On Friday morning, April 21, 23 VSO members met at Craney Island for a field trip. Bill Williams and Mitchell Byrd of CVWO, led the caravan.  Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory supports the on-going survey which continues Ruth Beck's long-standing conservation and education efforts at Craney Island and several other coastal Virginia sites. http://www.cvwo.org/. Black-necked Stilts, Dunlin, Dowitchers and Yellowlegs awaited us at the first stop, an impoundment cell on the south side. Jason Strickland did an awesome job of keeping the eBird list. Clark Schweigaard Olsen drove Bob Ake with his broken leg to the best possible spots to see birds from the truck. A pair of American Oystercatchers shared a rock jetty with an immature Bald Eagle. American Avocets leisurely fed at another cell. A Peregrine Falcon was spotted surveying the shorebird lunch buffet. A Least Tern flew in and patrolled back and forth, perhaps looking for the best nesting spot. Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, Gadwall and Blue & Green-winged Teal tried to keep as much distance between us and them as possible. A Horned Grebe and a Red-throated Loon were seen out toward the I-664 bridge/tunnel. All too soon the field trip was over. Some folks decided to visit Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve a mile, or two, away. A Hooded Warbler teased with its song but rewarded Kathy Louthan's persistence with a pose or two for her camera. Among many other finds at Hoffler Creek were a Black and White Warbler, an Ovenbird and a Red-eyed Vireo...Click Here To Continue Reading!

The VSO-co-sponsored 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2) is a great opportunity to engage students, as well as birders, with wildlife conservation and to provide chances for learning more about bird identification and behavior.  To that end, we are encouraging professors and students from around Virginia to consider how they might like to get involved with the VABBA2.  This spring, I had the chance to work with Jessy Wilson, a student at Bridgewater College, and her Ornithology professor, Dr. Robyn Puffenbarger.  Jessy decided to focus her Ornithology honors project on the Atlas project and we worked up a specific project for her, documenting nocturnal species.  She wrote a great article about her experience, so enjoy…Click Here To Continue Reading!

TO REGISTER, PLEASE GO HERE: http://www.virginiabirds.org/annual-meeting-registration/Richmond Audubon Society will be hosting the 2017 Virginia Society of Ornithology Annual meeting at the Wyndham Virginia Crossings Hotel and Conference Center from May 5 – 7. Speakers at this year’s event include a kick-off presentation by Dr. Ashley Peele about the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 on Friday night. Our keynote speaker for Saturday evening’s banquet will be Jennifer Ackerman, author and naturalist, who recently published her new book The Genius of Birds. Registration for the Annual Meeting is available online at the VSO website (here: http://www.virginiabirds.org/annual-meeting-registration/) or by mailing a check with the registration form found in the VSO newsletter.  Prices per person are: registration $40, banquet $40, and raffle for a pair of Zeiss Optics binoculars $5. The Wyndham Virginia Crossings hotel is located at 1000 Virginia Center Parkway, Glen Allen, Virginia.  We have negotiated a special rate for the Annual Meeting weekend.  Single occupancy rooms with breakfast for one included (at the restaurant’s breakfast buffet) is $124 per night, and double occupancy rooms with breakfast for two included is $134 per night.  To get the group rate, call (804) 727-1400 or 1-888-444-6553 and identify yourself as a member of the Virginia Society of Ornithology group to get the reduced rate.  If you want to register online, use this link to get the reduced rate: https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/groups/virginia-society-of-ornithology-2017-annual-meeting.   Be sure to register with the hotel before April 12, 2017... Click Here To Continue Reading!

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Photographed 2016 by Lisa Rose

Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Photographed 2016 by Lisa Rose

The VSO and Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) are jointly offering a field trip to The Nature Conservancy’s Piney Grove Preserve, site of nesting Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers. Bryan Watts from the CCB will be our leader. We are given access to this protected site through CCB’s support and the cooperation of The Nature Conservancy. In recent years we have had good views of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, nestlings and nest sites. We will assemble at 5:15 A.M. in the morning on May 27 at the Virginia Diner in Wakefield and leave in time to catch sunrise at the nest site. Because of the sensitive nature of this area, we are limited in the number of participants who can attend. (20 people). We will need to carpool as parking is limited on the site. This field trip will end mid to late morning. Contact Lee Adams to register at leeloudenslageradams@gmail.com or 540-850-0777VERY Important! All VSO field trips will have a registration fee of $20 for NON-members only. This fee will be applied to an individual membership that will be active until the end of 2017. If 2 or more people from the same family register, the registration fee will be $25, which covers a family membership. Groups of students accompanied by their instructor are exempt from this fee. Non-members can join in advance at http://www.virginiabirds.org/membership-and-donate/ or pay the registration fee on the first evening of the event... Click Here to Continue Reading!

