The mid-June reporting period typically tends to be one of, if not, the most challenging periods of the year for birders here on the coast. Perhaps it can be blamed on many of us still being worn out from the extra effort put forth into finding good birds during the spring migration window of late March to late May. However, with no expected departures after early June, and no expected arrivals until late June, species diversity truly reaches its lowest point for the year. The breeding season has taken control, and many species aren’t as vocal as they were a few weeks ago, camouflaged well within the dense summer vegetation. Despite all this however, there is a major silver lining to be noted: that we’ve made it through the tough times, and species diversity will again start to rise soon! All that said, great birds still managed to be found in the city over the past ten days, and a remarkable third WARBLING VIREO for the year was even discovered! Like last period we had no expected arrivals/departures, but we had a number of unseasonal occurrences including records for HOODED MERGANSER, TUNDRA SWAN, RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, RUDDY TURNSTONE, AMERICAN COOT, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, SPOTTED SANDPIPER! WEATHER: Mid-June expectedly proved to be the hottest reporting period thus far for the year. The 97° F high on 19 Jun dethroned the former 2018 high...Click Here to Continue Reading!
The summer reporting season has now begun, and birders across the city began to focus their attention towards our breeding species now that the spring migration has officially ended. Fear not though, by the end of June, we should once again begin seeing returning species (mostly of the shorebird variety) as their average “fall” migration begins as early as 30 Jun (Spotted Sandpiper). For the next several weeks though, it’s a good time to seek out summer rarities. Last year we were all kept busy by the Fork-tailed Flycatcher at Back Bay NWR; who knows what might steal the show this summer. For the first reporting period though, top records in Virginia Beach included new rarity reports for ROSEATE SPOONBILL and continuing rarity reports for WHITE-EYED EASTERN TOWHEE! New arrivals were nonexistent as expected, but we had quite a few unseasonal occurrences (species that aren’t typically observed during the summer here) including TUNDRA SWAN, RING-NECKED DUCK, GADWALL & PEREGRINE FALCON. Additionally, there were several reports perhaps more appropriately labelled as late occurrences for SURF SCOTER, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER & RED-BREASTED MERGANSER that eclipsed the expected departure date for the species. WEATHER: Early June was surprisingly a bit cooler than the previous two periods. Average daily high temperatures dropped slightly...Click Here to Continue Reading!
A sharp decline in both diversity of species and counts of individual birds occurred after the spring’s major coastal migration movement on 11 May. As a result, late May provided a bit of a burn-out effect for most birders in Virginia Beach as the realization that the season had reached its peak and the sheer volume of birds arriving to the city quickly tapered off. Additionally, high temperatures and unstable weather helped to define this reporting period, and the overall number of eBird checklists was down a bit from that of recent periods (despite the Memorial Day holiday weekend which can often bring many vacationing birders to Virginia Beach). However, as we’ve all become accustomed to, there is always something interesting to find in the city, and top records for late May in Virginia Beach included new rarity reports for ROSEATE SPOONBILL, BARN OWL, DICKCISSEL, BLACK-NECKED STILT & WARBLING VIREO and continuing rarity reports for at least two separate COMMON GALLINULES! Once mid-May passed, expected spring arrivals became non-existent since each of these species had already been logged, paving the way for late lingerers to take their place in the spotlight. With that in mind, during late May we saw records for TUNDRA SWAN, BUFFLEHEAD, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, BONAPARTE’S GULL, BLUE-WINGED TEAL, PEREGRINE FALCON...Click Here to Continue Reading!
