The 2023 edition of the Raven Loonatics Birdathon was a relaxed affair focusing on getting together with friends and enjoying some bird watching at limited locations. There was no racing around, no waking up early and no birding until nightfall. It was just some walking around for Donna Quin, Larry Meade, Bruce Hill and Gerco Hoogeweg.
Unlike our usual 5:00 am meeting, we leisurely met at the Algonkian Northern Virginia Regional Park entrance at 7:00 am to listen for birds. We quickly heard a Great Crested Flycatcher, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Eastern Bluebird. With the threat of rain hanging above us, we headed over to the boat ramp for the usual walk along the Potomac River. With dark skies and a few drops of rain, the birds were quiet, but at least we had time to catch up and enjoy the Raven Loonatics being together again. Nothing outstanding was seen, but we did enjoy the view of the Blackpoll Warblers. A quick walk around the Volcano Island Park area netted a few more species, including a heard-only Hooded Warbler and a nearly impossible find of an Ovenbird perched on a branch.
Next up was Bles Park. A quick stop on the way at the fast food places along George Washington Blvd yielded many Gray Catbirds, a surprise Willow Flycatcher and a few distant Bobolinks. Those guys were hard to hear above the traffic, and they did not sing continuously. Bles Park itself was, well, meh. Not much was found, and the Prairie Warbler was probably our best bird. Despite the low hanging clouds, there was still no rain, so we counted ourselves lucky.
A quick drive over to the Middlesex Drive Ponds in the south part of the county was well worth it. Not all Loonatics had visited this place, so the good birding was a nice surprise. We quickly found several shorebirds including Killdeer, Least Sandpipers and Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers, but without a doubt the two Semi-palmated Plovers were a great find for the county.
After losing a one of the Loonatics to a prior commitment, the three remaining Loonies birded their way along Loudoun County Parkway. A nice walk at Broad Run Stream Valley Park was good for several new species. It was fun to see a few juvenile Hooded Mergansers in one of the ponds and hear several Grasshopper Sparrows. As with all Birdathons, this was the place where we discussed that it was a great habitat for the Prothonotary Warbler. We had not seen this species yet. Lo and behold, the words were not even out of our mouths when a Prothonotary Warbler started to sing. If only it was that easy to conjure a bird every time you needed one during a Birdathon, the number of species seen would be awesome!
Just past 3:00 pm, the rain finally came down in earnest, and the remaining Loonatics were not too crazy about continuing birding. In our eight hours of birding we still managed to find 97 species as a team. Individual team members also saw Black-crowned Night-Herons and Wild Turkey. Since these were not team birds, they did not count.
The complete list of species can be found on eBird at: https://ebird.org/tripreport/128490.
Read about the adventures of the other teams on the 2023 Birdathon Team Summaries page.