Archive for June, 2012

Andy Rabin and Kevin Munroe led us on a wonderful Dragonfly and Damselfly field trip last weekend.

We saw 25 species of dragonflies and 7 species of damselflies between the two locations we visited: Bles Park and Claude Moore Park.

It was a treat to get to see the dragonflies close up and to learn about the different strategies dragonflies us as they hunt for food or defend territory – some staking out a perch, some staying on the move, coursing up and down their territory.

We saw all sorts of dragonfly behavior and aspects of the lifecycle play out as well. We saw teneril (newly emerged, dragonflies) drying their wings. We saw a female laying eggs in water while being guarded by males. We saw a dragon uhnter eating another dragonfly.

Andy and Kevin have an infectious enthusiasm for dragonflies and damselflies and made it easy for us to learn how to id them.

Andy and Kevin will be doing a second field trip in July – sign up and learn about these great insects!

Dragonfly species: Common Green Darner, swamp Darner, Unicorn Clubtail, Black-shouldered Spineyleg, Dragonhunter, Prince Baskettail, Mocha Emerald, Calico Pennant, Halloween Pennant, Common Pondhawk, Spangled Skimmer, Slaty Skimmer, Widow Skimmer, Common Whitetail, Needham’s Skimmer, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Painted Skimmer, Great Blue Skimmer, Blue Dasher, Wandering Glider, Spot-winged Glider, Eastern Amberwing, Carolina Saddlebags, Black Saddlebags,

Damselflies: Blue-fronted Dancer, Powdered Dancer, Blue-tipped Dancer, Familiar Bluet, Stream Bluet, Fragile Forktail, Eastern Forktail.

More photos can be seen on our facebook page and on iNaturalist


Last weekend we celebrated National Pollinators Week with a great program on our native springtime bees, by Denise Shreeve.

Denise shared all sorts of great information – here are just a few of the tidbits that we picked up”

- Did you know….Honey bees are NOT native bees? Nope – they were brought over from Europe.

- Our native bees, like the Orchard Mason Bees and Leafcutter bees, are stingless and they stay close to home – only roaming in a radius of about 300 feet (about 6.5 acres)

- Orchard Mason Bees and other native bees are extremely productive pollinators because rather than collecting pollen in baskets like the honey bee, they have lots of hairs on their bodies and ooooo just get the pollen all over and spread it from plant to plant

We loved Denise’s presentation and really enjoyed seeing and touching the bee cocoons and other artifacts from their development.

Learn more about our native bees at Denise’s website:


Environmental Studies on the Piedmont in Partnership with Airlie Foundation and Bull Run Mountains Conservancy is holding their 17th Annual Butterfly Count on July 21st this year – from 8:30 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.

This Count will be held at Environmental Studies on the Piedmont 6712 Blantyre Road Warrenton, VA

Come for the morning count or the entire day, bring a friend, everyone is welcome to join in this fun event!

This survey is conducted in conjunction with the North American Butterfly Association’s National July Butterfly Census. With multiple groups the teams are able to cover much of Fauquier County — so if you would like to learn a bit about butterflies, meet some new and interesting people and be outside to enjoy the day — come join the fun!

8:30 am Coffee and pastries and a bit of butterfly banter
9:00  am Divide into groups and go forth to count
12:30 pm Regroup at the farmhouse to cool off and eat your bag lunch
1:30 pm Divide into groups for the afternoon count
3:30 pm Return to the farmhouse to turn in census sheets & compare notes

There is a NABA participation fee, so your $5 donation will helps defray these costs.

You may want to bring:
Bag lunch — refrigerators are available
Water bottle
Sunscreen & insect repellent
Butterfly field guide
Camera & Binoculars

If you would like to participate in the count, call or send an email: (540) 349-3331 or


Five people found 52 species on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s regular monthly walk this past Saturday at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship in northwestern Loudoun Co. 

The highlights of the walk included 7 different warbler species, including Worm-eating, Louisiana and Kentucky, an Acadian Flycatcher feeding young in a nest, noisy White-eyed Vireos and Chats, and several just-fledged birds. 

