Date: 10/8/19 4:39 pm
From: Rob Bielawski via VA-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: [VA-bird] Virginia Beach Birding Summary: September 2019
Fellow Birders,

The fully formatted write-up with photographs (~120) and hyperlinks to all
the cited eBird reports is available on the web here:
The momentum gained at August’s close continued throughout September,
providing for one of the most exciting months of birding Virginia Beach in
recent memory! The impacts of Hurricane Dorian on 6 Sep, and also of
several cold fronts and their corresponding migration movements towards the
end of the month bolstered diversity of species across the city. Over the
course of its thirty days, a total of 183 species were logged to eBird for
September, which was a significant increase from the 152 species logged
during August as well as a hefty boost to the 177 species logged during
September last year. With September now completed, Virginia Beach has
logged records for 291 species to eBird during 2019 (a massive +12 compared
with last year’s 279 species through the same timeframe), and the number of
complete checklists submitted now sits at 7,908 (2018 produced 8,489 in
total, the most of any year thus far) so we’re still on pace to top the
10,000 mark for the first time!

With the increase in species diversity came a corresponding rise in species
highlights this month! Topping the list this month, rarity records occurred
for hurricane-displaced species including Sabine’s Gull, Sooty Tern,
Red-necked Phalarope, Roseate Tern as well as a pair of unexpected
vagrants, namely Gray Kingbird & Western Kingbird. Additionally, we saw
records for rare migrant passerines including Mourning Warbler, Least
Flycatcher, Canada Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo,
Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded
Warbler & Yellow-throated Warbler as well as rare shorebirds like American
Golden-Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit and even exciting
‘from-shore’ records for both Pomarine & Parasitic Jaeger! Continuing since
the springtime, Anhinga were also viewed through a good chunk of the month.
Lastly, September provided the city with first-of-season records for
expected fall arrivals which, in order of arrival date, included: Cape May
Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Common Nighthawk, American Bittern,
Northern Harrier, Magnolia Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Merlin, Northern
Pintail, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Swainson’s Thrush, Palm Warbler, Blackpoll
Warbler, Northern Shoveler, Sora, Nashville Warbler, Veery, Savannah
Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-rumped Warbler &
Black-throated Blue Warbler!

With so many excellent observations this month, the rarities that occurred
with Hurricane Dorian are going to be discussed here first just to provide
some form of cohesion to this report. A more extensive article about the
weather impacts from the storm, and a more in-depth look at the species
displacements caused will be published under the Weather section of this
website in the near future, but for the purposes of this monthly article,
the focus will just be put on the rarest of the sightings. So, starting
out, Hurricane Dorian made its passage over Hatteras Island, NC on the
morning of 6 Sep, which provided strong onshore, northeasterly, winds
across Virginia Beach. In anticipation of the potential for seabirds being
blown inland, many birders were out throughout the day searching. Wind
conditions were in the 40-50mph range most of the day, but rainfall was
only heavy for a couple of hours, making conditions reasonably safe to be
outdoors (fortunate for us).

Early on in the day, a single SABINE’S GULL was observed in flight outside
of Lynnhaven Inlet (vis. Andrew Baldelli & Rob Bielawski), making for the
very first eBird record for this species in Virginia Beach and bringing our
city all-time tally up to 378 species! Worth noting, however, one was
reported off Little Island Park a few years ago, but the record was not
accepted by eBird or by the Virginia Avian Records Committee (VARCOM),
though it was likely to have been a correct identification. This species is
a rare offshore migrant during fall, with most records in Virginia being
associated with tropical cyclones or strong onshore gales. Last year, a
single individual was observed in the wake of Hurricane Florence out at
Kerr Reservoir in Mecklenburg County from 15-17 Sep 2018 (ph. Jeffrey
Blalock). However, the closest previous sighting to us here in Virginia
Beach was an immature seen from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s fourth
Island, North Thimble Island on 2 Sep 2006 (ph. Edward Brinkley) during the
passage Tropical Depression Ernesto (previously was Hurricane Ernesto).
With records submitted far less than annually in Virginia for this species,
it is one of VARCOM’s statewide reviewable species, and a full report of
the 2019 observation was submitted accordingly.