After what had been a slow crawl towards the peak of migration dating all the way back into mid-March, the first day of mid-May finally produced what will be remembered as the most exciting day of the spring season for 2018! Overnight on 10/11 May, a large volume of migrants pent-up by persistent north winds to our south were finally released by strong southwesterly winds. Coupled with the timing of a strong wind-switch to the northwest just after dawn, a coastal fallout of birds of a magnitude we hadn’t witnessed in Virginia Beach all season was finally induced! Bolstered heavily by this single-day movement, top records for mid-May in Virginia Beach included new rarity reports for YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, EASTERN TOWHEE (WHITE-EYED), YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, COMMON GALLINULE & PARASITIC JAEGER, continuing rarity reports for TENNESSEE WARBLER & WARBLING VIREO and unseasonal occurrences for BAY-BREASTED WARBLER, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER & WESTERN SANDPIPER! With the peak of spring migration behind us, first-of-season arrivals were hard to come by, though we did log some later-than-expects firsts for COMMON NIGHTHAWK, GULL-BILLED TERN & BANK SWALLOW reports for the season. By mid-May, late spring departures/lingering individuals are much more...Click Here to Continue Reading!
The first few days of May were well-defined by the large-scale movement of thrushes into Virginia Beach, with the expected Veery, Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked Thrushes all accounted for at numerous locations that boast proper habitat. Higher counts of warblers, and stronger diversity also rose during early May, and in general, passerine numbers soared above prior reporting periods! Bolstered by southerly winds, strong movements of northbound migrants occurred overnight on 2-3, 3-4, & 4-5 May (the nights of a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). With this burst of warm weather & arriving migrants, coupled with eBird’s “Global Big Day” event occurring on 5 May (a Saturday), Virginia Beach saw incredible numbers of checklists from local birders. Overall, top records for early May in Virginia Beach included new rarity reports for TENNESSEE WARBLER, WARBLING VIREO, NASHVILLE WARBLER, CAPE MAY WARBLER, YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, PAINTED BUNTING, AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN & WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, along with continuing rarity reports for COMMON GALLINULE & ANHINGA! At this point in the season, the volume of new species arrivals has waned considerably, with early first-of-season (FOS) records for only RED KNOT and with arrivals on or after average expected dates for GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH, MAGNOLIA...Click Here to Continue Reading!
With the filling out of green vegetation across the city in mid-April, and with warmer temperatures arriving, late April proved to be the most active period so far this spring! First-of-season species flooded into the area with the help of several nights featuring southerly winds, and a few interesting rarities popped up as well. Overall, top records for this reporting period in Virginia Beach included new rarity reports for LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER, YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, EASTERN TOWHEE (WHITE-EYED), WESTERN TANAGER (technically one new and one continuing individual), along with continuing rarity reports for COMMON GALLINULE! In addition to these species, expected springtime arrivals were abundant, with early first-of-season (FOS) records for MISSISSIPPI KITE (13 days early), CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER & NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH (4 days early), YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO & EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE (2 days early), SWAINSON’S THRUSH & BLACKPOLL WARBLER (1 day early) as well as springtime arrivals on or after average expected dates for BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER, YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK & INDIGO BUNTING (1 day late), SCARLET TANAGER (2 days late), ACADIAN FLYCATCHER & VEERY (3 days late), WOOD THRUSH (6 days late), YELLOW...Click Here to Continue Reading!
Temperature remained below average yet again, but over the weekend of 14-15 Apr, thanks in part to warmer temperatures and some earlier rain storms, the vegetation across Virginia Beach finally became noticeably green! Along with the popping of the leaves came a great number of interesting bird reports. Top records for this reporting period in Virginia Beach included new rarity reports for CLIFF SWALLOW, VESPER SPARROW, COMMON GALLINULE, PARASITIC JAEGER, ANHINGA, ICELAND GULL & WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, along with continuing rarity reports for WESTERN GREBE! In addition to these species, expected spring migrants were reported in great diversity during the reporting period, and we saw early first-of-season (FOS) records for SUMMER TANAGER (12 days early), WORM-EATING WARBLER (6 days early), LEAST TERN (5 days early), SANDWICH TERN (4 days early), RED-EYED VIREO & BLUE GROSBEAK (both 1 day early) as well as springtime arrivals on or after average expected dates for EASTERN KINGBIRD (2 days late), SPOTTED SANDPIPER (2 days late), WHIMBREL (3 days late), HOODED WARBLER (4 days late), BROAD-WINGED HAWK (14 days late) & COMMON TERN (14 days late). Early records continued to be logged for BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, and our only late species this period was ORANGE...Click Here to Continue Reading!
