The Ligi Nestlings 15th annual Birdathon did not disappoint. We documented a record breaking 46 species and officially added Steve (a.k.a. Dad) to our existing team of Spring, McKenzie, Addison and Catherine. We knew it was going to be a great day when Catherine spotted our first species from the car: a flock of turkeys in northern Loudoun. We were delighted to hear a Belted Kingfisher on the move at Olde Izaak Walton Pond and observed a pair of Orchard Orioles scoping out the perfect nesting spot.
We popped over to Meadowbrook Farms Pond where Addison and Spring tore through the field guides to identify three mystery ducks that turned out to be a Ruddy Duck and two Blue-winged Teal. Both were life birds for Addison. She also located a Spotted Sandpiper and Greater Yellowlegs. We were pleasantly surprised to bump into another Birdathon team, Birds Aren’t Real. The timing was perfect because Michael and Scarlett helped us confirm the more challenging waterfowl IDs.
Next up was the Broadlands Wetlands Nature Preserve where the snapping turtles stole the show. Catherine discovered a pile of mealworms on the railing, which she enthusiastically fed to the turtles. She also loved all the tadpoles at Claude Moore Park, where we looked up long enough to add a few more species to our list. On the way to our next stop, we were surprised by a groundhog perched 10 feet above the ground in a tree. Perhaps he wanted to be counted as a bird on this special day.
As our team’s nestlings grow, so does our use of technology. This year Addison recorded several bird songs on her phone and used the Merlin app to identify the species. We had fun cross-checking the recordings with Cornell’s All About Birds website and counting the ones we felt confident about, such as Red-eyed Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.
Our final (and favorite) stop was Piscataway Crossing Regional Park where our target species were Bald Eagle and woodpeckers. As if on cue, a Bald Eagle regally appeared within minutes of our arrival. Unfortunately, the woodpeckers missed the memo that today was Birdathon day. While Catherine, McKenzie and Dad were exploring along the water, Addison and Spring took a short hike through the woods. Spring saw something large fly into the treetops and, thinking it was a hawk, located the bird in her binoculars. She thrilled to discover a pair of Barred Owl eyes staring back at her! Thirty minutes (and a lot of patience) later, everyone on the team found the correct branch on the correct tree on the correct side of the river to view the owl. Spring will never forget the smile that crept across McKenzie’s face as she found him in the binoculars. What a fantastic end to a fantastic day!
A big thanks goes to our sponsors for their generous support and encouragement. So far, our team has raised $675 to support Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and the important work they do.
Read about the adventures of the other teams on the 2023 Birdathon Team Summaries page.
Canada Goose – 20 American Crow – 22
Blue-winged Teal – 2 Tree Swallow – 19
Mallard – 3 Barn Swallow – 5
Ruddy Duck – 1 Tufted Titmouse – 1
Wild Turkey – 9 White-breasted Nuthatch – 1
Mourning Dove – 30 Carolina Wren – 2
Spotted Sandpiper – 2 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 2 (a pair)
Solitary Sandpiper – 1 Eastern Bluebird – 4
Greater Yellowlegs – 1 American Robin – 36
Great Blue Heron – 2 Gray Catbird – 7
Black Vulture – 9 Northern Mockingbird – 6
Turkey Vulture – 6 European Starling – 69
Cooper’s Hawk – 1 House Sparrow – 2
Bald Eagle – 1 American Goldfinch – 3
Red-shouldered Hawk – 2 Eastern Towhee – 1
Red-tailed Hawk – 1 Chipping Sparrow – 1
Barred Owl – 1 Song Sparrow – 2
Belted Kingfisher – 2 White-throated Sparrow – 2
Pileated Woodpecker – 1 Orchard Oriole – 2 (a pair)
Eastern Phoebe – 1 Red-winged Blackbird – 30
Warbling Vireo – 1 Brown-headed Cowbird – 1
Red-eyed Vireo – 1 Common Grackle – 6
Blue Jay – 3 Northern Cardinal –18