Migratory and breeding season are upon us and you never know what surprises you will find! Remember to use the safe dates listed on the field card as a general guideline to determine whether the bird you are observing/hearing is a migrant or will stay in Loudoun to breed. For information regarding arrival and departure dates for non-breeding birds, refer to the Maryland Ornithological Society’s Yellowbook.
April Highlights – These sightings prove that you don’t need to go far to observe great birds!
1. Yellow-headed Blackbird – observed at a backyard feeder near Banshee Reeks (this sighting was actually in March, but I forgot to mention it.)
2. American Bittern – observed from a kitchen window overlooking the Dulles Wetlands
3. Mississippi Kite and Sandhill Crane – one atlaser was lucky enough to add both of these species to his yard list in northern Leesburg
4. Common Loon – observed flying over trees just north of Leesburg in full breeding plumage
5. Purple Finch – several observed during LWC’s monthly walk at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship.
Atlasing Tips (taken from the Maryland Breeding Bird Atlas and Solano County, CA Breeding Bird Atlas)
1. Every time you hear a bird singing go back to the same spot a week later because that is one of the easiest ways to document a probable breeder (the “T” code).
2. While a singing male will usually alert you to the presence of a nesting pair, the female is often the key to confirmation. She is the primary nest builder, incubator, and shares in feeding of the young. When you encounter a female, watch her for as long as possible. The female is usually discreet and can be difficult to follow, but her activities are vastly more revealing than that of the male.
3. Even if a species is abundant in your block, don’t assume it is a confirmed breeder without obtaining proof.
1. We are gearing up for the 2010 Special Surveys. If you are interested in helping with the Owl and Nightjar Survey and/or Abundance Miniroute Survey please let me know. These surveys provide supplemental data for the atlas.
2. While some atlasers choose to cover their entire block in one day, you don’t need to go on an extended foray to record atlas data. We often encounter interesting birds and behaviors as we go about our daily activities. These sightings are also valuable for the atlas so please enter them in the database.
44 enthusiastic atlasers have spent 1,377 hours in the field documenting 14,986 sightings. You have recorded 204 species, with 91 of these species having a confirmed nesting status. Field cards have been reported for 31 blocks.
Upcoming Loudoun Wildlife Events
I don’t usually include upcoming events in my emails, but the following events are closely tied to the atlas so I thought you all may be interested. Please see the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy website for details.
1. Bird-A-Thon 2010 (part of International Migratory Bird Day) – Please consider creating or sponsoring a team for the bird-a-thon, the main source of funding for the atlas. I’m looking forward to participating with my team, “The Ligi Nestlings.” Birding with my 3 year old and 8 month old daughters should make for some interesting stories!
2. Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s 15th Annual Meeting on Sunday, May 16th – I’ll be giving a short program on the atlas (how much we have already learned, what we hope to accomplish, etc.).
Loudoun County Bird Atlas Coordinator