While temperatures continued to remain below average for this time of year, and the leaves have not yet begun filling out most deciduous trees across the city, spring migration still managed to take another leap forward during early April! Top records for this reporting period in Virginia Beach included new rarity reports for ANHINGA, WESTERN GREBE, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH & WESTERN TANAGER, continuing rarity reports for RUSTY BLACKBIRD and an unseasonal occurrence for RED KNOT! In addition to these species, expected spring migrants are being reported with increasing diversity and during the reporting period, we saw early first-of-season (FOS) records for BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, LEAST BITTERN, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, LEAST SANDPIPER, SOLITARY SANDPIPER, NORTHERN PARULA & GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER. Additionally, springtime arrivals within average expected dates also occurred for LITTLE BLUE HERON, CATTLE EGRET, SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER & STILT SANDPIPER. Early reports (for species that had first arrivals in a prior period) continued as well for a potential CHUCK-WILL’SWIDOW and also for RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD, WHITE-EYED VIREO, CHIMNEY SWIFT, OVENBIRD, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER...Click Here to Continue Reading!
With a wild set of weather featuring 4 coastal nor’easters in early and mid-March this year, we really didn’t know what to expect as far as migrant arrivals were concerned heading into the late portion of the month. After what seemed to many of us like an eternity, the northerly winds finally abated and we received several days and nights of southerly winds that helped push our first major batch of spring birds north into the city! Most notable were the strong southwesterly winds overnight on 28/29 Mar (a Wed/Thurs night), that aided in funneling migrants northward and towards the coast rather than straight through the central part of the state as often happens with more common southerly winds. While top records for the period included new rarity reports for SWALLOW-TAILED KITE, CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOW, LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH, RUSTY BLACKBIRD & AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN as well as continuing rarity reports for Lake Joyce’s drake EURASIAN WIGEON, it was the springtime arrivals that likely had more folks excited in Late March! Early first-of-season (FOS) reports occurred for RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD (10 Apr expected arrival), GREEN HERON, OVENBIRD, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, PRAIRIE WARBLER & CHIMNEY SWIFT (5 Apr expected) as well as for CASPIAN TERN & BARN SWALLOW (30 Mar expected)...Click Here to Continue Reading!
Mid-March 2018 (11th-20th)
After enduring the effects of back-to-back nor’easters in early March, we were miraculously subjected to yet another pair of coastal storms this reporting period. The first of the storms (dubbed Winter Storm Skylar by The Weather Channel) was responsible for up to a couple of inches of snow falling throughout the city on the evening of Monday, 12 Mar, just when we all thought winter might be reaching an end! At the closing of the period, strong onshore winds and intense rainfall hit the city due to the offshore passage of a staggering 4th nor’easter of the month (dubbed Toby this time). As always, the weather didn’t stop birders from giving it their best efforts. Top records for the period included a new rarity report for a Back Bay AMERICAN AVOCET, as well as continuing rarity reports for Lake Joyce’s drake EURASIAN WIGEON & both the immature and adult ICELAND GULLS at the Oceanfront. A very early first-of-season (FOS) arrival was logged for WHITE-EYED VIREO, and an on-time arrival was reported for YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON! WEATHER: Yet another pair of nor’easters impacted the region during this period (Winter Storms Skylar & Toby). Average daily high temperatures rose a bit after the sharp drop in early March, increasing 1.2° from 49.1° F to 50.3° (-11.0° from prior 10-year average), with average daily low temperatures remarkably dropping 3.4°...Click Here to Continue Reading!
