Bird Atlas Tips March 2013
Loudoun County Atlasers,
Ahhhh….springtime is coming! My girls and I have been enjoying delightful bird songs and emerging spring flowers. The wonders of spring bring many opportunities to collect data for the atlas. This is our last spring migration and breeding season, so let’s make it count!
1. Pair of Common Ravens photographed building a nest in Purcellville 5. This is the 5th confirmation of breeding for this species in Loudoun.
2. Bald Eagle observed sitting on a newly discovered nest in Middleburg 4.
3. Hundreds of Snow Geese observed flying through Arcola 4.
4. Woodcocks peenting and displaying in the Aldie area.
The following blocks have very few, if any, reports of winter birds (ducks, sparrows, sapsuckers, creepers, etc.). Also be on the lookout for early migrants and breeders!
- Region 1 – Round Hill 2, Charles Town 6
- Region 5 – Middleburg 4, Ashby Gap 4 and 5 Region 7 – Gainesville 2
Please consider conducting a survey in a block listed above (or any block with little coverage). Maps and current species lists for each block, along with a spreadsheet of Atlas Progress, can be found on the atlas website. Please ask if you have any questions.
1. All paper field cards and Special Survey forms from the previous year should be mailed to me by April 30.
2. Several species (some owls and woodpeckers, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Cardinal, etc) will enter into safe dates this month. Remember, breeding activities usually start well before the earliest safe date for local nesting pairs.
3. If you observe courting raptors use the RC code, which confirms breeding for the species (not the C code). 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.
4. 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.
Species of the Month – Virginia Rail (Rallus limicola)
- Can swim under water, propelling itself with its wings. It swims in this way probably only to flee predators.
- Prefers to escape danger by running through marsh vegetation. If forced to fly in order to escape it will only fly a short distance. Regardless of its apparent weak flight, it migrates long distances each year.
- The forehead feathers of this reclusive bird are adapted to withstand wear from pushing through dense marsh vegetation. • Builds numerous “dummy nests” in addition to the one where eggs are actually laid.
- Rail species have the highest ratio of leg muscles to flight muscles of any birds.
81 enthusiastic atlasers have spent 4,820 hours in the field documenting 54,400 sightings. You have recorded 250 species, with 103 of these species having a confirmed nesting status. Field cards have been reported for 53 blocks and 26 blocks are considered complete (though sightings can still be reported).
Loudoun County Bird Atlas Coordinator