VSO Board of Directors hosting 2018 Annual Meeting in Harrisonburg, May 18-20, 2018

Nathan Pieplow

Start making plans to attend the 2018 VSO Annual Meeting!  This year’s meeting and field trip locations will provide great opportunities to see unique high elevation breeding species AND help support the Second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2).  Saturday field trips will focus on under-atlased areas of Rockingham and Highland county and Sunday field trips will go to local birding hotspots, as always. Expert atlas volunteers and field trip leaders will guide you on Saturday and Sunday. Plan on finding some of the birds in Virginia’s Mountains and Valleys Region that you don’t see often and learning more about breeding bird behavior.

We are excited to have Nathan Pieplow as our keynote speaker. His presentation ‘Listen to Her Sing,’ dispels the widespread notion that only male birds sing and explores the often-overlooked songs of female birds. Nathan is the author of the Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds (Eastern Region) which was published in March 2017. He teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Nathan plans to lead a field trip exploring female bird songs; spots on this field trip will be raffled.

The conference be will held at the new Hotel Madison & Shenandoah Valley Conference Center, which opens early next spring. The hotel is located within walking distance of downtown Harrisonburg and features a farm-to-table restaurant, indoor pool, spacious ballrooms and meeting rooms. The VSO has secured special rates of $129 for a single or $139 for double occupancy. Reserve your room by calling the Hotel Madison at 540-564-0200 or emailing the hotel at reservations@hotelmadison.com any time after December 1, 2017; identify yourself as a Virginia Society of Ornithology member in order to receive these special rates. You can also reserve online after December 1, 2017 by going to the hotel website, www.hotelmadison.com, clicking on Reservations and using the code: AVSO18518 in the group/promo area.

If you are interested in exhibiting at the meeting, or know someone else who might be, please contact Lenny Bankester at lennybankester@yahoo.com. In addition to spots on Nathan’s field trip, we plan to raffle several birding related items.If you have an item to donate for the raffle or would be willing to solicit an item from a business in your area, please contact Lenny about that, too.

Meeting registration information along with more details on field trips, etc. will be in the Spring VSO newsletter and also on the VSO web site. On behalf of the VSO Board of Directors, we look forward to seeing you at our 2018 Annual Meeting in Harrisonburg.

The 2018 Annual Meeting Committee,

Chair, Rexanne Bruno, rexannebruno@gmail.com
Lenny Bankester, lennybankester@yahoo.com
Ashley Peele, ashpeele@vt.edu
Jeff Trollinger, Jeff.Trollinger@dgif.virginia.gov

Richmond Audubon Society to Host 2017 VSO Annual Meeting

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!

The Slideshow (just click to advance to the next photograph) above depicts some of the colorful species that can be found around the Richmond metropolitan area during the height of spring migrations. All photographs © Virginia Society of Ornithology.

VSO 2017 Speakers

Ashley Peele, PhD – Friday, May 5

The VSO meeting will begin with a talk on the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 (VABBA2) by Dr. Ashley Peele, the Coordinator for the 2016-2020 survey effort in Virginia. The VABBA2 is a cooperative citizen-science project being run by the Virginia Society of Ornithology and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and will result in the state’s second Breeding Bird Atlas. Ashley Peele earned her Bachelor’s degree in Zoology from Ohio Wesleyan University before attending Tulane University for her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She has researched American Redstart populations in Jamaica, feather-degrading bacteria, and importance of feather melanin on feather wear. Her current interest is engaging non-consumptive users and wildlife enthusiasts into participating in conservation efforts to contribute to a larger body of scientific knowledge.

Jennifer Ackerman – Saturday, May 6

Keynote speaker Jennifer Ackerman is both author and naturalist, having written The Genius of Birds in April 2016, which delves into the intelligence of “bird-brained” species across the globe that exhibit incredible feats of memory and creativity. Jennifer earned the Silver Medal Award for Nature Writing from the International Regional Magazine Association, has been selected for the New York Times “Editor’s Choice,” and also the New York Times “New and Noteworthy” paperback. She has been published by The New York Times, National Geographic, and Scientific American (to name a few) for her writing, has been interviewed by National Public Radio, and has published five books with critical acclaim. The Daily Progress commended, “Richly researched… The Genius of Birds provides engrossing evidence that will have readers looking at birds in a completely new way.” A book signing opportunity will follow her presentation after the banquet.

