Loudoun County Atlasers,
It’s hard to believe this is the final set of atlas tips. We’ve come such a long way from those first few weeks in 2009 when the majority of us didn’t even know what a bird atlas was! Over the past 5 years, over 85 atlasers have documented over 62,500 sightings, including rarities such as Scissor-tailed Flycatcher and Yellow-headed Blackbird. We confirmed breeding for 103 species, including Hooded Merganser, a species not previously documented as breeding in Loudoun County. We’ve spent over 5,600 hours in the field. And we still have one month to go!
Final Blocks to Blockbust
The following blocks need winter bird coverage, especially the Ashby Gap blocks:
- Ashby Gap 4, 5, and 6 (missing all winter birds)
- Middleburg 4 (missing all winter birds)
- Round Hill 2 (missing White-throated Sparrow, Kinglets, etc)
- Charles Town 6 (missing all winter birds)
- Point of Rocks 3 (missing Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Kinglets, etc)
Please consider conducting one last atlas survey. Maps and current species lists can be found on the atlas website. If you have any questions, please ask!
1. Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, Merlin, Common Merganser, Tundra Swan, Common Loon, Herring Gull, and Purple Finch reported at Snickers Gap Hawkwatch in Bluemont 1.
2. Golden Eagle observed in Harpers Ferry 5.
3. Northern Bobwhite observed at Willowsford Farm in Arcola 2.
4. Wilson’s Snipe and Killdeer observed in Leesburg 6.
Please enter any outstanding data in the next month or two. If you need help entering your data, please let me know. I will send out another friendly reminder after the new year as we shift our focus to analyzing the data and composing the final publications.
Species of the Month – Merlin (Falco columbarius)
- In Europe, Merlins will roost communally in winter, often with Hen Harriers. In North America, this is rare, and it is well know for fiercely attacking any birds of prey that it encounters.
- Merlin pairs have been observed teaming up to hunt large flocks of waxwings: one Merlin flushes the flock by attacking from below; the other comes in moments later to take advantage of the confusion.
- Merlins don’t build their own nests. Instead, they take over the old nests of other raptors or crows. They also use magpie nests, sometimes laying eggs right on top of the nests’ dome rather than inside the cavity.
- Merlins are sometimes called “pigeon hawks” because in flight they look somewhat pigeon-like, though being a falcon it’s not very closely related to true hawks.
Information taken from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology (http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Merlin/lifehistory) and www.whatbird.com.
The atlas will finish strong with data from local Christmas Bird Counts. Please contact Joe Coleman at email@example.com if you are interested in helping with the Central Loudoun CBC on Sunday Dec 29. A map of the count circle overlaid on the atlas grid is available upon request.
Best wishes for a holiday season filled with peace and joy!
Loudoun County Bird Atlas Coordinator