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!

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!

We could not have asked for better weather for the VSO field trip to Chincoteague on September 16-18, with sunny to partly cloudy skies for the entire weekend. We were excited to welcome many new members and first-time attendees, along with “old timers” who’ve been enthusiastic participants for decades. Our group of 85 tallied 129 species (see below), and the list included birds found on the Causeway, Chincoteague Island and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, mosquitoes were abundant everywhere on the Refuge, so it’s hard to tell how many pints of blood were unwillingly left behind!  Please note that this report continues after the gallery of images shown below (all photos taken by Lee Adams) so make sure to check it out! Many thanks to field trip leaders Jerry Via, Bill Akers, Bob Ake, Mike Schultz, Saundra Winstead, Morocco St. Andre, and Meredith and Lee Bell, who worked hard to ensure participants had a great experience. Jerry kicked off the weekend Friday evening with a fascinating presentation on bird migration. In addition to the “regulars,” we were thrilled to see species that we don’t get every year, including: American Golden Plover on the Wildlife Loop and one of the bus trips; Piping Plover and Red Knot at Swans Cove; Philadelphia Vireo and a family of Red-headed Woodpeckers on the Woodland Trail; Canada, Wilson’s and Magnolia Warblers on the Woodland Trail; Buff-breasted, Stilt, White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers; Red-breasted Nuthatches in good numbers on the Woodland Trail and Wildlife Loop; Whimbrel...Click Here To Continue Reading!

27 members of the Virginia Society of Ornithology met at Craney Island Disposal Area in Portsmouth on August 19, 2016 to observe shorebird migration and the breeding birds that use the habitat created there. Guided by members of CVWO, Bill Williams, Brian Taber and Dave Youker, and accompanied by Kristen Scheler and several others from the Army Corps of Engineers which manages the site, the trip lasted four hours. 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/ At the first stop on the high perimeter road, overlooking an impoundment along the south side, Black-necked Stilts, some in family groups, American Avocets, Stilt Sandpipers and both Yellowlegs were seen. Wilson's Phalaropes swam circles. Two Green Herons flew by while Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, & Snowy Egrets stalked the shallows. A Clapper Rail hugged the shoreline. An immature Bald Eagle sat barely concealed in the top of a tall pine. A Red-shouldered Hawk streaked directly over. En route to the next stop four Red-tailed Hawks were spotted perched on the power line poles. Brown Pelicans, Great Black-backed, Herring and Laughing Gulls, with several Lesser Black-backed and Ring-billed Gulls, sat on a sandbar on the east side. Caspian, Royal, and Common Terns were mixed in with Least Terns. The tide was too high to reveal flats for shorebirds but one Willet walked the shore. At a...Click Here To Continue Reading!

The weather was spectacular for the summer VSO field trip June 10-12, in Highland County. 49 enthusiastic birders tallied 102 species over the 3 days. Great finds included 16 warbler, 8 flycatcher and 7 woodpecker species. Many thanks to my fabulous field trip co-chair, Lee Adams, who assisted in leading groups on Saturday and Sunday; and to Wayne O'Bryan for allowing us to visit their property Sunday morning.  Friday afternoon was spent at nearby Forks of Water and Rainbow Springs Retreat property (a lovely restored 1870s farmhouse where 4 of us stayed). We were rewarded with a nice variety including Baltimore Orioles, Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler and Cedar Waxwings at the first stop, followed by more Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warbler, Broad-winged Hawk and singing Wood Thrush at the second. Friday evening we gathered at The Real Deal restaurant for dinner, where the owners set up a buffet to accommodate our large group, serving delicious smoked beef and pork BBQ. Saturday we divided into two groups and explored the northwest section of the county. We covered the same areas but from opposite directions, including Rt. 601 (Bear Mountain Rd), Rt. 54 (Lake Buffalo Rd), Laurel Fork, Straight Fork and various stops in-between. Along the way, we found many sought-after warblers: Canada, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, Blackthroated Green, American Redstart and Magnolia. We even found a Mourning Warbler along Lake Buffalo Rd, nesting in the exact same spot where we found it three years ago. On Rt. 601 we got... Click Here To Continue Reading!