VSO 2017 Annual Meeting Call for Papers

This year’s Virginia Society of Ornithology meeting is scheduled May 5-7, 2017, and will be hosted by the Richmond Audubon Society at the Wyndham Virginia Crossings Hotel & Conference Center. The scientific paper session is set for Saturday, May 6, from 2-4pm. Presentations should be 15 minutes long, including time for questions. If you are interested in giving an oral presentation at the conference about your research, please submit the following information by March 17, 2017 in an e-mail to Abby Walter, Programs Coordinator (lawalter@udel.edu).

  • Name
  • E-mail address
  • Phone Number
  • Names of co-authors (if applicable)
  • Institutional affiliation (if applicable)
  • Title of oral presentation
  • Brief abstract (250 word limit)
  • Audio-visual needs (e.g. laptop and LCD projector, overhead projector, slide projector)

The board will review submissions and applicants will be notified of their acceptance and time slot by March 31.

VSO 2017 Field Trips

Unless noted otherwise below, Participant Registration for these trips will be performed upon check-in at the VSO Annual Meeting!

Field trips for the 2017 VSO Annual Meeting will visit the best spring birding sites in the Richmond area. Most of the trips will focus on riparian forest and wetland habitat along the James River as it flows through and below Richmond. Spring migrants will be filling the forests and species like Prothonotary Warblers will be defending their territories. Several of the locations have restricted access (Curles Neck) and are being made available specifically for the VSO field trips. And boat trips down the James will provide spectacular views of bald eagles and other species along the river.

Trips will be offered Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday morning. All trips will depart from the meeting hotel except the Bald Eagle Tours, which will meet at the boat dock at the start time noted on the schedule. Carpooling is highly encouraged and for some trips, to locations with limited parking space, a necessity. The number of participants for each trip is limited. Paths at the sites, none of which are particularly strenuous, may be wet so wear appropriate footwear. Bathroom facilities at most sites are limited. Trip leaders will have water and some snacks. All field trips are subject to last minute changes depending on weather and number of participants (so register early).

All sites are ebird hotspots – get more information on site locations and expected species on the ebird web site (www.ebird.org).


All field trips are included in the Annual Meeting registration except for a $45 per person cost for the Discover the James Bald Eagle boat tours.

Field Trip Locations

Discover the James Bald Eagle Tour (35 minutes, 27 miles to boat dock)

Ride along with Capt. Mike Ostrander aboard the Discovery Barge II, a comfortable 24-foot covered pontoon boat for this unique 2-hour, 5-mile trip on the tidal James River. This is a great opportunity to get up close to numerous resident bald eagles and other birds along the river. Experience this ecosystem rich with wildlife, abundant history and beautiful scenery. This trip provides great photography opportunities. See more information at http://www.discoverthejames.com/?q=eagle-tour.

Capt. Mike has reserved five trips just for the VSO meeting. Cost per person is $45. Maximum of 6 people per trip (minimum of 4 people registered per trip required by April 25 or trip will be cancelled). Departs from Deep Bottom park boat dock (for directions to the dock, see http://discoverthejames.com/?q=Discover-the-James-Directions#DBBL.To reserve a spot on one of the VSO Eagle Tours, please call Captain Mike Ostrander directly at (804) 938-2350.

Curles Neck Farm (35 minutes; 31 miles)

This 5500 acre, privately owned working farm was one of the original great James River plantations and has been in continual operation for nearly 400 years. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located along the north bank of the James River in eastern Henrico County, it has a wide variety of habitat, including nearly 2000 acres of both wetland and fields, 1000 acres of forest, and a number of ponds. Bird life is diverse at all times of the year.

Powhatan State Park (50 minutes; 40 miles) - Note: This trip replaces the planned Belmead Plantation, as that site was unable to accommodate us.

Powhatan State Park includes 1500 acres of open field and mature forests, located along the James River in Powhatan County.  We will slowly walk ~2 miles of trails in these habitats and hope to see any number of spring migrant songbirds as well as breeding yellow-breasted chat, grasshopper sparrow, wood thrush, summer and scarlet tanager, indigo bunting, and orchard oriole.

