Archive for December, 2009

Of all inebriosity, who does not prefer to be intoxicated by the air he breathes?

- Henry David Thoreau


The 13th Annual Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count is coming up!  Sunday, December 27.

American-Goldfinch-DecemberEveryone is welcome, both beginners and expert birders (new birders are teamed with experienced birders and will no doubt get hooked!).

If you are interested in participating for the whole day or just part of the day, Sign Up Online or contact Joe Coleman at 540-554-2542 or Following the count we’ll have a Tally Rally to hear stories from the day and see what birds we saw around Loudoun. Lots of fun!

 Started in 1899, these surveys are held all over the country, with the results used to better understand bird populations and dynamics.

The count-circle has a 15-mile diameter and covers 177 square miles of Loudoun’s countryside: north to Waterford, south to Aldie, east to Ashburn, and west to Purcellville. This part of Loudoun County includes areas that not only have beautiful scenery but also are full of birds.

You can also learn more about our count, see the count circle and view our past data on our Christmas Bird Count pages.



What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and looses itself in the sunset.

- Crow Foot (1821-1890)


stream-3-dec-17-2006Today, December 21st, marks the winter solstice, the day when we have more hours of darkness than light than any other day – also referred to as the shortest day of the year, even though we still have all 24 hours.

The word solstice means “sun stop” and while the sun does not actually stop, this does mark the day when we start to have more daylight.

The Journey Northwebsite has a great graphic that explains the winter solstice and where we’re at astronomically at this interesting point in the year and wikipedia has some great information on the winter solstice generally as well as how it has been recognized in different cultures.

If you’re doing a photo journal of nature through the seasons, today is the day to go back out to your special nature spot and take a photo from the same spot (and of the same landscape or other natural element) that you did during the fall equinox.


The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.

- Charles Darwin



The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we shall ever need – if only we had eyes to see…No, wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity to the human spirit, as vital to our lives as water and bread.

- Edward Abbey


I’m posting this really really late (I was away on vacation at the time of this excellent December bird walk) but I wanted to send it it out anyway since it’s such a great bird sighting. Anyway, here’s the report from Joe:

The highlight of an all-day Audubon Naturalist Society/Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy field trip on December 6th in central Loudoun County was a WESTERN KINGBIRD.  The bird, well-seen and photographed by the 13 participants in the walk, was seen about 2:45 pm as we were leaving the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project. 

While the wetlands is private property, the bird, if it hangs around, was close to the gate (2nd from Rte 15) to the wetlands on Oatland Mills Rd.  It was seen in the grove of young trees inside the gate for awhile, flew over the road to Oatlands side, where it perched on top of a tree and then flew back to the other side of the road.  It was part of a mixed flock comprised mostly of Eastern Bluebirds.

Finding the bird was a nice highlight to a beautiful day, most notable up to then, for a lot of raptors.  The bright yellow on its belly jumped out at us in the grayness of the winter landscape and was a nice contrast to that and the several inches of snow on the ground.

Shortly before seeing the Western Kingbird we enjoyed watching a first-year Northern Harrier hunting over the wetlands as well as the two adult Bald Eagles working on their nest (one added a stick to the nest while we watched).

Other highlights included several WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS on Hibler Rd in the Lucketts area, another juvenile Northern Harrier in the same area, and at least a dozen different Red-tailed Hawks in a number of different locations.

Following is a list of the species seen:

Number of species:     48
Canada Goose, Mallard, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Great Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Western Kingbird, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Carolina Chickadee, Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Field Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow


Oh cage me not, lest I become a prisoner of man’s ego.
Deny me not my right to fly in God’s blue sky and spy upon these mortals there below.
Then, when I see a friend, I may descend to serenade.
And when my song is o’er, away on freedom’s wing to soar.

- Mae Hickman


It’s cold, quiet, a few birds are singing but the woods and fields are pretty silent. Colors of spring and summer have gone dormant and the earth seems to be at rest. Winter, the time of rejuvenation, the growing of roots rather than leaves.

Stan Shetler wrote a great article on Plant Life in the Cold for us a few years ago and it’s really worth another read through.  As he writes, “Winter strips the forest of its summer pretenses and, like an x-ray, lays it bare to the skeleton. Now everything is unmasked….”

After reading, have some fun with our Plant Life in Cold wordsearch puzzle.

More puzzles on Loudoun nature and wildlife can be found on our Educational Resources page.