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

Nathan Pieplow

Have you made plans to attend the 2018 VSO Annual Meeting yet? You won’t want to miss this year’s exciting meeting in the beautiful mountain and valley region of western Virginia. The field trips will provide great opportunities to see unique high elevation breeding species AND support the Second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2). Saturday field trips will focus on under-atlased areas of Rockingham and Highland counties that overlap with birding hotspots. 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 learn more about breeding bird behavior. See below for more details on all of the field trips. The cost of all field trips is included in the registration fee. We are excited to have Nathan Pieplow as our keynote speaker on Saturday at the banquet. 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 has agreed to lead a field trip exploring female bird songs on Sunday morning; spots on this field trip will be raffled. Friday evening there will be a short business meeting followed by a presentation on area field trips. The brand new Hotel Madison & Shenandoah Valley Conference Center, which opens early this spring will be the headquarters for this meeting. The hotel is located at 710 South Main St in Harrisonburg and is within walking distance of downtown; it 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. Parking is $5 per day. Reserve your room by calling the Hotel Madison at 540-564-0200 or emailing the hotel at reservations@hotelmadison.com; identify yourself as a Virginia Society of Ornithology member in order to receive these special rates. You can also reserve your room online by going to the hotel website, www.hotelmadison.com, clicking on the Reservations link and using the code: AVSO18518 in the group/promo area. Be sure to register for your hotel room by April 18, 2018 to receive the special VSO rates.


The raffle drawing will be during the reception with cash bar on Saturday evening. You must be present to win and claim your prize! You could win:

  • A pair of Zeiss binoculars (Terra ED 8x42)
  • One of fifteen spots on a Sunday morning field trip led by Nathan Pieplow, the banquet keynote speaker on female bird song
  • A weekend at a quaint cottage in Blue Grass, Virginia and go birding with John Spahr and Patti Reum, two of the most knowledgeable local birders
  • Coffee from Earth Sangha
  • A gift basket from Friendly City Food Co-op in Harrisonburg
  • One of several recently published birding books including: One More Warbler: A Life With Birds by Victor Emanuel, Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World by Noah Strycker, and Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build by Peter Goodfellow
  • A Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries gift basket

These are just a few of the prizes that will be raffled at the 2018 Virginia Society of Ornithology (VSO) Annual Meeting, May 18 to 20, 2018 in Harrisonburg. Raffle proceeds will benefit the Second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2). Raffle tickets are $5 apiece or 5 for $20. Purchase your raffle tickets when you register or at the meeting. The raffle drawing will be held during the reception with cash bar on Saturday evening. You must be present to win and claim your prize.


A gourmet box lunch is available on Saturday. You must preorder by May 10, 2018 using the registration form. There are three sandwich choices for the boxed lunch:

A. Croque Monsieur – Grilled sandwich with ham, Gruyere cheese, and Dijon mustard
B. Nicoise Hero – Tuna sandwich with black olives, capers, green beans, and sliced hard-boiled egg with lettuce, tomatoes, and a squeeze of lemon juice
C. Vegetarian -- Herbed goat cheese on a croissant with spinach and roasted red peppers

The box lunch will also include your choice of sides: gourmet potato chips, house-made coleslaw, or home-made potato salad; an apple and choice of dessert: baked muffin or cookie, plus a soft drink or bottle of water. All of this for $15. Pick up your box lunch after you return from your Saturday morning field trip.


The meeting registration form is available electronically on the VSO web site, http://www.virginiabirds.org/annual-meeting-registration/ and also as a downloadable paper form (click Here). Late registration will be available at the meeting. On behalf of the VSO Board of Directors, we look forward to seeing you at our 2018 Annual Meeting in Harrisonburg.


This year marks the third field season and midpoint of the second VA Breeding Bird Atlas project. The VSO is commited to supporting this important citizen science effort and will be focusing a subset of field trip locations around local birding sites that overlap with Atlas priority areas.  Below is a list of planned field trip locations, as well as the distance from Harrisonburg shown in parentheses. Several additional Atlas trip locations will be finalized and published via the VSO website in early spring.

