Loudoun County Atlasers,
Let’s admit it…we can all be a little bird-brained now and then, which is a beautiful thing when it comes to atlasing! While we know a lot about our feathered friends, they continue to surprise us with the unexpected. This month, remember to survey the “less attractive” habitat in your block and think like a bird. Sometimes a bird’s eye view is best!
1. A Northern Rough-winged Swallow surprised birders on a Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy-sponsored walk at Tarara Winery by picking up nesting material in a parking lot and repeatedly returning to the same location under a parked trailer. An Eastern Phoebe was also observed using a different area under the trailer as a nesting site.
2. International Migratory Bird Day was met with enthusiasm throughout the county with 8 Loudoun Wildlife-sponsored bird walks and 7 bird-a-thon teams. Overall, 102 participants documented 143 species. Some of the walk highlights include: Hooded Merganser, Bald Eagle, Swainson’s Thrush, Tennessee Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, and Northern Waterthrush.
3. Highlights from the bird-a-thons include: Common Merganser, Common Loon, Glossy Ibis, dark-morphed Broadwinged Hawk (a subspecies more commonly reported in western birds), Wilson’s Snipe, Whip-poor-will, Least Flycatcher, Horned Lark, Dickcissel, and 24 species of warbler
4. Common nighthawk heard in the Purcellville 2 block.
1. If you’re atlasing for specific target birds, consider highlighting the species on your field card that you want to focus on. Alternatively, you can highlight species for which there is already confirmed breeding as a reminder to not spend much time on these species. (Thanks go to Susan Brown for this nice tip!)
2. Seemingly odd behavior may be a clue to something interesting. For example, swallows don’t normally land on the ground except to pick up nesting material; grass for nest-lining in the case of Rough-winged Swallows and mud for Cliff Swallows.
3. Adults typically bring nesting material or food to the nest at a rate of 6-20 times per hour. If you find an adult foraging when it could have young, you often have to wait less than 5 minutes before it starts to carry food or nesting material.
4. Watch for repeated flights of a silent bird going to or from a particular spot. Many foraging adults use the same general route to and from the nest for an hour or more at a time. The route will change over time.
5. Spread your effort throughout the day. In the first hour or two after dawn the adults are often too preoccupied with feeding themselves and advertising their territories to engage in much breeding-related behavior. Later in the day may present good opportunities to see behaviors such as nest-building and feeding of young.
Virginia Society of Ornithology (VSO) Foray Looking for Volunteer Birders, June 9 – 17
Every year the Virginia Society of Ornithology conducts a foray (survey) of the birds within a county of Virginia, This year, they’ll conduct the foray right here in Loudoun County to assist with our atlas by surveying blocks that need more coverage. The foray will be held from June 9 to June 17, 2012. Any help is appreciated, whether it’s a half day or the whole foray period (or anything in between). If interested, please contact Elisa Enders at 757-879-1034 or firstname.lastname@example.org or myself at email@example.com. If you participate in the foray and choose to enter your own data, please enter your field cards as incidental data. For the “Type of Incidental” select “R – VSO Foray” and fill in the remainder of the card as usual. This will allow us to separate the foray data for additional analysis.
76 enthusiastic atlasers have spent 3,848 hours in the field documenting 43,144 sightings. You have recorded 240 species, with 102 of these species having a confirmed nesting status. Field cards have been reported for 50 blocks and 12 blocks are considered complete (though sightings can still be reported). Please try to atlas your block at least once every 10-15 days during this peak of breeding. Feel free to pass along any unusual/exciting sightings and I’ll include them with next month’s tips.
Loudoun County Bird Atlas Coordinator