Archive for September, 2009

In wildness is the preservation of the world.

- Henry David Thoreau


I’m very tardy in posting this but still wanted to send it out for those tracking our local and migrating birds.

From Joe Coleman:

Nine birders saw 54 species, including 8 species of warblers and one very large and distant flock of blackbirds, at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES) in northwestern Loudoun Co, near Harper’s Ferry, WV, this morning.  We started at the large field at the end of Sawmill Rd where we not only watched a large and distant flock of blackbirds dance in mass over the ridge, a flock of Tree Swallows passed overhead.  We walked both the Sweet Run Loop trail and the power line cut to the top of the ridge to the Appalachian Trail (and looked into West VA). Along the way we came across three or four groups of migrants.  One group, where the power line crosses Sweet Run, included both our first RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET for the season (the first of at least six) and a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. The other groups included a variety of warblers, esp. one along Sweet Run where we found at least 7 different species of warblers, including a FOS YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER, as well as the Gray-cheeked Thrush and Swainson’s Thrush.  The Bald Eagle, a juvenile, was seemed from the parking lot as well as the first of several flocks of Cedar Waxwings.  A pair of Common Ravens flew over us on the power line cut near the ridge.  While there were a number of Magnolia Warblers and Common Yellowthroats in the scrub under the power lines most of the warblers were in a heavily wooded stretch along Sweet Run where there were a lot of grapes.  The Cedar Waxwing flocks popped up in a number of locations.

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

Joe Coleman, near Bluemont, Loudoun Co

Location:     Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01
Observation date:     9/26/09
Notes:     We started at the large field at the end of Sawmill Rd and walked both the Sweet Run Loop trail and the power line cut to the top of the ridge to the Appalachian Trail. Along the way we came across three or four groups of migrants.  One included both our first Ruby-crowned Kinglet for the season and White-throated Sparrow. The others included a variety of warblers, esp. one along Sweet Run loop where we found at least 7 different species of warblers as well as the Swainson’s & Gray-cheeked Thrushes.  The Bald Eagle, a juvenile, was seemed from the parking lot as well as the first of several flocks of Cedar Waxwings.
Number of species:     54

Canada Goose, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey 2, Bald Eagle 1, Sharp-shinned Hawk 1, Red-shouldered Hawk 2, Red-tailed Hawk 1, American Kestrel 2, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift 1, Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2, Belted Kingfisher 1, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker 1, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee 1, Eastern Phoebe 1, Red-eyed Vireo 1, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven 2, Tree Swallow 30, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, House Wren 2, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 6, Eastern Bluebird, Gray-cheeked Thrush 1, Swainson’s Thrush 1, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher 1, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Chestnut-sided Warbler 1, Magnolia Warbler 8, Black-throated Blue Warbler 3, Yellow-rumped Warbler 1, Bay-breasted Warbler 1, Black-and-white Warbler 4, American Redstart 1, Common Yellowthroat 8, Eastern Towhee1, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow 1, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1, Indigo Bunting 10, blackbird sp. 250, American Goldfinch


The tree which moves some to tears of joy
is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.
Some see nature all ridicule and deformity…
and some scarce see nature at all.
But to the eyes of the man of imagination,
nature is imagination itself.

- William Blake


Come on out this Sunday for the Conservation Celebration!  The Conservation Celebration nature festival at Rust Nature Sanctuary will be fun for the whole family. Rust Santuary is located at 802 Childrens Center Rd in Leesburg.

On September 27 from noon to 4 pm you can enjoy live Bluegrass by Acoustic Burgoo and music by Moon Music, art and nature crafters, magicians and street theatre, food and fun. There will be lots of hands-on activities for children, guided nature walks, house tours, nature exhibits, exhibits of solar and other “green” personal and home products.

Conservation_Celebration_Event_MapExhibitors and Activities
•Welcome Booth, First Aid, Lost Child Station
•House tours (12:30, 1:30, 2:30, 3:30)
•Nature Walks (1:00, 2:00, 3:00)
•Audubon Bookstore and Gift Shop will be open

•Acoustic Burgoo (Under the Big Tent)
•Moon Music (On the Front Portico at 2 pm)

•Art in the Manor House Foyer and Parlor
•Sculpture in the Manor House Garden
•KidzArt – Creativity Rules! (House Foyer)

•”ARRRT” – Reduce, reuse, recycled art
•Make your own Recycled T-Shirt Tote Bag
•”Trash to Treasure” Junk Sculpture
•Scat, Skulls and Feathers
•Creepy Crawlies

•Audubon Naturalist Society
•Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship
•Blue Ridge Wildlife Center
•Friends of Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve
•Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains
•Goose Creek Association
•Keep Loudoun Beautiful
•Leesburg Environmental Advisory Commission
•Loudoun Watershed Watch
•Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
•Piedmont Environmental Council
•Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries (Live Animals!)
•Virginia Master Naturalist
•Wildlife Ambassadors (Live Animals!)