James River Park (all sites about 25 minutes; 15 miles)

The premier birding location within the city of Richmond, the James River Park system runs along both sides of the James River at the Fall Line between Virginia’s Piedmont and Coastal Plain. Here the rapid drop in elevation of the river makes Richmond the only city in the country with Class IV white water rapids in the middle of downtown. The park’s 550 acres are primarily riparian woodland, prime habitat for migrating birds and the best location in the Richmond area for spring warblers. Three separate locations in the park are scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday. The JRP-42nd St. and JRP-Reedy Creek trips cover the same areas of the park, but start from different locations. An elevated walkway near the 42nd St. entrance provides treetop birding. The JRP-Wetlands trip covers a different area of the park.

Henricus Historical Park-Dutch Gap Conservation Area (40 minutes; 30 miles)

Henricus and Dutch Gap Conservation Area include an extensive area of forest, river, wetlands, meadows, oxbow lakes, ponds and a tidal lagoon in Chesterfield County to the southeast of Richmond. Henricus Historical Park, with open woodland, is the site of the Citie of Henricus, founded in 1611 as the second successful English settlement in the New World. The variety of habitats provide for great birding.

Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery (40 minutes; 36 miles)

Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery is a 444-acre U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facility located east of Richmond in Virginia’s historic tidewater plantation country. The hatchery plays a key role in the efforts to restore declining and imperiled populations of migratory fish and other aquatic species of the Atlantic coast. The facility includes extensive forest, field, stream and lake habitat that support a wide variety of bird species.

Brown’s Island-Potterfield Memorial Bridge-James River Floodwall (20 minutes; 14 miles)

Brown’s Island, on the south bank of the James River in downtown Richmond is the jumping off point to walk across the river – on the newly opened Potterfield Memorial Bridge. This pedestrian bridge, linking the north and south shores of the river, crosses over an extensive area of rapids and allows an excellent opportunity to observe birds on and along the river. The trail along the Floodwall also provides easy observations of birds on the river and in its riparian areas.

Ashland Trolley Line (10 minutes; 6 miles)

The Ashland Trolley Line runs along a portion of the former Richmond-Ashland Electric Line, which linked the two communities for 31 years until its closure in 1938. The 0.5-mile grass and gravel trail now runs through dense forest, a favorite birding location for locals. Limited parking is available at the Ashland Trolley Line’s southern trailhead on Gwathney Church Road/State Route 707 in Hanover County.

Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas Workshop (at the meeting center)

An important theme to this year’s annual meeting is the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas. Ashley Peele, Coordinator of the project, will provide a hands-on workshop for you to learn everything you need to know about breeding observation and data entry to the Atlas data base. This will be an invaluable session for you to help build the Virginia Breeding bird Atlas.

The Diamond (15 minutes; 9 miles)

Do you want to see nighthawks? Visit the Diamond in the evening. Located in the heart of the city, the Diamond is the city’s stadium for minor league baseball. Each evening in the summer nighthawks can be readily seen flycatching overhead from the stadium’s parking lot. This is a fun trip to end a day of birding.

Field Trip Schedule

Friday Afternoon (May 5)

  • Discover the James Bald Eagle Tour – 1:00-3:00.
  • Harrison Lake Fish Hatchery – depart at 1:00.
  • Henricus-Dutch Gap – depart at 1:00.
  • Brown’s Island-Potterfield Memorial Bridge-James River Floodwall – depart at 1:30.

Friday Evening (May 5)

  • The Diamond – depart at 8:00.

Saturday Morning (May 6)

  • Discover the James Bald Eagle Tour – 7:00-9:00.
  • Powhatan State Park (Note: This trip replaces the planned Belmead Plantation trip, as that site was unable to accommodate a trip– depart at 6:30. Carpooling required.
  • James River Park – Reedy Creek – depart at 6:30. Carpooling highly encouraged.
  • James River Park – Wetlands – depart at 7:00. Carpooling highly encouraged.
  • James River Park – 42nd St. – depart at 7:00. Carpooling highly encouraged.
  • Ashland Trolley Line – depart at 7:00.
  • Curles Neck Farm – depart at 7:30. Carpooling required.
  • Henricus-Dutch Gap – depart at 7:30.

