Field Trip Reports
The June 7-9, 2019, VSO field trip to the Northern Neck was a hybrid of traditional summer trips and surveying for breeding birds as part of the second Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas (VABBA2) project. This area of Virginia is an under-birded region and was in need of more people to cover priority blocks with little data collected to date. The weekend was a great success despite rain on Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. Thanks to Lauren Cruz, Wildlife Biologist for the Eastern Virginia Rivers National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Friday afternoon we were able to access two units (Tayloe and Belle Mont) normally closed to the public. Light rain started shortly after we arrived at Tayloe but did not deter our enthusiasm and we were rewarded with great looks at Yellow-breasted Chat, Common Yellowthroat, Orchard Oriole and Summer Tanager. Luckily, we moved on to Belle Mont next because this spot had a building with a large front and back porch where we continued birding as the rain became heavier. From this dry vantage point, we were able to confirm evidence of breeding for Eastern Wood-Pewee, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Chipping Sparrow. Before leaving, we organized into 4 teams to cover 4 priority blocks on Saturday. We lucked out on Saturday – it was a beautiful day. Each group thoroughly covered their respective block, and we gathered at the end of the day to share highlights. The enthusiasm of everyone there was rewarding to see and hear! Numbers of species per block that were CONFIRMED ranged from 8 to 14 and PROBABLES from 8 to 26, so we made a significant contribution to data for these priority blocks: Haynesville SE, Machodoc SE, Mount Landing SE and Tappahannock SE. Click Here to Continue Reading!
We couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather for the February 1-3, 2019, annual VSO field trip to the Outer Banks! We enjoyed sunny skies, mild winds and moderate temperatures most of the weekend. With the combined eyes and ears of 75 participants, we tallied 141 species. Our trip leaders Lee Adams, Bill Akers, Jerry Via and yours truly worked hard to ensure that everyone got to see as many species as possible. It seems amazing to report that the 2nd most abundant species (after Yellow-rumped Warbler) was RAZORBILL! On Sunday morning, Jerry Via counted almost 2,000 in the ocean just off the hotel, with hundreds more in either direction. We also had great looks at large numbers from Jennette’s pier on Friday and Saturday. An unexpected hot spot was the area behind the Exxon Station in Harbinger, where a Golden-crowned Sparrow (typically found only on the West coast) and a Dicksissel were seen by many. Also spotted there: Orange-crowned Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Jennettes’s Pier provided great looks at all 3 species of Scoter and large numbers of Razorbill, Red-throated Loon, and Northern Gannets. Other species included Dovekie, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, and Horned Grebe. A pod of dolphins came close to the pier and in the distance we spotted a whale (identity undetermined) spraying water from its blowhole… Click Here to Continue Reading!
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. Click here to continue reading!
We added more raving fans (and future attendees) at the February 2-4, 2018 annual VSO field trip to the Outer Banks! With the combined eyes and ears of 85 participants, we tallied 133 species and had a fabulous time, despite the sometimes-adverse weather conditions. Our trip leaders Lee Adams, Bill Akers, Jerry Via and yours truly added to the enjoyment by ensuring that everyone got to see as many species as possible. The popular trip to Lake Mattamuskeet on Friday included excellent looks at a cooperative Great-Horned Owl. Also impressive was a stream of 100s of Canada Geese flying overhead – their formation and accompanying “honks” made for an amazing experience. As usual, the impoundments held an abundance and variety of waterfowl, including a Eurasian Wigeon that a few were able to spot. Saturday morning we divided into two groups to visit Oregon Inlet and Pea Island. A nesting Great-Horned Owl (on the platform of an abandoned Osprey nest) was a special treat at Oregon Inlet, and the Black-crowned Night Herons were in their usual spot behind the rear parking lot. At Pea Island the sunny skies made the views of the waterfowl spectacular - including Redhead, Cavasback, Lesser Scaup, 80+ American Avocets and 40+ White Pelicans huddled together on a single sandbar. After lunch the winds had died down, and we had a wonderful time birding on Jennette’s Pier. Species spotted there included Dovekie, Razorbill, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Common and Red-throated Loon, Eared and Horned Grebe, and Northern Gannet. Click here to continue reading!
The weather was beautiful for the VSO field trip to Chincoteague on September 15-17, and the 80 participants reported having a fabulous time! We tallied 120 species, which included birds found on the Causeway, Chincoteague Island and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Many first-timers and new VSO members got several life birds and were assisted by the more experienced attendees. Many thanks to field trip leaders Jerry Via, Bill Akers, Bob Ake, Mike Schultz, and Meredith Bell, who worked hard to ensure everyone had a great experience. Friday evening we met to overview the weekend, and we enjoyed a very informative presentation by Jerry on the effect of hurricanes on birds. Unfortunately, mosquitoes were at an all-time high on Assateague and the wildlife loop had very few birds, so we made two adjustments to our itinerary. We moved the Woodland Trail warbler walk to the Island Nature Trail in Chincoteague, where mosquitoes were not a problem. We cancelled the birding and biking trip (for the first time in more than 10 years), and our group joined Bill Akers for the warbler walk. The S-SW winds did not bring in the hoped-for warblers, yet we still had some nice birds on this trail – a family of Red-headed Woodpeckers, an abundance of Brown-headed Nuthatches, several American Redstarts and Northern Parula, and a spectacular look at a Great-Horned Owl. The boat trip was Saturday morning this year because it’s always scheduled around low tide... Click here to continue reading!
Mother Nature delivered beautiful weather and an abundance of birds for the 55 participants in the VSO's field trip to the New River Valley on June 9-11. Many thanks to Bill Akers and Jerry Via, who led the trips and put in many hours in advance checking out the field trip areas to make sure the birds would make an appearance when we arrived. And appear they did, with 103 species (including 18 warbler species) tallied for the 3 days. We appreciated the donuts and water they provided for us on Saturday, as well as the assistance from several members of the New River Valley Bird Club: Anna Altizer, John Ford, Hailey Olsen-Hodges, Don Mackler, Bill Opengari, and Pat Polentz. Friday afternoon the entire group traveled to the Biological Station at Mountain Lake and areas around the Lodge. On the way up the mountain on Route 700, we stopped at a magnificent overlook, where we enjoyed scenic views as well as great looks at Chestnut- sided Warbler and Scarlet Tanager. A Red-tailed Hawk glided by, and we had the unique opportunity to observe it from above AND below. Some lucky folks got glimpses of a Golden-winged Warbler. In our walk around the Biological Station, we found Blue-headed Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Cedar Waxwing, American Redstart, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Dark-eyed Junco. At Mountain Lake we heard a Canada Warbler and Wood Thrush songs and saw Black-throated Blue Warbler, Veery and Hairy Woodpecker... Click Here To Continue Reading!
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!
3-5 Feb 2017 - Outer Banks, NC
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!