June 15-17 2018 - South Boston Area

The June 15-17, 2018, VSO field trip to the South Boston area was a hybrid of traditional summer trips and surveying for breeding birds as part of the second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2) project. The south-central area of Virginia is an under-birded region and is in need of more people to cover some of the blocks that have previously had few or no checklists submitted.

Very special thanks to local birders, Jeff Blalock and Paul Glass, who invested hours leading trips over the entire weekend. The success we experienced would not have been possible without their fantastic commitment and assistance.

Our group of 28 dedicated birders made a very positive impact, as we focused on covering as many blocks as possible by dividing into small groups throughout the weekend. We covered 16 blocks (5 Priority) across all locations and groups, with 90 species tallied for the weekend and 55 species recorded as Confirmed or Probable.

Highlights included:
-      An unforgettable visit on Friday after our afternoon field trips concluded to the home of a Halifax County resident who has active Purple Martin houses. We were able to view the hatchlings and enjoy a very educational presentation as well as refreshments.
-      A family of 5 Common Ravens found Friday morning by Jeff Blalock, who led a special trip to Edmunds’ park for early arrivals Chris and Carol White.
-      A variety of confirmed sightings for Orchard Oriole, from a female carefully building a nest to carrying food to an adult female feeding a recently fledged bird begging for food.
-      Great looks at nesting and recently fledged Cliff Swallows in several locations.
-      In addition to Orchard Oriole and Cliff Swallows, confirmations of breeding in more than one block for Osprey, Eastern Bluebird, Carolina Wren, Brown Thrasher, Tree Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Prothonotary Warbler, and Chipping Sparrow.

We also had help covering the western part of Halifax County, with Mary Foster birding in 5 different blocks. Combined with the 16 blocks the larger group covered, we collected data for a total of 21 blocks.

The challenge for planning the trip was balancing a desire to deliver a great experience for participants while still covering the Priority Blocks. Many of these blocks don’t include parks, wildlife management areas or other “destination” points. They consist of back roads, which require frequent stops and can be dangerous for large caravans. Our strategy to divide into smaller groups worked out well for the purpose of covering as many blocks as possible in a safe manner. We lucked out with Occoneechee State Park, as we were able to have 3 groups safely cover this Priority Block (Clarksville North SE) and identify 23 species as Confirmed or Probable.

Thanks to all who attended, for your efforts contributed to a very successful weekend of data collection for VABBA2!