Mid-January 2019 (11th-20th)

 

The warmer than normal winter continued into mid-January, but we did finally begin to see a drop in temperatures at the period close. After early January afforded records for 150 species in Virginia Beach, which essentially covered most of the expected winter and permanent residents present this time of year, we did tally an additional 13 species to that list in the middle third of the month. Rarity records continued to flow into eBird this period and were highlighted by new finds for DOVEKIE, BLACK-HEADED GULL, AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW & PARASITIC JAEGER . Continuing rarities from prior periods included CACKLING GOOSE, HARLEQUIN DUCK, BREWER’S BLACKBIRD, WESTERN TANAGER & ICELAND GULL and unseasonal occurrences for BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER & YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER also occurred. We also saw some out-of-place records for BRANT and SNOWY EGRET as well!

Kicking things off, we had our first record of the 2018-19 winter season for DOVEKIE when an individual was noted in flight with a group of five Razorbills off the Little Island Park pier on 16 Jan (vis. Andrew Baldelli)! This species is annually present off the coast of Virginia, but is difficult to observe from shore. During the winter of 2016-17 however, Dovekie were observed during a mass movement of alcids off the coast on many days during February, so perhaps we’re starting to see some good signs that another major movement is underway. To that note, a seasonal high count (thus far) of 320 Razorbills off Little Island Park on 19 Jan (vis. Nick Newberry), so we’re certainly seeing a rise in alcid numbers. Combine that with the photographed Common Murre in early January and it makes it likely that we will have other encounters with similar species in the coming month, even from shore.

A first for the calendar year BLACK-HEADED GULL was briefly observed on the Lynnhaven River tidal flats from Pleasure House Point NA on 12 Jan (vis. Andrew Baldelli) until the gull flock flushed and headed upriver. Black-headed Gull falls into a similar category with Iceland and Glaucous Gulls here on the coast, being that they’re all rare birds, but we have some suspicion that one or more will be observed during a given winter season in the city. Perhaps another individual was reported from Little Island Park later in the period (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty), and one had also been reported to close out December at Rudee Inlet (vis. Tom Beatty). During the last winter season in 2017-18, an immature Black-headed Gull stayed at Rudee Inlet for some time, and was observed by many birders during it’s stay. Perhaps there will be more records for the (at least) one individual hanging around the city. All flocks of gulls seeking shelter on beaches and/or mudflats should be heavily scrutinized for this species, and the deep red bill & legs should be apparent while at rest, with the extensive black underwing present in flight (less black than Little Gull, more than Bonaparte’s).

At the close of the period, we also had our first record(s) of 2019 for AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN when a flock of 15 was observed heading northbound over the ocean from Back Bay NWR on 20 Jan (vis. Clark Olsen, ph. Karen & Keith Roberts). Another annually recorded rarity, small flocks are often expected during Jan/Feb, though last year records continued as late as May! Interestingly, a group of 15 birds heading southbound over Rudee Inlet was observed nearer to sunset the same day, and it seems pretty likely that this was the same flock (vis. Tracy Tate). Given the back-and-forth movement, perhaps they found a nice spot to set down. Last winter, one stayed on Sherwood Lakes for a couple of days, and in the past, we’ve had records of flocks on the water at Back Bay as well as on the flats at Pleasure House Point NA. Make sure to scrutinize all group of pelicans you encounter, and the white bodies, black wingtips and large orange/pink bills should swiftly help eliminate the much more common Brown Pelican from contention!

Yet another first the year, an immature WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW was observed along the edge of Stuart Road in southern Virginia Beach on 14 Jan (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty). Later pursuits the following day were unable to turn up the bird but it may still be lingering there with a flock of White-throated Sparrows as it was reported to have been with. Immatures always dominate the records here for some reason, and in 2018, there was only two adults recorded in the city.

The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center came through again this period with a great record for PARASITIC JAEGER occurring during their Whales & Wildlife boat trip offshore of the Oceanfront on 19 Jan (ph. Jason Sosebee). This makes two periods in a row with jaeger observations, a species difficult to find in the winter months here, while it remains more expected during spring and fall transitional periods. For land-based birding, Little Island Park’s pier seems to be best for this species, but typically viewing with a scope is required, and the views are often fleeting when they do occur. November seems to be the best month to invest time into spotting jaegers from shore, but, there’s probably a lot that can be learned this time of year by having more folks looking for them.

At least one of the CACKLING GEESE known to be wintering in the city with the large flock of Canada Geese was recorded this period along Princess Anne Road on 13 Jan (ph. Rob Bielawski). While up to two Cackling Geese were reported during November on Sherwood Lakes, only a single bird  has been observed during Dec/Jan thus far. The goose flock tends to move around during the day between Sherwood Lakes, the fields adjacent to Princess Anne Road east of the lake and also south of Ashville Park, the HRSD fields along Firefall Drive and lastly on the pond encircled by Haviland Drive nearby. Each of these location is capable of producing a good goose record as we move headlong into the deep of coastal winter in late Jan/Feb. While no records for Greater White-fronted or Ross’s Geese have surfaced this winter in the city, both should continue to be searched for, and frankly there is no better way to do this than to scan all Canada Goose flocks for Cacklings…if you can pick that species out of the flock, the other two species are much easier to find.

The female/immature male HARLEQUIN DUCK first observed during the Little Creek Christmas Bird Count on 31 Dec near the Lesner Bridge (ph. Andrew Baldelli, Linda Chittum & Lisa Rose) was found again this period nearby on 12 Jan (ph. Andrew Baldelli & Rob Bielawski). This time around, it was first scoped from the back porch of the Brock Environmental Center at Pleasure House Point NA, then observed “closer” (800+ vs. only 400 yards away) up from the east side of Lynnhaven Inlet looking south towards the visible oyster beds along Long Creek where it was feeding in the fast-moving currents. Though it has not been observed again since, it is likely nearby, and without heading out on a boat trip to the islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, this is the best shot at observing this species in the city, where chase-able individuals have been very tough to come by over the past few years.

