18th Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count ─ A Great Success!

by Joe Coleman

Allen+RamosGooseCreek Allen+RamosThe 18th Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, was held on December 27, 2014.

One hundred people participating in the count found 96 species and 29,979 individuals, with the most unusual sightings being a first-ever Blue Grosbeak and a count week dark-phase (blue) Snow Goose.

Other highlights included a Common Goldeneye (found on only four previous counts), a Peregrine Falcon (on only one previous), and the following, found on only a third to a half of Central Loudoun’s counts: Mute Swan, Tundra Swan, American Woodcock, Great Black-backed Gull, Gray Catbird, and Brown Thrasher.

Highest counts ever for the Central Loudoun CBC include: 37 Bald Eagles, 18 Cooper’s Hawks (tied), 3,998 Ring-billed and 88 Herring Gulls, 37 Belted Kingfishers, 8 Eastern Phoebes, 1,241 Fish Crows, 59 Brown Creepers, and 24 Winter Wrens.  Five American Kestrels, however, was the historic low count.

The 55 Red-headed Woodpeckers found on the 27th were not only a new high for the count, they were an incredible jump from last year’s 3, when there were virtually no acorns to be found in the area.

But this wasn’t the only woodpecker species found in high numbers this year, as the 97 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and 234 Downy Woodpeckers were both high counts while the 33 Hairy Woodpeckers was the second highest.

In addition, while no unusual owls were found on this count, all four of the common owls, Barn (1), Eastern Screech (4), Great Horned (4), and Barred (16), were found in almost perfect conditions for owling.

One of the most interesting aspects of a Christmas Bird Count is how much it varies from year to year; even more interesting is trying to figure out why the differences occur. While some of the reasons, such as the lack of acorns or a heavy rain keeping both birds and birders hunkered down an entire day are obvious, other changes are harder to determine. What is clear is that the value of CBCs comes from the long-term trends they reveal.

There is little doubt that Bald Eagles and Common Ravens are seen in higher numbers than they were 18 years ago, while Northern Bobwhites have virtually disappeared at this time of year. These trends aren’t confined to Loudoun County.

When one compares the results of all the Christmas Bird Counts in our area, these trends are apparent all over the mid-Atlantic. The more than 2,000 counts and more than 20,000 people participating in them, along with scientists who oversee the counts, make this citizen science at its best.

White-throated and Osage close up (3 of 1)At the end of an almost perfect winter day, 58 of us gathered at the Oatlands Carriage House for a Tally Rally, coordinated by Rhonda Chocha, where we shared a hearty meal and lots of birding tales.

Loudoun Wildlife thanks the many landowners, private and public, who let us visit their properties. Without that access, this count would not be nearly as successful. We also thank the birders, experienced as well as beginner, and especially the 20 or so sector leaders who spent hours in the field and made this a very successful count!

Thank you to all of our counters:

Bob Abrams, Steve Allen, Anna Arguelles, Beth Baker, Ron Baker, Gem Bingol, Susan Blaha, Joan Bodreau, Jan Braumuller, Bill Brown, Bob Butterworth, Dan Carrier, Constance Chatfield-Taylor, Roy Chaudet, Linda Chittum, Rhonda Chocha, Isaac Clizbe, Kent Clizbe, Betsy Coffey-Chaudet, Joe Coleman, Cheri Conca, Jeff Cramer, Jamison Cramer, Candi Crichton, Casey Crichton, Ellie Daley, Phil Daley, Jim Daniels, Katherine Daniels, Matt DeSaix, Suzanne DeSaix, Bethea Dowling, Robert Elder, Susan Elder, Kate Eldridge, Aiden Excell, Jason Excell, Sandy Farkas, Ellie Florance, Mary Ann Good, Kurt Gaskill, Dirck Harris, Olivia Henry, Bruce Hill, Teri Holland, Robin Hoofnagle, Gerco Hoogeweg, Bruce Johnson, Jill Johnson, Lucy Julian, Jodi Kinny, David Ledwith, Spring Ligi, Bob MacDowell, Karin MacDowell, Steve Makranczy, Andy Martin, Tess McAllister, Katie McDole, Laura McGranaghan, Liam McGranaghan, Larry Meade, Carole Miller, Paul Miller, Linda Millington, Sharon Moffett, Rusty Moran, Gary Myers, Jim Nelson, Lynn Nelson, Nick Newberry, Lisa Newcombe, Patrick Newcombe, Bryan Peters, Donna Quinn, Johnnie Ramos, Nancy Reaves, Dori Rhodes, Cheryl Roesel, Aaron Rush, Brian Rush, Del Sargent, Carolyn Smith, Judy Smith, Reets Smith, Emily Southgate, Chris Straub, Jean Tatalias, Pidge Troha Anna Urciolo Helen VanRyzin David VanTassel Jenny Vick, Anthony Wagner, Warren Wagner, Marcia Weidner, Mimi Westervelt, Carol White, Chris White, Jeff Wneck, Holly Wolcott, Jane Yocom


