The Blue Ridge Young Birders October meeting had good turnout, with more than 11 young birders, including two new kids. Many club members attended the first Saturday bird walk with the Monticello Bird Club which preceded our meeting, as it does every month. We saw some nice late migrants such as blackpoll and Tennessee warblers, and some winter birds, like yellow-bellied sapsucker and golden-crowned kinglet. Some members of our club also saw a red headed woodpecker fly over the field. At 9:30 we returned to the Ivy Creek Natural Area education building, where we had our meeting. We planned and talked about upcoming field trips and club events. Then Charlotte gave a presentation on her birding trip to Charleston, South Carolina. After the meeting, all the young birders participated in the traditional ten-minute birding blitz, a friendly competition to see the most species in ten minutes. Suddenly, as we were getting ready to leave, a gorgeous adult peregrine falcon flew over the building, with its powerful, seemingly effortless flight. What a fantastic end to a great morning!
On September 30th, Baxter Beamer led the first ever Blue Ridge Young Birder Club field trip to Pocosin Cabin in Shenandoah National Park. The trip was well attended, with 11 young birder participants. As we drove up the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, numerous species of blue and white asters bloomed by the roadside. When we got out of the car at the Pocosin Cabin Fire Road, the air felt cool and crisp. Around us, the black gums were already starting to change color, while many of the other tree species remained green. We encountered our first mixed species flock just after we passed the clearing containing Pocosin Cabin. Swainson’s and wood thrushes were everywhere, but try as we might, we could not find a gray-cheeked. Later season warblers foraged in the canopy around us, with Tennessee, blackpoll, and bay-breasted warblers being the most common species. We also saw blackburnian, black-throated-green, and black-throated-blue warblers, as well as northern parula. Good bird activity continued down the trail, and just as we were talking about how great a Philadelphia Vireo would be, Max called from up ahead that he had one. We all rushed to him, but by the time we got there, the bird had disappeared. Panicked, we started thoroughly searching the amazingly abundant blue-headed vireos for the vanished Philadelphia. Finally, the bird was re-found, and everybody had fabulous views as it foraged in a shrub directly above our heads. We walked back up the fire road at a more leisurely pace, stopping periodically to look for salamanders under rocks and in the little creeks that crossed the path. Aside from many common red-backed salamanders, Carson and Robert were able to turn up a southern two-lined salamander, and some monstrously sized northern dusky salamanders.
By Ezra Staengl
Six current members of the Blue Ridge Young Birders Club participated on September 23 in the Kiptopeke Challenge (KC), a Big Day in the Coastal Plain of Virginia. The Blue Ridge Great Horns, consisting of club president Baxter Beamer, former Club President Gabriel Mapel, and Club Vice President Max Nootbaar, won this years KC with 132 species. Team Turnstone, composed of Tucker Beamer, Theo Staengl, and Ezra Staengl, finished with 107 species. This is a post from my personal blog of our (Team Turnstone's) experience on the KC.
I felt completely awake despite it being two hours before dawn from the anxiousness and excitement churning inside me. My brother Theo, our friend Tucker Beamer, and I stood in the high grass of the salt marsh at Pleasure House Point Natural Area in Virginia Beach. The sounds of the high buzzy chip notes of migrating warblers occasionally pierced the quiet as they flew overhead. We were competing in a birding big day known as the Kiptopeke Challenge (KC) in order to see as many species as we could in a twenty four hour day, and raise money for the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory (CVWO), an important conservation and field research organization in the area. We had registered ourselves as Team Turnstone.
Over the past month, we had meticulously planned a birding route up the Eastern Shore of Virginia from Pleasure House Point, and we were thrilled to finally be putting our plan into action. Suddenly, we heard the hoarse croak of a yellow-crowned night-heron as it flushed out of the grass somewhere off to our right. The first identified species of the day! The low grunting of resting mallard ducks drifted to us on the still night air from the water. The raucous repeated "kek" calls of a clapper rail erupted out of the marsh and then died back. We hurried back to the car, and drove to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT).
