Surveys and Counts

Thank you for helping make the 2016 Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count a great success! Without your help we wouldn’t have all this great data showing what is happening with birds in Loudoun in early winter.

The following is a brief report on the overall count and what we found (if it doesn’t format correctly in this email, let me know and I’ll send it to you as a Word document). If you’d like to see the results of all of our CBCs go to our website ( and drill into the CBC section to see what we’ve found beginning in 1997, our very first year. If you’d like to see a comparison of this year’s 12 sectors let me know and I’ll share my working spreadsheet with you.

Hope to see you next year – it’s not too early to pencil December 28, 2017 in your calendar!

The Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count, December 28, 2016

Overall, the results from the Central Loudoun CBC on Dec. 28 were on the low average side with 91 species and 28,337 individuals. While it was a great winter day to be outside, almost all of the teams, built from 110 participants, reported that the numbers of species and individuals were somewhat less than normal.

The highlights included finding

  • a Common Yellowthroat (found on only one of our 19 previous counts),
  • two Palm Warblers (found on only three previous counts),
  • a Black-capped Chickadee (found on four of our previous counts), and
  • a Common Goldeneye (five previous counts).

    Common Yellowthroat. Photo by Nicole Hamilton

    Common Yellowthroat.
    Photo by Nicole Hamilton

Also interesting were the birds which reached their highest numbers in the 20-year history of the Central Loudoun CBC

  • 38 Bald Eagles – a heart-warming increase showing the success of the Endangered Species Act as none were found during the first four counts
  • 650 Black Vultures – over the past century this species has steadily increased its range northwards into areas where it was once rare
  • 571 Rock Pigeons.

The increase in both Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks over the last few years is also interesting. While both have been abundant in previous years, their combined total this year, 38, was much higher than any previous year.

It was nice to find a Merlin on this count (the 9th time we’ve found one). The nine American Kestrels, while not as low as the last couple of years, reflects the overall decline of this species in the Mid-Atlantic. Though one year doesn’t make a trend, perhaps the slight increase over the past few years reflects the many efforts citizens have begun to preserve this species before it tips over the edge the way Loggerhead Shrikes have, a species whose diet is very similar to that of the American Kestrel. Interestingly enough, while both American Kestrels and Loggerhead Shrikes eat a lot of insects, Merlin diets are almost exclusively limited to small birds – one has to wonder if this might be a factor in the decline of the former two but not Merlins?

Another fascinating trend on this CBC is the increase of Chipping Sparrows, a species that used to migrate out of our area in the winter, and the decline in American Tree Sparrows, a species that used to migrate into our area in winter. While we found a high of 20 Chipping Sparrows this year, this was the second time in three years that we haven’t found any American Tree Sparrows. While it’s too early to tell what the reasons for this are and though Central Loudoun is only one count, it may be that climate change is allowing species to remain further north than they used to.

While we’ve always found some Common Ravens on this count, the 21 Common Ravens found this year continue to show how extensively this species is now utilizing the Piedmont. And lastly, I’m sure the many Bluebird box trails that Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers maintain are a factor behind the healthy number of Eastern Bluebirds, 593 on this count, which we find every year.

The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy thanks the many volunteers and staff who support and participate in the count and the many people and businesses that give us special excess to their properties – without them this count wouldn’t be nearly as successful!

Joe Coleman, Compiler, Central Loudoun CBC


By Nicole Hamilton

As we headed into the 20th year of our butterfly count on August 6th, many of us wondered what our tally would be.  Springtime had been out of whack again.  Rains that we should have had in March and April came in May. It was warm then cool; the plants seem to be a little behind the clock too.  We wondered about those species of butterfly that overwintered as caterpillars or eggs – would they have food in time to develop or would we miss a brood this year?

American Lady butterfly

American Lady butterfly

Well, as we headed out on August 6th, the weather was great for butterflying so if they were there we would have found them.  Seven teams of over 60 people met up in their sectors at 9 a.m. and started spotting, counting and identifying butterflies. Across the teams, however, our team leads reported fairly slow going.

All in all, we recorded just 2,118 individual butterflies but on a day with similar weather conditions we typically would count 3,500-4,500. Our species count was just slightly down. We had encountered 41 species for the day compared an average of about 45. Some species, like the Red Spotted Purple were absent from the count altogether. Just 29 Monarchs were seen, compared to 51 last year. Sulphur numbers were significantly lower. There were other surprise misses too.  We invite you to take a look at our 20 years of butterfly count data here to look more closely and numbers that were on par versus down. It’s quite interesting.

As you look at it, think about the host plants that these different species need to survive. It’s all connected.


