Early July 2019 (1st-10th)

The early July period typically marks the beginning of fall migration for shorebirds into Virginia Beach, and while birding overall can still be a bit slow since passerines and waterfowl are still a ways off, the incoming shorebird are cause for excitement even in the typical hot & humid weather of July. In contrast to June, where diversity tends to drop steadily as late spring lingerers disappear, leaving behind only the true breeders, July is a month to truly celebrate as these shorebirds begin to trickle in and overall diversity of species therefore increases throughout the month! In total, 123 species were logged to eBird during the early July period, topping the 120 species logged during the same period last year. Highlights included continuing rarity records for WARBLING VIREO & ANHINGA, new unseasonal records for AMERICAN BLACK DUCK & SURF SCOTER, continuing unseasonal records for HOODED WARBLER, early first-of-season records for SPOTTED SANDPIPER & WHIMBREL, first-of-season records within expected dates for LEAST SANDPIPER & SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, and interesting records for CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOW, WILD TURKEY & OVENBIRD!

Most notable for this period were ongoing reports for a nesting pair of WARBLING VIREOS in the Ashville Park neighborhood just north of Pungo. With the first individual, a singing male, noted at this location 19 Jun (a.r. Karen & Tom Beatty), and shortly after, a female observed staying close to the male, it seemed probable that the pair were nesting somewhere nearby. Fast forward a couple of weeks and excitedly, a nest was indeed found in the neighborhood 1 Jul (vis. Andrew Baldelli and ph. Karen & Tom Beatty), making for an incredible first breeding confirmation for this species in coastal Virginia for the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas! Thus far for the project, which runs from 2016-2020, the only other confirmation for Warbling Vireo within the Coastal Plain region of Virginia occurred at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve / Belle Haven Park in Fairfax County, roughly 150 miles away! The Atlas Map for Warbling Vireo really showcases the rareness of this record more than any words being typed here can, so be sure to check it out when you have the time! Additionally, this represents the first Warbling Vireo record during the month of July in a coastal county south of New Jersey (as far as eBird goes)! These rarities were further documented by photographs & audio recordings on 2 Jul (2, ph. Emily Johnson & Nathaniel Watkins), 5 Jul (ph. & a.r. Reuben Rohn) and on 6 Jul (2, ph. Rob Bielawski) which is the most recent report logged to eBird.

The summering ANHINGA population at Stumpy Lake NA first noted way back on 21 Apr (2, ph. Stephen Keith) continued to be observed throughout the period with a high count of 3 individuals logged, and photographic records occurring 1 Jul (3, ph. Reuben Rohn), 2 Jul (1, ph. Rob Bielawski) and 4 Jul (3, ph. Jonathan Snyder; 2, ph. David Clark). Additionally, a new location, Rock Creek Recreation Area roughly 2.5 miles to the east of Stumpy Lake yielded records for Anhinga as well, and it is possible these may be some of the same individuals or a separate group. Reported initially by Nilda Schwartzwalder to Mary Reid Barrow (long-time author of the Close Encounters wildlife section of the Virginian Pilot), the first eBird record for the species at this location was input 1 Jul (1, Pamela Monahan), with another record on 4 Jul (2, Rob Bielawski). Surprisingly, this species has apparently been present at this location for several summers, starting back in 2014 as mentioned in this article in the Virginia Pilot! It would be truly interesting to find out whether the species has bred somewhere in the neighborhood along the shorelines of the collection of storm water retention ponds. At least 3 individuals have been observed here this summer (1 male, 2 female/immatures).

We had a pair of unseasonal waterfowl species reported this period, with a single AMERICAN BLACK DUCK observed at Pleasure House Point NA on 5 Jul (vis. Adam Sell), and also a single SURF SCOTER along the coast at False Cape SP during the early July survey for Back Bay NWR on the same date (ph. Drew Avery & Edward Brinkley). Additionally in the realm of unseasonals, a male HOODED WARBLER continues to be heard along the upper reaches of the Long Creek Trail at First Landing SP, with records logged this period on 2 Jul (aud. June McDaniels) and again on 7 Jul (aud. Cindy Hamilton & June McDaniels). This individual was first documented back on 23 Jun (ph. June McDaniels) in the same area, which marked Virginia Beach’s first summer (Jun/Jul) record for Hooded Warbler in eBird going all the way back to 1979! This individual also earned a “probable” breeding code for the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas, the highest code for the species in the city so far submitted to the project.

