Archive for December, 2013

The Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count on Sunday, Dec. 29, was deluged with heavy rain in the morning. The rain started a little after 4 am & didn’t let up until early afternoon.

Surprisingly most of the registered participants showed up in spite of the weather and preliminary results (without all sectors reporting) indicate we had a good day birding. The species count, so far, is 86 which includes 2 count week species and is a little less than average for this count but that will probably change when all the results are received..

The highlights of the count include our first ever Vesper Sparrow, a count week Northern Saw-whet Owl, a Merlin, Red-breasted Mergansers, a Virginia Rail, and a Horned Grebe. And while the owl count was very low, one of the counters got a great photo of a Barn Owl peering down at him from the top of a silo.

Other highlights included 180 Common Mergansers at the Beaverdam Reservoir, and several flocks of Wild Turkeys in a variety of sectors, at least four different Eastern Phoebes, and 45 American Tree Sparrows at the privately-owned Dulles Greenway Wetlands.

Bob Abrams checked out the Loudoun County Landfill on Saturday because it is closed on Sundays and found all three of our winter gulls, including a Greater Black-backed, which is uncommon for this count, as well as at least 5,000 Ring-billed Gulls and 120 Herring Gulls, both of which would have been high counts for this CBC if it had been count day.

And while most of the county’s Red-headed Woodpeckers have migrated because of this year’s non-existent acorn crop a couple of the teams did manage to find a couple.

All of the participants who lasted into the afternoon talked about the many birds that came out when the rain quit.

One group had a flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets busily feeding near the ground at their feet amongst a large flock .while another team managed to call in a Barred Owl which was followed by streams of small birds mobbing it. And a flock of Turkey and Black Vultures holding their wings out so they could dry out at a country church was a hit for another team. 

The heavy rain did limit walking as many of the streams that are normally easy to step over were impassible and even some of the country roads ended up being closed because of flooding.

For many of us the afternoon light shining through the dark clouds was beautiful as it illuminated the countryside and many of the birds that came out to feed after a morning of hunkering down.

Joe Coleman, Compiler
Central Loudoun CBC


by Joe Coleman

Bald Eagle pair, by Peter Kaestner

Bald Eagle pair, by Peter Kaestner

The seventeenth Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 29. The count could use your help.  The count welcomes both experienced and beginning birders, including young people, and you can bird the entire day or for just a part of the day.

This count, one of more than 2,000 counts that takes place over the Christmas season, is the world’s oldest and largest citizen science project.  For over a century Christmas bird counts have been collecting data on winter bird populations.

The Central Loudoun count covers Loudoun County from the western edge of Ashburn to just east of Round Hill and runs from Waterford in the north to a little north of Aldie in the south.  Some of it is suburban while other parts are still rural.  In addition to visiting several natural areas we are fortunate to get permission to also visit several large estates.  Some of the sectors are covered by lots of walking while others are done by mostly driving. We also cover about five miles of the C&O Canal in Maryland and a fair amount of the W&OD Trail in Loudoun County.

And after all the counting is over, the counters will meet at Morven Park’s Carriage Museum for a Tally Rally (appetizers, dinner, & dessert) where we’ll find out who saw what and share stories about the day’s highlights.

If you are interested in participating for the whole day or just a portion, sign up at or contact Joe Coleman at 540-554-2542 or If you are a land owner and are comfortable with a small team visiting your property please let me know.


From now through December 31, you can vote in the Leesburg Today 2013 Best-of-Loudoun poll.


Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is among the candidates in the Around Loudoun – Non-profit/Civic Support Organization category.  President Nicole Hamilton is among the candidates in the Non-profit/Civic Support Worker category.


To vote, go to .  When you start to vote, you will be prompted with a form that lets you register.  You needn’t live in Loudoun County to participate.  You can only vote once – though you can apparently correct any vote.


Leesurg Today describes the poll as providing “a clear picture of what makes Loudoun a special place to live. Loudouners vote their hearts about the people they know who serve them in a variety of ways.”


We just set up a Loudoun Wildlife Cafepress shop so you can pick up some new swag and show your support for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy when you’re out and about.

We still have our regular store for items that we keep in stock and provide at our programs (tshirts, books and stickers). Those are available here.

Here is a sampling of just a few of the new items available through our cafepress store. Click here to see the full selection:


smile_fb_logoDo you shop on Amazon  – for the holidays or in general?

