15-17 September 2017 - Chincoteague NWR, Accomack County

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. Bob Ake and Mike Schultz did an outstanding job leading the group. The 63 participants enjoyed close-up views of many species. Highlights included a group of more than 1,000 White Ibis, a Peregrine Falcon and a nice assortment of shorebirds and wading birds.

The two ever-popular bus trips to Wash Flats, led by Jerry Via, were sold out with 25 passengers on each. Special sightings included Lark Sparrow, Wild Turkey and a pair of Peregrine Falcons sitting side by side. At Tom’s Cove and the beach, we found more than 50 Red Knots and a nice assortment of Plovers, Terns and Gulls.

Now an annual tradition, several of us gathered at the beach just before sunrise on Sunday to celebrate the lives of very special VSO members we lost this past year: Clark White, Bob Abraham and Tom Armour. Those who knew these individuals shared memories of their experiences. We began this in 2015 to honor Ruth Beck and Peggy Opengari, who always loved to watch the sunrise at the beach during this VSO field trip.

We’ve already locked in the 2018 dates, September 14-16. Mark your calendar now and plan to join us for spectacular birding at a remarkable place!


Meredith Bell
VSO Field Trips Co-chair

Official List of Observed Species

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Wild Turkey
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Brown Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Cooper’s Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Clapper Rail
Black-necked Stilt
American Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Marbled Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Bonaparte’s Gull
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Least Tern
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Black-and-white Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Summer Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow