Entries tagged with “eagles”.


Our Bald Eagles at the Dulles Greenway Wetland Mitigation are tending the nest and sitting on eggs!

We stopped by a few times over the past week and put a scope on the nest to see what was happening.

Each time, one of the adults has been in the nest, not moving much.

Today, the adult got up for a minute to stretch the ‘ole legs and reposition things a bit. Then it was back at it: into the nest….sitting, keeping the eggs warm and developing. 

The mate was in the Sycamore tree next door, keeping watch and perhaps awaiting its shift on the nest.

In addition to the eagles, Spring Peepers were calling loudly and the snore of a Pickerel Frog could be heard off and on.

Photos of the eagles are on our facebook page.

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Yesterday, January 22, was our annual Birds of Prey field trip, and it did not disappoint! Laura McGranaghan wrote up a great account of our day to share with you here:

What a great day to Search for Birds of Prey. Despite the 100% cloud cover, temps in the low 30’s, snow and drizzle, we all had a great afternoon as we drove the back roads of Loudoun county in search of raptors.

Liam McGranaghan led the drive assisted by Laura McGranaghan, Joe Coleman, and Liz Dennison. The 12 participants were treated to a wonderful diversity of wintering Birds of Prey that Loudoun County offers during the winter months.

Our drive began at 1pm with light snow falling. As we headed south from Leesburg on Rt. 15, we couldn’t believe the number of Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks we were seeing. Within the first 6 miles, we had already counted over 8 different hawks!

One of the first of many highlights we had was a pair of Barred Owls tucked into a cedar. They sat quietly until one of them decided we should be offered a better look. He flew to a nearby snag and posed for some photos, then flew off.

Next, we were able to view a pair of adult Bald Eagles working on their nest as they rearranged sticks for some “home renovations.” What a joy!

From there, we turned around and drove to an area north of Leesburg. We stopped at a field being hunted by a few Red-tailed hawks searching for their lunch.

At this point, Liam snuck off to do some “hunting” of his own. He returned shortly thereafter to show us just what the hawks are eating this time of year.

In hand, he had a live and healthy Meadow Vole, Microtus pennsylvanicus. He explained how many of these rodents are in the fields which surrounded us and how they are such a critical food source this time of year for raptors as well as other animals like foxes. He then returned the Meadow Vole (unharmed) to the location he found it.

Next, with hopes of finding a field of Northern Harriers and dare we hope…… Short-eared owls, we headed on! With only a few reports of Northern Harriers this year, and no reports of Short-eared Owls, we weren’t sure what the late afternoon would have in store for us.

Then, there it was…a “Gray Ghost”, the adult male Northern Harrier flying HIGH above us! With excitement building, we continued to travel north to an area rich with tall grasses. Then another Northern Harrier….. then another, wait, another! How exciting and what a way to end the day!

It couldn’t get better than this ~ so we thought. As we were getting ready to leave, that’s when it happened.

Up flew a Short-eared Owl! (You’ve heard this before), then another, wait, another!

All told we had at least 5 Short-eared Owls!

We had great views of them through our spotting scopes as they sat on fence posts in the field in front of us. (Our photos are no comparison to what we saw through the scopes)

Now, that’s the way to end the day.

Here’s the list of raptors seen over the course of our afternoon:

Bald Eagle (adults)  2
Red-tailed Hawk   15
Red-shouldered Hawk  19
Coopers Hawk  2
Northern Harrier  6
Barred Owls  2
Short eared Owls  5
Kestrels 6

More photos can be seen on our facebook page. Thanks to all of you who came out and we look forward to seeing you soon!

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Casey and Candi Crichton were enjoying a stroll along the trails of Elizabeth Mills Riverfront Park a week or so ago and as they birded their way along they came across these beautiful Bald Eagles hunting and feeding along the Potomac.

This was right near the Lansdowne golf course so when I asked about the location, they said, “it’s a great spot to look for an eagle or a birdie or two!” (I know, I just had to share though - it’s still making me chuckle) And indeed, it’s true!

With a couple of successful Bald Eagle nesting sites here in Loudoun now, we’re seeing more of these impressive birds. Whenever I see one, I wonder if it came from the nest at the Dulles Greenway Wetlands where we’ve often spied through our spotting scopes at the nesting activity and watched babies grow and fledge.