In addition to the Sabine’s Gull, it wasn’t long before other displaced
rarities started popping up across the northern portion of the city. A
juvenile SOOTY TERN was observed cruising around over the Lynnhaven estuary
south of the Lesner Bridge in the afternoon (ph. Todd Day & Ian Topolsky).
Interestingly, it wasn’t too long afterward that a second Sooty Tern, this
one an adult, also joined in and immediately began associating with the
juvenile in flight over the “shelted” waterway. Sooty Terns were also
logged during the storm at Fort Monroe in Hampton, at King-Lincoln Park in
Newport News, near the Granby Street Bridge in Norfolk, and also at Bill
Jessee Park in Suffolk. Always one to look for during the fall season when
tropical cyclones are in play, this species certainly did not let anyone
down. The last records for Sooty Tern prior to Hurricane Dorian were of a
single individual at Little Island Park, 14 Sep 2018 (vis. Andrew Baldelli
& Tracy Tate) during Hurricane Florence’s landfall over North Carolina and
perhaps as many as twenty observed from South Thimble Island (CBBT) during
Tropical Storm Hermine on 3 Sep 2016 (first noted & ph. Arun Bose with many
additional observers throughout the day).

In the same vein of rareness as the Sooty Terns, a group of 23 RED-NECKED
PHALAROPES was observed swirling around over Little Creek Reservoir from
Shore Drive (ph. Andrew Baldelli / Rob Bielawski / Karl Suttmann). These
birds had clearly been pushed inshore through Little Creek Inlet and found
themselves over freshwater, or perhaps even had been pushed straight over
land on the 40-50mph sustained winds that persisted most of the morning. In
the early afternoon, several flocks at Fort Story JEB accounted for a total
of 109 more Red-necked Phalaropes (ph. Andrew Baldelli / Rob Bielawski /
Karl Suttmann) with the majority flying wildly out over the massive waves,
but with a single group actually observed over the treetops trying
desperately to get back out over water. Smaller numbers were also observed
later in the afternoon from Lynnhaven Inlet, with counts of 2 (vis. Todd
Day & Ian Topolsky) and 6 (vis. Ellison Orcutt) occurring. Prior to
Hurricane Dorian, the last Red-necked Phalaropes observed in Virginia Beach
were a pair associated with a strong nor’easter at Little Island Park on 9
Nov 2018 (vis. Andrew Baldelli & Tracy Tate) and a group of 5 viewed from
South Thimble Island (CBBT) during Tropical Storm Hermine’s passage on 3
Sep 2016 (vis. Edward Brinkley). Surely a species that should be looked for
during any extended periods of strong onshore winds, but typically one that
truly requires tropical cyclone impacts to really provide the opportunity
to view.

A second for Virginia Beach on the year, and a third for the state, a
single ROSEATE TERN was observed mixed in with a large storm roost of
terns/gulls/shorebirds at the Lynnhaven Boat Ramp during the later
afternoon hours (ph. Andrew Rapp). With city facilities all closed for the
day, the gravel area and sandy plateau south of the boat ramp provided a
perfect spot for these birds to rest their wings a bit and hide from the
strong winds (which had swung a bit north/northwesterly by this point).
Here the birds were protected from the worst of the storm, as the rain had
basically subsided. A number of birders were able to arrive and view the
Roseate and all the other terns associating in the same area. In fact, the
Lynnhaven Boat Ramp actually produced recorded for 10 species of terns,
something that appears to have only occurred once before in Virginia (Kerr
Reservoir during Hurricane Fran on 6 Sep 1996, obs. Brian Sullivan). With
the last record for Roseate Tern occurring 1 Jun 2019 at Back Bay NWR (ph.
Rob Bielawski & Lisa Rose), and with the species being missed altogether in
Virginia (not just in Virginia Beach) during 2018, it was exciting to see
this one get logged.