An immature (first cycle to be specific) ICELAND GULL was again noted this period, this time at Rudee Inlet early in the morning on 17 Jan (vis. Andrew Baldelli, later ph. Rob Bielawski). With records having popped up this winter at  numerous locations from Fort Story JEB to Back Bay NWR, it seems likely that this is the same immature bird moving around the coastal beaches. “It” was first observed this winter back on 26 Nov (ph. Mike Collins) at Back Bay NWR and has popped up rather unpredictably along the Oceanfront, though the 17 Jan records were the last so far to be put into eBird. That same date, an adult Iceland Gull was reported at Rudee Inlet (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty), which may pertain to the same adult (a Kumlien’s race individual) that frequented the 39th Street Beach in late Dec/early Jan (first observed 27 Dec, ph. Linda Chittum & Ada Jones). That said, at least two individuals are known to be occurring near the resort area of Virginia Beach, and any flocks on the beaches could be holding them or others. The dredge pipe that outlets to 6th Street Beach is also worth checking when the pumps are going since gulls flock there to forage in the mix of sediments being pumped out of the inlet.

At least a dozen BREWER’S BLACKBIRDS continued to be observed on the private Breeze Farms property in Blackwater, most recently viewed during heavy rains and wind on 13 Jan (vis. Andrew Baldelli & Rob Bielawski). This flock has set up here in each of the past three winters, and so long as folks continue to scan the ground from the public roadway right-of-way of West Gibbs Road, they’re likely continue being reported.

The only WESTERN TANAGER publicly known so far this winter in the city continued to be reported and photographed at a private residence in Windsor Woods, with records occurring 12 Jan (vis. Brandon Holland) and on 13 Jan (ph. Andrew Baldelli, Rob Bielawski & Lisa Rose). This female/immature male type individual has been frequenting the backyard feeders at this residence since at least 13 Dec (ph. Lisa Rose), and it is quite possible that it’ll linger on into Mar or Apr as others have in the city over the past few winters. Surprisingly, the Shore Drive corridor has not yet produced a record for this species, while it has been the hotbed for records in past winters. Though, not every birder uses eBird, and not every birder likes to make their private backyard bird observations public, so perhaps there are more out there than the birding community is simply aware of.

In terms of ‘unseasonal occurrences’ we had three species pop up this period which are not expected, annual winter residents. This season, with much warmer than normal temperatures, has produced a considerable amount of linger records as species that normally depart earlier or die-off during the onset of winter storms. With no snowfall or ice-up events having occurred to this point in the city, it seems a bit more expected that we would see our first calendar year BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER record at Back Bay NWR on 11 Jan (vis. Daniel Patrick). With three mid/late Nov records and one Dec record this winter, it’s possible there are still other gnatcatchers hanging around, and lingerers have persisted even as far inland as Richmond where at least one continued into Jan at Ancarrow’s Landing.

A continuing YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER in Bellamy Woods continued to visit the feeders of a private residence through at least 19 Jan (ph. Reuben Rohn). Not too far away in Bellamy Manor, likely the same individual was observed in another yard and photographed (ph. Una Davenhill) on 20 Jan. With the overall scarcity of this species as a winterer this far north, it seems likely that any record near this area is referring to the same bird moving around, though it remains unclear if the records earlier this winter in Pembroke Manor pertain to this same individual or another. Perhaps we have more Yellow-throated Warblers hanging around than anyone suspects. Amazingly, we’ve had far more individuals logged in the city during the past few winters than we have during the past few summers, which makes little sense when considering their distribution throughout the rest of Virginia.

At least two BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS were observed during mid-January, with a single individual observed in Great Neck Estates at a private residence on 11 Jan and the second occurring at Stumpy Lake NA from 15 Jan (ph. Steve Myers), through 16 Jan (ph. Karen Beatty) & 17 Jan (vis. Tom Beatty). In recent winters we might see one or two records for this species in the city, so this has surely been one of the best winters to try and see them in months they aren’t typically found in. The individual at Stumpy Lake NA has been observed mainly on the trails nearest the parking area, so a long walk isn’t even necessary. Combine that with the Pine Siskins and Blue-headed Vireos that folks have been finding in that same area and it’s certainly worth a check when time warrants.

For some reason this winter, BRANT seem to be departing their usual habitat of brackish marshes (mostly in the Lynnhaven) and have been showing up in fields and on freshwater lakes elsewhere in the city. A group ranging in size from 16-41 Brant was observed along Oceana Boulevard from 11 Jan (ph. Stephen Keith) through 14 Jan (vis. Karl Suttmann). Also, a flock of 58 was observed at Oliver’s Pond near Lake Smith on 16 Jan (vis. Tracy Tate), and were also later observed flying overhead towards the Lynnhaven.  

A pair of slightly out-of-place SNOWY EGRETS also occurred this period, with one spotted 14 Jan on Wishart Lake (ph. Rob Bielawski) and another found at Lake Lawson & Lake Smith NA on 16 Jan (vis. Jeffrey Marcum). Typically during the winter season (Dec-Feb) this species is only observed in the area surrounding Lynnhaven Inlet and Pleasure House Point NA, with many roosting up Pleasure House Creek towards Shore Drive. Though it is probably expected that individuals will move outward during the day to forage, it is still interested when they’re recorded away from that immediate area during winter. In fact, aside from a single bird in Hampton’s Grandview NP these are the only records in the state as a whole for Snowy Egret so far this winter, and there have not been any records in state’s to our north either.