Meet at 4599 River Shore Road, Portsmouth, VA. Arrive at 7:30 to enter the compound at 7:45. Craney Island We will have 15 minutes to sign-in and listen to a safety announcement. Trip around Craney Island will be from 8 until 11 and we will be following one leader and stopping where they choose. Carpooling is required. Please wear closed-toe shoes to the Craney Island trip as the Army Corps of Engineers is requiring. Please do not arrive before 7:30 and do not park in driveways, either private or the one for Craney, or on any grassy areas. Limit of 25 people. Due to expected construction this date may be changed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Contact Lee Adams to register at leeloudenslageradams@gmail.com or 540-850-0777VERY Important! All VSO field trips will have a registration fee of $20 for NON-members only. This fee will be applied to an individual membership that will be active until the end of 2017. If 2 or more people from the same family register, the registration fee will be $25, which covers a family membership. Groups of students accompanied by their instructor are exempt from this fee. Non-members can join in advance at http://www.virginiabirds.org/membership-and-donate/ or pay the registration fee on the first evening of the event... Click Here to Continue Reading!

What a fabulous experience we had February 3-5, 2017, for the annual VSO Outer Banks field trip!  With the combined eyes and ears of 100 participants, we tallied a record-setting 155 species. Among these were several rarities: Manx Shearwater, Dovekie, Trumpeter Swan, Anna’s Hummingbird, Eurasian Wigeon, Anhinga, Lark Sparrow, Brewer’s Blackbird and Loggerhead Shrike. We also had an amazing number of Sparrow (11) and Wren (5) species. In addition to the rarities, highlights at Lake Mattamuskeet included up-close looks of an American Woodcock and Wilson’s Snipe. The impoundments always astonish us with an abundance of waterfowl, and this year was no different. Those who joined Lee Adams at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge at dusk to listen for Short-eared Owls scored a big success. On Saturday many participants braved the strong winds and cold temperatures to visit nearby Jennette’s Pier twice – first thing in the morning and after lunch. We were rewarded with dozens of fly-by Razorbills, Red-breasted Mergansers, Northern Gannets and Black Scoters. In the water we spotted Horned Grebe and Red-throated Loon as well as a lone female Common Eider. At Pea Island we found several American White Pelicans and more than 100 American Avocets. We gathered at Bodie Island Lighthouse in the late afternoon, where we enjoyed diverse species of waterfowl in the impoundments. Many had good looks at a Sora, Clapper Rail, and Marsh Wren. More than 30 people stayed after dark to listen for owls, and...Click Here To Continue Reading!

What:  The VSO is engaged in a multi-year monitoring project to record avian biodiversity abundance on farms and preserved lands in the Dajabón province of the Dominican Republic.  The undertaking is a partnership with Virginia NGO Earth Sangha, whose work enhances native biodiversity by supporting sustainable land management in the project area (http://www.earthsangha.org/tree-bank).  The data that VSO volunteers gather in the project area is provided to Earth Sangha to enhance their conservation planning.  The VSO is offering a funded opportunity for a student to be a full partner in the field during the project’s second round of data collection, occurring in winter break of 2017-2018.  Through participating in field work the student will gain a more complete awareness of the environmental challenges in the Dominican Republic, an increased familiarity with the country’s birds and their habitat requirements, and a better understanding of the conservation needs of migrants shared by Virginia and the Dominican Republic.  Participants will use their birding skills to record avian biodiversity in multiple sites within the project area and assist in delivering the final data set to Earth Sangha. Shortly after returning from the trip, the scholarship recipient will provide the VSO with 1) a brief article describing the trip to be published in the subsequent VSO newsletter and 2) a longer scholarly text providing a scientific analysis to be published in the VSO’s scientific journal The RavenWhere:  Dajabón province, Dominican Republic, along the Haiti border. How much:  $1,200.  These funds will offset costs for airfare, lodging, and meals.  Logistics will be arranged by the VSO and Earth Sangha.  The scholarship recipient will be responsible for... Click Here to Continue Reading!

The New River Valley Bird Club will host the VSO summer field trip June 9-11, 2017, featuring some of the best birding areas in the New River Valley and Southern Appalachians. The varied topography and the river valley offer a wide variety of habitats and bird species. Field trips will be offered Friday afternoon, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. Bill Akers and Jerry Via will be our trip leaders, and they have organized some terrific activities for us! TRIP REGISTRATION: To help us plan for the weekend, please register in advance. Provide the names of participants in your party with a telephone number and email address so we can contact you if needed. Register with Meredith Bell, trip coordinator, at merandlee@gmail.com or 804-824-4958. Please bring FRS (two-way) radios if you have them to stay in contact in our caravans when calling out bird sightings. HEADQUARTERS: Holiday Inn Express and Suites Blacksburg is the host hotel (This is the same hotel as the 2015 trip, now under new ownership). The special rate for the VSO block of rooms is $95/night (plus tax) for single or double. Double and King beds are available, and some suites have pull-out beds. There are microwaves and refrigerators in all rooms. Register by Friday, MAY 8, to get the special rate: (540) 552-5636. Hotel address is 1020 Plantation Road, Blacksburg, VA24060. MEALS: A complimentary hot breakfast buffet is included with your stay, beginning at 6:30 AM on Friday and 7:00AM on Saturday and Sunday. You’ll need to bring lunch for Saturday... Click Here to Continue Reading!