This is peak Spring bird migration season and millions of birds are coming to or passing through our area on their way north!

You can help celebrate the season and International Migratory Bird Day, which is May 14, by taking part in Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Birdathon. It’s easy! Form a team with friends and/or family to see how many species you see in a 24-hour period between May 1 and May 15.  Supporters can sponsor you with a set amount or per species and can do that on our website here.  You can read more about the event here. There will be prizes for participants in the Birdathon, which is a major fundraiser for Loudoun Wildlife.

As part of the celebration, Loudoun Wildlife will present a special program May 3 on warblers that breed in or migrate through Maryland and Virginia. There will also be a number of special walksGrasshopper-Sparrow the county. We invite you to join us!

You might even see a Grasshopper Sparrow like the one in the photograph, taken by Diane Nastase.

Morven Park Nature Walk — Sunday, May 1, 8:00 a.m. This walk will be led by Nicole Hamilton & Dori Rhodes.  Not only is Morven Park the place that Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy calls home, its 1,000 acres include the Ridge Loop trail, a lowland trail aptly named the Wood Thrush trail, and lots of fields and meadows. In spring wonderful neo-tropical birds are heard and seen: Scarlet Tanagers, warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, kinglets, woodpeckers, owls, hawks, Wild Turkeys, chickadees, nuthatches and other woodland and grassland species. Meet at the Coach House parking lot. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact

Identifying and Learning About the Warblers of the Mid-Atlantic Region —Tuesday, May 3, 7:00 p.m. Winmill Carriage Museum, Morven Park. Michael Bowen, Linda Friedland, and Jim Nelson, all past presidents of the Montgomery County Chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society, will cover nearly every warbler species that breeds in or migrates through Maryland and Virginia. Identification pointers and songs of birds in spring are emphasized. This Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy presentation uses high-resolution photos taken by some of North America’s finest nature photographers and song tracks from the Stokes Bird Song series. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact

Birding at Bles Park — Friday, May 6, 8:00 a.m. This walk will be led by Bill Brown and Jay Hadlock.  Located in Ashburn along the Potomac River, Bles Park includes 94-acres of passive park land with walking, birding and hiking trails. Trails run along fields, wetlands and a stream, which offer a nice diversity of species. Bles is a great place to see a variety of migratory song birds as well as the summer warblers that nest here. Meet in the parking lot. Directions can be found here. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact

The Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship — Saturday, May 7, 8:00 a.mBlue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES). This walk will be led by Joe Coleman and Gerry Hawkins. The center’s 895 acres has vernal pools, meadows, ponds, streams and a rich oak-hickory forest. Located in northwestern Loudoun County, the center not only borders the Appalachian Trail, it is only a couple of miles from the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and serves as a wonderful sanctuary for Loudoun’s wildlife. The group will meet in the parking lot between Mountain View Farm & the Education Center. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact

Beagle Club/Institute Farm  Wednesday, May 11, 8 a.m. This walk will be led by Emily Southgate and Linda Millington. We have special permission to visit the Institute Farm, the home of the National Beagle Club of North America, and on the National Register of Historic Places.  The farm’s brushy, scrubby intermediate habitat, bordered by mature forests, is home to many thicket-loving bird species. This group will also visit a nearby large farm, which includes a large pond and extensive fields. 22265 Oatlands Road, Aldie, VA. Parking in the field. Maximum: 15 people. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact

Camp Highroad  Friday, May 13, 8:00 a.m.  This walk will be led by Christine Perdue and Linda Millington. Southwestern Loudoun includes many large farms that include both extensive fields and rich woodlands through which Goose Creek and its many tributaries flow. In the spring it is home to a number of nesting birds as well as many migrants. Camp Highroad is located at 1164 Steptoe Hill Rd, Middleburg. Meet at the main office. Space is limited to 15 people. Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact

Birding Banshee — Saturday, May 14, 8:00 a.m. This walk will be led by Jane Yocom and Dori Rhodes. Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve was established as a nature preserve in 1999. Its 725 acres include a variety of nature trails that are great for birding. In addition to a mile of Goose Creek frontage, Banshee has a great diversity of habitats ranging from wetlands and ponds to mixed hardwood forests of oak and hickory to wonderful meadows laden with milkweed, goldenrod and thistle. Questions: Contact

The Birdiest Time of the Year: Meet Your Birds!  Saturday, May 14, 9:00 – 11:00 a.m., Algonkian Regional Park. Join Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and local birders Bill & Della Brown for this special International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) event just for kids and their parents.  We’ll make it easy for you! We’ll point out the birds as you enjoy a morning stroll along the Potomac River. See and hear the birds that travel through our area during this special time of spring migration. Space is limited to 15 children, ages 5+, with accompanying adult(s); please register early. No strollers or pets. Scout groups are welcome. 47000 Fairway Dr, Sterling. Meet at the boat ramp parking lot.  Registration required: Sign Up Online. Questions: Contact


leesburg_Loggerhead_Shrike_2008A five-year statewide effort is under way to document the bird species that breed in Virginia. The project is the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VBBA2), the first such  survey since the first VBBA was completed 25 years ago, and you can help.