In addition to what’s already been mentioned above, we did also add DUNLIN & AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER to our city year list on 12 Jan at Pleasure House Point NA (vis. Andrew Baldelli & Rob Bielawski), as well as BARRED OWL on 12 Jan along Indian River Rd. (aud. Tracy Tate), PURPLE SANDPIPER on 16 Jan at Rudee Inlet (ph. Reuben Rohn), COMMON GOLDENEYE on 17 Jan at Little Creek Inlet (vis. Tracy Tate), HORNED LARK on 18 Jan at Ashville Park (obs. Karen & Tom Beatty), and lastly COMMON YELLOWTHROAT on 19 Jan at Back Bay NWR (vis. Nick Newberry). So as of the end of 20 Jan, we sat at 163 species for the year, with 118 of them being photographically documented in 2019!

Also, it is worth mentioning to those who might be interested that a first year male COMMON EIDER has been lingering around Rudee Inlet for a week or more, and LONG-TAILED DUCKS have been observed here lately as well. BLACK SKIMMERS have continued to be recorded at Pleasure House Point NA, mostly at low tide when they’re resting on the mudflats with various other gull and shorebird species. These skimmers are the northernmost to stay this late into the season, and they could disappear until Apr whenever our first frigid batch of real winter weather arrives. Last year for example, there was no records during Jan-early Apr in the city, so it’s neat to see them still around this year. OSPREYS and NELSON’S SPARROWS continue to be observed at Pleasure House Point NA as well, with this being the only reliable place in the city for both species this time of year, and also the only place in the state for Ospreys to be readily found. BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS continue to be observed around the pond at Bayville Farms Park, on Lake Joyce, at Pleasure House Point NA and on Middle & North Lake Holly at the Oceanfront. Aside from that, there’s plenty of other species to be excited for, so get out and find some in late January!

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of January located on eBird’s Media explorer by clicking here! Please remember, anyone with an eBird account also has the ability to rate these photographs (1-5 stars), and based on the average rating, this is how eBird populates anything media-driven on the website, particularly the Illustrated Checklists! So, if you're one of the many folks who enjoy looking at photographs of birds, take some time to click them all and rate them, it helps make eBird better and better each day!

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Early January 2019 (1st-10th)

 

Before I dive into the specifics surrounding each of the fantastic sightings that occurred here over the first thrice-monthly period of 2019, I’d like to first mention that after a four month break from writing this journal, I’m very happy (and very proud) to be back at it to kick off the new year! In addition to this journal, please note that the Noteworthy Observations Page is continuing to stay fully up-to-date to the best of my ability, and this year I’ve added a Noteworthy Observations Criteria page that should be beneficial to those wondering just how I go about selecting the records that get mentioned in these journal entries. Please check out both when you have the time. Also, the Comprehensive Checklist has been revised for 2019, so the taxonomy, color-coding, and eBird map/chart links are all up to date. The Arrival/Departure Tables have not yet been revised however, though they should be soon. Additionally, the Species section of this site is going to get a new look in 2019. Now, without further ado, please enjoy the first thrice-monthly journal entry for the year 2019!

With the new year upon us, birders flocked to the coast to get off to a hot start on year lists, and Virginia Beach saw over 540 eBird checklists come in through the first ten days of 2019. Along the way, a great many rarities were documented throughout the city, some having lingered over from the late portion of 2018, and some being newly found. Leading the early January period was an incredible record for COMMON MURRE, as well as records for BREWER’S BLACKBIRDS beginning on the first of the year. Additional rarities that carried over at the same locations from late 2018 included: CACKLING GOOSE, ICELAND GULL, WESTERN GREBE, PARASITIC JAEGER, PURPLE FINCH, SNOW BUNTING, WESTERN TANAGER & PAINTED BUNTING. Unseasonal occurrences for BLUE-WINGED TEAL, RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD & BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER were also documented this period, and we also had a very late report for ROYAL TERN.

The true highlight was the city’s first record for COMMON MURRE (ph. Alexis Rabon) dating all the way back to 1995. Observed a couple of miles offshore of Cape Henry from aboard the Whales & Wildlife Sea Adventure boat operated by the VA Aquarium and Marine Science Center, this is also our first photographically documented record in eBird. More information regarding these boat trips can be found on their official website, by clicking Here. Recently, these boats have been spotting good numbers of Razorbills, scoters, gannets, and the other expected waterfowl/gull species, but it is very possible that more species of alcids (Thick-billed Murre, Dovekie, etc.) could be discovered with continued searching.

As with the winters of 2016-17 and 2017-18, Breeze Farms, a private residence along West Gibbs Road is hosting a group of BREWER’S BLACKBIRDS. First detected for this winter on 1 Jan (vis. Andrew Baldelli), the group has been reported in counts ranging from 1 to 13 individuals. Please keep in mind that this property is not public, and while birders have likely viewed from within the public roadway right-of-way, caution should be taken to ensure proper respect is given to the property owners who have been kind enough to allow many birders over the past few winters to view these birds. Another word of caution here, there are plenty of Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds that frequent this location as well, and care needs to be undertaken to ensure proper identification. The females are the easiest to identify due to their marble brown eyes, which helps them stand out. The males, all glossy, are much smaller than Common Grackles, with shorter tails and daintier bills.

Up to two CACKLING GEESE were observed and photographed on Sherwood Lakes from 5 Nov-10 Dec and it appears that one has persisted with the large Canada Goose flock that travels between the lakes, the fields off Firefall Drive and the lake contained within Haviland Drive’s circle. A single report came in from Haviland this period, on 1 Jan (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty), and all three locations are worth scrutinizing if hoping to find this species. One bit of advice, the species is significantly easier to pick out when it’s on the water, as opposed to in the fields. On the water, all the geese sit at the same elevation, so it’s size and height are immediately noticeable as being different than the surrounding Canada Geese. In fields, the topography doesn’t always lie perfectly flat, and ditches and dips in terrain quickly obscure the true size of the geese as they forage. Sherwood Lakes is worth checking whenever time warrants, and while we’ve yet to have any records of Ross’s or Greater White-fronted Geese this winter, with an expected drop in temperatures likely to arrive soon, both are still quite possible.