Craney Island in Portsmouth, VA was the site of the kickoff field trip of the annual Virginia Society of Ornithology Virginia Beach weekend. Highlights include a black coyote, Hudsonian Godwit, Snow Buntings, and American Avocets FLOATING in the river. Oh yeah, and the Eurasian Wigeon! Thousands of Double-crested Cormorants streamed by in a long line. Brian Taber and Bill Williams from Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory lent their years of expertise at the site, and led the trip. They survey Craney Island regularly and continue Ruth Beck’s conservation efforts. For more information, check out http://www.cvwo.org. A flock of Snow Buntings appeared beside the car caravan and settled on the ground with Killdeer. Their camouflage is perfect for tan sand and golden grasses, and although the snow was missing, their white did not make it easier to spot them. Thanks go to Shannon Reinheimer of the Army Corps of Engineers for allowing access to, and important information on Craney Island. Later nine of us met Max Lonzanida, park ranger at the Fisherman Island/Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR at Fisherman Island. Due to restrictions on parking the trip was offered to those signed up for the Craney Island trip. The group wandered across the island and out to the beach on the Chesapeake Bay. Brant, Black Scoters and Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers were spotted. A huge whale vertebra, a portion of an Atlantic Sturgeon, and sea turtle ribs were among the artifacts that have been collected by USFW staff to show visitors on...Click Here To Continue Reading!

Snippet from the Ivy Creek Foundation's Posting on the topic: "American Kestrels are disappearing at an alarming rate. Today’s range-wide population is only half of what existed in the 1960s and in some states the species is even listed as State endangered. Perhaps most concerning, no one knows why populations are in such decline despite it being one of the best studied raptors in North America.  Come out to the Ivy Creek Foundation Education Center on Thursday, December 15 at 7 pm for a presentation outlining what we do and do not know about the American Kestrel decline. Dr. Sarah Schulwitz, Assistant Director of the American Kestrel Partnership, will discuss several research recommendations for moving forward for the conservation of this charismatic but declining falcon. Learn more and get involved with the American Kestrel Partnership at kestrel.peregrinefund.org"... Click Here to Continue Reading!

Registration is FULL as of 5 DEC, but for those interested in learning about the goals of this trip, please continue reading: The VSO's April 1-10, 2017 birding trip to Guatemala still has openings. The trip will be guided by Guatemala's leading birding experts, John and Rob Cahill! Experience the spectacular convergence of North America's eastern and western breeding birds as they prepare for northward migration. Where else can you spot a Prothonotary Warbler and an Agami Heron in the same morning? How about a Townsend's and Golden-winged Warbler in the same TREE! Also on the itinerary are visits to Community Cloud Forest Conservation's Agroecology Center and fascinating Mayan archaeological sites (with more birding, of course!). Cost is $1,960 per person for double room occupancy, and $2,660 for singles. Price includes lodging, meals, ground transportation, guide services, and entrance fees to parks and reserves. For inquiries, contact Andrew Dolby by email: adolby[at]umw.edu or phone: 540-654-1420... Click Here to Continue Reading!

Temperatures continue to drop, as Autumn arrives and we wrap-up the first season of the second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2).  Two things stand out about this summer’s field season.  First, Virginia is an incredible place to survey birds.  Between the mountains and valleys, the rolling Piedmont, and the rich Coastal Plain, Atlas volunteers identified over 205 species of birds and confirmed 174 of those species are currently breeding.  They reported over 684,000 birds to the project!  Interestingly, most of the data received this year comes from areas where the most people live.  This makes sense!  We tend to bird the areas closest to home first.  However, just think what kind of data will be generated when volunteers expand out into the less birded parts of the state.  There are so many awesome breeding records just waiting to be confirmed in the rural Piedmont or out in the mountains or even in your own neighborhood. The second remarkable thing about this first season is the volunteer birder community that pitched in from all over VA.  By the end of the summer, over 450 volunteers contributed to the Atlas project and despite most data coming from populated areas, volunteers reported great breeding data from many rural parts of the state. Everyone experienced some sort of learning curve, whether it was using eBird to report their data or learning the codes to document bird behavior.  Many volunteers are still new birders and learning much as they go along.  However, Atlasers collectively demonstrated that learning these new tools is... Click Here to Continue Reading!