If so, you can select Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy to receive a donation of 0.5% of every purchase you make! 

It’s free to you – Amazon simply makes a donation from your purchase.

Use the link below and you can support Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy – not just during the holidays but year round too!

If you have the regular Amazon site bookmarked, you’ll need to replace your bookmark with the link below.

Every bit will add up and make a difference for all that we do!



Stay Tuned:  Exciting things to come
with the 2009-2013 Loudoun County Bird Atlas

White-throated_Sparrow_20131030-8As we head down the final stretch for the Loudoun County Bird Atlas, I want to thank all the atlasers, private property owners, and donors for their help along the way.  Without you, this project would not be the success that it is. 

Over the past 5 years, approximately 85 atlasers have spent 5,600 hours in the field documenting 62,700 sightings, including rarities such as Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Yellow-headed Blackbird. 

Breeding has been confirmed for 103 species, including Hooded Merganser, a species not previously documented as breeding in Loudoun County.

Data collection will wrap up at the end of this month and our focus will shift to the exciting task of pulling everything together into electronic and conventional publications for all to see.  The publications will include distribution maps for all bird species in Loudoun County and conservation recommendations for areas identified as important bird areas.  

The Bird Atlas results will provide a comparison for past and future atlases and allow us to create or update bird checklists for 7 popular birding areas in the county, including Banshee Reeks, Bles Park, and The Blue Ridge Center.  The results will also help educate residents about the importance of protecting birds and their habitat.

Want to learn more or see the current results?  Check the Bird Atlas website at

Happy birding!
Spring Ligi
Loudoun County Bird Atlas Coordinator


Here’s the latest on the two upcoming Children’s Nature Book Club get togethers:Snow_day_20131210

December 12, we will be reading  The First Snow in the  Woods
There will be a walk in the snowy woods after the story and painting snowy day pictures.  

December 19, The story,  The Stranger in the Snow will give us ideas for ways to search for wildlife in the Rust Sanctuary woods and woods around our homes. We will be making feeders for our winter wildlife. 

More details here (and on our website):

Children’s Nature Book Club — December 12, 19, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. The Children’s Nature Book Club welcomes young nature lovers 3-6 years old accompanied by a parent or other caregiver. We meet at the Rust Sanctuary to listen to a story, take a nature walk, and participate in a music/arts/crafts activity with a nature-based theme. Instructors are Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers, previous pre-school teachers, and Master Naturalists. Participants should dress for the outdoors – boots are recommended. Cost is $3 per child. Location: Rust Nature Sanctuary, 802 Children’s Center Rd., Leesburg. Registration Required: Please register by emailing Ellie Daley at or calling 540-338-6528.


We were shocked by reports last month that 78 skinned animal bodies were found illegally dumped into Catoctin Creek in the area of Featherbed Lane Bridge near Lovettsville.  Community outrage initially centered on the possibility that one of the dead animals had been a domestic dog, and Loudoun County Animal Services launched an investigation.

On December 4, Animal Services announced that after a joint investigation with the Virginia Department of
 Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) wildlife biologist and Virginia State 
Veterinarian pathologists, all of the
 animal bodies were determined to be wildlife. Therefore, Loudoun County Animal Services will not file animal cruelty 

The fact remains, however, that the skinned bodies of the 78 animals – mostly foxes, raccoons, and coyotes, we understand – were illegally dumped into a waterway. While it is currently legal for people to trap and skin these animals in Virginia, the sheer number encountered in this case has raised many eyebrows and concern. In addition to the illegal dumping of the bodies into the creek, questions remain as to whether the trapping was done according to guidelines and why there were so many. Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) is continuing to investigate 
this case. 

In a phone call that we made this week to VDGIF, Conservation Officers emphasized that Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy members and friends can play an important part in preventing wildlife crime and solving cases, by contacting our local VDGIF office (540) 899-4169 whenever we see any suspicious activity or evidence.  

More information:


We need your support for all that we do!

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And share your love of nature with friends and family by giving gift memberships. [Simply add the gift name and address in the text box for special instructions to seller on the paypal page]

$20 Individual Gift Membership

$30 Family Gift Membership


To renew or join: visit or print the included membership form and mail it in today.

For all our members who have already renewed,
and to all of you who join or renew today,
on behalf of wildlife in Loudoun County, we thank you!

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is a 501(c)3 and your contributions are tax deductible as allowed by the law.