Archive for May, 2011

Our friends from Keep Loudoun Beautiful sent over this nice opportunity to help clean up the Goose!

Saturday, June 11, 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Join Keep Loudoun Beautiful for a trash pick-up along the Goose Creek using canoes and professional guides from River & Trail Outfitters. Refreshments and t-shirts will be provided at the end of the event. Reservations are required. Must be at least 8 years old and all those under 18 will require signed permissions from parent or guardian. For more information and to register, visit For questions not answered there, contact us at or (703)771-4231.


Been getting reports of Monarch butterflies lately and it’s quite exciting!

If you planted a Monarch waystation last fall, the milkweed is hopefully up and drawing in the Monarch females to lay eggs!

Laura McGranaghan discovered some eggs and an emerging caterpillar on some milkweed near her office and got some terrific photos. 

Her mom, Marcia, has a wonderful farm and lets the milkweed grow and she had a big fat healthy caterpillar at her place!

Full size photos are on our Facebook Page

What a fun time of year!  Let us know what you’re seeing too!


The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Annual Meeting is coming up on Sunday, June 5th.  We’re looking forward to seeing you! We have a great program on terrapins lined up, some terrific raffle items and of course, great company :)

Please RSVP to let us know if you’ll be attending, so we can plan accordingly – Hope you can come!

Details are below:

Sunday, June 5, 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Rust Nature Sanctuary in Leesburg. Join us for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s annual membership meeting. The event will include light refreshments, a raffle, awards presentations, our annual business meeting and an exciting program. Dr. Roger Wood will describe the efforts that he and his team at the Cape May Wetlands Institute are taking to save the Diamondback Terrapin. All Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy members are invited to attend! Registration required: Sign Up Online or contact Helen Van Ryzin at or call 540-882-4187.


When 35 people showed up the regular Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy monthly bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship yesterday morning, we split into two groups. 

One led, by Jon Little, took the Arnold Rd Trail to Sweet Run & then the Power Cut (Butterfly Alley); the other, led by Joe Coleman & Larry Meade, group birded around the Visitor Ctr and then walked the Farmstead Loop & Piney Run Spur. 

The highlights of the two walks included 10 warbler species, all presumably nesting at BRCES, including CERULEAN, BLUE-WINGED, WORM-EATING including one carrying food, KENTUCKY and YELLOW-BREASTED CHATS in numerous locations. 

It was also nice, esp. this year, to hear and see a few YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS.  As the last of us were heading for the cars we watched two BALD EAGLES interacting right over our heads and earlier two BROAD-WINGED HAWKS flying together. There was also one GRASSHOPPER SPARROW, 2 BLUE GROSBEAKS,and for the first time ever, two PURPLE MARTINS were using the martin house.

Number of species:     72!
For a complete list of the birds seen see the results below.

The trails at BRCES are normally open to the public 7 days a week from dawn to dusk.

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, near Bluemont, Loudoun Co
Canada Goosem Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted), Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Blue-winged Warbler, Northern Parula, Cerulean Warbler, American Redstart, Worm-eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-breasted Chat, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Grasshopper Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.


Nature always springs to the surface and manages to show what she is. It is vain to stop or try to drive her back. She breaks through every obstacle, pushes forward, and at last makes herself a way.
- Nicolas Boileau


Raven Loonatics
2011 Birdathon Summary
109 species and No R-Egrets

The Raven Loonatics (Gerco Hoogeweg, Bruce Hill, Larry Meade and Donna Quinn) conducted their 2011 Birdathon on May 9, 2011 from 5:00 am to 8:30 pm.  Weather gave us a nice assist and conditions were calm, partly cloudy with comfortable temperatures in the 60’s.  We logged 145 miles by car and 10 miles by foot.

We started our day before dawn with a brief stop at Bles Park where we heard a Barred Owl and many Prairie Warblers.  Although we heard Barred Owl in several locations later in the day, we did not list another owl species. 

By the time we were treated to a glorious sunrise over the Potomac, we had checked off many of the ‘expected’ county birds.  Spotting a pair of glowing Prothonatory Warblers entering and exiting their nest hole in the deep green below the canopy was an Algonkian highlight.  Despite 68 ticks at the park, we left wondering where were the warblers?

Bles Park proved to be a gem yielding the fine sightings of a pair of Northern Shovelers hiding in the pond in the middle of the park, a large flock of Bobolinks flying overhead, Ruby Throated Hummingbird, Redstart, Yellow Breasted Chat, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting just to name a few highlights. 

We wished we could find the Rose Breasted Grosbeak reported there by the IMBD birders, but unfortunately this bird ended up on our ‘missed’ list.  Also on the list of misses, a White Crowned Sparrow at Bles seen by only two Raven Loonatics.

Friday’s scouting proved valuable as we spotted a Wild Turkey behind the Loudoun water facility and a Red Breasted  Merganser in the Verizon ponds which remained in their general vicinities after being spotted by Bruce on Friday. 

This year’s route included the Belmont 14th hole golf lake where we did not see a Pied Billed Grebe, one of those tease birds that show up from time to time but is never there when you need it. 

Beaver Dam Reservoir was a popular fishing and boating destination due to the nice weather and therefore not productive birding.   We made some changes to our route this year including the Lucketts area which yielded only three new species – Yellow Warbler, singing Meadowlarks and a fortuitous flyover by an Osprey.

We arrived at Blue Ridge Center late afternoon with high hopes of finding our missing warblers.  We found Blue-winged Warbler right where it should be but it seemed many of our migrating warblers decided to linger in the south. 

