On Saturday, 23 Apr 2016, in cooperation with the Virginia Geographic Alliance, the state chapter of National Geographic, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge hosted a ‘BioBlitz’ event. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the National Park System (and also the 80th anniversary of the Virginia State Parks), the event was set to occur at eight sites around the state, with Back Bay filling the role as a federal agency and hosting the event for the South Hampton Roads region. The event had two main goals, 1). To conduct a series of biological survey throughout the wildlife refuge in order to identify and survey the variety of species occurring throughout the park, and 2). To provide education talks & walks to visitors from the general public. While the event focused on both flora and fauna, this writeup is primarily focused on what was observed from a birding aspect. For the bird surveys of the event, four teams were assigned to cover different sections of the park in order to note which birds were occurring in the varying habitats. The four sections covered were the West Dike & Green Hills area, the East Dike, the Dunes, and the Beach. The inland surveys all began at 7 AM, starting at the southern edge of the park, at the shared border with False Cape State Park. Surveyors then took the next few hours, methodically working their way northward, and... Click Here to Continue Reading!

This year’s 21st annual Kiptopeke Challenge (shortened to KC for the remainder of this article) took place on Saturday, running from midnight to midnight. For those unfamiliar, the KC is a “Big Day” competition that has birders working their way around Northampton and Accomack Counties attempting to observe (by sight or sound) as many species of birds as possible. Though the goal is to tally the most birds, the real purpose of the KC is to promote awareness of fall migration on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and all donations from the event go towards assisting the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory. For the first time, I took part in the KC, and this was actually the first birding competition I’ve ever signed up for. Given that, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Most folks get a team together, consisting of typically 3-5 people. However, I signed up with just one partner, Jason Strickland of Newport News, whom I’ve birded a couple times with down at Back Bay and had good success alongside. In the past we’ve worked well together, with our style of birding, and our backgrounds very similar. Lacking viewing scopes, we both tend to do more walking than most birders are willing to do, hoping to get into closer positions to help identify birds that many others are able to view from a farther distance. This style clearly has some advantages... Click Here to Continue Reading!