As mentioned above, early July is the first period to showcase fall arrivals, typically in the form of southbound shorebirds that have departed from their northerly breeding grounds. Four such species occurred this period, two on the early side of the expected dates, and two within their expected range. Our first records for SPOTTED SANDPIPER occurred just a day on the early side of the expected 5 Jul arrival with one individual observed at Back Bay NWR on 4 Jul (vis. Adam Sell) in the early morning hours, and another was found later in the day at Princess Anne WMA (ph. Rob Bielawski). In similar fashion, the first WHIMBREL of the season was documented at Back Bay NWR on 9 Jul (ph. Cindy Hamilton), just a day ahead of its typical 10 Jul arrival date. In terms of arrivals that fell within expected date ranges, the first was LEAST SANDPIPER with an individual found at Princess Anne WMA on 7 Jul (ph. Rob Bielawski), two days after the expected 5 Jul arrival date. Additionally, our first SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER of the season showed up at Back Bay NWR on 9 Jul (ph. Cindy Hamilton), just four days after the expected arrival date.

Several interesting records also popped up during the early July period, led by an incredible high count of 22 CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOWS heard vocalizing overnight at False Cape SP on 1 Jul (aud. Tracy Tate) as part of Atlasing outing. A WILD TURKEY was reported at the Adventureworks Wetland Zipline Park near Red Wing Golf Course on 2 Jul (obs. Shawn Callahan), which is quite unusual given how scarce this species is north of Indiana River & Sandbridge Roads. Lastly, a vocalizing OVENBIRD at Princess Anne WMA Whitehurst Tract on 6 Jul (aud. Rob Bielawski) marked the first time one had been recorded during the summer (Jun/Jul) at the WMA for eBird. It’s possible this is already a very early post-breeding dispersal, but it is also possible that the individual is breeding in the small forested area that lines the west side of the tract. Either way, it’s exciting this time of year.

Breeding bird observations were still going strong through early July and the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas has continued to steam ahead with full momentum! Scattered breeding bird confirmations were photographically documented around the city this period as follows: a pair of recently fledged KILLDEER along Shipps Cabin Rd. on 1 Jul (ph. Karen & Tom Beatty, and later also 6 Jul, ph. Rob Bielawski); a recently fledged BLUE JAY & BROWN-HEADED COWBIRD off Holland Rd. on 1 Jul (ph. Carolyn Page); recently fledged TUFTED TITMOUSE & OVENBIRD at Stumpy Lake NA on 2 Jul (ph. Rob Bielawski); an occupied nest of GREAT BLUE HERONS at First Landing SP on 4 Jul (ph. Rob Bielawski); and recently fledged CLAPPER RAILS at Pleasure House Point on 4 Jul (ph. Rob Bielawski). Keep up all the great work Atlasing folks, and please remember, if you have any questions regarding the project, please check out the 2nd Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas Website, the official Atlas Facebook Page, or the Facebook Group for more information!

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of July 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 regard to annually expected fall arrivals, as of the reporting period close date, we have not yet logged first arrivals for GULL-BILLED TERN (5 Jul average expected arrivals), BLACK TERN, WESTERN SANDPIPER, LESSER YELLOWLEGS, PIED-BILLED GREBE & RUDDY TURNSTONE (10 Jul), PIPING PLOVER, SOLITARY SANDPIPER, SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, PECTORAL SANDPIPER & BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (15 Jul) and RED KNOT & STILT SANDPIPER (20 Jul). Since passerines aren’t yet on the move, this month is truly dedicated to a search for shorebirds! The coastal beaches of First Landing SP, the Resort Area & North End, Little Island Park and Back Bay NWR, as well as any low-tide marshes like those at Pleasure House Point NA and flooded fields will become highly sought-after locations to search for shorebirds as we move deeper into July. Depending on the winds, and potential for rainfall, Back Bay NWR’s H Pool (along the currently open East Dike), and a pair of impoundments at Princess Anne WMA Whitehurst Tract could provide for shorebirds.

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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 February 2019 (21st-28th)

While it is the shortest of the thrice-monthly periods, Late February managed to hold its own in terms of both quantity and quality! Matching mid-February, 144 species were logged to eBird this period, and Virginia Beach birders closed out the month with a strong list of 168 species (up significantly from the 155 logged in February 2018). Temperatures dropped a bit this period from the late winter heat wave experienced in the middle of the month, though flowering trees continue to blossom. The real weather headline was the amount of rain we received though, and it felt as though the sun was only out for maybe one or two days in total this period. Highlights this period included new rarity records for  CACKLING GOOSE, BARN OWL & LARK SPARROW, continuing rarity records for TUFTED DUCK, HARLEQUIN DUCK, COMMON MERGANSER, PURPLE FINCH & BREWER’S BLACKBIRD, continuing unseasonal records for BLUE-WINGED TEAL & BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER and interesting records for BRANT & RED-NECKED GREBE!