Phillips_Farm_Clearwing_Sphinx_moth_20140703-3Feeling ready to think about gardening? Join us for a great free program this Sunday, 2pm on Creating a Habitat Garden. Native landscape designer, John Magee, will tell all!

Sign up here: http://www.loudounwildlife.org/SignUp.htm

Creating a Habitat Garden — Sunday, March 8, 2:00 p.m., Morven Park Carriage Museum. Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and landscaper John Magee, owner of Magee Design, as he shows us how to set up a habitat garden in our yards and then, if we choose, get it certified through the Audubon at Home program. Discussion will cover the four basic design principles of habitat – food, shelter, water and a place to raise young. Pollinator-friendly native plants will be emphasized.

Pick up a free copy of our Gardening for Wildlife Plant list.


Here’s a pretty neat photo contest that Xerces just launched – it’s open through April 21 and what is especially cool about it is that the photos you submit will be used as part of the data to create native plant lists to help support Monarch butterflies (all all the creatures that live alongside Monarchs!)

Here’s are the details:

Eastern_Tiger_ST_Monarch_Joe_Pye_20140729-3The Xerces Society is partnering with the Monarch Joint Venture on a photo contest to gather information on important nectar plants for monarchs throughout the continental U.S.

Please help us gather information about monarchs on native nectar plants in your region!

The contest is only available to Facebook users, and it ends April 21, 2015.

More details can be found on the contest page: https://www.facebook.com/monarchjointventure?sk=app_292725327421649 

Please note that the emphasis is on native plants. If you are unsure of whether a plant is native, check using the USDA-PLANTS database, http://plants.usda.gov/java/.

If you have observations of monarchs using native nectar plants in your area that you would prefer to share directly, please send them to Candace@xerces.org. These entries will not be part of the contest.

Please include the plant species name, location, and time of year that monarchs use this plant.

All of the information we collect will be used to develop regional recommendations regarding optimal nectar plants for monarchs in all parts of their life cycle, including spring and fall migration, summer breeding, and the overwintering period.


Join The Land trust of Virginia, Goose Creek Association, and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters at this viewing of Plastic Paradise on March 6, 7pm at The Hill School, Sheila C. Johnson Performing Arts Center , 130 S. Madison Street, Middleburg.  Doors open at 6:30.RSVP to info@goosecreek.org



The second webinar in the USFWS Monarch Butterfly Conservation series is online for you to watch at your leisure.

This one is on Habitat Restoration Fundamentals: http://nctc.fws.gov/topic/online-training/webinars/monarch-conservation.html


Martinis-Matter-2015_v1Save the Date:
Saturday, March 14th for Martinis Matter and The Wild Thing! A fundraising event benefiting Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
River Creek Club
Benjamin’s Tavern at River Creek Club
43800 Olympic Blvd, Leesburg
5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Join us for a fun evening with over 40 fabulous raffle prizes

- Spa and salon services
- Dining gift certificates
- Golf foursomes and instruction at local private clubs
- Professional native landscaping consultations
- Gift certificates at native nurseries
- A day with a professional nature photographer
- 90 minute interior design makeover
- 1 hour flight in a private plane departing from Leesburg
- Private nature walk for five adults at Balls Bluff
- Family season pass to Great Country Farms
- Jewelry, art, and more!

Special live wildlife guests for photos or viewing: Red-tailed Hawk and Great Horned Owl

Live music by a local musician

Signature martini of the night: The Wild Thing!

All drink tickets $10

Raffle tickets:
$5 = 1 raffle ticket
$20 = 5 raffle tickets
$50 = 20 raffle tickets
$100 = 50 raffle tickets + 2 drink tickets

A Big THANK YOU to our Sponsors:




Show Birds Some Love on Valentine’s Weekend:

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count!

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which organizes this great day of citizen science:

“Give Mother Nature a valentine this year and show how much you care about birds by counting them for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The 18th annual count is taking place February 13 through 16.