Many species which had been very vocal recently, such as Scarlet Tanagers and Louisiana Waterthrushes, were much quieter this week
The walk concentrated on the northern half of the center and did not visit the powercut in the southern section, probably the most productive spot at the center, esp. this time of year.
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

See below for complete list of bird species seen at the Blue Ridge Center as reported to eBird:
Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01, Loudoun, US-VA
Jun 23, 2012 7:40 AM – 11:15 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
52 species

Wild Turkey  1, Great Blue Heron  3, Green Heron  2, Black Vulture  12, Turkey Vulture  3, Red-shouldered Hawk  2, Red-tailed Hawk  2, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker  4, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird  1, White-eyed Vireo  3, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay  1, American Crow, Fish Crow, Tree Swallow  25, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird  10, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing  3, Ovenbird  3, Worm-eating Warbler  1, Louisiana Waterthrush  2, Kentucky Warbler  3, Common Yellowthroat  2, American Redstart  1, Yellow-breasted Chat  3, Eastern Towhee  1, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager  1, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird  2, Brown-headed Cowbird  1, Orchard Oriole  1, American Goldfinch.


Come out for our free program on native bees and bee houses for your garden!  Program will last about an hour. Space is limited to about 30 people so be sure to arrive a little early to get a seat.

Native Bees and Bee Houses ― Saturday, June 23, 10:30am. Bumble Bees, Orchard Mason Bees, Leafcutter Bees and others are excellent pollinators and welcome additions to any garden.  Since they don’t sting, it’s fun to watch them build their nests! 

Join us for this program as Denise Shreeve, founder of Our Native Bees in McLean, VA, discusses the different species of native bees in Loudoun.  

She’ll discuss how and where they nest, their favorite plants, and how easy it is to entice them to your yard. 

Bee houses and nesting supplies will also be available for sale. Location: Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve in Leesburg.

The program will be in the Education Annex. Questions: contact Nicole Hamilton at


Jim McWalters led a lovely walk last weekend along part of the Appalachian Trail that runs through Loudoun County.  Below is his recap from the walk.

As the weather heats up this summer, the cool woods and nice breeze tha comes off the ridge is a great place to escape the heat (and explore some great wild places!)

From Jim:

Summer Stroll Along the AT
June 16, 2012

The low humidity and blue skies made for a picture perfect day for the “stroll” along the AT this past Saturday.  The hike took us along the AT just north of Rt. 9 and then down to the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship. 

Along the way the group spotted of variety of birds and plant life (see list below).  Up at the top of the power line on the south side of the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, we spotted a weird looking yellow flower – Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea) we believe?  

We also saw a cute little native bee stuffing his pants full of pollen, a monarch butterfly, and a green iridescent tiger beetle along the AT. We concluded the walk with a visit to beautiful Gordon Pond before heading back to the Blue Ridge Center by crossing both the Sweet and Piney Run.  

Cardinal, American crows, Bluejays, Tufted titmouse, Carolina wren, Redstart, Acadian flycatchers, Red-eyed vireo, Pileated woodpecker, Flicker, Catbird, Blue-grey gnatcatcher, Ovenbird, Woodthrush, Scarlet tanager, Eastern wood pewee, Robin, Field sparrow, Song sparrow, Chipping sparrow, White breasted nuthatch, Common yellowthroat, , Goldfinch, Turkey Vulture

Skunk cabbage, Poison ivy, Oxeye daisy, Common fleabane, Common mullein, Milkweed (great year for this one; tell the Monarchs!), Deptford pink, Hopclover, Bull thistle, Peppergrass, Nightshade , Common yarrow, Paw Paw


Mary Ann Good went out yesterday to survey an area in Lincoln for the Loudoun County Bird Atlas that we’re developing, and during her foray, she came across two baby Barred Owls.

Here’s her story and a couple of shots:

…..I heard the hissing sound that Barred Owl babies do, very near.  I backed into a farm lane, and there they were, two of them, looking down at me!  They watched me set up my scope so I could digiscope them (didn’t really need the scope for views, they were very close), taking turns making that strange hissing sound while I snapped away.  After awhile the one I was focused on started getting very sleepy, but his sister kept disturbing his nap with her periodic hiss.


The weekend is almost here!

Join us for a great hike along the Appalachian Trail – we’ll be looking for wildlife and identifying plants along the way.

Details and sign up information is here:

Summer Stroll on the AT ― Saturday, June 16, 8:00 a.m.

Join Jim McWalters for an early summer stroll on the Appalachian Trail. Marvel at the sights and sounds and take in the beauty along the trail.

