Soaking Rain Makes for a Tough Christmas Bird Count
by Joe Coleman, Compiler
In spite of heavy rain 85 birders came out for the Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, December 29, and found 85 bird species. The rain, an inch and a half in some areas, started a little after 4 am and didn’t let up until early afternoon. Surprisingly, over two thirds of the registered participants showed up.
The highlights of the count include our first ever Vesper Sparrows, a count week Northern Saw-whet Owl, a Merlin, Red-breasted Mergansers, a Virginia Rail, and a Horned Grebe. And while the owl count was very low, one of the counters did get a great photo of a Barn Owl peering down at him from the top of a silo. Other highlights included 98 Gadwall and 184 Common Mergansers, many at the Beaverdam Reservoir, 158 Wild Turkeys in a variety of sectors, and a flock of 45 American Tree Sparrows at the privately-owned Dulles Greenway Wetlands. Because the Loudoun County Landfill is closed on Sundays Bob Abrams checked it out on Saturday and found three of our winter gulls, including a Greater Black-backed, which is uncommon for this count, as well as at least 5,000 Ring-billed Gulls and 120 Herring Gulls, both of which would have been high numbers for this count. And while most of the county’s Red-headed Woodpeckers had migrated out of the area because of this year’s non-existent acorn crop, three were found the day of the count.
All of the participants who lasted into the afternoon were thrilled with the many birds that came out when the rain quit. One group had a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets busily feeding near the ground at their feet amongst a large mixed flock of different bird species while another team managed to call in a Barred Owl which was followed by streams of small birds mobbing it. And a flock of Turkey and Black Vultures holding their wings out so they could dry out at a country church was a hit for another team. The heavy rain did limit walking as many of the streams that are normally easy to step over were impassible and even some of the country roads closed in the afternoon because of flooding.
For many of us the afternoon light shining through the dark clouds was beautiful as it illuminated the countryside and the many birds that came out to feed after a morning of avoiding the rain. And after sunset about half of the counters showed up for the Tally Rally at Morven Park where we shared stories of the birds seen and missed.
Our thanks go out to the many participants on the count and the four people who organized and ran the Tally Rally at the end of the day.