After record-setting heat during the late February reporting period, temperatures plummeted in early March, recalling a similar situation in 2017. A pair of nor’easters (dubbed Winter Storm ‘Riley’ and ‘Quinn’ by The Weather Channel and affiliates) impacted the region during this period, bringing impressive northwest and eventually north winds to our coastline. Fortunately, not much in the way of precipitation occurred here, though New England witnessed the more extreme side of the storm. Unfortunately, the wind field (which amazingly caused the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to close for an entire day) didn’t seem to bring many birds inshore, rather, it appeared to push all the coastal birds further offshore and also forced all the land birds to seek refuge wherever possible. With this difficult weather, observations of unusual birds were tough to come by locally, that is, until the final two days of the period when spring arrival and rarity records suddenly blossomed! Top records for the period did include new rarity reports for DOVEKIE, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW & RUSTY BLACKBIRD, continuing rarity reports for EURASIAN WIGEON, BLACK-HEADED GULL & ICELAND GULL and first-of-season (FOS) reports for PIPING PLOVER, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER & ROYAL TERN! After enduring record setting heat in late February, the mercury plummeted in early March due to the...Click Here to Continue Reading!
Always the shortest reporting period for the year (even during the slightly longer Leap Years), late February still managed to provide some interesting observations before the winter reporting season could come to a close. On 24 Feb, Bradford Pear trees throughout the city opened up into full bloom, as did a number of other flowering, ornamental tree types. Green grasses could be seen starting to work their way up through the deceased, tan grasses in saltmarshes along the Lynnhaven, and leaves have even started to bud out on some trees! Temperatures felt more in line with summer than winter, and as we head into the spring reporting season next period as March arrives, perhaps we’ve truly seen the last of winter in coastal Virginia. Top records for the period included new rarity reports for SHORT-EARED OWL & RUSTY BLACKBIRD, continuing rarity reports for EURASIAN WIGEON, an unseasonal occurrence for LITTLE BLUE HERON and an on-time first-of-season (FOS) arrival for LAUGHING GULL! WEATHER: Record high temperatures continued across the region during late February and as a whole, this was the warmest period both in terms of daily lows and highs in at least ten years (all the data I have currently at hand). Average daily high temperatures rose 6.0° from 61.3° F in mid-February to 67.3° (as astonishing +13.1° from prior 10-year average), with average daily...Click Here to Continue Reading!
Unseasonable, record-breaking warm weather permeated the region in mid-February, and both the average daily highs and lows were the highest recorded temperatures during this period for at least ten years. The first daffodils of the season are in bloom, and purple blankets of clover are covering many fields now in southern Virginia Beach. Birding picked up considerably from last period, and the sheer number of checklists submitted to eBird in mid-February was bolstered by this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count event, which took place from 16-19 Feb, and resulted in a pair of exciting finds that may otherwise have gone unknown. Top records for the mid-February period included new rarity reports for WESTERN GREBE, EURASIAN WIGEON, PURPLE FINCH, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE & PAINTED BUNTING, continuing rarity reports for BLACK-HEADED GULL & WESTERN TANAGER, a new unseasonal occurrence for YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT, and a continuing unseasonal occurrence for YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER! WEATHER: Record high temperatures were achieved on several days across the region during mid-February and as a whole, this was the warmest period both in terms of daily lows and highs in at least ten years (all the data I have currently at hand). Average daily high temperatures rose 9.0° from 52.3° F in early February to 61.3° (+10.6° from prior 10-year...Click Here to Continue Reading!
Despite warm weather throughout early February, we logged yet another snowfall event (though a minor instance) on Friday, 2 Feb. In stark contrast to the same period in 2017, alcid numbered remained low, with a high count of Razorbills remaining in single digits (6 to be exact), compared to last year’s 4,000+ logged on a single checklist. While our hope for another major movement of these birds in 2018 appears to be losing a bit of steam with each period passed, there was still lots to be excited about around the city, as always! Top records for the early February period included new reports for AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, continuing reports for BLACK-HEADED GULL, COMMON MERGANSERS & WESTERN TANAGER and an unseasonal occurrence for BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER! WEATHER: Most years, early February represents the beginning of rising temperatures, and this year continued that trend. Average daily high temperatures rose 0.1° from 52.1° F in late January to 52.3° (+0.8° from prior 10-year average), with average daily low temperatures actually falling 4.8° from 34.0° to 29.2° F (-4.9° from prior 10-year average). Overall, temperatures ranged from a minimum of 19° F (on 3 Feb) to a maximum of 66° (7 Feb). A total of 0.85” of rain fell during the period, with 0.44” recorded on Wednesday, 7 Feb. Minor snowfall accumulations occurred on Friday, 2 Feb. Maximum sustained winds at Oceana...Click Here to Continue Reading!