Anyone in the world can count birds at any location for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at www.BirdCount.org. The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track changes in bird populations on a massive scale. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.”


BRCWinterWalk1Twenty folks showed up despite the threat of warm, spring-like weather—and were treated by a chilly, mostly overcast, wintery day and enjoyed exploring the fields and woods.

With the help of Zev, Ruby, Peyton and Landon the group discovered a great variety of overwintering insect larvae: all three types of Goldenrod galls: both European and Carolina Mantid casings; Tent caterpillar egg masses, Bag worm cases containing eggs and numerous moth and butterfly larvae attached to twigs with silk threads.

winterwalk3We also examined a number of plants and trees, their structure, buds and bark. We learned how Freddie and Alice met and took a ‘lichen’ to one another, examined acorns and walnuts as well as other berries and fruits that birds and other wildlife eat during the winter.

Attila helped us learn more about the operations of the Center, farm and early inhabitants of the area along Piney Run.  We were thrilled to see a sure sign of Spring:  Skunk Cabbages in bloom.

BRCWinterWalk2Although we were not searching for birds, we did see both Turkey and Black Vultures, flickers, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Song sparrows, Juncos, Robins and Bluebirds. As we neared the end of our walk we also got a very good look at several Hermit Thrushes flitting around Wortman Pond.

We hope to have everyone back for our next family excursion.


4 boys and a girl (3 of 1)

Seventeen people showed up for last Sunday’s waterfowl tour sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.

The trip started at Elizabeth Mills Riverfront Park on the Potomac, where we found Canada Geese, Mallards, Bufflehead, Common and Hooded Mergansers, and at least four Common Goldeneyes.

Our next stop was Alder Lake, a small water retention pond in residential Ashburn, where the highlight of the stop for many was the chance to watch and listen to the courtship display of three male Hooded Mergansers competing for the favor of a single female. [These Hooded Mergansers are shown in the photo above taken by Sharon Moffett]

We also got good closeup looks at Mallards, Gadwall, Northern Shovelers, Ring-Necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Ruddy Ducks, Pied-billed Grebes, American Coots, Great Blue Herons, and Ring-billed Gulls.

Mr Shoveler (3 of 1)[Northern Shoveler shown above. Photo by Sharon Moffett]

Our final stop was Algonkian Park, back on the Potomac, where we added American Wigeon and American Black Ducks to our day’s list, and got some good looks at Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Brown Creepers, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet  as a bonus.

Bill Brown, Herndon


With the cold, frigid weather (12 degrees when we began, 14 when we ended), only two of us showed up for the regular monthly bird walk at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve on January 10th. While there were very few birds at first, and never a lot of species, we did find numerous sparrows and other small birds along the southern & eastern edges of forest where they were sheltered from the wind and warmed by the weak winter sun. Highlights of the walk included an AMERICAN TREE SPARROW, two male Eastern Towhees, a number of Field Sparrows, and six of the seven local woodpeckers which are around here in the winter.

There were no raptors or vultures flying at Banshee Reeks but when I swung by the county landfill, which borders Banshee Reeks, after the walk there were hundreds of crows, several Ring-billed Gulls, a few vultures, three Red-shouldered Hawks, and a Common Raven.

For a complete list of the birds observed at Banshee Reeks pls see the eBird report below.

The regular monthly free bird walk (every 2nd Sat) at the Banshee Reeks Nature preserve is sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (www.loudounwildlife.org) & the Friends of Banshee Reeks (www.bansheereeks.org ); information on both and their upcoming events can be found on their websites.

Good birding!

Joe Coleman & Del Sargent


Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve – MFF08, Loudoun, US-VA Jan 10, 2015 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM

Protocol: Traveling

1.0 mile(s)

Comments:     Regular monthly bird walk at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve.

25 species

Mourning Dove  1, Red-bellied Woodpecker  1, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1, Downy Woodpecker  3, Hairy Woodpecker  2, Northern Flicker  1, Pileated Woodpecker  2, Blue Jay  6, American Crow  6, Fish Crow  75, Carolina Chickadee  5, Tufted Titmouse  5, White-breasted Nuthatch  2, Brown Creeper  1, Carolina Wren  2, Northern Mockingbird  5, Eastern Towhee  2, American Tree Sparrow  1, Field Sparrow  8, Song Sparrow  35, Swamp Sparrow  1, White-throated Sparrow  12, Dark-eyed Junco  20, Northern Cardinal  6, American Goldfinch  3

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S21281877



Next Page »