Pack a snack for the mountaintop view. Meet at the parking lot at the Appalachian Trail along Rt. 9 a few miles west of Hillsboro. Car shuttles back to the parking area will be provided.  

Registration required: Sign up Online; questions please contact Jim McWalters at


As you may know, we’re in the 4th year of our 5-year Bird Atlas Project for Loudoun County. This year we’re making an extra strong push to get areas covered where we haven’t collected sufficient data yet. Below is a report from Gerco Hoogeweg on a recent excursion he and a few others went on in order to Bust some Blocks!

This morning, Donna, Spring, and I birded several blocks (Point of Rocks 5, 6 and Waterford 2) as part of the VSO Foray. Although the main objective is to collect additional information regarding breeding birds in Loudoun County, we tailed our birds too. We had a great time walking along the creek and through the fields in the cool morning while enjoying the birds and butterflies.

At 5 am my day started off with being woken up by a pair of very noisy Great Crested Flycatchers in the front yard shortly followed by an American Robin. Half an hour later, with a large cup of coffee in my hand, I was walking down the road listening to Field Sparrow, Wild Turkey, Indigo Bunting and Bluebirds. A little later Spring joined me and we walked along Catoctin Creek. Our biggest surprise was a fledging Northern Rough-winged Swallow that had crept of out the nesting cavity. One of the older birds was in the grass too. Both birds looked afraid but healthy, so we left them alone. Later I saw the fledging clinging to the rock wall.

Our next stop was the ecovillage north of Taylorstown. Last week I heard a single Prairie Warbler in that area and wanted to find it again. We were lucky, not only did we find it but we tallied 5 during our ecovillage walk. That was a wonderful surprise. We also tripped over the Gray Catbirds. I stopped counting them and the reported 54 is likely to a “slight” under count. Brown Thrashers were active too. For one of them, we came a bit too close to the nesting area, and it started to distract us. Ah, ha, that is a code DD for the BBA and a confirmed breeder!

Leaving the ecovillage behind we headed towards the river. The boat launch along Rte 15 is pretty much the only section in the Point of Rock block 6 were you can easily access the waterfront. We were not disappointed. With a little luck we found 1 if not 2 Prothonotary Warblers and a Louisiana Waterthrush. A squawk in the distance turned out to be a Green Heron. By now it was 10:10am and it was getting warm already. The birds were getting more quiet too. So on to the final stop.

Our final stop,  if you can call birding from out of your car a stop, was the Waterford 2 block, specifically St Clair and Lucketts Rds. This  stop turned out to be wonderful. Not only did we confirm breeding Eastern Kingbirds (seeing one leaving the nest makes it easy) we also found an Alder Flycatcher singing it’s heart out. The latter is a “non-breeder” as far as I know in Loudoun County and, ah crap, requires a verification form for the atlas. It was probably our best bird of the day. Next week, I’ll need to check this location again and see if the bird sticks around.

We tallied a total of 63 species and about a dozen were confirmed breeders. Many more were possible breeders. I can’t wait to see what surprise birds can be found next weekend in Waterford 1, 2 and Point of Rocks 5.

Leesburg, VA

Species: 63 – Subspecies: 0 – Forms: 63
Total Records: 63

Canada Goose 30, Wild Turkey 1, Great Blue Heron 1, Green Heron 2, Black Vulture 2, Turkey Vulture 4, Osprey 1, Red-shouldered Hawk 2, Red-tailed Hawk 1, American Kestrel 1, Mourning Dove 10, Chimney Swift  9, Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2, Red-bellied Woodpecker 6, Downy Woodpecker 3, Hairy Woodpecker 1, Northern Flicker 1, Pileated Woodpecker 2, Eastern Wood-Pewee 3, Acadian Flycatcher 2, Alder Flycatcher 1, Eastern Phoebe 5, Great Crested Flycatcher 5, Eastern Kingbird 8,Red-eyed Vireo 3, Blue Jay 4, American Crow 16, Purple Martin 200, Tree Swallow 61, Northern Rough-winged Swallow 3, Barn Swallow  6, Carolina Chickadee 11, Tufted Titmouse 6, White-breasted Nuthatch 4, Carolina Wren 2, Eastern Bluebird 6, Wood Thrush 5, American Robin 10, Gray Catbird 61, Northern Mockingbird 2, Brown Thrasher 13, European Starling 38, Cedar Waxwing 7, Northern Parula 3, Prairie Warbler 5, Prothonotary Warbler 2, Louisiana Waterthrush 1, Common Yellowthroat 6, Eastern Towhee 20, Chipping Sparrow 14, Field Sparrow 13, Grasshopper Sparrow 1, Song Sparrow 2, Northern Cardinal 17, Indigo Bunting 16, Red-winged Blackbird 2, Eastern Meadowlark 1, Common Grackle 12, Brown-headed Cowbird 11, Baltimore Oriole 1, House Finch 3, American Goldfinch 55, House Sparrow 7


Fourteen birders showed up at Banshee Reeks for a very nice bird walk on Saturday the 9th. 