At least two ICELAND GULLS frequented our coastline throughout the early January period, with one immature (first cycle), and one gorgeous adult Kumlien’s-race individual. The adult was first observed on the beach at 39th Street back on 27 Dec 2018 (ph. Linda Chittum & Ada Jones), and was re-found at the same location during this period on 4 Jan (ph. Andrew Baldelli & Kathy Louthan). This is actually the exact location where an adult Kumlien’s was observed in the winter season of 2017-18, which begs the question as to whether this is the same exact individual returning for a second season, though there’s not really any way to tell for sure unfortunately. A first cycle immature Iceland Gull has also been reported at varying locations along our coast dating back to 26 Nov 2018 when one was first logged at Back Bay NWR (ph. Mike Collins). Given the ease with which these gulls can travel along our beaches from point to point, it is difficult to say whether this is the same individual that popped up in early January, but it is certainly not out of the question. To that point, a first cycle individual was observed at three separate locations during early January, with records at Back Bay NWR on 5 Jan (ph. Logan Anderson & Garrett Rhyne), at 88th Street Beach on 6 Jan (ph. Nathaniel Abrahams / Logan Anderson / Carson Lambert / Andrew Rapp / Garrett Rhyne / Sam Simon / Robert Wood), and lastly at Rudee Inlet on 7 Jan (ph. Andrew Baldelli). Anyone seeking out these Iceland Gulls would be best served stopping at multiple points along the oceanfront, and spot-checking for large congregations of gulls since typically they are mixed in with groups of Ring-billed Gulls. The Rudee Inlet dredge pipe that expels water and sediments onto the beach at 6th Street would be an ideal location to check, so long as the pipe is flowing with water.

Likely the same WESTERN GREBE that has been sporadically detected along the coast at Back Bay NWR since 3 Dec 2018 (ph. Dianne Hinch & Maggee Smith, later ph. Charlie Bruggemann), and also detected from Little Island Park on the Back Bay CBC of 29 Dec 2018 (ph. Andrew Baldelli & Linda Chittum) was also observed at the latter location this period on 5 Jan (vis. Clark Olsen). As with the case of the adult Iceland Gull, it is possible, or even likely that this Western Grebe is the same one that wintered in the area last winter, and the winter before that as well. Regardless, we’ve now had records for Western Grebe in the city in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, which seems remarkable given the species was still considered an extreme rarity in the east not too long ago.

More expected during migration windows in late fall and spring, a single PARASISTIC JAEGER reported at Little Island Park on 5 Jan (vis. Logan Anderson & Garrett Rhyne) made for another exciting find. Typically, we don’t see much in the way of winter records for this species from shore, so any record is nice to see. So long as we have large flocks of gulls moving over water, the jaegers are likely to continue, as they depend on the gulls to scavenge food from, sometimes in incredible chases best viewed by scopes from the pier. In the fall of 2017, we had an incredible season when it came to jaegers, with counts of greater than 20 observed in early November of that year. However, this past fall we didn’t get the same luck, though individuals were still noted on days with the proper conditions at locations like Rudee Inlet and Little Island Park.

Experiencing an irruption year, PURPLE FINCHES were observed at two locations in the city during early January. Two adult females were found at a private residence in South Shore Estates on 6 Jan (vis. James Marcum) after a male was present at this location back on 28 Nov 2018. Several other private residences have held the species at backyard feeders during Nov/Dec, but records in publicly accessible areas have been somewhat difficult to come by, even during what has been a banner season for the species throughout most of the state. One Purple Finch was heard at the Milldam Creek crossing of Crags Causeway in the Blackwater section of the city on 6 Jan (aud. Logan Anderson & Garrett Rhyne). Had it not been for the Ash-throated Flycatcher that was noted at this location during the Back Bay CBC on 29 Dec 2018 (ph. Karen & Keith Roberts), observers likely would not have known of the presence of these Purple Finches. Discovered initially the following day, 30 Dec 2018, a peak count of four were noted on 31 Dec 2018 (ph. Steve Myers) but so far in 2019 there has only been the one record. Please note that if you attempt to find Purple Finches along Crags Causeway, the land on either side of the road is private property, and marked clearly as such. There is a small pullover area north of the creek crossing which can fit a few parked cars, but otherwise observations need to made from the roadway shoulders.

In contrast to last January where we didn’t have a single record, SNOW BUNTINGS were observed at two separate locations to kick off the new year. With records for 2-12 individuals occurring at Back Bay NWR from 25 Nov-2 Dec 2018 (ph. Stephen Keith & Alain Roberts) but with no records to close out the year, it came as a bit of a surprise when two individuals were found there on 1 Jan (ph. Robert Wood). A larger flock of up to 16 individuals was recorded along the dune/beach line between 82nd and 88th Street Beach from 12 Dec-31 Dec 2018 (ph. Stephen Keith), then missed by quite a few folks over the next few days. However, the flock, or at least twelve of them, were observed at 85th Street Beach on 7 Jan (vis. Lynn DiFerdinando), so it appears they’ve persisted in the area. Prime habitat in this area continues southward to about 58th Street, so they’re likely to move around considerably, and the fact that all records have been between 82nd and 88th is probably just because this is where birders are seeking them out. Point being, if they can’t be found there, walking farther south might end up yielding an observation outside the known area. If they still can’t be found, the dunes along the southern shore of the Chesapeake Bay at First Landing SP might be another good spot to check for this species, having been the more reliable spot over the last two winters.