The data collected will help document species distribution. This is important so it is known how factors such as climate change and development are affecting bird communities and that in turn will affect natural resource and conservation decisions.

The project involves the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Society of Ornithology, bird clubs, Master Naturalist chapters and, as a citizen science project, will need lots of volunteers to help collect data over the next five years. The project divides the area into 12 regions. Each region is broken into blocks, each of which is surveyed.

If you volunteered to help count for the 2009-2014 Loudoun County Bird Atlas, here’s your chance to get out again as the breeding season gets going. If you did not take part then but enjoy watching birds, here’s a chance to contribute to this very important effort. You can team up with friends to count, including the species that show up at your feeder.

If you’d like to find out what kind of information is gathered, check out the Loudoun County Bird Atlas summary and species lists at

For more information about the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas and how to get involved, visit the website here. You can also follow the progress on Facebook – just search for the  2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas page.



Have you ever wondered which birds use Loudoun’s parks and preserves as migratory stop-overs, wintering sites, or places to breed?

You can find out with the new species lists for 7 special birding areas in Loudoun: Algonkian Park, the Blue Ridge Center, Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, Bles Park, Claude Moore Harrier NFG-3213-2Park, Horsepen Preserve, and the Dulles Wetlands.

These lists were compiled from data collected during the 2009-2014 Loudoun County Bird Atlas project, which includes year-round data for both breeding and non-breeding birds,  and can be downloaded from the Bird Atlas website

The Bird Atlas Project involved 85 volunteers, who spent more than 5,900 hours over the five-year period collecting data. Check out the “Bird Atlas Summary Report” for some fascinating looks at what species are increasing or declining, plus the Top 25 Breeding species were. You can also find and download an updated “Birds of Loudoun County Checklist” from the website.

Contact Atlas Coordinator Spring Ligi,, with questions or comments.

Happy Birding!


To help display of citizen stream monitoring data, David Ward created two “Story Maps” using ArcGIS for Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and Goose Creek Association.

Both groups conduct benthic monitoring and Goose Creek Association also monitors basic chemistry and bacteria.

Click on one of the links above and it will take you to a map where you can see specific stream health data.  Really neat!  Thank you David!



Nine people gathered at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship last Saturday morning for the Loudoun Wildlife’s regular monthly bird walk (every 4th Sat.) there.

It started cold (24, 25 degrees) and windy and stayed that way for the entire walk which was led by Joe Coleman & Joanne Bradbury.

Most birds were quiet and tucked in until about 10 am when we did start finding a few species in sunny places sheltered from the wind. We parked on Arnold Lane, took detours down to Piney Run on both the Old Bridge and Little Turtle Trails and looped back along Sweet Run, Butterfly Alley and the Wood Thrush Trail. The highlight was, for most of the participants, a FOS Eastern Phoebe which we found as we were returning to where we had parked on Arnold Rd.

For a complete list of the birds see the eBird list below.

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


Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01, Loudoun, US-VA Mar 28, 2015 8:00 AM – 10:50 AM

Protocol: Traveling

2.0 mile(s)

30 species

Black Vulture  1, Turkey Vulture  4, Red-shouldered Hawk  1, Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  3, Mourning Dove  1, Red-bellied Woodpecker  5, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  2, Downy Woodpecker  4, Pileated Woodpecker  1, Eastern Phoebe  1, Blue Jay  X, American Crow  X, Fish Crow  X, Carolina Chickadee  8, Tufted Titmouse  8, White-breasted Nuthatch  4, Brown Creeper  2, Carolina Wren  1, Eastern Bluebird  5, American Robin  7, Northern Mockingbird  2, European Starling  2, Song Sparrow  6, Swamp Sparrow  1, White-throated Sparrow  2, Dark-eyed Junco  1, Northern Cardinal  2, Red-winged Blackbird  1, Brown-headed Cowbird  1, House Sparrow  1

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (


An update from our Bird Atlas Coordinator, by Spring Ligi

For the past five years, local citizen scientists have been observing and listening to birds in their backyards and throughout Loudoun County, acquiring a unique and intimate glimpse of our feathered friends. Did that cardinal have nesting material in her mouth? Is that the deep, soft hoots of a dueting pair of Great Horned Owls? These and other behaviors were documented on field cards and entered into an online database hosted by the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The results of this year-round Bird Atlas, lead and funded by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, provide a comprehensive list of breeding and non-breeding birds in Loudoun and information on their distribution. The results will help identify and protect important bird areas and provide insight into population changes over the past 25 years and into the future.