At 5:25 AM we pulled into the deserted parking lot of the first CBBT island, a famous birding spot, but not one I had high hopes for in the dark. In the dim light of street lamps, we spotted the blobs of two sleeping shorebirds on the rocks in the surf below. Closer inspection showed a ruddy turnstone and a sanderling, as well as two more juvenile yellow-crowned night-herons.
We were particularly excited for our next stop, a small section of bay-side beachfront in southern Northampton County called Sunset Beach. We had heard that hundreds of warblers that had overshot during the night and found themselves on the edge of the difficult to cross Chesapeake Bay flew back up the peninsula of the Eastern Shore at dawn every day. We found a Wilson's warbler foraging in the brush, but not yet much else. We arrived just as the sun was rising, and as we waited for more warblers, we birded along the beach in the half light. We saw common gulls, pelicans, and cormorant for the first time that day.
Coming back to the small woodlot near where we had parked, we saw that other Kiptopeke Challenge teams had gathered in expectation of the great flight. Among them was the Blue Ridge Great Horns, the other youth team. They were Tucker's older brother, Baxter Beamer, Gabriel Mapel, and Max Nootbaar. They jauntily approached us and asked how we were doing. We asked them the same question instead of answering. Baxter told us that they had done more pre-dawn birding than us, and as a result had some birds that we didn't, like bobolink, Swainson's thrush, and northern harrier. They didn't have Wilson's warbler though. All further talking was interrupted by a barrage of warbler flight calls. We hurried to take up our position with the rest of the teams as 20 warblers streaked low over head and disappeared into the dense pines. Over the next hour, we watched more than 600 warblers of almost 20 different species zip over the gap and up the peninsula. It was hard to identify them from so brief a look, and to compound the problem, by KC rules, everyone in the team has to see a bird for it to be countable on the team's list. Even so, I enjoyed the challenge and the feeling of wonder at the sheer amount of birds.
When the constant stream of warblers finally began to die down, we had around 60 species for the day, and it was only 7:40 AM. We said goodbye to the Great Horns, and headed to our next stop, the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR. We hoped the other teams wouldn't stop here, and we might be able to get some birds back on them. We saw a beautiful American kestrel as we drove in to the refuge. Other notable birds at Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR included sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawk, a late eastern kingbird, and house finch, supposedly a difficult bird on the Eastern Shore. At the Kiptopeke Hawk Platform, we were surprised by how close the migrating raptors were. At the Rockfish Gap Hawkwatch in Augusta, the raptors appear as little specks in the sky, but at Kiptopeke most birds are low. We saw our first confirmed merlin, as well as a tufted titmouse, a sometimes difficult species in Northampton. We drove to Magotha Road, where we hoped to see Eurasian collared dove and marsh wren. Sadly, the only new birds we added were peregrine falcon, least sandpiper, great egret, foresters tern, and eastern bluebird. As we were about to leave, the Great Horns drove up again. They asked us how we were doing again. When they learned that we were quickly catching up to them, they left in a hurry. We continued on to Cape Charles Beach, where we hoped to pick up the other tern species. The sea oats on the dunes blew lazily in the midday wind. I was beginning to feel the strain of such an intense schedule, but the terns flying by quickly distracted me. We were only able to pick out royal and sandwich terns here, leaving us to hope we could get caspian and common at Chincoteague later in the day. At the town of Willis Wharf's lovely scented boatyard, (the freshest air in the place was the abandoned porta potty), we once again saw our mascot bird, the ruddy turnstone, perched atop a mountain of oyster shells.
Next we had a long time in the car, as we drove all the way up to Saxis Wildlife Management Area in the most northern part of Virginia's portion of the Delmarva Peninsula. Seemingly endless plains of salt marsh stretched out from the road in all directions. We got out of the car, feeling the hot sun beating down on us, and "pished" at the grass. A seaside sparrow flew up and further away from us. We clapped half-heartedly, hoping to coax a Virginia rail into responding, but since it was literally the middle of the day, we didn't have much hope. After about a minute, some Virginia rail, somewhere way out in the marsh, decided it just wanted us to shut-up and let it rest. The grunting call of the rail was barely perceptible to us, but we could count the bird.