Saturday Afternoon (May 6)

  • Discover the James Bald Eagle Tour – 12:00-2:00.
  • Henricus-Dutch Gap – depart at 1:00.
  • Hollywood Cemetery – depart at 1:30.
  • Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery – depart at 1:30.

Sunday Morning (May 7)

  • Discover the James Bald Eagle Tour – 7:00-9:00.
  • Discover the James Bald Eagle Tour – 9:30-11:30.
  • Powhatan State Park (Note: This trip replaces the planned Belmead Plantation trip, as that site was unable to accommodate a trip– depart at 6:30. Carpooling required.
  • James River Park – Reedy Creek – depart at 6:30.
  • James River Park – Wetlands – depart at 7:00.
  • James River Park – 42nd St. – depart at 7:00.
  • Henricus-Dutch Gap – depart at 7:00.
  • Curles Neck Farm – depart at 7:30. Carpooling required.
  • VA Breeding Bird Atlas Workshop – Meeting Center – 10:00.

Eileen Geller
President, Richmond Audubon Society

Roanoke Valley Bird Club VSO Annual Meeting April 29-May 1, 2016

Ah, spring birding in the mountains and valleys of Roanoke. Come experience it for yourself. We are lucky to have a diverse assortment of habitats that attract a wide variety of migrant and resident birds. From yellow-crowned night-herons and Louisiana waterthrushes on our local streams to cerulean warblers on our mountaintops, from grasshopper sparrows in our fields to ovenbirds in our forests—the Roanoke area has it all. There will be a few field trips offered Friday afternoon (preregistration required; descriptions can be found in this newsletter) and lots more on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. There will be stationary, driving, and hiking trips of varying degrees of difficulty so you can choose one that's right for you.

We will start the weekend with several field trips Friday afternoon (preregistration required at 540-580-5214 or RVBC2015@OUTLOOK.COM).

Pick up your registration packets and sign up for Saturday and Sunday's field trips beginning Friday afternoon. You may sign up for a boxed lunch to take on your field trips Saturday and/or Sunday. Lunches will include sandwich, chips, cookie and beverage for $13 each. Otherwise lunch is on your own at the Sheraton’s award-winning Shula’s 347 Grill or at another of the fine restaurants Roanoke has to offer. Field trip leaders may have suggestions for restaurants in the vicinity of your trip. The hotel also offers complimentary shuttle rides to Valley View Mall for its guests, where you will find a wide variety of places to eat. For breakfast at the hotel you may purchase a hot breakfast buffet or menu item at Pi Kitchen, or lighter fare at the Market, both opening at 6 a.m.

Enjoy the hors d’oeuvres and cash bar Friday evening while you browse through the vendor tables and peruse the items up for bid at our silent auction. Then attend the short business meeting, which will be followed by the ever popular and always entertaining Jerry Via of the New River Valley, with his program entitled "Birds of the Roanoke Valley and Mountains." This program will help familiarize you with what species we are likely to encounter.

On Friday and Saturday, be sure to look for our silent auction with many wonderful bird and outdoors-oriented items, as well as some exciting gifts and discount coupons for restaurants.  If you’re suffering from “warbler neck” after all the great birding Saturday morning, try a relaxing chair massage; we suggest a donation of $1/minute to the trained massage therapist.

After a morning of birding on Saturday, relax at the hotel while visiting the vendor tables and attending a series of short lectures at the papers session in the afternoon. That evening you can again enjoy the hors d'oeuvres and cash bar, mingle with friends you seldom see, and maybe even make some new friends. You won’t want to miss the banquet Saturday night, featuring Pete Dunne as keynote speaker. In his program, "Small-Headed Flycatcher," Pete will recount the rediscovery of a bird believed extinct (if it ever existed at all) whose discovery was claimed by both Alexander Wilson and John James Audubon, and this dispute lies at the heart of the discord between these twin pillars of American Ornithology. The yarn has a modern as well as historic focus and will be enjoyed by birders and non-birders alike. Pete will be doing a book signing at the banquet, and Buteo Books will have an assortment of his books available for purchase, or you can bring one from your own collection. If there’s a particular book you’re looking for, contact Buteo Books at customerservice@buteobooks.com or 434-263-8671.