With a warm start to late January (72° F), temperatures eventually dropped to near-normal values. For a third straight period in a row, we received snowfall accumulations, with yet another nor’easter sliding past us on 30 Jan. The Winter Wildlife Festival took place from 26-28 Jan, which helped add some records to eBird, but overall, rarity observations were down a bit from the madness that early & mid-January raised the bar to. Top records for late January included new records for BLACK-HEADED GULL & AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, continuing reports of CACKLING GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, COMMON MERGANSER, WESTERN TANAGER, BREWER’S BLACKBIRD and an ongoing unseasonal occurrence of YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER! WEATHER: In a typical year, late January is expected to be the coldest of the thrice-monthly periods here in Virginia Beach, however thanks to a very unseasonal first few days this was strangely the warmest period of 2018 thus far. Average daily high temperatures rose 1.7° from 50.4° F in early January to 52.1° (+4.0° from prior 10-year average), with average daily low temperatures also increasing 2.2° from 31.8° to 34.0° F (+3.3° from prior 10-year average). Overall, temperatures ranged from a minimum of 24° F (on both 26 & 31 Jan) to a maximum of 72° (23 Jan). A total of 1.72” of rain fell during the period, with 1.03”...Click Here to Continue Reading!
Following the arctic-style freeze we felt throughout early January, the middle third of the month actually began with several unseasonably-warm days (reaching 71°F). It was short-lived however, and another snowfall event associated with our second coastal nor’easter of the season moved in on the 17th/18th, though accumulations were anywhere from 1-3” across the city, rather than the 8-12” seen back on the 3rd/4th. Bolstered by a pair of bird club boat trips to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, this period featured a staggering number of reports, and top records included new records for AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, WESTERN TANAGER, CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, COMMON MERGANSER, HARLEQUIN DUCK, continuing reports of CACKLING GOOSE, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, ICELAND GULL, PAINTED BUNTING & BREWER’S BLACKBIRD and unseasonal occurrences of TRICOLORED HERON, LEAST BITTERN, YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER & WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW! WEATHER: After an extremely frigid early January, temperatures return to more normal levels in mid-January, rising a drastic 18.2° from 32.2° F in early January to 50.4° (+0.6° from prior 10-year average), with average daily low temperatures also steeply increasing 16.4° from 15.4° to 31.8° F (-2.1° from prior 10-year average). Overall, temperatures....Click Here to Continue Reading!
The first reporting period of the new year proved to be one of, if not, the most exciting periods I’ve ever had the good pleasure to be a part of since beginning this journal back in 2014! Wholly dominated by the effects of a powerful coastal nor’easter (unofficially dubbed Winter Storm Grayson by outlets affiliated with The Weather Channel), this period was utterly jam packed with rarities, and an explosion of waterfowl also occurred as most inland bodies of water iced over completely and forced many species to the coast. Heavy snowfall impacted Virginia Beach from about 7 PM on Wednesday, 3 Jan through about 3 PM on Thursday, 4 Jan, leaving anywhere from 8-12 inches on the ground depending on the specific location within the city. Normally cryptic/secretive species were pushed out into the open as available foraging habitat became swiftly constricted by the snow cover. The plethora of incredible reports was topped by new records for COMMON MERGANSER, GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, ICELAND GULL, GLAUCOUS GULL, BREWER’S BLACKBIRD & LINCOLN’S SPARROW, continuing reports of CACKLING GOOSE, LECONTE’S SPARROW & BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE unseasonal occurrences of Blue-winged Teal, Least Bittern, Yellow-throated Warbler & Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and late reports for Cattle Egret! WEATHER: Average daily high....Click Here to Continue Reading!