Gerco, one of the Raven Loonatics, sent over this great report from their big Birdathon day on Saturday – exciting times and 118 species! Many thanks to everyone who sponsored the team and cheered them on! Here’s Gerco’s report (below) and you can see photos from the day here: http://www.pbase.com/sheger/bat2012
This week the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is hosting its annual Birdathon. In this annual fundraiser a bunch a crazy, obsessed, fanatical or maniacal birders (depending ones point of view) are trying to find as many bird species as possible during a 24 hour period within Loudoun County. Proceeds of the event support the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.
Last Saturday was the kickoff of this event. The Raven Loonatics (Bruce, Larry, Donna and Gerco) started at a leisurely time of 5 am on our quest of at least 110 species. That is one more compared to our total from last year.
Migration was in full swing and we were not disappointed. We started out in Algonkian regional park along the Potomac river. A funny looking post turned out to be a Barred Owl. We observed the bird for several minutes while the owl was staring back at us.
Along the river we found several Great Egrets (a species that eluded us in the past 2 years), a few Hooded Mergansers and a Mute Swan. Across the river an American Bittern was calling but this bird was not heard by all. Warblers were out in force. We quickly located Blackpoll, Redstart, Magnolia, Chestnut-sided and the various black-throated something Warbler.
Next up was Horsepen Park. A Green Heron was our best bird there. After birding the first few hours in nature, it was time to explore the suburbs. The various lakes in Sterling and Ashburn were productive. We picked up Common Loon, American Coot, Ruddy Duck, and flyovers of Broad-winged Hawks. One of the birds was a very dark morph. Way cool.
Quickly leaving the suburbs behind, we visited Ball Bluff and were greeted by a Ovenbird. We had a hard time finding an Acadian Flycatcher, but we did manage. Naturally after that we tripped over the bird at nearly all other stops. Funny how that works. The far northern part of Loudoun County is fortunately not too built up and various grassland birds were found in these rural areas. Our best birds were Horned Lark, Worm-eating Warbler, Bobolinks, Dickcissel, Bald Eagle and Osprey.
Following a mad dash across the county to Blue Ridge Center we managed to find Yellow-breasted Chat, Blue-winged Warbler, a turkey we couldn’t count, more Grasshopper Sparrows (those birds were everywhere) and Indigo Buntings. Along one of the creeks were got stellar nearly eye-level looks of Cerulean and Kentucky warblers. Both birds were curious and showing of. That was awesome.
Another mad dash back to the east side of Loudoun brought us to the Broadlands Wetlands (the van metre preserve or something like that is its official name). This small park with a fantastic boardwalk is a great location for migrating shorebirds. We found Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, but the best of all was a Pectoral Sandpiper. Not too impressed by all the sandpipers ruling the wetlands, a pair of Blue-winged Teal were resting under a few brushes. Cha Ching!
It being close to 730pm it was time for our last stop-the Dulles Wetlands. This area is not publicly accessible, but you can visit it during a LWC hosted walk. At the wetlands we scored Lesser Yellowlegs, a few more Blue-winged Teal, and eventually a Virginia Rail. By 8:30pm we were done and hungry as a bunch of wolves. Must remember to bring more food next year.
We recorded an amazing number of 122 species in Loudoun County. Our team total, following the Birdathon rules, was 118! That was for most of us, our biggest US birding day ever. Pretty amazing that we found that many species. Misses we had too. Most notably were Hairy Woodpecker, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawk, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Tough birds were Ruby-throated Hummingbird (only seen by two team members), Blue Grosbeak and American Kestrel. Funny how this works, some days you trip over them but other days they must be hiding behind the bushes.
As always we had a blast doing this. We shall do this again next year.