•Always Thinking Solar
•Green Building Institute
•SandEnergy – Solar and Renewable Energy
•Sustainable Loudoun
•Virginia Solar Council

•Home Depot
•Miessence-ONEgroup certified organic skincare
•Norwex Enviro Products

Schedule of Activities
•Music by Acoustic Burgoo
•Art Show & Sale (House)
•Food (big tent)
•Green Man
•Conservation and Nature Exhibits
•Solar energy, Home and Personal Care Green Products

12:30 PM
House Tour, Kick-the-Can Ice Cream
1:00 PM
Family Wetland and Meadow Exploration Hike, Nature Walk 

1:30 PM
House Tour, Insect Relay (Sack Race)
2:00 PM
Moon Music (on the Portico), Nature Walk

2:30 PM
House Tour, Kick-the-Can Ice Cream

3:00 PM
Nature Walk
3:30 PM
House Tour, Raffle
Closing Ceremony


skipper-aster-sept-21-2008-11Happy Fall Equinox!  Today is that fall day, also known as the Autumnal Equinox,  when the hours of daylight equal the hours of night.

It is also a day that highlights the changing seasons. This is a nice time to start watching for the changing leaf colors, migratory birds passing through, summer residents heading south, squirrels and others gathering nuts for winter.

Something fun to do today is to take your camera and go to a nature spot that you really enjoy. Pick a nice vantage point that you’ll remember again in a few months and take a photo – it could be a landscape picture or a photo of a tree or some other element of nature (as long as it’s stationary :) ). 

I’ll do a blog post on the winter solstice, spring equinox and summer solstice so you can keep this going through the year as a nature photo journal and have a nice set of pictures of nature through the seasons. When you go out to your spot, take notes on what you see, what you hear and what you smell. Every season has its special gifts.


I’m a bit tardy in posting this field trip report that Mary Ann Good sent in (I was away on vacation) but given the rarity I wanted to be sure to pass on the news. This is how many of us start out as casual birders, watching the backyard birds and then get hooked:

Seventeen birders, led by Joe Coleman and Mary Ann Good on Sept 7, were treated to spectacular views of a fresh winter-plumaged STILT SANDPIPER which Jon Little first picked out from among several Lesser Yellowlegs.  The up-close-and-personal looks and the proximity to the Lessers gave opportunity to see every distinctive detail of this bird that was a lifer for many of us.

We saw several other shorebirds but few migrant passerines.  The species we observed and approx. counts are:

Great Egret – 1, Green Heron – 5, Turkey Vulture – 4, Canada Goose – 1, Mallard – 8, Bald Eagle – 1 adult, Red-shouldered Hawk – 1 adult, Red-tailed Hawk – 1 juv., Virginia Rail – 1 calling from the marsh, Killdeer – ~35, Greater Yellowlegs – 2, Lesser Yellowlegs – 8, Solitary Sandpiper – 1, Spotted Sandpiper – 1, Semipalmated Sandpiper – 2, Least Sandpiper – 6, STILT SANDPIPER – 1, Mourning Dove – 6, Chimney Swift – 2, Belted Kingfisher – 1, E. Wood-Pewee – 1, Willow Flycatcher – 1, E. Phoebe – 2, Blue Jay – 3, Am. Crow – 3, Barn Swallow – 4, Car. Chickadee – 2, Tufted Titmouse – 1, Carolina Wren – 3, E. Bluebird – 2, Am. Robin – 1, Catbird – 5, Eur. Starling – 3, Cedar Waxwing – 2, Common Yellowthroat – 4, Song Sparrow – 2, No. Cardinal – 3, Am. Goldfinch – 4


On Sept 13th, we had our Swift Night Out event and it was phenomenal!  I was away on vacation so I missed it (darn!)but wow what an event it was!  Mary Ann Good and Phil Daley organized the event for us and Mary Ann sent over this great report. I can’t wait till next year’s show! I’ll be reporting our sightings to Driftwood Wildlife Associationwhich tracks chimney swift populations and migrations. If you know of other locations in Loudoun where the Chimney Swifts congregate let us know!