Last on the rarities currently frequenting the backyard of private residences, a single female WESTERN TANAGER continues to be observed almost daily in the Windsor Woods neighborhood of central Virginia Beach. First observed at this site back on 13 Dec 2018 (ph. Lisa Rose), the same individual was photographed most recently on 7 Jan (ph. Lisa Rose), and has been fairly reliably seen during the morning hours. At present, it is the only known wintering Western Tanager in the city, though in past winters at least one, or possibly several have been observed along the Shore Drive and Great Neck corridors. Anyone with a feeder should be checking for this species, which can sometimes blend in with the plethora of Baltimore Orioles that have been wintering in the city in recent years. You never know when one will show a different color, and different bill shape.

Highly sought after to the point where birders frequently obscure the actual location of their presence (and for good reason), at least two private residences have been reporting PAINTED BUNTINGS this winter in the city. While the Kempsville residence recorded a female/immature from 7 Nov-15 Dec, there have not yet been any 2019 reports at this location. However, in central Virginia Beach, where one male (and very likely more) have been present since at least 2 Dec, a female was added on 7 Jan (vis. Andrew Baldelli). At the moment, there are no known locations where Painted Buntings are present on public property though, but any scrubby habitat that runs adjacent to properties with feeders might be worth checking out. Or who knows, by simply driving the backroads of southern Virginia Beach, you might have a gorgeous male fly over your car like the one found on Muddy Creek Road on the Back Bay CBC in 2017 (ph. Karen & Tom Beatty)!

Along with the outright-rarities listed above, we also saw reports for several species that are expected during other seasons, but not in the winter in Virginia Beach. Leading off, a group of three BLUE-WINGED TEAL were found on the northern impoundment of Princess Anne WMA’s Beasley Tract (ph. Rob Bielawski). Atypical during the winter season at this location, Blue-winged Teal are a good find anywhere in Virginia as a whole this time of year. There are typically a few records though, but most hail from the closed-to-the-public impoundments of Back Bay NWR, with Mackay Island NWR to our south the “expected” northeastern limit of annual wintering for the species. Through the first ten days of the year, this is the only record for the state, in fact. Individuals should continue to be looked for in groups of dabbling ducks for as long as the weather stays unseasonably warm. Please note that Princess Anne WMA is only open on Sundays this time of year, being closed Mon-Sat for refuge management and hunting purposes.

So far unique to Virginia Beach in the 2018-19 winter season, RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRDS have been observed at two separate locations. Up to three individuals have been noted at Camp Pendleton SMR (Restricted Access), with records continuing on 2 Jan (ph. Karen & Tom Beatty) and on 6 Jan (ph. Steve Myers). Another individual was observed at a private residence in Laurel Manor north of Hilltop on 6 Jan (vis. Tommy Maloney). With no reports for the species continuing anywhere else in the state after November, it’s quite exciting that perhaps four individuals are known to be present in Virginia Beach this winter. It would behoove anyone in the city to closely monitor their feeders if still up & running, as several other vagrant hummingbirds (Rufous, Allen’s, Black-chinned, Calliope) are possible, though certainly not expected by any means.

Any warbler species outside of our five expected winterers (Pine, Palm, Yellow-rumped, Orange-crowned & Common Yellowthroat) garner mention during January, and this first period got off to a hot start with two additional species being observed (though Common Yellowthroat managed to get missed actually). Very unusual in winter anywhere in Virginia, a gorgeous YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER has been reported from a private residence since 28 Dec 2018 (ph. Reuben Rohn), with the most recent record occurring on 10 Jan (ph. Reuben Rohn). Last winter, there was a pair of locations that yielded winter records for this species in the city, one in Pembroke Manor, and the other in Kempsville. It’s curious to speculate as to whether the same individual has overwintered again, and is moving around (since the Pembroke Manor residence did have one again this December). Time will tell, but it’s worth checking your feeders if you live in the Kempsville portion of the city!

Lastly for the unseasonal occurrences, a single BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER was discovered at Pleasure House Point NA along Dinwiddie Drive on 6 Jan (ph. Nathaniel Abrahams / Logan Anderson / Carson Lambert / Andrew Rapp / Garrett Rhyne / Sam Simon / Robert Wood). To close out 2018, there was also a pair of records for this species in late December, with one occurring in Kings Grant during the Little Creek CBC on 31 Dec (vis. Nicholas Flanders) and another individual found along Crags Causeway during a twitch of the report Ash-throated Flycatcher on 31 Dec (ph. Steve Myers, vis. Tommy Maloney). Black-and-white Warbler tends to be the most expected of the non-winter warblers to winter here. If birding was basketball, it would essentially win the Sixth-man Award. After Black-and-white, other likely lingerers are Prairie and Nashville Warbler, with the former having generated a pair of records in December, but with neither species represented thus far in January. As with all birds, all it takes is some hard work, and some luck, and maybe we’ll pick up another warbler species in mid-January.

Usually departed by year’s end, a pair of well-described ROYAL TERNS were recorded from the Little Island Pier on 1 Jan (vis. Josh Lefever & Mark Mizak), making for a first record in almost a month (last one was a single individual at Back Bay NWR on 6 Dec 2018), and what is almost certain to be the final record of this species until their spring arrival occurs in mid-March. Given the warm weather this winter so far, it seems a bit miraculous that no other records were noted in mid-or-late December, and neither CBC in Virginia Beach (Back Bay, Little Creek) appears to have recorded the species this year. In most years, individuals linger around Fort Story through year’s end, and perhaps these two did just that, before heading south along the coast. Maybe?

