Calmes Neck Christmas Bird Count – Highlights
On Sunday, January 5, seven of us, in three teams in the morning and two in the afternoon, covered sector 10 of the Calmes Neck CBC. This sector stretches from Bluemont to Bloomfield and southeast to Unison in western Loudoun County.
While the day started out clear, cold, and still, the freezing drizzle and later, freezing rain, made for some tough birding. By mid-morning some of the country roads were covered by a sheet of ice and by lunch all but the major roads were ice-covered and remained that way as the temperature never got out of the low 30’s during the afternoon.
Those of us owling began about 5:30 am and while it was cold, ranging from 15 to 20, the skies were crystal clear with absolutely no wind. Although diversity was low there were four Great Horned Owls and three Barred Owls, most of whom were calling without being prompted by the use of audio lures. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear any Screech Owls in spite of stopping at a number of locations where they have been heard before.
The real highlights of the day’s 49 species were the three Cackling Geese and eight Wilson’s Snipe which were found on the same farm we had gotten special permission to bird on for the count. The Cackling Geese were Loudoun County firsts for most of us, and though Snipe are common in this area, we got dynamite views of them, some even displaying, in a ditch and wetlands within feet of the private driveway we were on.
While there are multiple Red-headed Woodpecker colonies in this sector, we didn’t find a single bird, probably because of the non-existent acorn crop this winter. However, we did find good numbers of all six other woodpeckers that winter in this area.
Other highlights included 15 Red-shouldered Hawks, two American Kestrels, and 8 sparrow species including American Tree.
And while 49 species is somewhat low for this sector we were thrilled to find that many on such a icy & chilly day.
Good birding, Joe Coleman
near Bluemont, Loudoun Co.
– Cackling Goose among the Canada Geese by Mike Friedman
– Close-ups of a Wilson’s Snipe by Mike Friedman
– Icy roads by L. McGranaghan