Madison Run Fire Road – Shenandoah National Park (16 miles)

Entering the Shenandoah National Park at the foot of the Appalachians just east of the Town of Grottoes, this well-maintained fire road travels gently uphill along Madison Run, a usually fast-moving creek, for about 1.2 miles before ascending more steeply to eventually reach Skyline Drive.  The creek, rocky outcroppings, and mixed evergreen/deciduous forest are reliable for Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Pine Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Acadian Flycatcher and occasional Broad-winged Hawk and Barred Owl. In May, Hermit Thrush, Winter Wren and Brown Creeper are still possible, along with Red-breasted Nuthatch in irruption years.

Switzer Dam (20 miles)

This area is in the foothills of Shenandoah Mountain in western Rockingham County and is accessed via a narrow Forest Service road that winds down the mountain from a higher elevation. The mixed evergreen/deciduous forest, elevation, and water sources make it a prime area to see birds usually found farther north. Breeding birds commonly found at this site include Northern Parula, Blackburnian, Pine, and Black-throated Green Warblers. Many other warbler species and vireos are possible, including Cerulean Warblers that are frequently reported at one higher-elevation site. “Winter” birds such as Golden-crowned Kinglets and Red-breasted Nuthatches are occasionally seen throughout the warmer months. We will bird the 3+ mile forest service road, with stops along the way. For those who are able and interested, the trip will include some walking on mostly level, but sometimes uneven, trails.

Cub Run Road – George Washington National Forest - Massanutten Mountain (25 miles)

This trip will include about 4 miles of car-birding with frequent stops along Cub Run Road, a gravel forest service road, and some hiking for those who wish, on rocky uneven trails. Habitat includes mature forest, large swaths of early post-successional burned habitat, and riparian habitat. Targets include Prairie Warbler and Yellow-breasted Chat. Other likely species include Ovenbird, Hooded and Pine Warbler. Ruffed Grouse and Yellow-billed Cuckoos are possible. Red Crossbills have occasionally been sighted here.  

Lake Shenandoah (6.6 miles)

This 37-acre public fishing lake near Harrisonburg City, owned by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, is surrounded by a variety of habitat: shrubby areas, a golf course, white pine forest, deciduous forest and residential development. Past year sightings have included Common Yellowthroat, Nashville, Palm and Pine Warblers. Other species occurring in May include Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Green and Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfisher, Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Swainson’s Thrush, Double-crested Cormorant and vireos including warbling. This is a level walk, about 1.5 miles roundtrip, on a grassy path.

Shenandoah Mountain - Bother Knob and Reddish Knob (27 miles)

Reddish Knob and Bother Knob sit along the ridge ofShenandoah Mountain near Rockingham County’s southwesternborder with Augusta County. The mountain ridgeline definesthe border between the two Virginias. Several northerlyspecies can be found at these higher elevations includingbreeding Yellow-rumped, Canada, and Black-throated BlueWarblers, Blue-headed Vireo, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breastedNuthatch, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. Red Crossbills are possible in this area. In 2009,near Bother Knob, Red-breasted Nuthatches were observedboth nest-building and later feeding young. This trip combinesdriving and walking. Roads at the higher elevations arenot well-maintained.

Skyline Drive - Pocosin Cabin/ Fire Road & South River Picnic Area – Shenandoah National Park (29 miles)

These Shenandoah National Park locations offer excellent birding in the Blue Ridge Mountains’ upper elevations, at the eastern border of Rockingham County. Habitat is predominately oak and hickory forest interspersed with occasional shrubby and brushy areas. Frequently observed breeding warblers include Cerulean, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, and Black-andwhite, among others. Canada Warblers typically breed near Pocosin Cabin, a prime birding location with brushy, shrubby areas and a spring-fed water source. Other frequent finds include Veery, Wood Thrush, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Least and Acadian Flycatcher.  This trip will include some walking along Pocosin Fire Road and maintained hiking trails. Time permitting we’ll include a loop from South River Picnic area to the Appalachian Trail north and return via South River Fire Road (Blackburnian Warblers are known to breed here.)