Extended southwesterly winds later in the month were likely the cause of
another exciting pair of species to arrive in Virginia Beach. Early in the
morning hours of 21 Sep, a single GRAY KINGBIRD was observed at Back Bay
NWR (ph. Betty Sue Cohen) near the kayak launch just northwest of the
visitor contact station. This being only the second eBird record the city,
but with a few other records known from The Gold Book, provided quite a bit
of excitement across Virginia Beach birders. While searching for the Gray
Kingbird the following day, incredibly, an immature WESTERN KINGBIRD ended
up being found located in the same area of the park (ph. Andrew Baldelli,
ph. Karen & Tom Beatty, vis. Jason Schatti)! Like the Gray Kingbird, the
Western ended up only being observed throughout that same day but couldn’t
be relocated the following day. To make matters even stranger, on 25 Sep,
perhaps a different GRAY KINGBIRD was found at the park (vis. Andrew
Baldelli, vis. Karen & Tom Beatty, ph. Reuben Rohn). Now, there’s no way to
say for sure whether it was, or wasn’t the same individual observed on 21
Sep that started off this sort of “kingbird madness”, but given the several
day lack of records despite exhaustive searches by many birders, it seems
plausible at least that this was a separate individual. Either way, this
was an incredible set of circumstances, and it’s astonishing to think that
over the last couple of years the park has now hosted both of these vagrant
species of kingbirds, as well as Ash-throated, Fork-tailed & Scissor-tailed
Flycatchers. Back Bay NWR truly is one of a kind.

An extremely rare spring & fall transient along the coast, MOURNING WARBLER
was a remarkable surprise during September. A single individual was
observed in a dense thicket near the parking area of Beach Garden Park on
24 Sep (vis. David Clark), marking the first time this species has been
logged to eBird in the city since 13 Sep 1980 when one was at Back Bay NWR
(vis. Edward Brinkley). Thus far, these are the only two accepted records
for Virginia Beach in eBird. Breeding at the highest elevations in the
state, with most recent records along the West Virginia border in the
vicinity of Paddy Knob, all we can hope for here is strong southwest winds
in the late spring and strong northwest winds in mid-fall to push a migrant
Mourning Warbler towards the coastline. A singing male in Northampton
County this spring gives us some hope that it could happen here, we just
need a lot of eyes in the field at the right times, and some considerable
luck. Several observers did make attempts to re-find this warbler at Beach
Garden Park, but unfortunately all were unsuccessful and this one managed
to get away from the birding community.

Another second record for the city, a single LEAST FLYCATCHER was observed
in a Kings Grant private backyard on 25 Sep (vis. Ron Furnish). With our
only other record in Virginia Beach having occurred at Back Bay NWR from
2-16 Sep 2017 (vis. Tommy Maloney, later ph. Rob Bielawski), any record for
this rare transient is certainly noteworthy. Like the Mourning Warbler
above, this species does breed in the state, but only at high elevation
along the Blue Ridge and in the mountains west of the Shenandoah Valley.
We’re therefore a bit outside it’s normal range for migrants, especially in
the springtime, and really depend on that northwesterly wind in fall to
bring them to the coast. It’s no coincidence that this one was seen on the
same date as the Mourning Warbler.

Not quite as rare as the Mourning Warbler, but in the same vein of
transient passerines that haven’t been reported in Virginia Beach annually,
a CANADA WARBLER viewed at a Cypress Point private residence also on 24 Sep
(vis. Debbie Schroeder) proved to be an exceptional record. With the last
accepted eBird record for this species occurring at Back Bay NWR on 21 Sep
2017 (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty), and only single fall and spring records in
2016 & 2015, respectively, Canada Warbler is such a low density migrant
along the coast that any record is cause for celebration. A bit more
expected at the southern tip of Northampton County in fall, the few seen
there don’t seem to make the crossing of the Chesapeake Bay mouth and
instead we likely see birds here following very strong northwest winds the
move birds from inland Virginia towards the coast while migrating southward
overnight. Just like the Least Flycatcher, it’s surely no coincidence that
this typically high elevation breeder showed up in Virginia Beach on the
same day the Mourning Warbler did, as we had the proper wind setup the
night before.

With just a few more records than the Canada Warbler above, a TENNESSEE
WARBLER this month observed behind the visitor contact station at Back Bay
NWR on 22 Sep (vis. Andrew Baldelli, ph. Rob Bielawski, vis. Mike Collins,
vis. Lisa Rose) was also exceptional. Over the last five years, we’ve had
at least one record in all but one, 2014, for this species, however they
seem to alternate between spring and fall with neither season yielding
records on an annual basis. Prior to this individual, the last accepted
record for Virginia Beach was also at Back Bay NWR, where one was observed
from 5-11 May 2018 (ph. June McDaniels). Now, it’s possible that more than
one was present during that period, but there’s no way to tell for sure so
all that can be said is that the species was logged at this location in
that particular date range. The 2018 record was our first photographically
documented eBird record for the species, and this 2019 record makes for a
welcome second!