In addition to all the noteworthy finds listed above, a great number of interesting, but expected, species were observed in the city this period. In fact, 150 total species were logged to eBird in Virginia Beach during early January, which is quite a feat, and puts the city at the top of the list in terms of counties/cities in Virginia as a whole for 2019 thus far. Accomack logged 132, Northampton logged 124, and then Fairfax was the top of the non-coastal counties at 106, which paints the clear picture of where the most diversity can be found in winter in Virginia (…the coast). A group of BRANT continues to be observed in the agricultural fields between Ocean Lakes HS and the HRSD wastewater treatment plant off Firefall Drive, with a peak count of 66 observed there this period. RAZORBILLS continue to observed in typical numbers along the coast, though we don’t appear to be anywhere near the level of early 2017 which saw hundreds/thousands of them present off of our coastline. COMMON EIDERS have been observed in several locations, but one adult female has persisted around the Little Island pier for quite a while, with other records occurring frequently at Rudee Inlet. RED-NECKED GREBES have been spotted from both Little Island and the oceanfront as well, as have LONG-TAILED DUCKS which have become much more difficult to find in the city with the loss of access to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel’s first island to construction activities. This same issue has severely impacted our ability to find Great Cormorant, Purple Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstones as well, with all three species being missed altogether in early January! Several reports of single WILLETS surfaced along the beaches, and this is typically a difficult species to find in Virginia Beach during the winter despite being common on the Eastern Shore and the Outer Banks as well. Similarly, we didn't log any Black-bellied Plovers this period, though they "should" be here but just don't tend to be found in January. A group of BLACK SKIMMERS has held their foothold at Lynnhaven Inlet, contrasting with 2018 where we didn't have a single record for them until early April! A reliable VIRGINIA RAIL continues to be quite vocal in the early morning hours at Little Island Park’s kayak launch. Some days, there is also SORA present in this area, with both species often being searched for by visitors from out of town given this is one of, if not the most reliable location in the state for both species in winter. Last year, we even had a pair of LEAST BITTERNS found at this location, but so far, no such luck in 2019! In terms of interesting passerines, BLUE-HEADED VIREOS were reported at Francis Land HP on 1 Jan and also at Stumpy Lake NA from 6-10 Jan. This species annually winters here in the city but is difficult to find anywhere else from Dec-Feb in the state.

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of January located on eBird’s Media explorer by clicking here! Please remember, anyone with an eBird account also has the ability to rate these photographs (1-5 stars), and based on the average rating, this is how eBird populates anything media-driven on the website, particularly the Illustrated Checklists! So, if you're one of the many folks who enjoy looking at photographs of birds, take some time to click them all and rate them, it helps make eBird better and better each day!

Next Entry | Entry Index | Previous Year | Previous Entry

For further information regarding this thrice-monthly, online publication, please visit the Journal Overview Page which provides an in-depth explanation of the format, layout and composition of the journal. As always, thank you for reading, and please leave me a comment below (you may use your Facebook, Gmail or other accounts to easily do so), or just click the Heart icon to the lower right of this post to let me know you stopped in!

Early September 2018 (1st-10th)

Though we’re firmly in the realm of fall migration at this point, temperatures continued to stick to the trends set forth in August, and sweltering humidity made birding difficult throughout the entirety of early September. Southerly winds dominated yet again, and no overnight cold fronts made their way to the coast unfortunately, leaving the hope of southbound migrants mostly a pipe dream (in stark contrast to this period last year). While seasonal arrivals were held to a minimum, a pair of rare shorebirds managed to spark some excitement and kept many birders busy in the early half of the reporting period. Top records for early September in Virginia Beach included our very first BAIRD’S SANDPIPER since 2010, continuing rarity reports for MARBLED GODWITS (with two individuals reported for the first time) and first-of-fall arrivals at or after expected dates for GREEN-WINGED TEAL, DUNLIN, CAPE MAY WARBLER & BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER.

The star of the show for this reporting period was clearly the juvenile BAIRD’S SANDPIPER found on the beach at Back Bay NWR on 1 Sep (ph. David Clark), making for the first Virginia Beach record of this species since 2010 and only our second all-time! Initially observed roughly a half mile south of the visitor center beach access, it managed to hide throughout the remainder of the day from would-be-twitchers (author of this journal included). Fortunately, the following day it was re-located on the beach roughly two miles south of the visitor center around 7:40 AM (ph. Andrew Baldelli), and then it slowly worked its way northward over the next hour. Around 8:15 AM it was picked up 1.5 miles south of the visitor center (ph. Rob Bielawski) after having taken flight with a group of Sanderlings. From that point, the Sanderlings became a bit more hostile, chasing the Baird’s each time it came within a few feet of one. So, as it tried to stick to itself along the high tide line, it continued moving north, where it was able to be observed by two visiting birders from Georgia & Kentucky (vis. Karen Hogan & Teresa Noel) who have endeavored to tick all the National Wildlife Refuges off one by one, this being their day to bird Back Bay. After continuing north all the way to the end of the public beach, it was finally lost as it moved around a small rise in the sand. Unfortunately, since that time, it hasn’t been observed, and given the volume of eBird lists at the park in recent days, at least a few folks have certainly been out on the beach looking. This species is almost certainly an annual fall transient through Virginia Beach, but with this being only the second eBird record for the city, it shows just how rarely individuals actually land in accessible places, or stop at all along their migration here. In fact, thus far in Virginia as a whole, only four other Baird’s have been observed this fall, with two in King William County on 25 Aug (vis. Frederick Atwood), one at Chincoteague NWR’s Wash Flats on 26 Aug (vis. Edward Brinkley & Joanne Laskowski) during the official refuge survey and lastly a single individual at Woodward Turf Farm in Culpeper found on 30 Aug (ph. Gerry Hawkins) and later observed on 1 Sep (ph. Lisa Rose & Jason Strickland).