The Bird Atlas was quite an undertaking, with 85 enthusiastic Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy atlasers volunteering almost 6,000 hours in the field and reporting more than 64,500 sightings. 263 species were documented between April 2009 and March 2014, with 104 of these species confirmed as breeding in Loudoun County. Table 1 below provides a snapshot of the overall results, including a breakdown of breeding versus non-breeding birds and comparisons with data from the 1985–1989 Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA).

Where did we find the most species? Surprisingly, the top five blocks with the most species were in eastern Loudoun, which, unlike the somewhat rural western half of the county, is undergoing rapid development. An astounding 190 species were documented in the Brambleton area and also in southern Leesburg (areas in and around Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve). The Sterling area, including Algonkian and Bles Parks, proved to be another rich birding area, hosting over 165 species. One possible explanation for why these more urbanized areas are so productive is that the birds are forced into smaller pockets of suitable habitat, making them easier to observe and document.

One exciting outcome of the Bird Atlas is a new and improved Birds of Loudoun Checklist. Significant updates were made to the original checklist, including the addition of new species and breeding statuses, adjustments in seasonal occurrence and relative abundance, and updates in taxonomic order. The list now includes 305 bird species identified in the county through March 2014, with over 120 reported breeders. To obtain a copy of the checklist, come to one of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s bird walks or download the list from the Loudoun Wildlife website.

Additional products from the Bird Atlas will include a summary article, species accounts, comparisons with the 1985-1989 Virginia BBA, and identification of important bird areas throughout the county. Identifying important bird areas will allow Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and other local conservation groups to design strategies to protect the birds and other wildlife within these areas.

How have the birds changed in Loudoun over the past 25 years? Who are the “winners” and the “losers”? These are some of the intriguing questions we are beginning to answer with the Bird Atlas data. Two species whose stories stand out are the Bald Eagle and Northern Bobwhite. Bald Eagles were confirmed as breeding in seven atlas blocks and observed in 52 of the 73 blocks (Figure 1). These results provide a striking contrast to the 1980s Virginia BBA, which did not report any breeding Bald Eagles in Loudoun County. Their successful comeback can be directly attributed to the banning of DDT and placement of this species on the endangered species list. Conversely, the Northern Bobwhite is a species that has declined severely throughout the county over the past 25 years. Evidence of at least possible breeding was reported in only 19 of the 73 atlas blocks, which is down significantly from 61 blocks in the 1980s Virginia BBA (Figure 2). Their decline can be attributed to habitat loss and degradation resulting from development in our rapidly growing county, as well as changes in agricultural practices throughout their range.

We’ve only just begun analyzing this fascinating Bird Atlas dataset. Check the website ( for more information and stay tuned in the coming months for distribution maps, species accounts, case studies, and additional atlas comparisons!

Table 1.  Overall Bird Atlas Results

Total species 263
Confirmed breeders 104
Confirmed and Probable breeders 117
Confirmed, Probable, and Possible breeders 120
Migrant only species 77
Winter species 66
Year-round species 68
Average species per block 110
Average hours recorded per block 83
Breeding birds documented in Loudoun in Loudoun Co. Bird Atlas but not 1980s Atlas 14
Breeding birds documented in Loudoun in 1980s Atlas but not Loudoun Co. Bird Atlas 7


18th Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count ─ A Great Success!

by Joe Coleman

Allen+RamosGooseCreek Allen+RamosThe 18th Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count, sponsored by the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, was held on December 27, 2014.

One hundred people participating in the count found 96 species and 29,979 individuals, with the most unusual sightings being a first-ever Blue Grosbeak and a count week dark-phase (blue) Snow Goose.

Other highlights included a Common Goldeneye (found on only four previous counts), a Peregrine Falcon (on only one previous), and the following, found on only a third to a half of Central Loudoun’s counts: Mute Swan, Tundra Swan, American Woodcock, Great Black-backed Gull, Gray Catbird, and Brown Thrasher.

