Springtime will soon be upon us, bringing many opportunities to collect data for the Loudoun County Bird Atlas! Several species will enter into safe dates this month, including woodpeckers, Ravens, Carolina Chickadees, Titmice, Carolina Wrens, and Cardinals. Breeding activities usually start well before the earliest safe date for local nesting pairs so don’t wait until the first safe date to look for nesting birds.
1. Hunting Loggerhead Shrike observed in the Leesburg 5 block.
2. 24 wild turkeys observed walking up a driveway in the Waterford 5 block. They wanted to make sure they were counted for the Great Backyard Bird Count!
3. Bald Eagle observed adding sticks to it’s nest at the Dulles Wetlands during an LWC walk. An eagle was later observed returning to the nest with a fish in it’s talons.
4. Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, American Coot, and Herring Gull reported for the Arcola 2 block. A Snow Goose was also observed in this area in late December.
5. Pine Siskin and Purple Finch reported for the Waterford 1 block.
Atlas Tips and Reminders
1. The “Block Results Detail” tab in the atlas database allows you to view which species have already been documented for a block along with their best evidence. Consider printing and taking this list with you when atlasing so you can focus on adding new species to the block or upgrading current breeding codes.
2. Watch for displaying male Woodcocks in March and early April then follow up after the April 15 safe date for continued displays. Displays usually drop off by May 1. Young can often be seen at dawn on paths through woods or old fields.
3. If you observe courtship in a raptor use the RC code, which confirms breeding for the species. Since raptors are prone to abandon their nest if disturbed by humans, courtship is used as a confirmation of breeding for these species to discourage atlasers from attempting a closer look.
Species of the Month – Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
- Scans for food from exposed perches with fantastic eyesight. The shrike can see and attack a bumblebee up to 300 feet away and a mouse 600 feet away.
- Uses its hooked beak to kill prey (insects, lizards, mice, and birds) by biting them in the back of the neck, cutting the spinal cord. The shrike then impales the prey on thorns and rips it apart. May leave impaled prey for later consumption.
- Similar to other birds of prey, shrikes are early nesters. They build a bulky cup nest of twigs lined with grass in a dense tree or shrub.
- Once abundant, but declined drastically throughout the last half of the 20th century and are listed as threatened in Virginia. Though rare, shrikes have been reported in three areas throughout Loudoun County, with confirmation of breeding in the Leesburg 5 block.
Information taken from:
Yosef, R. 1996. Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus). In The Birds of North America, No. 231 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
59 enthusiastic atlasers have spent 2,370 hours in the field documenting 25,740 sightings. You have recorded 228 species, with 97 of these species having a confirmed nesting status. Field cards have been reported for 41 blocks and 3 blocks are considered “complete”.