Up until 2016, there wasn’t a single record for PHILADELPHIA VIREO in eBird
for the city, but, since that time we’ve managed to get a few good records
in. All of these but one have fit into the Sep/Oct timeframe, so while one
recorded at First Landing SP on 25 Sep (ph. June McDaniels) makes sense,
it’s still an extremely rare find. Like the Mourning & Canada Warblers
mentioned above, this individual was likely the result of a large-scale
movement of passerines overnight on northwest winds that were driven
towards the coastline. Amusingly, the only other records for 2019, was also
photographed by this observer at the same park, but back in early June.
That particular record was almost unheard of for this latitude, but it was
very well documented (ph. June McDaniels), which is good because it would
have been quite a bold claim otherwise! In fact, this was the first June or
July record for Philadelphia Vireo in the state in eBird, and to make
matters even wilder, not a single state that borders Virginia has any
records during that timeframe either! Since 2016, we’ve been averaging
between 1-2 reports for this species each year in the city, so hopefully
this trend continues into the future as they’re a gorgeous species to view.

Another low density transient, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER allowed for a first
fall record when an immature individual was observed along the vegetated
southern edge of Mt. Trashmore Park on 26 Sep (ph. Lisa Rose). This
location proved to be excellent for transient warblers at the tail end of
September, with a dozen-plus species being logged here, including a fairly
rare Wilson’s Warbler on this same checklist. Blackburnians have been
similar in reporting history to Tennessee Warblers, perhaps being reported
annually, but not in either spring or fall in a predictable fashion. For
example, there wasn’t a single record in the fall of 2018, but there was
three records in the fall of 2017. We did have one record this past spring,
with a singing male encountered at Pleasure House Point NA from 11-13 May
(ph. Rob Bielawski, later much more clearly ph. Steve Myers). Looking at
the past five years, the only year without a single record was 2015. At
this point, this is yet another species we’re averaging somewhere around
1-2 reports per season, which keeps it as a candidate for “rare” status in
eBird, but also means it’s a species that likely is passing by undetected
in both spring and fall. Of course, in springtime, they can be singing
along their migration, and their vibrant orange, black and white plumage
can help make them a bit more easily observed. Fall seems to be the tougher
season here, but it’s great to see us get one on the board this time around.

Yet another high elevation breeder in Virginia that tends be quite scarce
here during migration, we managed to get our first record for the fall of
CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER with an immature observed at Back Bay NWR on 23 Sep
(vis. Dianne Hinch, ph. Cindy Hamilton). Missed completely in the fall
season of 2018, and with only one record in the spring of 2019 (vis. Kathy
Spencer), this was a great bird to get back onto our month list. The last
fall record we’ve had in the city was back in 2017 when the species was
observed at three different locations (Back Bay NWR, West Neck Creek NA,
and Lago Mar). Slightly more reliable in spring than fall, records in
either season are obviously noteworthy but early May and September have
been the best timeframes for finding them.

Seasonally rare in fall in Virginia Beach, we had a miraculous three
records for WORM-EATING WARBLER during September, all at different
locations including one at a private residence in Bellamy Manor on 7 Sep
(ph. Una Davenhill), one at Camp Pendleton SMR (Restricted Access) on 14
Sep (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty) and another at First Landing SP on 25 Sep
(ph. June McDaniels). Coming off last fall, where only one was observed, at
West Neck Creek NA on 22 Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski), having three records this
fall just seems quite wild, but it still fits the mold of averaging about 2
records per season here in Virginia Beach, right along the same lines as
Chestnut-sided Warbler above.