While we stayed together most of the time, we did split into two groups a couple of times for short time periods.  The groups were led by Del Sargent, Joe Coleman, Dori Rhodes, and Elliott & Nancy Kirschbaum.
The highlights of the walk involved lots of breeding bird behavior among the 58 species, including five warbler species. 

Four American Kestrels were seen together, an apparent family group; at one point the two adults rose high into the sky to chase a Red-tailed Hawk that was passing through their territory.

We also saw what appeared to be a family group of Belted Kingfishers along the Goose Creek.  Right above the trail, three or four feet above the birder who found it, was an Acadian Flycatcher sitting in its nest. 

Willow Flycatchers were found in two dif. locations & one case one there was apparently a male singing with a silent female sitting next to him who then disappeared into an Autumn Olive. 

A very nice treat was seeing a bird that many of us hear a lot more than we see & seeing them more than once, Yellow-throated Vireos.  One of them was agitated and worked on leading us away from a clump of trees (interestingly enough this is the first time in six years that Yellow-throated Vireos have been observed on the regular June bird walk). 

A little ways down the trail from the vireo were two Yellow-breasted Chats who put on a pretty vigorous distraction display and gave us great looks in the process.  In this same area we not only found recently fledged Towhees and Field Sparrows but the first of a half dozen singing Prairie Warblers. 

Along side the trial near the Goose Creek two adult Catbirds were feeding two very young Catbirds who still had colorful gapes .  And while we never found a Baltimore Oriole we had at least 10 Orchard Orioles including a family unit of adults and recently fledged young. 

And while we were tallying on the porch at the Visitor Center a Blue Grosbeak landed in the scrub in front of the center to eat.  All in all, a great day to go birding!
See below for the complete list of birds seen.

The regular monthly free bird walk (every 2nd Sat) at the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve is sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy ( and the Friends of Banshee Reeks (; information on both and their upcoming events can be found on their websites.

Good birding,
Joe Coleman, near Bluemont, Loudoun Co
Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve – MFF08, Loudoun, US-VA
Jun 9, 2012 7:45 AM – 11:30 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
58 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  X, Black Vulture  5, Turkey Vulture  3, Red-shouldered Hawk  1, Red-tailed Hawk  1, American Kestrel  4, Rock Pigeon  2, Mourning Dove  X, Chimney Swift  3, Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1, Belted Kingfisher  4, Red-bellied Woodpecker  3, Downy Woodpecker  3, Pileated Woodpecker  1, Eastern Wood-Pewee  X, Acadian Flycatcher  X, Willow Flycatcher  3, Empidonax sp.  2, Eastern Phoebe  2, Great Crested Flycatcher  3, Eastern Kingbird  5, Yellow-throated Vireo  3, Red-eyed Vireo  X, Blue Jay  X, American Crow  X, Fish Crow  X, Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1, Tree Swallow  8, Carolina Chickadee  X, Tufted Titmouse  X, White-breasted Nuthatch  X, Carolina Wren  X, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  12, Eastern Bluebird  X, Wood Thrush  X, American Robin  X, Gray Catbird  X, Northern Mockingbird  X, Brown Thrasher  2, European Starling  X, Cedar Waxwing  3, Ovenbird  2, Common Yellowthroat  10, Yellow Warbler  2, Prairie Warbler  6, Yellow-breasted Chat  3, Eastern Towhee  5, Chipping Sparrow  1, Field Sparrow  15, Song Sparrow  1, Scarlet Tanager  3, Northern Cardinal  X, Blue Grosbeak  1, Indigo Bunting  20, Red-winged Blackbird  6, Common Grackle  1, Brown-headed Cowbird  2, Orchard Oriole  8, American Goldfinch  X

Prairie Warbler, by Nicole Hamilton, shown here in the photo.