Now we could continue to our last stop, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. We had planned on spending most of the afternoon at Chincoteague, which proved to be a mistake, as Chincoteague just isn't that good in the Fall. We should have spent more time birding sites in Northampton County. But Chincoteague is always pretty good, and we weren't entirely disappointed. We were disappointed by the number of people using the beach. Why on earth does every beachgoer in the world have to decide to come out to a wildlife refuge when they could literally choose any other spot of sand?! The beach was so crowded, you could hardly see the ocean from behind the lines of sunbathers. We hurried past, toward the Tom's Cove mudflats where we hoped for shorebirds. One of the first birds we spotted was my Virginia lifer piping plover. Shortly afterward, we found a sandpiper flock, with some semipalmated sandpipers, sanderling, and semipalmated plovers. There was also a least sandpiper, and many black-bellied plovers. These were all new birds for the day, except the least.
As we continued down the beach, we were surprised by the lack of willits and marbled godwits, which should have been common. Up ahead, we saw a giant flock of gulls and terns and decided to scan it. They were mostly great-black backed, herring, ring-billed and laughing gulls and royal terns, but we were able to find caspian and common terns mixed in as well. Suddenly, a flock of 31 red knots flew in from the ocean side, and landed nearby. This was a day-bird and Virginia lifer for me. We birded around Chincoteague for the rest of the day. Highlights included an adult Lincoln's sparrow, a bird never before seen on the Kiptopeke Challenge, that we spotted on the Black Duck Trail.
As the sun was setting, we hurried back out to the beach to give willits and marbled godwits another shot. As we walked down the now empty beach, massive flocks of willits and red knots were everywhere. We were able to pick out four marbled godwits in a flock of over 50 willits. Thank goodness we eventually got those birds! After dinner, we came back out to the refuge to try for owls and nocturnal migrants, but we came up with nothing new. We had planned on listening for more nocturnal migrants back at our hotel, but I guess the beds just looked too good. It was 10:30 PM, and we had been up since 4:00 AM. We went to bed. Our total for the day was 107 species, perhaps not as good as we hoped, but still a fairly solid number, and we'll be back next year to do better.
by Ezra Staengl
Five birders, including trip leader Logan Anderson, showed up for the long trek down to Mecklenburg and Halifax counties for the Staunton River Trip. After leaving promptly at 6:15 am, we arrived in Mecklenburg at 8:45 and spent the next two and a half hours birding that part of the park. Highlights included Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-Plover, White Ibis, Common Tern, Caspian Tern, Sanderling, Stilt Sandpiper, and Ruddy Turnstone on the mudflats. Baxter managed to get a brief look at a Wilson’s Phalarope before it irritatingly disappeared behind some willows. We also had a nice migrant flock of passerines, which included Yellow-throated Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Black-and-white Warbler, and a few Summer Tanagers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Another thing of note was the massive flock of Bank Swallows that was feeding over the mudflats. Next we headed to the Halifax County side of the park where we got better looks at the shorebirds we were seeing from Mecklenburg. We managed much better looks at the Golden-Plovers and Black-bellied Plovers plus a smorgasbord of peeps from Least, to Semipalmated, Pectoral, and Stilt, and Baxter even pulled a White-rumped from within their ranks. Baxter also found the Wilson’s Phalarope again and everyone was able to get a good look at this bird feeding on the mudflats. Semipalmated Plovers galore plus better looks at the terns of which Logan found a Black Tern in among them. It’s a wonder we had anything with the massive swarm of Caddisflies that clouded the Halifax bank. The next stops, looking for Mississippi Kites and Eurasian Collared-Doves, were busts, but as promised we had Brown-headed Nuthatch in Campbell County. After some deliberation we stopped at Mill Creek Lake in Amherst County to look for the juvenile Little Blue Herons that have been hanging around there. We did not have any luck with them but we found 3 Black Terns and an Amherst County 1st, Common Tern. Overall this trip was very productive, producing a couple lifers for some members and quite a few year birds, not to mention it being the first trip that found a county first. The trip total was 88 species.
- Logan Anderson
I wanted to give out an introduction to the blog, and some announcements regarding changes and additions to club infrastructure.
