Bird Atlas Tips December 2009
Hi Loudoun County Atlasers!
December’s barren woods and fields provide a wonderful opportunity to add interesting sightings to your atlas block. The solitude and silence of mother nature is welcome more than ever during this busy holiday season. The atlas highlights for November include a Northern Harrier in the Purcellville 4 block as well as Rusty Blackbirds in the Bluemont 6 block and the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship (BRCES).
Species of the Month
As a way to motivate you to continue atlasing during the non-breeding season, I will challenge you each month (most birders love a challenge, right?) to find a particular rare or uncommon species previously documented in Loudoun County. Even if you don’t find the featured species, you may encounter another great species along the way or at the very least have fun trying!
Here are a few facts about this month’s species – the Northern Saw-whet Owl:
• The Northern Saw-whet Owl is also called Acadian Owl, Blind Owl, Kirkland’s Owl, the Saw-filer, Sparrow Owl, White-fronted Owl, Farmland Owl, Little Nightbird, Queen Charlotte Owl, and the Whet-saw Owl.
• When threatened, they elongate their body in order to appear like a tree branch, often bringing one wing around to the front of their body.
• When prey is plentiful, they will kill up to 6 mice in rapid succession, without consuming any of them. The excess food is cached in a safe place and, in winter, is thawed out later by “brooding” the frozen carcass. When food is plentiful, it is common for only the head of each prey to be eaten.
• A group of owls has many collective nouns, including a “bazaar”, “glaring”, “parliament”, “stooping”, and “wisdom” of owls.
Information taken from: Cannings, R. J. 1993. Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus). In The Birds of North America, No. 42 (A. Poole, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C.
34 enthusiastic atlasers have spent 1,031 hours in the field documenting 11,600 sightings. You have recorded 182 species, with 91 of these species having a confirmed nesting status. Field cards have been reported for 28 blocks.
Upcoming Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Events
Tis’ the season for Christmas Bird Counts! The 13th Annual Central Loudoun Christmas Bird Count will be held Sunday, December 27th and the Calmes Neck Christmas Bird Count (covering far western Loudoun) will be held Sunday, January 3rd. If you plan on participating in a count, please bring a few field cards with you and consult with your group to ensure the sightings are reported for the appropriate atlas blocks.
Happy Holidays and Happy Atlasing,
Loudoun County Bird Atlas Coordinator