Thank you for helping make the 2016 Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count a great success! Without your help we wouldn’t have all this great data showing what is happening with birds in Loudoun in early winter.

The following is a brief report on the overall count and what we found (if it doesn’t format correctly in this email, let me know and I’ll send it to you as a Word document). If you’d like to see the results of all of our CBCs go to our website ( and drill into the CBC section to see what we’ve found beginning in 1997, our very first year. If you’d like to see a comparison of this year’s 12 sectors let me know and I’ll share my working spreadsheet with you.

Hope to see you next year – it’s not too early to pencil December 28, 2017 in your calendar!

The Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count, December 28, 2016

Overall, the results from the Central Loudoun CBC on Dec. 28 were on the low average side with 91 species and 28,337 individuals. While it was a great winter day to be outside, almost all of the teams, built from 110 participants, reported that the numbers of species and individuals were somewhat less than normal.

The highlights included finding

  • a Common Yellowthroat (found on only one of our 19 previous counts),
  • two Palm Warblers (found on only three previous counts),
  • a Black-capped Chickadee (found on four of our previous counts), and
  • a Common Goldeneye (five previous counts).

    Common Yellowthroat. Photo by Nicole Hamilton

    Common Yellowthroat.
    Photo by Nicole Hamilton

Also interesting were the birds which reached their highest numbers in the 20-year history of the Central Loudoun CBC

  • 38 Bald Eagles – a heart-warming increase showing the success of the Endangered Species Act as none were found during the first four counts
  • 650 Black Vultures – over the past century this species has steadily increased its range northwards into areas where it was once rare
  • 571 Rock Pigeons.

The increase in both Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks over the last few years is also interesting. While both have been abundant in previous years, their combined total this year, 38, was much higher than any previous year.

It was nice to find a Merlin on this count (the 9th time we’ve found one). The nine American Kestrels, while not as low as the last couple of years, reflects the overall decline of this species in the Mid-Atlantic. Though one year doesn’t make a trend, perhaps the slight increase over the past few years reflects the many efforts citizens have begun to preserve this species before it tips over the edge the way Loggerhead Shrikes have, a species whose diet is very similar to that of the American Kestrel. Interestingly enough, while both American Kestrels and Loggerhead Shrikes eat a lot of insects, Merlin diets are almost exclusively limited to small birds – one has to wonder if this might be a factor in the decline of the former two but not Merlins?

Another fascinating trend on this CBC is the increase of Chipping Sparrows, a species that used to migrate out of our area in the winter, and the decline in American Tree Sparrows, a species that used to migrate into our area in winter. While we found a high of 20 Chipping Sparrows this year, this was the second time in three years that we haven’t found any American Tree Sparrows. While it’s too early to tell what the reasons for this are and though Central Loudoun is only one count, it may be that climate change is allowing species to remain further north than they used to.

While we’ve always found some Common Ravens on this count, the 21 Common Ravens found this year continue to show how extensively this species is now utilizing the Piedmont. And lastly, I’m sure the many Bluebird box trails that Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers maintain are a factor behind the healthy number of Eastern Bluebirds, 593 on this count, which we find every year.

The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy thanks the many volunteers and staff who support and participate in the count and the many people and businesses that give us special excess to their properties – without them this count wouldn’t be nearly as successful!

Joe Coleman, Compiler, Central Loudoun CBC


Twenty people showed up this past Saturday on a crisp, sunny morning for the monthly Bird Walk at Banshee Reeks. Joining us for the walk was a group of 4-H youth (with parents) who were working on a Bird Watching Project. It was awesome to see their enthusiasm for spotting birds. We look forward to seeing them at the Loudoun Wildlife Christmas Bird Count Primer program next month.

Fox Sparrow. Photo by Diane Nastase

Fox Sparrow.
Photo by Diane Nastase

It was a great day for Woodpeckers, we saw or heard six of our seven winter species. Sparrows were also in abundance as we noted eight sparrow species, highlighted by great looks at a Fox Sparrow and a number of Savannah Sparrows.

Other highlights include 2 Hermit Thrush and a female Purple Finch.