For the most part, we were disappointed in warbler species despite covering at least 4 miles of trails.  We had a couple of ‘almost 100% sure’ birds during the day, but without 100% certainty, we couldn’t add them including a tantalizing ‘almost Black-throated Blue Warbler’ that teased us behind leaves in low light.  We left BRCES with 10 additional species but disappointed and still wondering where were the warblers?

With daylight fading the pressure was on to locate the notorious Loggerhead Shrike – and once again, it was a Shrike-out for the Loonies.  Next target bird – Red-headed Woodpecker.  We fared better than we did with the shrike as we scored a timely Red-headed ‘car bird’ – a bird spotted from the car on Little River Farm Lane.

We concluded our day at the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation area which proved quite rewarding.  Wetlands birds included Virginia Rail, Sora, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, and a sneaky Swamp Sparrow which tried to evade detection but was finally caught by all four of us.  Absolute highlight of the location and day was a surprise sighting of 4 Common Nighthawks appearing as dusk set in, a nice lift at the end of a long day.

We eliminated Banshee Reeks this year but stopped by the landfill as we had a bit of light left.  Unfortunately, it was covered and quite sterile.  Further route adjustments will be made next year.  Does anyone know a popular county gull hangout?

One of the truly great things about the birdathon is experiencing our county from the perspective of the birds – being in the fields and woods before sunrise and hearing their songs, witnessing migrating flocks flying north overhead, watching them rest and feed by our waterways, and observing their intense usage of our parks and preserved natural areas. 

We can only imagine the devastation of discovering a former safe haven has become a shopping center or condo complex to a tired bird just returned from winter grounds.  However, it seems despite the continued destruction of habitat, birds have found sanctuary in the green spots dotted amongst habitation and retail, where they have a fighting chance at finding refuge and food.  Its clear that without these protected areas, our county birds would have little hope of survival which only deepens our commitment to preserving Loudoun county’s natural areas.

Perhaps the biggest surprise this year was the absence of migrating warblers we hoped to see but did not.  This being our second team birdathon, we had certain expectations, perhaps unwarranted.  In general, our count is more a reflection of the common birds to be found in the county, rather than uncommon or rare birds. 

As always, there is the element of luck and mystery in a big day such as this.  There were missed birds seen during the previous day’s scouting, and missed birds posted by others from the same locations that very day.  A Great Egret was seen scouting and spotted by others, yet eluded us for the second year in a row despite being a bird almost impossible to not see. 

That we could find 109 species, and that they are more commonly seen birds, is credit to the diversity of birds in our county.  Of course this only makes us wonder how we would do if we had both our typical county birds as well as a nice migratory push through the county.  Before our day even ended we were talking about next year…

Respectfully submitted,

Bruce Hill, Gerco Hoogeweg, Larry Meade, Donna Quinn
Team Raven Loonatics


This is the last in the Inside Birding series that Cornell has produced so far.  You can tell a lot about a bird from where they live :)


Join us next Saturday at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship for some nice birding! All experience levels are welcome.  Walks start at 8am and wrap up by about 11:00 or so. Details can be found on our programs page for May.


A new record for local charities: $236,354
May 20, 2011 – Sterling, VA – The Dulles Greenway’s 6th annual Drive For Charity has set a new record for donations with an amazing $236,354 collected on Thursday, May 19, 2011.  As always, this money will be donated to great local charities and a local scholarship program.

“The Drive for Charity is always a fantastic event and this year has been unbelievable,” said Tom Sines, CEO of TRIP II, the parent company of the Dulles Greenway. “The commitment Dulles Greenway drivers have to our charity partners are making a real difference in people’s lives. We are proud to be a small part of making Loudoun County a better place.”

Quick Facts about the 2011 Drive for Charity:
- Thursday, May 19, 2011 was the highest traffic day of the year for the Dulles Greenway.
- In six years, the Dulles Greenway has now raised $1,266,810 for local charities and scholarships.

Recipients for 2011 include:
- March of Dimes
- Every Citizen Has Opportunity (ECHO)
- Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS)
- Fresh Air/Full Care
- Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy
- The Dulles Greenway Scholarship Program


Here’s the third Inside Birding video by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  This one is really cool – be a birding sleuth!



Spring Ligi provided this great report of the birdathon that she and her kids did on behalf of Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy last week.

Our team, the Ligi Nestlings, had a fun and successful morning, documenting 24 species!  Please check our blog  for the complete species list, highlights, and pictures.

We did our birdathon this morning and the girls did great. They both hiked all around the Rust Sanctuary and never once asked to be carried. 

My best bird was a gorgeous mature male Bald Eagle getting mobbed by several crows.  McKenzie’s favorite bird was the Canada Goose on the pond and little Addy was impressed by the Tree Swallows in the open field.  She kept shouting “bird!”  and proudly pointing them out to me. 

We saw 24 species altogether and managed to document a few nesting behaviors for the Bird Atlas despite all the chaos.

I’m proud to say we raised $254 for the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy to help identify and protect important bird areas throughout Loudoun County. 

We appreciate all of your support and generosity.  If you haven’t given us your money yet, please mail us a check payable to “Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy” for the appropriate amount.  Let us know if you have any questions.

Special thanks to Grandma and Opa for joining us on our adventure and helping to keep the girls safe and dry.  Bird-watching with a preschooler and toddler is challenging (to say the least), but it’s so nice to share my enthusiasm for birds and nature with them.  We’re already looking forward to next year!  Go wild! Go Birding!

Thanks again,
Spring, McKenzie, and Addison