by Joe Coleman
Compiler, Central Loudoun CBC
Overall, the results from the Central Loudoun CBC on December 28 were on the low average side with 91 species and 28,337 individuals. While it was a great winter day to be outside, almost all of the teams, built from 110 participants, reported that the numbers of species and individuals were somewhat less than normal.
The highlights included finding a Common Yellowthroat (found on only one of our 19 previous counts), two Palm Warblers (found on only 3 previous counts), a Black-capped Chickadee (found on 4 of our previous counts), and a Common Goldeneye (5 previous counts).
Also interesting were the birds which reached their highest numbers in the 20-year history of the Central Loudoun CBC.
- 38 Bald Eagles – a heart-warming increase showing the success of the Endangered Species Act as none were found during the past 4 counts.
- 650 Black Vultures – over the past century this species has steadily increased its range northwards into areas where it was once rare
- 571 Rock Pigeons.
The increase in both Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks over the last few years is also interesting. While both have been abundant in previous years, their combined total this year, 38, was much higher than any previous year.
It was nice to find a Merlin on this count (the 9th time we’ve found one). The 9 American Kestrels, while not as low as the last couple of years, reflect the overall decline of this species in the Mid-Atlantic. Though one year doesn’t make a trend, perhaps the slight increase over the past few years reflects the many reports citizens have begun to preserve this species before it tips over the edge the way Loggerhead Shrikes have, a species whose diet is very similar to that of the American Kestrel. Interestingly enough, while both American Kestrels and Loggerhead Shrikes eat a lot of insects, Merlin diets are almost exclusively limited to small birds – one has to wonder if this might be a factor in the decline of the former two but not Merlins?
Another fascinating trend on this CBC is the increase of Chipping Sparrows, a species that used to migrate out of our area in the winter, and the decline in American Tree Sparrows, a species that used to migrate into our area in winter. While we found a high of 20 Chipping Sparrows this year, this was the second time in three years that we haven’t found any American Tree Sparrows. While it’s too early to tell what the reasons for this are, and though Central Loudoun is only one count, it may be that climate change is allowing species to remain further north than they used to.
While we’ve always found some Common Ravens on this count, the 21 Common Ravens found this year continue to show how extensively this species is now utilizing the Piedmont. And lastly, I’m sure the many bluebird box trails that Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy volunteers maintain are a factor behind the healthy number of Eastern Bluebirds, 593 on this count, which we find every year.
The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy thanks the many volunteers and staff who support and participate in the count and the many people and businesses that give us special access to their properties – without them this count wouldn’t be nearly as successful!