The weather was magnificent for the VSO field trip to Chincoteague on September 20-22, and we tallied 122 species. It was exciting to return after missing last year due to the mandatory evacuation related to the hurricane. We had many first-timers among the 85 participants, and several got at least one life bird.
Photos Courtesy of Kathy Louthan, Pam Scrima, Tom and Andrew Rapp
Many thanks to field trip leaders Jerry Via, Bill Akers, Andrew Rapp 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 Via on migration paths and how birds are affected by hurricanes.
We made adjustments to the itinerary due to drastic change in habitat at the Woodland Trail and the Wildlife Loop. Also, mosquitoes were brutal, as usual, on Assateague. We changed the Warbler Walk to the Island Nature Trail in Chincoteague, where mosquitoes were not a problem. We cancelled the birding and biking trip around the loop, and those participants joined the trail walk. Thanks to Larry Meade for enhancing Saturday with identification of butterflies and dragonflies, and to Andrew Rapp for co-leading this trip on Sunday. While the southerly winds did not bring in the hoped-for woodland birds, we still had some nice birds over the two mornings – a family of Red-headed Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches, several American Redstarts and Northern Parula, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
On the popular Saturday AM boat trip, led by Bill Akers with excellent assistance from Andrew Rapp and Mike Schultz, the 60 participants enjoyed close-up views of many species. Highlights were: Seaside Sparrow, Marbled Godwit, Least Sandpiper, Clapper Rail, Bald Eagles, a Merlin sitting on driftwood at eye level, and a variety of herons, egrets and terns.
Jerry Via led the two bus trips to Wash Flats, assisted by Andrew Rapp (again!) and Doug and Sally Pfeiffer. The 25 passengers on each trip enjoyed some of the best sightings we’ve had there in several years, including: Gull-billed Tern, Whimbrel, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Short-billed Dowitcher, and White-rumped and Pectoral Sandpipers.
Ducks were in short supply this year, but we did have an interesting Mallard/American Black Duck Hybrid on the Wildlife Loop.
At sunrise on Sunday, two dozen participants gathered at the beach to celebrate the lives of two very special people we’ve lost in the past two years: “Nultie” Wiseman, mother of Mary Foster, and Bob Livingston, husband of Lucinda Jennings. 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 sun rise at the beach during the Chincoteague trip.
We’ve already locked in the 2020 dates, September 18-20. Mark your calendar now and plan to join us for spectacular birding at a remarkable place!
VSO Field Trips Co-chair
Official List of Observed Species
American Black Duck
American Golden Plover
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Blue Warbler