Dori Rhodes & Jane Yocom

8 Black Vulture
10 Turkey Vulture
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk
2 Red-shouldered Hawk
1 Red-tailed Hawk
4 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
4 Downy Woodpecker
1 Hairy Woodpecker
2 Northern Flicker
1 Pileated Woodpecker
12 Blue Jay
8 American Crow
7 Fish Crow
15 Carolina Chickadee
8 Tufted Titmouse
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Brown Creeper
2 Carolina Wren
2 Golden-crowned Kinglet
7 Eastern Bluebird
2 Hermit Thrush
2 American Robin
6 Northern Mockingbird
14 Cedar Waxwing
4 Field Sparrow
1 Fox Sparrow
25 Dark-eyed Junco
30 White-throated Sparrow
4 Savannah Sparrow
12 Song Sparrow
2 Swamp Sparrow
1 Eastern Towhee
17 Northern Cardinal
1 Purple Finch
10 American Goldfinch

Number of Taxa: 36

Fox squirrrel

Fox squirrrel

Five people gathered for the regular (every 4th Saturday except December) bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center on a windy and chilly morning last Saturday. While it started out very cloudy, the sun came out and the wind increased dramatically as the morning progressed.  Most of the walk was spent in sheltered locations around the Education Center on the Farmstead Loop though a short visit afterwards to the Arnold Road segment of the center added a couple  more species, including two different Eastern Phoebes busily fly catching in a sheltered spot, and a Fox Squirrel sitting on a fence post in the sun.


Field Sparrow.  Photo by Diane Nastase

Field Sparrow.
Photo by Diane Nastase

Song sparrow. Photo by Diane Nastase

Song sparrow.
Photo by Diane Nastase

The highlights of the walk included at least six Ruby-crowned Kinglets in a variety of locations and habitats, a Brown Creeper and a couple of Hermit Thrushes deep in the woods near Piney Run. We also saw and heard several White-throated Sparrows, multiple Field Sparrows, a Catbird and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It was also fun watching a flock (one of two) of Cedar Waxwings devouring fox grapes in the top of a tree along piney Run.

For a complete list of the birds see the eBird list below.

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at  Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at

Joe Coleman


Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Loudoun, Virginia, US Oct 22, 2016 7:45 AM – 10:45 AM

Protocol: Traveling

3.0 mile(s)

Comments:     Walked the trails around the Education Center with the bulk of our time spent on the Farmstead Loop. After the walk visited Arnold Rd where found 2 Eastern Phoebes and a Fox Squirrel sitting on a fence post.

32 species

Black Vulture  15

Turkey Vulture  10

Sharp-shinned Hawk  1

Red-shouldered Hawk  2

Red-tailed Hawk  1

Red-bellied Woodpecker  6

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1

Downy Woodpecker  4

Hairy Woodpecker  1

Eastern Phoebe  2

Blue Jay  10

American Crow  7

Carolina Chickadee  12

Tufted Titmouse  7

White-breasted Nuthatch  3

Brown Creeper  1

Carolina Wren  2

Ruby-crowned Kinglet  6

Eastern Bluebird  5

Hermit Thrush  2

Gray Catbird  1

Northern Mockingbird  1

European Starling  200

Cedar Waxwing  25

Yellow-rumped Warbler  5

Chipping Sparrow  2

Field Sparrow  4

White-throated Sparrow  8

Song Sparrow  6

Northern Cardinal  8

Red-winged Blackbird  15

American Goldfinch  3


View this checklist online at


Saturday’s bird walk at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve was pretty quiet without a lot of sightings possibly because of the cool, rainy weather. The four birders present took a long loop down to the beaver pond and back to our cars by way of the pond northeast of the model airplaners’ field. And while the birding was slow the rainy weather did result in beautiful muted colors especially where there was a lot of goldenrod. The fungi we found was also quite stunning and vigorous as a result of the recent cool, damp weather.

Fungi at Banshee Reeks

Fungi at Banshee Reeks

The highlights of the walk were actually the birds we didn’t see. During the walk itself we didn’t come across a single sparrow, highly unusual for this time of year and especially so in the model airplaners’ field.  There was a single Song Sparrow seen on the way out and another birder reported seeing both Lincoln’s and White-throated Sparrows. It was fun watching the many Blue Jays flying back & forth with acorns in the beaks and listening to the flickers making their squeak toy sound.

A quiet field in October

A quiet field in October

For a complete list of the birds observed at Banshee Reeks on October 8 see the eBird report below.

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

Good birding (regardless of the weather)!

Joe Coleman


Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, Loudoun, Virginia, US Oct 8, 2016 8:00 AM – 9:50 AM

Protocol: Traveling

2.0 mile(s)

21 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  3

Cooper’s Hawk  1

Red-shouldered Hawk  1

Mourning Dove  1

Red-bellied Woodpecker  3

Northern Flicker  6

Pileated Woodpecker  2

Eastern Phoebe  3

flycatcher sp. (Tyrannidae sp.)  1

Blue Jay  25

American Crow  6

Carolina Chickadee  4

Tufted Titmouse  4

White-breasted Nuthatch  1

House Wren  1

Carolina Wren  2

Eastern Bluebird  6

American Robin  2

Gray Catbird  1

Northern Mockingbird  5

Song Sparrow  1

Northern Cardinal  6

View this checklist online at


Four people enjoyed Saturday morning’s beautiful weather at the regular (every fourth Saturday except for  December) monthly bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES). Birding around the parking and garden area we were treated to four Common Ravens flying over the gardens. Flocks of Cedar Waxwings flew from treetop to treetop in the area and were still there when we finished our walk at 11 AM. There was a fairly constant stream of Blue Jays flying overhead the entire walk. Other highlights included decent looks at a Philadelphia Vireo, a Bald Eagle flying high above a kettle of vultures and a Pine Warbler. We also saw quite a few Monarch Butterflies, fueling up for their flight to Mexico. Del Sargent and Jane Yocom