For those interested in raptors, be sure to sign up early for our Birds of Prey driving trip in January. Space is limited but it is a free event. It’s a wonderful chance to not only learn about different raptor species (hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures) and their habitats (and habits) but also see them living right in our community.

See our calendar for January here: http://www.loudounwildlife.org/Calendar_January.htm

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Eagles, ducks, and other birds are all active at the Dulles Wetlands right now so was decided yesterday to plan a walk for tomorrow. Join us if you can – sign up details and additional info is below.  This is also a great chance to take a look at the Bald Eagle nest!

Bird Walk, Dulles Greenway Wetlands Feb 20
Join the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy at 8:30 am for a bird walk this Sun., Feb 20, at the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project.  The Dulles Greenway Wetlands is off of Rte 15 about six miles south of Leesburg and located between the Oatlands Plantation Historic District and the Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve.  Waterproof boots and appropriate clothing are advised as there are no formal trails at the wetlands.  To register and get directions to our meeting location for this free walk sponsored by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy contact Joe Coleman at joecoleman@rstarmail.com or 540-554-2542.

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Joe just sent over the field trip report for last Sunday’s Birds of Prey trip – what a great adventure! Here’s his write-up:

From 2 pm to a little past 6 pm 13 people searched for birds of prey on a Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy field trip in central Loudoun County this past Sunday.  Not including the many vultures, both Black & Turkey, kettling on a beautiful winter afternoon, we found 29 birds of prey, many of whom were close enough and perched long enough for us to get great views of them.  In all we saw two Bald Eagles at & near their nest on the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project, two Northern Harriers, one a subadult male and the other an adult male, one subadult Cooper’s Hawks, four Red-shouldered Hawks, 13 Red-tailed Hawks, 7 American Kestrels, the most any of us have seen in such a short time period in a long time, and an unidentified buteo.   It is int’g to note that Phil Daley and Joe Coleman who did some scouting for the trip earlier in the week had a lot more Red-shouldered Hawks, mostly in pairs.  Phil also watched one of the eagles adding a stick to its nest on Friday.

The first stop on Sunday was at the intersection of Tailrace Rd & Rte 15 where we hoped to re-locate the shrikes who have nested in that area for the past few years but haven’t been seen for several months.  While we didn’t find the shrikes the first harrier, a subadult male, was sitting in a field a couple hundred yards down Tailrace, and the second harrier, the adult male crossed the road just a little further down Tailrace. 

Our next stop was the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project where we immed. found a Bald Eagle sitting in the nest.  Whenever it stuck its head up to look around we were able to see it but it was invisible the rest of the time.  When its mate flew across the wetlands towards the nest a few minutes later all the waterfowl, mostly mallards but also a fair number of American Black Ducks and a few Green-winged Teal, rose in to the sky.  The ducks settled down when the eagle perched in a dead tree in the middle of the wetlands providing all of us with great views.  When the eagle in the nest flew across the wetlands the ducks rose up again.  A few minutes later one of the eagles returned to the nest with a fairly good size fish in its talons.  Both eagles ignored the two Red-tailed Hawks flying around in the immediate area.  As we were leaving we found a perched Red-shouldered Hawk at the other end of the wetlands about 40 feet off the road that we were able to closely observe until we were ready to leave. 

After turning on Evergreen Mill Rd, a heavily-traveled road that runs from the Dulles Airport to Leesburg, we found a male and a female American Kestrel in front of the Loudoun Country Day school campus.  As a result we were able to get great views of them hunting, kiting, and perching on the utility lines. 

Our next stop was a small wetlands along Evergreen about a 1/2 mile down the road.  Here we saw two Red-shouldered Hawks, one with something in its talons fly in front of us and also a subadult Copper’s Hawk that obligingly perched for us so we could spend some time watching it and check off all the diagnostics for that species.

We next visited the Lucketts area where we found more Red-tail & Red-shouldered Hawks and Kestrels.  We also found a Horned Lark at the same location, the alpaca farm across from the intersection of Culps Hill Ln & Rte 661, Limestone School Rd, where a flock of Horned Larks was found on the January Birds of Prey field trip led by Laura & Liam McGranaghan. 

From there we headed to a spot where we thought we might find the Short-eared Owls who use to frequent the fields before the many large houses with expansive and finely manicured lawns were built. While we didn’t have any luck finding owls we did watch two more Red-tails head to their evening roost as well as a beautiful sunset over the Catoctin Ridge to our west.

