Archive for September 20th, 2009

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

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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.

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