2-4 Dec 2016 - Virginia Beach, VA

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 the island. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/fisherman_island/  All photos below Copyright Lee Adams:

The Meet and Greet/Tally held at the hospitality room of the hotel had more than 25 people attending, sharing nibbles and beverages, and discussing great birding areas and recent trips.

Forty eight people braved the cold winds to visit the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel islands with the Virginia Society of Ornithology on December 3, 2016. Long-tailed Duck, Northern Gannet, Lesser Scaup, Purple Sandpiper and Great Cormorant were among the species of the morning. Harbor Seals were an added treat. Even with the brisk wind and the cold front that had moved through, there seemed to be fewer birds than expected. Some participants chose to head north to Chincoteague after the CBBT trip. At Willis Wharf many Marbled Godwits and Willets fed on the flats with a couple of Dunlin and a Forster’s Tern. American Oystercatchers and Greater Yellowlegs were foraging on the oyster beds at Queen Sound Landing on the causeway into Chincoteague. https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/vbwt/sites/queen-sound-public-landing/

The wildlife loop at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge held several immature Little Blue Herons and Tricolored Herons. Sharp eyes picked out two Eurasian Wigeons among the small American Wigeon flock. Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintail, American Black Ducks, Mallards, Gadwall and Tundra Swans were watched by three Bald Eagles. Two eagles sat together in a bare tree. The winter daylight faded too quickly on a beautiful day. https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/vbwt/sites/chincoteague-national-wildlife-refuge/

Sunday's Virginia Society of Ornithology Back Bay NWR/False Cape State Park tram trip departed from normal by being neither rainy, nor horribly cold. Some participants even saw the continuing Lark Sparrow before boarding the tram. Gray skies did not dampen the enthusiasm and birders were rewarded with views of Northern Gannets and Brown Pelicans out over the ocean, raptors aplenty, and various waterfowl. A small flock of Snow Geese flew overhead and a flock of eight Hooded Mergansers dashed out of the water. When the tram reached False Cape State Park some folks opted to walk the road to the visitor center, while some stayed on the tram. Swamp Sparrows, a Marsh Wren, Palm Warbler and Common Yellowthroat obliged some with quick glimpses. Several King Rails, seeming not the least concerned about many people talking and crowding the edge of the road, wove in and out of the grasses along the water's edge, and even swam across the ditch toward us. A few people saw and photographed a Yellow-breasted Chat in a viney tangle near the visitor center. Erica Ryder, our tram driver extraordinaire and Visitor Services Specialist at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, pointed out an immature Little Blue Heron with an injured wing, which is continuing in an area near the bay. Motoring along the loop back into the wildlife refuge an impoundment held one American Coot and one White Ibis. A Wood Duck box had a gray Eastern Screech-owl perched at the entrance hole. Canada Geese, Tundra Swans, Ruddy, American Black & Ring-necked ducks, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal and Lesser Scaup dotted the water. Bald Eagles stirred the ducks. Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper's Hawks and an American Kestrel all commandeered their own airspace. A cottonmouth, torpid from the cold, was hidden by a few strands of golden dried grass. It was lively enough to open wide and show its cottony-white mouth when people got too near trying to examine it. Sunday was a good day to be a birder in southeastern Virginia. A lucky few chose to search for a Le Conte's Sparrow in the Beasley Tract of the Princess Anne WMA 20 miles away from Back Bay, and refound the bird. What a spectacular way to end a wonderful weekend.https://www.dgif.virginia.gov/vbwt/sites/back-bay-national-wildlife-refuge/