Lastly for the warblers, both YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER and HOODED WARBLER
have been tough birds to come by in fall, but have produced quite a number
of records during the spring season. As a result, they’ve been set to flag
as ‘rare’ in eBird during the fall season to ensure their records get
proper attention from both observers and reviewers alike. A single Hooded
Warbler record, one of a continuing singing male at First Landing SP came
in on 14 Sep (aud. June McDaniels). Assuming this is the same individual,
it has been present at the western fringe of the Long Creek Trail since
late April (ph. June McDaniels), and was heard during both June and July in
the same location. Now strangely, in fall 2018 there wasn’t a single
migrant record for Yellow-throated Warbler, yet we had potentially two
different individuals attempt wintering in the city, one of which likely
made it all the way through after being logged from late November through
March. This fall, records for this species occurred with one at a private
residence in Bellamy Manor on 24 Aug (ph. Una Davenhill), one at Back Bay
NWR (the first ever photographed in eBird at the refuge!) from 21-23 Sep
(ph. Rob Bielawski & Lisa Rose), one at Lake Lawson & Lake Smith NA on 24
Sep (vis. Gigi DelPizzo), one at a private residence in Lake Smith Terrace
on 25 Sep (vis. Tracy Tate), and finally one at a private residence in Oak
Springs on 26 Sep (vis. Carolyn Page). If these trends continue, this
species is a good candidate to be set as a spring & fall transient in
eBird, and will no longer flag in fall.

September tends to be our first month of the fall season that truly
features a mix of different groups of birds. While shorebird season began
in July and continued through August, it isn’t until September that we
start to get the passerine diversity mixed in. Many folks tend to start
looking more for warblers during this month, and shorebird observations
tend to drop as a result. However, this September proved that shorebirds
still need to maintain a good deal of focus from birders in Virginia Beach.
Near the end of the month, we had our rarest shorebird find of the season
show itself in the form of a single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER found on the
beach at Back Bay NWR on 29 Sep (ph. Jonathan Snyder & Amresh Vaidya). It
had been just over a year since the last record for this species in
Virginia Beach, when one was observed in the agricultural field at Shipps
Cabin Road on 13 Sep 2018 (ph. Rob & Ruth Bielawski) during the passage of
Hurricane Florence across North Carolina to our south. Additionally, it had
been two years since the last record at Back Bay NWR, the most likely
location in the city for this species to show up (with perhaps Princess
Anne WMA’s Beasley &/or Whitehurst Tracts a close second).

Another rare shorebird find, we had our first LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER record
for the calendar year when a single individual was located during the
official impoundment survey at Back Bay NWR on 16 Sep (vis. Andrew
Baldelli). Due to difficulty in separating Long & Short-billed Dowitcher in
the field without excellent views, this species almost certainly goes
unnoticed and is likely to be an annual transient in fall along our patch
of coastline. However, records are few and far between in Virginia Beach,
with the last record being of a flock of five viewed at Princess Anne WMA’s
Whitehurst Tract on 22 Apr 2018 (ph. Rob Bielawski & Lisa Rose). From now
through the winter season, this is a species that should be carefully
looked for anytime a dowitcher is observed. Typically, the best way to
separate the two in the field is by observing the shape of the bird while
feeding. Long-billeds tend to be much chunkier, and when feeding will show
an arch to the back reaching it’s top most point in the middle.
Short-billeds usually show this point over the shoulder, with a slimmer
appearance and more linear slope to the back behind the shoulder. Bill
length isn’t particularly useful since there is considerable overlap
between females & males of the two species; just something to keep in mind!

Last on the list of rare September shorebirds, a MARBLED GODWIT was
observed on the beach at Back Bay NWR on 13 Sep (ph. Eric Alton & Tammy
Conklin). Depending on how one looks at this, it could possibly be the
third record for Virginia Beach this fall, with an individual observed in
southbound flight past Rudee Inlet on 24 Aug (vis. Andrew Baldelli) and
another logged at Dam Neck NA (Restricted Access) on 30 Aug (ph. Paul
Block). Or, this could all be the same individual slowly working its way
south along our coastal beaches? Impossible to say for certain, so given
that there are records from three locations, it’s safest to assume this is
a 3rd individual…but, you never know. Regardless of the count, it’s
interesting to note that Aug/Sep have been the most reliable months for
Marbled Godwit in Virginia Beach, with the last record outside that window
having occurred back in June of 2017. While the species winters
prolifically in the Eastern Shore barrier island lagoon system, notably at
roosts like Willis Wharf and Oyster, as well as at Pea Island NWR south of
us in North Carolina, records after September here are very tough to come
by…but should be watched for!

