckoo <https://ebird.org/va/view/checklist/S48498001> – which Gerco had seen twice during the year, once at Bles Park and once in his back yard.
An irruptive finch year brought us Red-breasted Nuthatches in September and Purple Finches and Pine Siskins in October. We have not seen Redpolls or Evening Grosbeaks, but we did talk to someone in Loudoun who had a grosbeak visit her feeder (once). We unfortunately missed a Connecticut Warbler <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S48981520> found by Jane. A visit to the Snicker’s Gap Hawkwatch (on the edge of Clarke/Loudoun counties), provided a Golden Eagle <https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S49680950>* in November for the year. Unfortunately, we arrived an hour late and left an hour too early for the two Northern Goshawks that were seen that day. By the end of November, the list was a substantial 214 species.
In December, we enjoyed the finch eruption some with Pine Siskins at our feeders throughout the month, but otherwise struggled to find new year birds. The Seneca CBC was rainy and counts of birds (besides Song Sparrows) were relatively low and unfortunately we did not find the LeConte’s Sparrow this year. The Central Loudoun CBC ( https://loudounwildlife.org/citizen-science/bird-counts/christmas-bird-count/ ) was also very rainy depressing species counts. The Landfill would have been the most productive place for us to add more species – Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull were all seen. The other highlight sighting of the Central Loudoun was a late Cape May Warbler found. Eventually after the Central Loudoun CBC, we finally added our missing Northern Shoveler by following up on another team’s sighting. Our last new bird for the year was a year-round resident - a Barn Owl sitting in a silo – a nice last bird for the year.
During the year, we did a lot of work on the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2. In particular, during the summer, we tried to do a good number of nocturnal surveys – a fun activity that still needs more effort in the next 2 years. It was great to see and hear lots of local owls! Sadly, we personally heard no nightjars – although an Eastern Whip-poor-will was reported calling in May.
Total checklists for Loudoun for the year: 596 for Bryan, 333 for Allison
Total birds seen in Loudoun using typical listing criteria: 211 (Allison’s total is slightly less)
Total birds when adding in the Potomac River (Montgomery County, MD) birds: 216
Anyway, that’s the summary of this year’s Loudoun birding from my perspective. I hope you found something of interest in it. Many thanks to all the people we birded with, to those who reported these amazing birds, to the compilers and sector leaders for the CBCs, the BBA coordinators and eBird reviewers. A good year of birding involves a lot of great people.
Happy New Year,
*We saw several birds that were technically in Montgomery county, Maryland. The Potomac River that borders Loudoun county is entirely Maryland property technically. I’ve marked birds seen under those circumstances with an asterisk. Also, I put an asterisk next to Golden Eagle, which while flying over Loudoun county was seen from Clarke county.
**Two asterisks are reserved for a bird that was not accepted in eBird. The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a bird that I only got a brief look at – I was calling Allison to come quickly when it flew away, so I got no picture and the view was briefer than I would have liked. I’m comfortable with the ID, but the record wasn’t accepted. *** You are subscribed to VA-bird as <lists...> If you wish to unsubscribe, or modify your preferences please visit https://mailman.listserve.com/listmanager/listinfo/va-bird ***