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
<>*, 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
<> 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.

We started February by participating in the Winter Waterfowl Count ( ) that Larry Cartwright
organizes. On that same day, a friend, Andy, spotted a Red-necked Grebe
<>* that we were able to add to
the waterfowl count. At the end of February, we picked up a Greater
White-fronted Goose in Purcellville.

In March, Sharon K found two beautiful Trumpeter Swans
<> in Old Waterford Knoll pond.
It rained and rained and rained in March and the rain brought some American
Pipits to Algonkian Park. By the end of March, we had 108 birds on our
lists. April brought some nice gulls to add to our lists, Little Gull* and
Bonaparte’s Gulls were nice sightings from Algonkian Park. A pair of American
Bittern <>s spent a bit of the
spring at Bles Park. A Vesper Sparrow
<> at Algonkian Sanctuary Trail
was pointed out and photographed by sharped eyed Jim E while walking
together. We saw Caspian Terns <>
flying at Algonkian Park several times. By the end of April, we were up to
a pretty amazing 149 species.

May brought warblers and other migrants. A Marsh Wren
<> blessed us with its song at
Bles Park. Mary Anne helped us realize that we had an uncommon Alder
Flycatcher <> on a walk at
Banshee Reeks and then we heard several at Algonkian Park – it seemed to be
a good year for them! Andy spotted a Mourning Warbler
<> and Lincoln’s Sparrow and gave
us good enough directions that we found both at Algonkian Park. A
soaring Mississippi
Kite <> was spotted in Ashburn.
Later, Diane found another rarity at Bles Park – she’d mentioned she
thought she saw it briefly before it was generally reported and then
someone else eventually found it – a Common Gallinule
<>! We wrapped up May with 188.
We missed an amazing bird found by Stephen Johnson – a Least Tern

In June, we took a vacation to Maine – it was spectacular and we’d highly
recommend it to anyone. The Dickcissels
<> 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
<> 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
<>. 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
<>, Semipalmated Plover
<>, Pectoral Sandpipers
<> and a White-rumped Sandpiper!
The White-rumped Sandpiper <>
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
<>; 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
<> – 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
<> found by Jane. A visit to the
Snicker’s Gap Hawkwatch (on the edge of Clarke/Loudoun counties), provided
a Golden Eagle <>* 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 (
) 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.

Throughout the year, we missed several great birds that were seen by Dave C
and others from Violette’s Lock, MD, flying into eastern Loudoun. Lesser
Black-backed Gull <> and Laughing
Gull <> in April, Cattle Egret
<>, Glossy Ibis
<> and Black-bellied Plover
<> in May, American Avocet
<> in July, Common Tern
<> in September, and Franklin’s
Gull <> in November. Quite a good
Loudoun year was had from the other side of the river!

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:

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.
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