This blog will serve as an outlet for those interested in the events, field trips, and other activities of our club. Field trip reports will be posted here after official club trips take place. Ezra Staengl will be in charge of maintaining this blog as part of his new duties as Club Journalist (see the announcements section for more details on the new youth leadership positions). Anyone wishing to contribute material for this blog should contact Ezra at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. We will be increasing the frequency of club meetings to once a month! Every first Saturday, of every month, we will have a meeting, just as we have had in the past, at the education building at Ivy Creek, at 9:30 AM. Our next meeting is October 7th.
2. Eve Gaige has stepped down from her position of adult coordinator. She has offered to continue to help with club activities when available. With that, we now welcome Joanna Salidis (Ezra and Theo's mother) to the adult leadership of the club!
3. We welcome Ezra Staengl to the youth leadership position of Club Journalist! Ezra's job will be to maintain the reactivated Club Blog, to ensure field trip reports are posted there after each field trip, and to write about the club for local editorials and publications.
4. We welcome Logan Anderson to the position of Youth Outreach Coordinator! Logan's job will be to coordinate outreach initiatives, visits to other organizations, community events, and other such activities outside of field trips.
I can't wait to see what else we can accomplish together as a club! Please feel free to contact Mary, Ezra, or I with questions or comments regarding the blog, or any of the above items. We have planned many exciting field trips for this Fall - you can check them out on our field trip page. Stay tuned for a trip report from the Club's shorebird trip to Staunton River State Park, in southern Virginia.
In this issue of our newsletter learn all about the bird conservation poster contest that we are sponsoring in cooperation with the Monticello bird club. The contest is open to students K-8th grade in Charlottesville, Albemare and Nelson Counties. Any member of our club, regardless of where you live, as long as you are in the specified grades is eligible and encouraged to enter. You could win a great pair of Eagle Optics binoculars!!
Also read about our next field trip, bird seed sale, an awesome riverboat eagle adventure and more!
Below is the trip report I wrote for birding listservs about the Highland County Young Birders Trip. In addition to this formal bird report, here are some notes about our adventure:
We had a great time with 5 young birders and 2 parents in attendance. Big thanks to Athen's mom Renell for driving! Everybody got life birds on the trip except for me (Gabriel). Life Bird totals:
Below is the formal bird report. Good Birding!
I led a trip for the Blue Ridge Young Birders Club over to Highland County yesterday, and we found all of our target birds with the exception of Black-billed Cuckoo which we just missed at Margaret O'Bryan's. Other notable misses included some raptors, Rock Pigeon, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Cardinal, and House Finch. Some more highlights, along with the target birds, included all 4 Empidonax Flycatchers (other than Yellow-bellied), and 14 Warbler species.
A special thanks to Margaret O'Bryan for welcoming us to her property always, and to everyone who attended for contributing to finding birds! Also congrats to everyone from the young birders that got Life Birds yesterday. Good Birding to all,
New Hope, VA
Complete Highland County list:
Turkey Vulture 15
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 6
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 5
Belted Kingfisher 1 - Laurel Fork Rd at the stream crossing (Canada Warbler spot).
Red-headed Woodpecker 1 - Along Rte 250 at Hightown.
Northern Flicker 1
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Acadian Flycatcher 1
Alder Flycatcher 1 - Straight Fork Beaver Ponds
Willow Flycatcher 3 - 2 across the road from Margaret O'Bryan's and 1 on Hardscrabble Rd.
Least Flycatcher 4 - 3 at Margaret O'Bryan's and 1 at Straight Fork.
Eastern Phoebe 2
Eastern Kingbird 1
Yellow-throated Vireo 2
Blue-headed Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 12
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 3
Common Raven 4
Tree Swallow 4
Barn Swallow 12
Black-capped Chickadee 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
House Wren 3
Hermit Thrush 2
Wood Thrush 2
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 5
Brown Thrasher 3
European Starling 81
Cedar Waxwing 13
Golden-winged Warbler 3 - Margaret O'Bryan's
Black-and-white Warbler 2
Mourning Warbler 1 - Regular clearing along Allegheny Rd. singing and seen right near road in understory.