Highest counts ever for the Central Loudoun CBC include: 37 Bald Eagles, 18 Cooper’s Hawks (tied), 3,998 Ring-billed and 88 Herring Gulls, 37 Belted Kingfishers, 8 Eastern Phoebes, 1,241 Fish Crows, 59 Brown Creepers, and 24 Winter Wrens.  Five American Kestrels, however, was the historic low count.

The 55 Red-headed Woodpeckers found on the 27th were not only a new high for the count, they were an incredible jump from last year’s 3, when there were virtually no acorns to be found in the area.

But this wasn’t the only woodpecker species found in high numbers this year, as the 97 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and 234 Downy Woodpeckers were both high counts while the 33 Hairy Woodpeckers was the second highest.

In addition, while no unusual owls were found on this count, all four of the common owls, Barn (1), Eastern Screech (4), Great Horned (4), and Barred (16), were found in almost perfect conditions for owling.

One of the most interesting aspects of a Christmas Bird Count is how much it varies from year to year; even more interesting is trying to figure out why the differences occur. While some of the reasons, such as the lack of acorns or a heavy rain keeping both birds and birders hunkered down an entire day are obvious, other changes are harder to determine. What is clear is that the value of CBCs comes from the long-term trends they reveal.

There is little doubt that Bald Eagles and Common Ravens are seen in higher numbers than they were 18 years ago, while Northern Bobwhites have virtually disappeared at this time of year. These trends aren’t confined to Loudoun County.

When one compares the results of all the Christmas Bird Counts in our area, these trends are apparent all over the mid-Atlantic. The more than 2,000 counts and more than 20,000 people participating in them, along with scientists who oversee the counts, make this citizen science at its best.

White-throated and Osage close up (3 of 1)At the end of an almost perfect winter day, 58 of us gathered at the Oatlands Carriage House for a Tally Rally, coordinated by Rhonda Chocha, where we shared a hearty meal and lots of birding tales.

Loudoun Wildlife thanks the many landowners, private and public, who let us visit their properties. Without that access, this count would not be nearly as successful. We also thank the birders, experienced as well as beginner, and especially the 20 or so sector leaders who spent hours in the field and made this a very successful count!

Thank you to all of our counters:

Bob Abrams, Steve Allen, Anna Arguelles, Beth Baker, Ron Baker, Gem Bingol, Susan Blaha, Joan Bodreau, Jan Braumuller, Bill Brown, Bob Butterworth, Dan Carrier, Constance Chatfield-Taylor, Roy Chaudet, Linda Chittum, Rhonda Chocha, Isaac Clizbe, Kent Clizbe, Betsy Coffey-Chaudet, Joe Coleman, Cheri Conca, Jeff Cramer, Jamison Cramer, Candi Crichton, Casey Crichton, Ellie Daley, Phil Daley, Jim Daniels, Katherine Daniels, Matt DeSaix, Suzanne DeSaix, Bethea Dowling, Robert Elder, Susan Elder, Kate Eldridge, Aiden Excell, Jason Excell, Sandy Farkas, Ellie Florance, Mary Ann Good, Kurt Gaskill, Dirck Harris, Olivia Henry, Bruce Hill, Teri Holland, Robin Hoofnagle, Gerco Hoogeweg, Bruce Johnson, Jill Johnson, Lucy Julian, Jodi Kinny, David Ledwith, Spring Ligi, Bob MacDowell, Karin MacDowell, Steve Makranczy, Andy Martin, Tess McAllister, Katie McDole, Laura McGranaghan, Liam McGranaghan, Larry Meade, Carole Miller, Paul Miller, Linda Millington, Sharon Moffett, Rusty Moran, Gary Myers, Jim Nelson, Lynn Nelson, Nick Newberry, Lisa Newcombe, Patrick Newcombe, Bryan Peters, Donna Quinn, Johnnie Ramos, Nancy Reaves, Dori Rhodes, Cheryl Roesel, Aaron Rush, Brian Rush, Del Sargent, Carolyn Smith, Judy Smith, Reets Smith, Emily Southgate, Chris Straub, Jean Tatalias, Pidge Troha Anna Urciolo Helen VanRyzin David VanTassel Jenny Vick, Anthony Wagner, Warren Wagner, Marcia Weidner, Mimi Westervelt, Carol White, Chris White, Jeff Wneck, Holly Wolcott, Jane Yocom


Show Birds Some Love on Valentine’s Weekend:

Join the Great Backyard Bird Count!

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology which organizes this great day of citizen science:

“Give Mother Nature a valentine this year and show how much you care about birds by counting them for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The 18th annual count is taking place February 13 through 16.

Anyone in the world can count birds at any location for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track changes in bird populations on a massive scale. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.”


Next Page »