On & off during the afternoon we also heard and saw several small flocks of Fish Crows, the most any of us have observed for a few months.

Our only disappointment, after having great looks at all the above species, was the lack of owl sightings.

Joe Coleman & Phil Daley

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Nest repairs and fluff-ups are underway at the Bald Eagle nest at the Dulles Wetlands!

I went over there earlier today just to see if there had been any activity and when I arrived the nest looked empty. 

But then, as I looked for a good place between tree branches to get a view of the nest, an adult flew in and made my day!

Quickly getting my scope out of the car and getting it set up, this diligent parent carefully positioned sticks and then rested for awhile. 

It then flew off and came back a few times, each time with a new branch or twig.  The heavy snows may have taken a toll on this nest (which gets reused each year), or perhaps it was just time to add some new material.

I never did see it’s mate, but I am hopeful that it was just off hunting (or maybe find “the right” stick to add to the nest!

I’ll apologize in advance for the quality of the photos - I took them by holding a little point and shoot camera at the viewfinder of my spotting scope. 

The nest is actually about half a mile away from where I was — we definitely keep our distance from all nests, as the welfare of the birds takes priority over pictures :)

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Here’s quite an experience that happened to one of our fellow Loudouners in the Sterling area.  This time of year, Bald Eagles are starting to pair up. Part of the courtship ritual is an inflight locking of talons in which the pair spins in a whirling dervish and hopefully unlocks before hitting the ground.

This pair must not have realized how fast the ground was approaching.  Hopefully the two have recovered well.  Love isn’t always easy :)

This happened on December 20th. Here’s the story and photos (above) from the Hobbs family. You can click on the photos to see them larger:

I had the most amazing experience this afternoon.  I had just arrived home from holiday shopping around 2:30 p.m..  Was gathering all the goodies and just opening the car door when I heard an awful racket and a big thud.  I looked in the direction of the noise and there in my front yard were 2 BALD EAGLES!!!!!!!! 

I was stunned and after I gathered my thoughts I got out of the car and went into the house to get my camera.  They tried to move, but could not move independently of each other.  Somehow they got caught up together. 

At one point I was probably only 10 feet from them and they did not move.  After about 15 minutes and a few more tries at movement on their part they became untangled and stood and flew off. 

I was in the process of calling Animal Control as I thought perhaps they were injured.  Let me tell you, it was quite a sight!!  I am still amazed and excited.  How often does one have two bald eagles  fall into their yard!  Kinda one of those once in a lifetime things.  Enjoy the pictures!!!!!

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This came in through the VA-Bird list serve and is very applicable to Loudoun County — our county is in the area where they need to know about more nests – so far, just 3 have been reported – surely we have more!  If you know of a Bald Eagle nest – let us know (so we can track it) and report it through the website below.

When I was in 3rd grade, I remember our teacher talking about endangered species and that the Bald Eagle had just been listed. It’s exciting times when such a comeback is reported!

Virginia eagle population jumps more than 11% in 2010 

The Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University has compiled 2010 survey results for the Virginia bald eagle population. 

The 2010 survey checked more than 900 nests and monitored 684 occupied territories. This number represents an 11.8% increase over 2009.  The number of breeding attempts increased by 10.2% and 136 new nests were mapped.

Eagle territories were located within 47 counties and 10 independent cities.

A total of 883 chicks were counted during the productivity flight.  This is the highest chick production recorded throughout the long history of the survey.  The Virginia population continues to have tremendous reproductive momentum. 

Of 10,092 chicks documented in the past 34 years, 8.7% were produced in 2010 and 70.7% were produced since 2000.  In general, this momentum is the combined result of an overall increase in the breeding population, the breeding success rate and the average brood size.

For the second year, the locations of known nests from the Virginia Survey are being made available online to the public.  The Center has developed a VAEagles website that hosts a Google application allowing users to locate documented eagle nests and to view their mapped locations on a county by county basis. 

The information is being made available in the hope that the public will become more actively involved in the conservation of this species throughout Virginia.  Despite our best efforts, an unknown number of eagle nests go unrecorded each year.

This is particularly true in the Piedmont and mountains.  We believe that the public knows of many nests that are unknown to us.  We are requesting that the public view nests in their locality and report nests that are currently not included in the annual survey.

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