Miraculously, the MARBLED GODWIT that was found also on the beach of Back Bay NWR way back on 6 Aug (vis. David Hughes & Lauren Mowbray) was still present throughout early September, providing for a great many observations and lovely photographs. Notably, on 2 Sep while scouring the beach for the Baird’s Sandpiper, a second Marbled Godwit was observed in view at the same time as the ‘original’ Marbled Godwit (vis. James Marcum). So, there’s no telling how long both birds have been present along the beach (or who among us has seen which one) but it’s interesting to find out for certain that at least at this particular time, two birds were there simultaneously. Though eBird shows no reports in 2015 for this species in Virginia Beach, it is likely annually present, though much more expected during the months of Aug/Sep; being very rare as a transient in the springtime. Most amusing about this species is that several hundred winter at roost sites like Willis Wharf and Oyster in nearby Northampton County, and also down at Pea Island NWR in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Yet, even a single individual here in the city is cause for celebration, much more so when one sticks around for a while and offers up excellent views to so many different observers. While one godwit was last reported on the beach on 6 Sep (vis. Ben Sandstrom), earlier observations this period were also documented by the following: 1 Sep (vis. Jonathan Snyder, ph. Rob Bielawski & Mike Collins, vis. Jajean Rose-Burney) and 5 Sep (ph. Cindy Hamilton).

First-of-season arrivals were shockingly difficult to come by in early September this year. Amazingly, in 2017 during this period we had an incredible 15 species with first reports for the season (see here for more details). We did finally nab our first DUNLIN report of the season though, at Back Bay NWR on 2 Sep (vis. James Marcum) where four were observed. While the average expected fall arrival per The Gold Book is listed as 30 Jul for the coastal plain, the information provided also mention, “Numbers peak later in fall than in other Calidris; although very early postbreeding birds may be present by late July and the first week of August, most fall arrival occurs in September or later, and fall numbers do not peak until October.” So perhaps this Dunlin was right about on time. In addition to the Dunlin, we also had or first report for GREEN-WINGED TEAL, at Princess Anne WMA Whitehurst Tract on 2 Sep (vis. Andrew Baldelli, Karen Hogan & Teresa Noel). In past years, the very tail end of August and early September have been typical of their arrival. The first report in 2017 occurred 4 Sep when 30 were at Back Bay NWR (vis. Andrew Baldelli), while the first of 2016 was on 27 Aug at the same location. Throughout the remainder of the 2018 period though, only one other individual was logged, on 8 Sep at Back Bay NWR (vis. Andrew Baldelli), so clearly even the typical early arriving waterfowl really aren’t on the move as a whole yet but will be soon. Lastly, to close out the period on 10 Sep, a pair of warblers finally received first-of-fall reports with CAPE MAY WARBLER and BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER being reported at First Landing SP (obs. Ted Wolff). Both of these species have expected arrival dates of 30 Aug, so it’s a surprise that each would show up ten days later than that, however, with so many other warbler species still not having been reported, this was at least a good sign to close the period!

With a lack of arrivals to speak of, there were at least some other interesting reports that warrant mention in this journal. Aside from the Baird’s headline, early September’s sub-header would likely be the lack of passerine arrivals, and while we’ve had a first arrival for Northern Waterthrush and we’re seeing a few more reports of the typical early fall species like Yellow and Black-and-white Warblers, and American Redstarts, the only warbler report this period that stands out (outside of the first-of-season reports lists above) is our second HOODED WARBLER for the season, observed at a private residence in Hunt Club Forest on 1 Sep (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty). The only other Hooded Warbler found this fall thus far was way back on 8 Aug, so records for this species in the city are clearly hard to come by, even in migration. A YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT was reported at First Landing SP on 3 Sep (obs. Teresa Conlon & Jacob Flynn), making for a first record at the park this year. BALTIMORE ORIOLES have made a slight movement into the area, and while the first record expectedly occurred back in August, we had our first photographed record for the fall at Back Bay NWR on 3 Sep (ph. Rob Bielawski & Mike Collins). Large-scale flights of BOBOLINKS were recorded in the early morning hours of 2/3 Sep at Back Bay NWR, with a peak count of 1,733 northbound individuals (ph. Rob Bielawski). At this location, it is presumed the birds are traveling northbound to get around Back Bay to then head south along its interior shoreline, rather than being stuck out on the Outer Banks. While COMMON NIGHTHAWKS are an expected fall transient on the coast, only three were observed this period, with a pair over a private residence near Lake Smith on 8 Sep (vis. Tracy Tate), and a single over Hunt Club Forest on 10 Sep to close the period (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty). A second-of-season NORTHERN HARRIER was finally observed on 9 Sep over a field west of Muddy Creek Road (ph. Rob Bielawski); the first was found way back on 19 Aug. Lastly, a very high number of peeps were on the move along the coast on 9 Sep (vis. Andrew Baldelli) with 1,500 counted heading southbound. That date also saw a rise in the surf along the coast, with heavy wave action buffeting the beach at Back Bay NWR all the way to the dune line. Among the shorebirds seeking refuge at the high water line was a juvenile PIPING PLOVER (ph. Rob Bielawski), the first observed in the city in over a month, and representing the fourth latest fall record we currently have in eBird (latest since one was observed 16 Sep 2013 in fact).

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of September located on eBird’s Media explorer by clicking here! Please remember, anyone with an eBird account also has the ability to rate these photographs (1-5 stars), and based on the average rating, this is how eBird populates anything media-driven on the website, particularly the Illustrated Checklists! So, if you're one of the many folks who enjoy looking at photographs of birds, take some time to click them all and rate them, it helps make eBird better and better each day!

LOOKAHEAD: The weather for mid-September is likely to be dependent on how Hurricane Florence interacts with the East Coast. At present (10 Sep), most projections show Florence as a major hurricane (Category 4) as it landfalls somewhere between Myrtle Beach, SC and Wilmington, NC. However, that track is going to change/update every six hours with each official update from the National Hurricane Center. If the system decides to recurve out to sea, we’ll receive north winds throughout the period that may aid in southbound land bird migration. If it makes a direct landfall and atmospheric conditions and sheer momentum propel it inland, we could see strong southeast/east winds for a prolonged period of time and loads of rainfall as the storm’s forward progression slows. Paying close attention to this storm will be incredibly important over the next few days and while the thought of wind-blown tubenoses is on our minds, it is important to mention that a storm of this size could be devastating; stay in a safe place until the threat passes. Aside from the NHC website, Weather Underground, The Weather Channel, and Tropical Tidbits always provide current information regarding tropical cyclones (with the last one providing the most in-depth analysis).

