Shrike Force, down two members because of a last-minute personal matter, found 113 species in a wide variety of hot spots scattered over Loudoun County (see https://ebird.org/tripreport/128333 for a list of all the birds seen). Beginning our count on the eastern side of Beaverdam Reservoir on Thursday afternoon, Mary Ann Good and Joe Coleman wrapped up 48 hours later in western Loudoun when Laura and Liam McGranaghan joined us to celebrate. Laura found our last species, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
At Beaverdam Reservoir we found the first of four Ospreys and two beautiful Baltimore Orioles. The light rain which had fallen on and off all day held off long enough for us to visit the Meadowbrook Farm Ponds in Leesburg where there was a Ruddy Duck, several shorebirds including a Wilson’s Snipe and two Savannah Sparrows. Next was the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation Project where we were delayed by a heavy shower. While the Wetlands was not nearly as productive as it usually is, we did see 15 male Wood Ducks, with a dozen surprisingly congregating, and not a single female. We also heard the first of four Barred Owls there.
The next morning, we began the day at Bles Park where we found a Least Bittern, a county first for both of us, and three Lesser Scaup lingering well past their usual departure. The rich wetlands there also contained Wood Ducks, four Green Herons and a lot more. Unfortunately, the natural riches of this park are threatened by the misguided plans the Department of Parks and Rec has for it.
The next stop in Chantilly (almost in Fairfax County) was the Middlesex Drive Pond where we had one of our most exciting finds: probable Blue-winged Teal ducklings associating with one adult female and four males. If confirmed, this would be the first record of Blue-winged Teal nesting in Loudoun County. The pond also contained five Great Egrets along with a nice variety of shorebirds on the muddy island in the center of the pond.
Broad Run Stream Valley Park near Arcola was our next stop. The numerous birds there included a female Hooded Merganser with her three almost-grown ducklings diving for food in a stormwater management pond. Along its edges were several sparrows including a knockout view of a Grasshopper Sparrow. We also found a baby Painted Turtle in the middle of one of the stream valley’s trails. It is ironic that this beautiful, rich park in Loudoun’s suburban east is threatened by a project to build high-power transmission lines to service the power-hungry server farms in Ashburn.
After a brief visit to the western side of Beaverdam where we found a lingering Gadwall, we headed to western Loudoun where we saw Wild Turkeys, two Trumpeter Swans, a Barn Owl and heard a pair of dueting Barred Owls as the sun set over the mountains.
All of Shrike Force’s birding on Saturday was in western Loudoun, with most of it at Sweet Run State Park (formerly the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship). Sixty-six species, including 12 warbler species and a wide variety of other kinds of birds, were found at this beautiful park which is thoroughly protected by conservation easements. The next stop, which included a steep climb up the mountain towards the Appalachian Trail (AT), was the AT’s Blackburn Trail Center, also protected with conservation easements. In addition to a beautiful male Rose-breasted Grosbeak visiting the feeder, the forest here turned up three thrush species and a few more warblers as well as views all the way to D.C. on a beautiful spring day.
Every year during the Birdathon, we are reminded how beautiful and rich Loudoun County is, but also how fragile and threatened it is by the intensive development that is occurring here. The team thanks you for supporting Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy in its effort to preserve Loudoun’s natural resources, and the incredible wildlife that lives here.
Read about the adventures of the other teams on the 2023 Birdathon Team Summaries page.