Entries tagged with “christmas bird count”.

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 (www.loudounwildlife.org) 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


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



Birding provides the best and worst of both  time and weather. Having ‘weathered’ the previous Sunday’s wet Central Loudoun Count, the Calmes Neck Count’s Sector 8 team started out at 5:00am, Sunday Jan 5th  near Round Hill.

We were thrilled as the sky was full of stars for the  five early risers trying to listen for owls despite the frigid weather. After stopping at several desolated locations with no results, we sought out the hospitality of Tabby Finch near Edgewood. Tabby’s porch light was a welcome sign as we pulled in and almost immediately were treated with the far off call of a Great Horned; after some warming coffee and snacks, we headed back out to her porch and were once again alerted to an owls call; this time the local resident Barred Owl.  

After saying our goodbyes, the group headed out into the dark once again, traveling south along the back roads towards Round Hill where we met up with the rest of the team for a hearty breakfast at Tammy’s Diner.  Here we planned our strategy for the rest of the morning and chatted with the several local folks who came in for an early morning breakfast. After splitting the group into two teams we all set off once again to search for birds.

Of course, by this time it was just turning light enough to see them and our tabulations began to really grow—while the weather seemed to take a nose dive. Dawn arrived along with a sprinkle of rain-the latter of which continued to increase in intensity as the temperature rapidly dropped. By 11:45, after slipping and sliding on many back roads, ‘Team 2’ had completed their subsector, checked in with ‘Team 1’, and headed towards Anthony’s for lunch where  all were to rendezvous. Nice warm location, good lunch—but alas, no ‘Team 1’.

Thanks to cell phones we learned our colleagues vehicle was stranded, but they walking (and Gatoring )out a mile or so, and asked to be picked up. Yeah for all wheel drive vehicles. Following our reunion at Anthony’s we again attempted to continue the count; slipping and sliding as we drove back towards Round Hill.

Discretion finally took over from foolishness and we decided to terminate our efforts for the day. Despite  count totals of 41 species and 1841 individual birds being well below our average for Sector 8, everyone had an exciting, if not always enjoyable experience.

We vow to do better next year; hopefully be able to stay out longer and cover the entire area. Consider joining us next year; we always have a fun time, learn a little and enjoy both the company of friends and the scenery or western Loudoun.. Pictures of team one provided by Constance Chatfield-Taylor.


On Sunday, January 5, seven of us, in three teams in the morning and two in the afternoon, covered sector 10 of the Calmes Neck CBC. This sector stretches from Bluemont to Bloomfield and southeast to Unison in western Loudoun County.

While the day started out clear, cold, and still, the freezing drizzle and later, freezing rain, made for some tough birding. By mid-morning some of the country roads were covered by a sheet of ice and by lunch all but the major roads were ice-covered and remained that way as the temperature never got out of the low 30′s during the afternoon.

Those of us owling began about 5:30 am and while it was cold, ranging from 15 to 20, the skies were crystal clear with absolutely no wind. Although diversity was low there were four Great Horned Owls and three Barred Owls, most of whom were calling without being prompted by the use of audio lures. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear any Screech Owls in spite of stopping at a number of locations where they have been heard before.  

The real highlights of the day’s 49 species were the three Cackling Geese and eight Wilson’s Snipe which were found on the same farm we had gotten special permission to bird on for the count. The Cackling Geese were Loudoun County firsts for most of us, and though Snipe are common in this area, we got dynamite views of them, some even displaying, in a ditch and wetlands within feet of the private driveway we were on.

While there are multiple Red-headed Woodpecker colonies in this sector, we didn’t find a single bird, probably because of the non-existent acorn crop this winter. However, we did find good numbers of all six other woodpeckers that winter in this area.

Other highlights included 15 Red-shouldered Hawks, two American Kestrels, and 8 sparrow species including American Tree. 

And while 49 species is somewhat low for this sector we were thrilled to find that many on such a icy & chilly day.

Good birding, Joe Coleman
near Bluemont, Loudoun Co.

Photo credits:
- Cackling Goose among the Canada Geese by Mike Friedman
- Close-ups of a Wilson’s Snipe by Mike Friedman
- Icy roads by L. McGranaghan


The ten of us covering Sector 10 of the Calmes Neck CBC on Sat., Dec 28 found 65 species including all four of our local owls, an amazing 26 Red-headed Woodpeckers, a Rusty Blackbird, several Red-breasted Nuthatches, a flock of American Pipits, American Tree Sparrows, and watched a dozen Common Mergansers fly overhead.

In addition to two teams owling in the predawn hours, we split into three teams both in the morning and afternoon and as a result of receiving permission from several land owners did a pretty thorough job of covering the entire sector while doing a lot of walking.

The highlights of the count were:
- a flock of Common Mergansers flying overhead
- a male Northern Harrier (Gray Ghost)
- 4 Bald eagles
- 5 Cooper’s Hawks
- 22 Red-shouldered Hawks
- 16 Red-tailed Hawks
- 4 Am Kestrels
- 1 Wilson’s Snipe
- 1 Barn Owl (well-seen by one of the teams)
- 2 Eastern Screech Owls
- 2 Great Horned Owls
- 4 Barred Owls
- all three teams saw all seven of the woodpecker species including 26 Red-headed WPs, 20 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, 10 Hairy WPs, & 9 Pileated WPs
- 4 Ravens including one chasing a crow all the way across a meadow until the crow finally eluded the raven in a woodlot
- one of the teams found 6 Red-breasted Nuthatches (the other two found none)
- 16 American Pipits
- 4 Am Tree Sparrows
- 4 White-crowned Sparrows
- 1 Rusty Blackbird
- 2 Eastern Meadowlarks

Sector 10 of the Calmes Neck CBC is in western Loudoun County at the foot of the Blue Ridge and stretches from Bluemont in its northwestern corner to Unison & Bloomfield on the south.