Red-Bellied-Woodpecker-Feb-15-2007-1Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, Loudoun, Virginia, US
Sep 24, 2016 7:45 AM – 11:16 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
Comments: Nice morning with a few clouds and temps in the low 70′s. With Del Sargent.
Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.3.0 Build 86
38 species

Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) 38
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 15
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) 1
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) 2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon) (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon)) 4
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) 3
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) 4
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) 3
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) 3
Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) 2
Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) 1
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) 5
Philadelphia Vireo (Vireo philadelphicus) 1
Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) 1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) 100
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) 6
Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus) 2
Common Raven (Corvus corax) 5
Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) 4
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) 5
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) 5
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) 1
Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) 4
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) 24
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) 3
Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) 4
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) 45
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) 1
Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus) 1
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina) 4
Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) 6
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) 6
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) 1
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) 3
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) 1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) 40

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (


With the passing of Otto Gutenson last week, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the region as a whole has lost a valued environmentalist and volunteer.

As noted in his obituary, Gutenson, 68, passed away September 20 of complications of Parkinson’s disease.

He was “a very dedicated conservationist and wildlife activist,” said Phil Daley, who worked closely with Gutenson since the inception of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s stream monitoring program in 1996.

“As a long time advisor to Loudoun Wildlife’s Board and stream team, he will be sorely missed. I will miss his wit, knowledge and friendship,” Daley said.

Through Gutenson’s many contacts with federal, state and local officials “he kept our ‘stream team’ abreast of trends in monitoring and data collection requirements,” Daley said. “Otto was key in establishing Loudoun Watershed Watch as a widely recognized advocate for water quality within Loudoun County and the state.”

“He used his professional experience to inform his volunteer participation and inform those of us who didn’t have that background,” recalled Gem Bingol, Clarke and Loudoun County Land Use Officer with the Piedmont Environmental Council.

Daley and Bingol said Gutenson helped Loudoun Wildlife’s stream team adopt the more volunteer-friendly Virginia Modified Save Our Streams system of gathering insects and evaluating the health of Loudoun’s streams.

“He felt that it was important that the process be easy, yet reliable enough for anyone to do. He helped us see how our work fit into the bigger picture,” Bingol said.

But it wasn’t just Gutenson’s expertise that left a mark; his wit and personality shone through as well.

David Ward, who currently heads Loudoun Watershed Watch, and his wife, Carol, began their stream monitoring under Gutenson’s guidance.

“Occasionally joined by other volunteers, we cherished our time with Otto as he entertained us on a myriad of subjects,” Ward said.  “With pipe in hand, Otto never missed the opportunity to share his thoughts and political ramblings. His twinkly-eyed dry humor made collecting and identifying macroinvertebrates an enjoyable event.

“One monitoring event coincided with Otto’s birthday, so we presented him with an oversized magnifying glass and a ‘King of the Bugs’ baseball cap,” Ward said.

“We will miss Otto’s ‘streamside’ manner, uncanny wit – our mentor and our friend.”

Photo by David Ward

Photo by David Ward


Here’s another chance to help pollinators!

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and several local groups, including Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, have planned a Habitat Planting for the Park and Ride Lot near the intersection of Rts. 50 and 340 in Clarke County on Thursday, September 22.

There will be 2,500 native plants that need to be put in the ground, including milkweed and at least 15 other species, and we’d be thrilled to have your help for any or all of the time that day. The planting is scheduled to go from 10 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m.

Monarch butterfly

More native plants help more pollinators

Please wear sturdy shoes, bring a trowel if you have one, and pack a lunch if you can stay long. There will be water available and there are several convenience stores nearby.

For more information contact Steve Carroll at

RAIN DATE: The decision to go ahead or not will be made the day before. In case of cancellation the rain date is Tuesday, September 27, 10 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m.


Ten people showed up for Saturday morning’s Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship in the northwestern corner of Loudoun County. While there may have been fewer species of butterflies (17) than there were birds (33), there more a lot more butterfly individuals. During the very humid walk with temps rising from a low of 67 to a high of 82, we visited portions of the Sweet Run Loop and Butterfly Alley on the south side of the center where there was a wide variety of native wildflowers in bloom with lots of butterflies nectaring on them.