South River Falls Trail – Shenandoah National Park (27 miles)

This 3.3-mile loop trail that takes visitors to the South River Falls and then returns via the South River Fire Road is touted as one of the best areas for breeding birds found along Skyline Drive. A walk along this loop in late spring or early summer could produce over half-a-dozen breeding warblers including Canada, Cerulean, Blackburnian, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, Northern Parula, Louisiana Waterthrush, and American Redstart. Other species to be on the lookout for include White-breasted Nuthatch, Redeyed and Blue-headed Vireos, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Eastern Towhee. This trail is a more strenuous hike, so attendees should be prepared for some steeper trails and rough terrain.

Harrisonburg City: Hillandale Park and Edith J. Carrier Arboretum (2.5 miles)

With picnic shelters, walking trails and a playground area, Hillandale, a Harrisonburg City Park, is only partially developed and offers varied habitat supporting a nice mix of species. A small wet-season creek winds through the park, and undeveloped habitat includes both forested areas and grassy areas interspersed with occasional deciduous trees and Eastern Red Cedars. Last spring’s migrant warbler sightings here included Cape May, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, and Yellow-rumped. Other possibilities include Scarlet Tanager, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, vireos, and Baltimore Oriole. James Madison University’s Edith J. Carrier Arboretum, in the heart of Harrisonburg City, is primarily wooded with a small pond and some open areas. It serves as a welcome stopover for many migrants and in years past has turned up many surprises.


Check the VSO website for updates, the tentative schedule for the weekend is as follows:


1:30 p.m. – Field Trips
3:00 p.m. – Registration begins and Vendor/Exhibitor area opens.
6:00-7:00 p.m. – Reception with hors d’oeuvres and cash bar
7:00 p.m. – Business Meeting & Field Trip Program


Morning (Various times) – Field Trips
11:00 a.m. – Registration continues and Vendor/Exhibitor area open.
2:00-4:00 p.m. – Paper sessions
5:30-7:00 p.m. – Reception with cash bar and raffle prizes drawing
7:00 p.m. – Banquet (buffet) dinner and program with Nathan Pieplow


Morning (Various times) – Field Trips
Noon – Annual meeting ends


The Virginia Society of Ornithology invites scientific presentations for its 2018 Annual Meeting to be held May 18 to 20th  at the Hotel Madison and Shenandoah Valley Conference Center in Harrisonburg, VA. 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. Presentations will be given between 2 and 4PM on Saturday, May 19. Please submit the following information about your poster or presentation no later than March 29, 2018. Participants will be notified of their acceptance (and time slot) by April 13, 2018.

Title of oral presentation or poster
Presenter’s name
Email address
Phone number
Institutional affiliation (college or organization), if applicable
Names of co-authors, if applicable
Brief abstract (250 word limit)
Audio-visual needs (e.g. laptop, projector, screen, etc.)
Priority will be given to scientific presentations from persons affiliated with colleges or environmental organizations.  However, the selection committee will also consider presentations on any ornithological topic that might be of interest to VSO members, such as interesting birding adventures, bird club projects, rare sightings, etc. All presentations are limited to 15 minutes each.
Send information (email preferred) to:
Dan Bieker
Email: danbieker@gmail.com
Phone: 434-971-9618
Postal Address:
Dan Bieker
4174 Laird Lane
North Garden, VA 22959


Chair, Rexanne Bruno
Lenny Bankester
Ashley Peele
Jeff Trollinger
Diane Lepkowski
Len Smock
Andrew Dolby
Dan Bieker