Joe Coleman, near Bluemont, Lo Co

Many thanks to Gerco Hoogeweg for th photos of the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Rusty Blackbird shown here.



lesser_black-backed_gullHere’s a shot of one of the rare birds found on our Christmas Bird Count this year. Thank goodness it stands out in the crowd!

This is only the second time that this bird species has been found on our count.

While Lesser Black-backed Gull numbers are increasing along the east coast they are still considered unusual enough to normally get listed on rare bird alerts.

 Many thanks to Bob Abrams for this great sighting and photo!


Over 110 birders participated in the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s Central Loudoun CBC on Friday, Dec. 28.

While a couple of reports are not in yet, species-wise this will the count’s best year (out of 16) with approx. 105 species observed, the first time this count has gone over a 100 species! And at end of the day about 50 birders met at Morven Park for a Tally Rally to celebrate a great day of birding and tell tales of what they’d seen.

Our thanks go to all the birders that made this great day possible, the five people who organized and ran the Tally Rally, and the many landowners who gave us permission to visit their properties.

The preliminary highlights of the birds seen, including a small section in MD at White’s Ford, were:
Cackling Goose – the first for the count
Snow Goose – found on only about half of the counts
Tundra Swans – several of the teams reported flocks flying over; found on less than 1/2 of the counts
Blue-winged Teal – found on only one other count
Red-breasted Merganser – found on only one other count
Merlin – found on only about half of the counts
Virginia Rails – three were found, only found on three previous counts
American Woodcock – found on less than half the counts
Lesser Black-backed Gull – found on only one previous count
Long-eared Owl – 7th time found on this count owls
found all the local owls including one Barn Owl
Seven-woodpecker days – at least five teams had a seven woodpecker day
Red-headed Woodpecker – 29, a new high (most was 20 in 2009), sighted with three teams still to report
Loggerhead Shrike – two, while found on about 1/2 of our counts this is only the 2nd time two have been seen
Horned Lark – found in large numbers, not found on every count
Red-breasted Nuthatches – not surprisingly seen in large than normal numbers
American Pipit – not found on every count & in larger numbers than average this year
Snow Bunting – found on Patton Turf Farm in Md – only 2nd yr found & last year’s was at the County Landfill
Lapland Longspur – found on Patton Turf Farm in Md – found 3 times before but not since 2002
Am Tree Sparrows – seen in small numbers except by the team covering the Rte 15 corridor south which found 23
Chipping sparrows – at least two
Rusty Blackbird – one
Common Redpoll – last found in 1999
Pine Siskin – not found every year and found in larger than average numbers this year

A complete report will be posted to the Loudoun Wildlife website once all the reports are in.

Joe Coleman, Compiler, Central Loudoun CBC


2012 Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count

Have fun and make a difference at the same time – for over a century thousands of people have participated in the longest citizen science project in the world and counted every wild bird they can find on Christmas Bird Counts. 

The information from the more than 2,000 bird counts is sent to the National Audubon Society (NAS), which works with the Cornell University School of Ornithology to create a database of the sightings from which bird populations can be studied. 

People explore the country’s natural and not-so-natural areas.  Counters share their wonder of the wild beauty of feathered creatures with like-minded people, and sometimes they find truly rare birds. 

Join us for the Sixteenth Annual Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count on Friday, December 28 as we participate in this annual event.  Our count-circle has a 15-mile diameter and covers 177 square miles of Loudoun’s countryside: north to Waterford, south to Aldie, east to Ashburn, and west to Purcellville.  

The circle includes a number of very special natural areas such as the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve, the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project, Beaverdam Reservoir, Morven Park, Ball’s Bluff, several private large estates, about five miles of the C&O Canal and Potomac River in the vicinity of White’s Ferry, and much of still-rural western Loudoun County.  Everyone is welcome — beginners are teamed up with experienced birders, and every eye helps!  If you are interested in participating for the whole day or just a portion, Sign Up Online or contact Joe Coleman at 540-554-2542 or jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org.

Calmes Neck Christmas Bird Count ― Saturday, January 5, 2013.  There are other Christmas Bird Counts in Loudoun County besides the Central Loudoun CBC which you can find out about by visiting www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/.  The Calmes Neck CBC includes much of far-western Loudoun County as well as Clarke County.  Its count area includes a wide variety of habitats ranging from mountain forests to rural subdivisions to old farm fields and meadows, with the Shenandoah River running through it.  If you want to help with the Calmes Neck CBC, contact Margaret Wester at 540-837-2799 or margaretwester@hotmail.com.   Also, Joe Coleman (540-554-2542 or jcoleman@loudounwildlife.org) and Phil Daley (540-338-6528 or pedaley@verizon.net) are sector leaders for the Calmes Neck CBC.   Phil’s area includes Round Hill and north, and Joe’s area includes Bluemont south to Bloomfield.  If you are interested in joining either of them, please contact them directly.

To see what has been found on previous Central Loudoun counts visit www.loudounwildlife.org/PDF_Files/CBC_Summary_Years.pdf  ; to find out what has been found on other counts or compare the Central Loudoun to other counts, visit www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/.