The well-seen bird highlights were two White-eyed Vireos, two fledgling Chipping Sparrows, a male American Goldfinch feeding a recently fledged goldfinch, and while not uncommon, a beautiful Great Crested Flycatcher that posed for us in the open. Another poser was a Northern Rough-winged Swallow on a line over the Visitor Center parking lot. We were especially pleased to see a dozen Monarchs as well as two Monarch caterpillars (one a late instar and the other an early instar) on Common Milkweed, which was plentiful in all the different meadows, as well as about the same number of Great Spangled Fritillaries, which were highly fond of the various thistle plants. We also saw two Cicada Killers, one of which was holding a large moth as it flew in front of us.

Butterflies seen included 2 Black Swallowtails, 75 Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, 10 Spicebush Swallowtails, 2 Clouded Sulphur, 2 Orange Sulphur, 12 Eastern Tailed-Blues, 12 Great Spangled Fritillaries, 3 Pearl Crescents, 1 Mourning Cloak, 4 Red-spotted Purple, 2 Hackberry Emperors (both of which were attracted to the salt on various participants),  1 Northern Pearly-eye, 12 Monarchs (& 2 cats), 1 Silver-spotted Skipper, 1 Least Skipper, and a dozen Dun Skippers (10 of which were on one thistle plant).

American Goldfinches

American Goldfinches feeding! Photo by Diane Nastase

For a complete list of the birds see the eBird list below.

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at  Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at

Joe Coleman

BRCES–Sawmill and Butterfly Alley, Loudoun, Virginia, US Aug 27, 2016 8:00 AM – 10:15 AM

Protocol: Traveling

1.7 mile(s)

Comments:     Regular monthly bird walk by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy at the Blue Ridge Center; led by Joe Coleman & Del Sargent and assisted by Jane Yocom, Pidge Troha and others.

33 species (+1 other taxa)

Black Vulture  1

Turkey Vulture  2

Cooper’s Hawk  1

Red-tailed Hawk  1

Mourning Dove  2

Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2

Ruby-throated Hummingbird  3

Red-bellied Woodpecker  3

Downy Woodpecker  2

Eastern Wood-Pewee  2

Empidonax sp.  1

Great Crested Flycatcher  3

Eastern Kingbird  5

White-eyed Vireo  2

Red-eyed Vireo  2

Blue Jay  1

American Crow  2

Northern Rough-winged Swallow  2

Tree Swallow  3

Carolina Chickadee  2

Tufted Titmouse  1

White-breasted Nuthatch  1

Carolina Wren  2

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3

Eastern Bluebird  6

American Robin  1

Gray Catbird  1

Brown Thrasher  3

Cedar Waxwing  15

Chipping Sparrow  2

Field Sparrow  2

Northern Cardinal  2

Indigo Bunting  3

American Goldfinch  18

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (


By Nicole Hamilton

As we headed into the 20th year of our butterfly count on August 6th, many of us wondered what our tally would be.  Springtime had been out of whack again.  Rains that we should have had in March and April came in May. It was warm then cool; the plants seem to be a little behind the clock too.  We wondered about those species of butterfly that overwintered as caterpillars or eggs – would they have food in time to develop or would we miss a brood this year?

American Lady butterfly

American Lady butterfly

Well, as we headed out on August 6th, the weather was great for butterflying so if they were there we would have found them.  Seven teams of over 60 people met up in their sectors at 9 a.m. and started spotting, counting and identifying butterflies. Across the teams, however, our team leads reported fairly slow going.

All in all, we recorded just 2,118 individual butterflies but on a day with similar weather conditions we typically would count 3,500-4,500. Our species count was just slightly down. We had encountered 41 species for the day compared an average of about 45. Some species, like the Red Spotted Purple were absent from the count altogether. Just 29 Monarchs were seen, compared to 51 last year. Sulphur numbers were significantly lower. There were other surprise misses too.  We invite you to take a look at our 20 years of butterfly count data here to look more closely and numbers that were on par versus down. It’s quite interesting.

As you look at it, think about the host plants that these different species need to survive. It’s all connected.


Ruby Throated Hummingbird May 4 2008 3The first hint of cooler weather touched Northern Virginia in the overnight hours, suggesting shorter days and the start of fall not too far away.

It brings with it, too, not just the start of school again but awareness of the continuing migration of creatures. Those that came north are heading south again. There are reports of warblers coming through – Black and White, Northern Parula and more.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that give so many of us joy during the late spring and summer months are getting ready for their journey south too. The fewer hours of sunlight trigger hormonal changes that tell the birds it’s time to move.

You may be noticing the usual territorial buzzing getting even more frenetic as the hummers fuel up with nectar from feeders and flowers all day long. The hummers will head for Central America, crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s said the males leave first. Have you noticed that? You can report your sightings at Journey North, where you’ll also be able to watch their progress on a map next year when they come back, some of them looking for the feeders you put out.



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