Field Trip Report – Northern Neck June 7-9, 2019

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.

Photos Courtesy of Doug Rogers

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.

Due to rain on Sunday, a much smaller group stayed to visit the Wilna Unit. Lee Adams spotted a Wild Turkey hen with chicks after everyone had gone, and another hen with chicks was seen by Guy and Susan Babineau in one of our priority blocks (Mount Landing SE) as they were headed home! 

Very special thanks to several individuals who helped ensure we had a successful weekend:
-      Melissa Gross and Maeve Charlesworth, local birders, gave invaluable suggestions for areas to cover in three of our four priority blocks.
-      Lee Adams, Sally Knight, and Ellison Orcutt led groups to the priority blocks on Saturday.     
- Guy Babineau and Wendy Ealding recorded species and submitted checklists real-time. Guy also for got up early to check for nightjars. He found a Chuck-Wills-Widow at Montross SE.

 Thanks to ALL who attended, for your efforts contributed to a very successful weekend of data collection for the Atlas project!

Meredith Bell

VSO Field Trips Co-Chair