Exciting to see from shore anytime of the year, we had our first POMARINE
JAEGER report of the season as well, with an individual flying south along
the beach at Sandbridge on 2 Sep (vis. David Clark). Our first such record
in Virginia Beach going back to the historic jaeger flight during Nov 2017,
this was an exciting addition to our calendar year list and just a great
record overall. In addition to the Pomarine, there was also a record for
PARASITIC JAEGER during September, with at least two observed from Little
Island Park on 8 Sep (vis. Andrew Baldelli, ph. Tommy Maloney). This
species had a few records during the height of winter in Jan/Feb, and on 20
Apr, a new state spring high count was achieved when 12 passed by Little
Island Park (ph. Andrew Baldelli & Rob Bielawski) on the backside of a
strong coastal low pressure system. It’s possible that this is a good sign
for the coming Oct/Nov migration season of these species. Both breed in the
arctic tundra and make their way to the coast, with many passing overland.
Seawatching over the next couple of months could provide some great
observations of these birds, especially in November as Laughing Gulls are
bailing out southbound for the winter and provide the jaegers with a
perfect target to harass.

Just like in August, we had one continuing rarity this month, that being
the Anhingas at Stumpy Lake NA! First observed at this location way back on
21 Apr (2, ph. Stephen Keith), their occurrence alone has boosted the
number of eBirders visiting Virginia Beach (and Stumpy Lake specifically)
throughout the past several months. For the first time during the 2nd
Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (running 2016-2020), this species was
confirmed as a breeder at Stumpy Lake! It truly has been an incredible year
for the species being observed locally, with a minimum count of 27
individuals having been so far observed across five different locations in
the city (though none away from Stumpy Lake during August). With almost 200
eBird reports now submitted for the species this year, the number of
photographs that have been provided as documentation is also staggering.
For anyone interested in browsing the 200+ photographs so far input, these
can all be viewed by clicking Here! With the last sighting of these highly
sought-after birds occurring 19 Sep (ph. Jonathan Snyder), it seems that
they have finally moved south for the coming winter season. They will
certainly be missed, but it will be exciting to see if they grace us with
their presence once again next spring!

September typically showcases the arrival of most of our transient
passerines, while it’s usually October before most of the wintering species
begin to arrive. This month, regarding expected/annually occurring fall
migrants, records occurred for the following first-of-season arrivals:

- Cape May Warbler – First Observed: 1, Dam Neck NA (Restricted Access),
1 Sep (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty); First Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 22
Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski).
- Black-throated Green Warbler – First Observed: 1, First Landing SP, 1
Sep (obs. Chris Monahan); First Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 21 Sep (ph.
Betty Sue Cohen).
- Common Nighthawk – First Observed: 1, NAS Oceana (Restricted Access),
4 Sep (vis. Karl Suttmann).
- American Bittern – First Observed & Photographed: 1, Pleasure House
Point NA, 7 Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski).
- Northern Harrier – First Observed: 1, Lake Smith Terrace (Private
Residence), 11 Sep (vis. Tracy Tate); First Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR,
22 Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski).
- Magnolia Warbler – First Observed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 13 Sep (obs.
Richard Chirumbole); First Photographed: 2, Mt. Trashmore Park, 26 Sep (ph.
Lisa Rose).
- Wilson’s Warbler – First Observed & Photographed: 1, Kings Grant
(Private Residence), 13 Sep (ph. Ron Furnish).
- Merlin – First Observed: 1, Lake Smith Terrace (Private Residence), 15
Sep (vis. Tracy Tate); First Photographed: 1, Red Wing Park, 26 Sep (ph.
Jacynthe Fortin).
- Northern Pintail – First Observed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 16 Sep (vis.
Andrew Baldelli).
- Sharp-shinned Hawk – First Observed: 1, Lake Smith Terrace (Private
Residence), 18 Sep (vis. Tracy Tate); First Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR,
22 Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski).
- Swainson’s Thrush – First Observed: 1, Chesapeake Beach (Private
Residence), 18 Sep (vis. Kathy Spencer); First Photographed: 1, Mt.
Trashmore Park, 26 Sep (ph. Lisa Rose).
- Palm Warbler – First Observed: 1, First Landing SP, 21 Sep (vis. Cindy
Hamilton); First Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 25 Sep (ph. Karen & Tom
Beatty, ph. Reuben Rohn).
- Blackpoll Warbler – First Observed & Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 21
Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski & Lisa Rose).
- Northern Shoveler – First Observed & Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 22
Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski).
- Sora – First Observed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 22 Sep (obs. Jason Schatti).
- Nashville Warbler – First Observed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 22 Sep (vis. Mike
Collins / Tommy Maloney / Jason Schatti); First Photographed: 1, Back Bay
NWR, 22 Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski).
- Veery – First Observed & Photographed: 1, Kings Grant (Private
Residence), 24 Sep (ph. Marie & Ron Furnish).
- Savannah Sparrow – First Observed & Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 25
Sep (ph. Karen & Tom Beatty, vis. Cindy Hamilton).
- Scarlet Tanager – First Observed: 2, Back Bay NWR, 25 Sep (vis. Andrew
Baldelli / Karen & Tom Beatty); First Photographed: 1, Witt Park, 25 Sep
(ph. Rob Bielawski).
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak – First Observed: 1, Oak Springs (Private
Residence), 25 Sep (vis. Carolyn Page).
- Yellow-rumped Warbler – First Observed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 25 Sep (vis.
Karen & Tom Beatty, vis. Evan Standifer); First Photographed: 1, Back Bay
NWR, 26 Sep (ph. Cindy Hamilton).
- Black-throated Blue Warbler – First Observed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 25 Sep
(vis. Andrew Baldelli / Karen & Tom Beatty) and 2, First Landing SP, 25 Sep
(vis. June McDaniels); First Photographed: 1, Back Bay NWR, 25 Sep (ph.
Reuben Rohn).