Aside from the weather, it is worth mentioning that Princess Anne WMA’s Beasley & Whitehurst Tracts are now closed to birding Monday through Saturday; open only on Sundays again until May (happens every year). The West Dike at Back Bay NWR is closed; the East Dike is open but the water levels in H Pool can’t support shorebirds (the beach is the better alternative at this point). Passerines truly haven’t even begun showing up here yet, but as soon as we get a switch to northerly/northwesterly overnight winds, we’re likely to see large-scale movements into the area. These birds absolutely need to migrate south, so with each passing day, their movement becomes more and more likely; it’s just unfortunate that the weather up until now hasn’t been supportive and will thus constrict their fall migration window.

In terms of fall departures and arrivals: In early September, we said farewell to Yellow-throated Warbler (actually a 30 Aug expected departure) and Gull-billed Tern, Mississippi Kite, Chuck-will’s-widow & Orchard Oriole (10 Sep). Any records for these species moving forward will flag in eBird as ‘rare’, but really they are flagging for being found past their usual date of departure. In mid-September, we have expected departure dates for Hooded Warber, Blue-winged Warbler, Western Sandpiper, Acadian Flycatcher, Purple Martin & Prothonotary Warbler (15 Apr) as well as for Common Nighthawk, Whimbrel, Least Bittern, Least Tern & Summer Tanager (20 Apr), so make sure to try for your last sightings of the season on these species while you can! If you observe any of these species near or after those dates, please try to document their occurrence to the best of your ability; it helps make eBird data & filters more accurate! With regard to annually expected fall arrivals, as of the reporting period close date, we have not yet logged first-of-season arrivals for Yellow-throated Warbler & White-rumped Sandpiper (5 Aug average expected arrival), Peregrine Falcon (15 Aug), Blue-winged Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler & Sora (20 Aug), Veery, Magnolia Warlber, Blackburnian Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler & Wilson’s Snipe (25 Aug), Bay-breasted Warbler & Gadwall (30 Aug), Nashville Warbler & Merlin (5 Sep), Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Shoveler, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail & Sharp-shinned Hawk (10 Sep) and Gray-cheeked Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Palm Warbler & Savannah Sparrow (15 Sep).

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For further information regarding this thrice-monthly, online publication, please visit the Journal Overview Page which provides an in-depth explanation of the format, layout and composition of the journal. As always, thank you for reading, and please leave me a comment below (you may use your Facebook, Gmail or other accounts to easily do so), or just click the Heart icon to the lower right of this post to let me know you stopped in!

Late August 2018 (21st-31st)

Extremely unseasonal heat continued throughout the period, with triple digit heat indices becoming all too common. While no new rarities were observed during the late August period, we had a new occurrence for COMMON GALLINULE (ph. Reuben Rohn) at Back Bay NWR and continuing occurrences for the single MARBLED GODWIT at Back Bay NWR (many obs.) that has been present dating all the way back to 6 Aug (assuming it is the same individual), as wells as another report for what is likely the same AMERICAN AVOCET on the mudflats of Lynnhaven Bay on 23 Aug (obs. Andrew Baldelli) that was there to close out mid-August. Likely due to the heat and our lack of cold fronts here on the coast, first-of-season arrivals really didn’t get underway as expected. In fact, only four new species were logged, all within expected fall arrival dates, including: BALTIMORE ORIOLE at First Landing SP on 23 Aug (obs. Andrew Baldelli), BLUE-WINGED TEAL at Back Bay NWR on 24 Aug (obs. Robert Ake), the first flocks of BOBOLINKS at Back Bay NWR on 26 Aug (obs. David Clark and Andrew Baldelli), and also the first NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH that same day at the refuge (obs. Andrew Baldelli).

Marbled Godwit / Back Bay NWR

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of August located on eBird’s Media explorer by clicking here! Please remember, anyone with an eBird account also has the ability to rate these photographs (1-5 stars), and based on the average rating, this is how eBird populates anything media-driven on the website, particularly the Illustrated Checklists! So, if you're one of the many folks who enjoy looking at photographs of birds, take some time to click them all and rate them, it helps make eBird better and better each day!

LOOKAHEAD: With regards to annually expected fall arrivals, as of the reporting period close date, we have not yet logged first arrivals for DUNLIN (30 Jul average expected arrival), YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER & WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (5 Aug), PEREGRINE FALCON (15 Aug), BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, WORM-EATING WARBLER, CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER & SORA (20 Aug), VEERY, MAGNOLIA WARBLER, BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, WILSON’S WARBLER, GREEN-WINGED TEAL & WILSON’S SNIPE (25 Aug), BAY-BREASTED WARBLER, CAPE MAY WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER & GADWALL (30 Aug), NASHVILLE WARBLER & MERLIN (5 Sep) and ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, NORTHERN SHOVELER, AMERICAN WIGEON, NORTHERN PINTAIL & SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (10 Sep). If you observe one of these species before the date listed, please try to document the sighting as best as you can! Please also remember that every species’ expected fall arrival date can be viewed in table format by Clicking Here!

Next Entry | Next Year | Entry Index | Previous Year | Previous Entry

For further information regarding this thrice-monthly, online publication, please visit the Journal Overview Page which provides an in-depth explanation of the format, layout and composition of the journal. As always, thank you for reading, and please leave me a comment below (you may use your Facebook, Gmail or other accounts to easily do so), or just click the Heart icon to the lower right of this post to let me know you stopped in!