From Mary Ann:

The first few chimney swifts were just beginning to gather in the skies overhead at 6:45 p.m. as 7 people converged on a historic building in Lincoln, toting lawnchairs, binoculars, and snacks for the wait.  As we chatted, munched, and listened to chimney swift lore to the accompaniment of the first chants, buzzes, and chirps of the evening insect chorus, swifts continued to arrive from all directions. 

By 7:15 the numbers had swelled to hundreds, and the birds, no longer darting erratically, joined in a huge circular swirling pattern over and around the chimney they would soon enter.  At 7:30 we saw the first one drop from the swirl into the chimney, then another and another, then several in quick succession, until we could no longer keep track of the numbers. 

The great swirl continued, then gradually began to lessen as the swifts dropped into the chimney where together they would roost for the night and the next several nights, until the moment arrives for them to begin their migration south to South America. 

As the final stragglers disappeared into the chimney 10 minutes later, we witnessed the changing of the guard, as the daytime contingent was replaced by the nighttime contingent of bats fluttering and swooping over our heads.  We estimated the numbers of swifts to have been between 400 and 500, and left in amazement at one of nature’s awesome spectacles.


The question is not what you look at, but what you see.

- Henry David Thoreau


Most of us have probably had that awful experience of a bird crashing into one of our windows. You hear that “bam” and look down and see the bird sprawled out on the ground. Sometimes after a few minutes they make a recovery and are able to fly off but many times, they die on the spot.

It’s sad when this happens but there are some things we can do to help limit it.

window_reflectionsThe first is to take a walk outside your house and look at your windows from a bird’s perspective.  They fly into the windows because the windows are reflecting the sky and it looks to them as though they can fly right through. If you’ve had window strikes in the past, first take a look at these windows and get a feel for what the birds are seeing, but check all your windows. The windows with the most strikes are likely to be those that get the most reflection and are far enough away from trees that the birds can get up a good speed to head off into what they see as sky.

Another thing to look at is your placement of bird feeders.  Bird feeders draw birds in and this of course is great fun for us to watch but their placement can also be a detriment. Birds fly in to get some seed and then quickly take off to go eat the seeds or seek safety and may look to your window and a place to fly to.

So, the solutions….

For addressing reflection, the best thing that I’ve found is the use of window decals. They come in various shapes (flowers, leaves, birds, other shapes) and you can even get ones that are almost clear to our eyes. The ones I use are said to have a UV reflection in the plastic such that when the birds see them they see these shapes and know that they should not fly through.  You can also get solid colored plastic and they will have the same effect but would obstruct your views outside.  You need to place these decals about 3 inches apart so that the birds don’t try to fly through them, but they really work.

The next thing you can do is with your feeders. Placing feeders either more than 30 feet away from the house or less than 3 feet away will reduce collisions.  At 30ft away, the birds have a better likelihood of recognizing the reflection of the widows as being part of the house (and with the addition of the window decals this will help even more). At less than 3 feet from the house, the birds don’t have a chance to build up enough speed to slam into the window.

Closing shades and drapes can also help a lot. While the window is still reflective, the birds don’t fly to them because they can’t fly through.  The down side to this is that closing the drapes or blinds blocks out your view of the outside but if you do it while you are away at work and away on vacation then you’re none the wiser.

Audubon at Home has some other good tips and links to help address bird collisions, including leaving window screens in place year round as they also help reduce reflection too.

What have you tried? Any tips to share?


A great report from the Waterford Foundation:

About 75 Waterford community members attended a Labor Day weekend picnic at the Old Mill to celebrate the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Phillips Farm Interpretive Trail on September 5. After enjoying a barbeque dinner arranged by Foundation development manager Kathleen Hughes, Phillips Farm Committee Chair Mimi Westervelt and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy (LWC) President Joe Coleman cut the ribbon, and together with John Souders, citizens of all ages enjoyed a tour of the natural and cultural history of the Phillips Farm along the new trail.

Appreciation for this new educational resource on the farm and the community was expressed to committee members, the Piedmont Community Foundation’s Peter M. Howard Memorial Fund (which provided a generous grant for the trail), and Foundation staff Margaret Good and Martha Polkey.  A gift was presented to Rob Hale, in absentia, who designed the brochure, and designed and constructed the posts and new signs for the trail. 

Children’s activities included a “Can You Find?” hunt for information about the Phillips Farm and identifying, tagging and releasing live Monarch butterflies.  Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy President Joe Coleman and his volunteers, who partner with the Foundation on many Phillips Farm programs, discussed LWC goals and activities.

In August, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers installed netting to protect some of the more than 1,000 trees and shrubs in the riparian buffer planting from rodent damage. LWC volunteers report that the plantings are thriving.