Aside from the wide variety of species that were observed this month and
logged to eBird, sometimes it is just as interesting to look at which
species expected to be present, managed to get missed altogether. Somehow,
Virginia Beach eBirders managed to miss Wild Turkey for the month, with the
last record occurring 31 Aug! Least Bittern was also missed, with the last
record on 29 Aug, though this one is a bit more understandable since
they’re typically done vocalizing by summer’s end, and being a cryptic
species that hides in dense vegetation it would be easy to miss one if any
were still lingering in the city. Another head scratcher, Eastern
Meadowlark hasn’t been observed in the city since 14 Aug, and missing that
for the month is incredibly surprising since they’re typically a reliable
species along the roads in southern Virginia Beach. Perhaps no one was out
looking, or listening for them in September? All the other species logged
in August, but not in September, were species that one wouldn’t expect to
find, so no harm there. It is a little surprising that we had an August
record for Northern Gannet but none showed up in September. The same can be
said for Black Scoter, though the August records were associated with a
strong low pressure system, but we didn’t see any scoters inshore during
Hurricane Dorian either so it just feels likely that none were around to be

So, in terms of a comparison between what was logged in Sep 2019 vs. Sep
2018, there’s quite a few differences. The following species were recorded
last Sep, but were not found this Sep: Gadwall, American Wigeon, Surf
Scoter, Black Scoter, Wild Turkey, Dunlin, Baird’s Sandpiper, White-rumped
Sandpiper, Red Phalarope, Common Loon, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Purple Finch,
Clay-colored Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Nelson’s Sparrow, Saltmarsh Sparrow,
Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, Orange-crowned Warbler & Dickcissel.

Vice versa, we found the following species this Sep, but didn’t observe
them last Sep: Northern Shoveler, Sora, Stilt Sandpiper, Long-billed
Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe, Red-necked Phalarope, Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic
Jaeger, Sabine’s Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Roseate Tern, Anhinga,
Sharp-shinned Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Least Flycatcher, Western Kingbird,
Gray Kingbird, Philadelphia Vireo, Veery, Tennessee Warbler, Mourning
Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-throated
Warbler, Canada Warbler & Wilson’s Warbler.

Looking at these differences, it’s quite obvious that: 1). The
displacements caused by Hurricane Dorian caused a spike of rarities this
year. 2). We had much better success with warblers in 2019, whether it was
due to better migration conditions which brought us more diversity of
species, or due to better coverage is unable to be quantified. 3). Sparrows
and waterfowl were found in better diversity last year, and perhaps the
record-breaking heat we experienced this Sep was partially to blame for
that. Whatever the cause might be for the above, it was certainly
fascinating to take an in-depth look at, and we’ll see what changes next


Rob Bielawski
Virginia Beach, VA
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