Limited exhibit and vendor space is available.

Prices are $10/individual, $20/business, and nonprofits are free. Limited advertising space is available in the program. Rates are $90/full page, $60/half page, $45/quarter page and $25/business card size.

Sunday morning there will be more field trips to attend as we wind up the weekend's activities. How would you like to win a chance to go birding with Pete Dunne on Saturday? He has agreed to let us raffle him off for a fun morning of easy birding. You can purchase as many raffle tickets as you'd like using the registration form. At the close of registration, we will draw the winning tickets and notify the winners.

Pete Dunne

Pete Dunne, Ambassador for New Jersey Audubon, retired Director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, founder of the World Series of Birding, contributor to many major American birding magazines, and author of more than a dozen books on birds, birdwatching and bird conservation, started birding when he was 7 years old. In 2001, he received the Roger Tory Peterson Award from the American Birding Association for lifetime achievement in promoting the cause of birding. Eric Stiles, president of New Jersey Audubon, calls him a "birder, teacher, natural history maven and master chronicler of the natural world."


The Sheraton Roanoke Hotel and Conference Center at 2801 Hershberger Road will be our base of operations. You do not have to stay at the hotel to attend the meeting, but everything other than field trips will happen there. The Sheraton is conveniently located just off I-581 eight miles south of I-81. The hotel is less than two miles from the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport and from Valley View Mall, a major shopping center with numerous restaurants. Guests can take advantage of the hotel’s free shuttle service to both. The hotel has set aside a block of rooms for us at the special rate of $99.00 plus tax. That rate will be available for 3 days prior to and 3 days after the meeting for those who wish to come early or stay on after the conference to experience more that the Roanoke area has to offer. Rooms must be reserved by April 8 to take advantage of this special rate. All reservations are subject to a 72-hour cancellation policy. Reservations can be made online here. You can also reserve a room by calling the hotel central reservations number at 800-563-3535, or by calling the hotel directly at 540-563-9300. To receive the special group rate, attendees should identify themselves as part of the Virginia Society of Ornithology 2016 Annual Meeting.

The recently renovated hotel offers rooms that include free internet, cable TV, a refrigerator, a large desk, Sheraton Sleeper beds and in-room coffee by Starbucks. Dining options at the hotel are Pi Kitchen, opening for breakfast at 6 a.m. as a courtesy to us early birds, with an ala carte menu as well as a buffet breakfast for $13.95; The Market, open at 6:30 a.m. with light fare; and Shula's 347 Grill for lunch and dinner. Other hotel amenities include a full bar, fitness center, indoor pool, and an ATM. Find out more about the hotel, such as their pet friendly offer and their Make a Green Choice option, at www.sheratonroanoke.com.

We look forard to seeing you in 2016. Don't forget to check the RVBC Facebook page or Roanoke Valley web site at roanokevalleybirdclub.comoften.

VSO 2016 Annual Meeting Call for Papers

The Virginia Society of Ornithology invites scientific presentations for its 2016 Annual Meeting to be held April 29 – May 1st in Roanoke. This meeting is a joint event with the Roanoke Valley Bird Club. Oral presentations should be 15 minutes long, including time for questions. Static displays (such as posters) will also be accepted space permitting. Submissions will be reviewed by a selection committee and added to the program until the schedule or display space is full. Please submit the following information about your poster or presentation no later than March 14, 2016. Participants will be notified of their acceptance by March 21, 2016.

  • Oral presentation or poster
  • Presenting author’s name
  • Presenting author’s contact information:
    postal address, email address, phone number
  • Institutional affiliation (if applicable)
  • Names of co-authors (if applicable)
  • Title of oral presentation or poster
  • Brief abstract (250 word limit)
  • Audio-visual needs (e.g. laptop and LCD projector,
    overhead projector, slide projector)

Send information (email preferred) to Carole Massart
Email: carolemassart@msn.com
Phone: 540-890-4806
Postal address:
Carole Massart
1777 Thomason Lane
Goodview, VA 24095