Archive for December, 2011

While all the reports aren’t in yet it looks like Wednesday’s high winds put quite a damper on the Central Loudoun CBC in terms of individuals or at least that was the impression of many of the more than 110 counters of which a healthy number were children.  Photos from the count can be seen in our CBC 2011 Facebook Album.

Nonetheless, the different teams did find four species that have not been previously reported on this count: SNOW BUNTING at the county landfill, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on a private pond a little north of Leesburg.

There was also a GOLDEN EAGLE flying over Camp Highroad near Philomont, and a PEREGRINE FALCON seen from the VA shore flying over the Potomac River into MD near White’s Ferry. 

The first two were photographed as well as a LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE at the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project where a VIRGINIA RAIL was also found. [Photo here is of the Shrike by Gerco Hoogeweg]

Additionally there were numerous other highlights such as a displaying AMERICAN WOODCOCK early in the morning near Beaverdam Reservoir, 36 AMERICAN PIPITS in muddy fields along Tail Race Road, a flock of 62 WILD TURKEYS at the south cell of the Dulles Greenway Wetlands, 5 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS north of Aldie, and 20 HORNED LARKS at the county landfill. 

Some birds, as they have been all season, were much rarer than usual such as a single RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH, and much lower than usual numbers of RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS, probably because of the lowest mast year in recent memory.

Not surprisingly few owls were observed as it is very difficult to hear owls when it is as windy as it was on Wednesday.  At this time it looks like there may have been only one GREAT HORNED OWL and one EASTERN SCREECH OWL found, considerably less than previous years.  

One sector team which has found as many as a half dozen Barred Owls on previous counts thought itself  lucky to find just one this year.  However, good numbers of other raptors were seen.  Two different MERLINS were found, one hunting a farm near Waterford and the other perched on a tree right below the National Cemetery at Ball’s Bluff, as well as a number of BALD EAGLES, RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS, RED-TAILED HAWKS, and both local accipiter species.

Waterfowl diversity appeared to have been about average with WOOD DUCKS probably being the most unusual sighting for this time of year.  COMMON RAVEN numbers may have been lower than normal but it was nice to find a pair of COMMON RAVENS at a silo where they have been observed perching year round for at least two years now.

As is often the case on a bird count one of the nicest sightings of the day was four RIVER OTTERS playing in a large private pond near Lincoln, the same location they were seen for International Migratory Bird Day.

We ended the day with a well-attended Tally Rally at the Rust Nature Sanctuary in Leesburg. Photos from the Tally Rally can be seen here on our Facebook page.

Good birding, Joe Coleman


I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the seemingly dead feeling of winter. Something awaits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
- Andrew Wyeth


There’s a wonderful cd that I got a few years ago called Beautiful Darkness.

The songs tie back to the winter solstice and the magic of the season and I love to listen to it through these winter weeks.

The winter solstice is that day when we have the longest night. As we pass through today and into tomorrow, the winter slumber starts to end and all the hidden life around us starts to stir, ever so subtly,  again.


What good is a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?
- Henry David Thoreau


Volunteers Needed to Help with Tally Rally – Wednesday, Dec 28. 

After the Christmas Bird Count the participants gather between 5 and 7:30 pm over food and beverages to tally the birds they saw throughout the day and share their most memorable stories of the day. 

Volunteers are needed to help set-up the tally rally, manage the food and beverages which are served, and then clean-up afterwards. 

If you are interested please contact Joe Coleman at or 540-554-2542.


Have you signed up for the Christmas Bird Count yet?  If not, you should!  It’s so much fun – and all levels of experience are needed.

This is our 15th year leading the Loudoun County Christmas Bird Count and over the course of the 15 counts, we have counted over 380,000 individual birds!  We hope to encounter over 25,000 birds again for this year’s count (and maybe hit 100 species!) and with your great spotting and involvement, we can do that!

We use a count circle to organize our count and that circle is broken down into sectors that are assigned to expert birders who are the team leaders.  When you sign up, we’ll assign you to a team or you can let us know if there’s a specific team or area within the circle where you’d like to bird.

Come on out and join the fun – for part of the day or the whole day – it’s a great chance to meet new people, talk birds (and learn about birds), and contribute to a really important effort to gather data on bird populations nation-wide.

The data that we collect will be used for our local Loudoun County Bird Atlas and will be sent to National Audubon for inclusion in this nation-wide bird population census.


If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.
- Emerson


To see the world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wildflower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.
- William Blake


Most of us don’t have hummingbirds at our houses here in Loudoun in winter, but every year or two we do get reports of Rufous Hummingbirds showing up.

Cornell calls this bird the “feistiest” of the hummingbirds, which will attack larger hummingbirds at feeders and out maneuver them (which is amazing considering the agility of hummingbirds in general.)

So, what do you do if a Rufous Hummingbird shows up at your house in December or January? Well, the Hummer/Bird Study group has the answer.  Here’s the link to their study and information on what to do:

This group has been studying and banding winter hummingbirds for over 20 years and have compiled some great findings and recommendations.


Life on the Edge: America’s Atlantic Coast

Wednesday, December 14, 7:30 p.m. at the Rust Library in Leesburg.

Join Tom Ramsay and Nancy Goetzinger for this free program on America’s Atlantic coast. 

This 50-minute multi-media presentation utilizes video, stills, and graphics to demonstrate the beauty of coastal habitats and the diversity of the resulting life forms there, all within the context of the geologic and hydrologic formation of the East Coast shoreline from Georgia to Newfoundland.

Tom and Nancy will discuss the beautiful images of landscapes; nesting and migrating birds along the entire coast; blue crabs, mating horseshoe crabs, and other marine life; and an exquisite close-up video sequence of monarch butterflies on goldenrod bushes in full bloom, captured along the Delaware coast during the fall migration period.

The program traces coastline origins in the tectonic formation and subsequent erosion of the Appalachian Mountains, in the advance and retreat of glaciers, and in the ongoing effects of wind and water on sand. 

Two distinctly different regions are presented: the dynamic barrier islands of the south, with their resulting sand beaches, salt marshes, and tidal flats; and the dramatic northern coast where steep cliffs, deep shoreline water, cold currents, and undersea banks combine to create a rich food supply that makes it possible for millions of nesting pelagic birds and large sea mammals to thrive there.

Questions: contact Joe Coleman at or 540-554-2542.