Common Yellowthroat 4
American Redstart 1
Magnolia Warbler 3
Blackburnian Warbler 2
Yellow Warbler 4
Chestnut-sided Warbler 8
Black-throated Blue Warbler 4
Black-throated Green Warbler 7
Canada Warbler 1 - Regular location along Laurel Fork Rd at stream crossing.
Yellow-breasted Chat 1 - Margaret O'Bryan's.
Eastern Towhee 6
Chipping Sparrow 10
Field Sparrow 9
Vesper Sparrow 2 - Both along Heavner Lane.
Savannah Sparrow 2 - One at Margaret O'Bryan's and one along Heavner Lane.
Song Sparrow 9
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Scarlet Tanager 7
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3
Indigo Bunting 5
Red-winged Blackbird 26
Eastern Meadowlark 8
Common Grackle 5
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Orchard Oriole 2
Baltimore Oriole 1
American Goldfinch 11
House Sparrow 7
Spring migration was in full swing at Ivy Creek on Saturday! Our morning bird walk took the young birders down by the Reservoir, where we saw a large variety of warblers and other migrating songbirds on the two-hour walk. We saw an Acadian Flycatcher, a drab female Black-throated Blue Warbler, and a secretive Ovenbird singing. We had close encounters with a bright Chestnut-sided Warbler, as well as a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. Before the meeting started, a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak and an Indigo Bunting were posing for photographs near the building. Andrew gave an informative and entertaining talk on identifying warblers during the day’s meeting, which was attended by nine young birders.
Carson Lambert, secretary
The Blue Ridge Young Birders Club had a field trip to the Shenandoah Valley today. Our goal was to find Rusty Blackbirds to contribute to the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz and indeed we found Rustys but also much more.
At the marsh on Merck Property (viewed from Rte 340, south of Elkton) we found 30 Canada Geese, 3 Am. Black Ducks, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, and our first Rusty Blackbird (a nice female). Traversing Nicholson and Model Rds we added 1 Black Vulture, 6 TVs, 1 RT Hawk, 2 Kestrels, 1 H. Lark, 360 Robins, 7 Meadowlarks, our second Rusty Blackbird (a male), and 225 Grackles.
At Lake Campbell we tallied 25 Geese, 3 Mallards, 2 Redheads (male/female), 28 RN Ducks, 7 RB Mergansers, 1 continuing Red-necked Grebe, 5 Coots, 2 B. Kingfishers, 1 Hairy Woodpecker, and 3 Fish Crows. Over at Lake Shenandoah we found what was perhaps the highlight of our day, an adult Peregrine Falcon flew in, circled once, and then made a beeline to the northeast. Other highlights here included 2 Geese, 7 Mallards, another 1 RN Duck, 5 PB Grebes, 4 more continuing Red-necked Grebes, 1 Coot, 2 Fish Crows, 6 Tree & 1 Barn Swallows, 1 YR Warbler.
From here, we went over to the ponds behind the Rockingham Memorial Hospital and found 1 continuing Snow Goose, 28 Canadas, 9 Mallards, 2 RNDucks, 1 continuing WW Scoter, 1 Kestrel, 1 Field Sparrow. We ended our trip on Scholars Rd where we found 15 Fish Crows, and our third Rusty Blackbird (another female). The grand finale for our field trip was a pair of adult Cooper's Hawks that flew by low right in front of us, with the apparent male chasing the apparent female!
Thanks to everyone who participated, and Good Birding to All,
New Hope, VA
In early January, BRYBC Field Trips Coordinator Andrew Rapp had the excellent idea for the young birders to challenge themselves to see how many species we would see total in the month of January. Several of the young birders went around collecting pledges for the challenge, and many people either made a flat-fee donation on behalf of the challenge or pledged a certain number of cents per species. In this photo we see Gabriel and Andrew at the February meeting tallying the number of species seen in the month of January. 139 species were seen and the club raised $449 for the club. Thank you to all of those who pledged, we really, really appreciate it was a lot of fun!
Young Birder's Blog
BRYBC members take turns sharing field trip reports, musings about their bird encounters, meeting highlights and club history.