A pair of CACKLING GEESE were discovered foraging in a flood field north of Gum Bridge Road (just west of Charity Neck Road) with a large flock of Canada Geese on 23 Feb (vis. Matt Anthony & Nick Newberry). The pair was observed again the following day along with Canada & Snow Geese, as well as a single Tundra Swan (ph. Rob Bielawski). Later in the day, the several-day-long rainstorm finally cleared and the water quickly receded from this field; a quick check in the late afternoon revealed most of the flock had dispersed just as the floodwaters did. While a single Cackling Goose has been known to be present in the larger goose flock near Sherwood Lakes, this is the first record for the year of multiple Cacklers, and the first at this particular location.

Only the second ever recorded to eBird in Virginia Beach, a BARN OWL observed being mobbed by crows at Pleasure House Point NA on 27 Feb (vis. Ezra & Theo Staengl, vis. Shawn Kurtzman) was a huge surprise! Last May, a single Barn Owl was also reported at this location under the same circumstances, but it was never found again. One must consider that this is likely the same individual, and it has managed to stay hidden due to its nocturnal habits. The nearby golf course and surrounded fields/pine stands could provide perfect habitat for this bird, and frankly it’s just exciting to know there is one hanging out somewhere in the city.

Last of the new finds this period, a single LARK SPARROW was found foraging along the edge of the asphalt on Nanney’s Creek Road on 24 Feb (ph. Andrew Baldelli). This is the first Lark Sparrow seen here this year, and the fourth of the rare winter sparrows to be logged, along with White-crowned, Lincoln’s & Clay-colored. Perhaps as we head into March, Vesper will find its way into the crowd. *Please note: There were murmurings across social media that later in the day, twitchers hoping to spot this individual were trespassing on private property. So everyone reading this is aware, this Lark Sparrow was easily viewed from the public roadway during the initial and subsequent observations (ph. Steve Myers, ph. Rob Bielawski), and there is simply no excuse for anyone walking onto private land to see this, or any other species. This is by no means an isolated issue in the grand history of birding, however, the internet has made getting the word out about rarities significantly faster, for better and for worse, and it is the responsibility of all individuals to behave properly with regard to the property of others. Birding from a public roadway often yields great birds (the Wood Stork of 2017 for example) and it is a style of birding that will always continue. Parking a car on a driveway apron and stepping onto private land is something different altogether and should never be done without permission. While this Lark Sparrow was not observed again at this location, another was reported at Stuart Road on 26 Feb (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty), which is another public road surrounded by private property, please stay on the asphalt if searching here.

Moving on to continuing rarities, the first-ever TUFTED DUCK found on the lake behind Chartway Federal Credit Union’s headquarters on Cleveland Street on 19 Feb (ph. Andrew Baldelli & Tracy Tate) continued to be observed at the same location through 26 Feb (last vis. Marlee Morris). It was thoroughly searched for on the 27th & 28th, as well as on 1 Mar (as this is being written), and has not been observed. There are a large number of neighborhood ponds scattered across the Hampton Roads metropolitan area though, and it could have simply moved to another nearby location, perhaps with the group of Lesser Scaup is was associating with. If it pops up again, it’ll certainly be out on the eBird alerts quickly. Many of will be left to muse about where it may have gone too, and perhaps another city nearby is in for a first record just like Virginia Beach was fortunate to enjoy. Throughout the course of 8 days while it was known, a total of 120 eBird reports were logged for the bird, probably the most for a single bird in the city dating back to the miraculous 157 reports for the Back Bay Fork-tailed Flycatcher of 2017.

Also in the waterfowl realm of continuing rarities, the immature male HARLEQUIN DUCK present since the Little Creek CBC on 31 Dec 2018 was logged again this period, though only a single time on 25 Feb (ph. Baxter Beamer). This pesky individual has been very difficult to pin down to a single viewable location, with probably better than half of the folks who’ve looked for it coming up empty. It has been observed ranging from the west side of the Lesner Bridge, east to the marina on the east side of Chic’s Oyster Bar. However, there are many nooks & crannies for this bird to hide amongst. Twitchers be warned.

COMMON MERGANSERS continued at two separate location this period, around Lynnhaven Inlet and at Sherwood Lakes. Last period, a group of three females was observed at Lynnhaven Inlet and two of them were again found on 22 Feb (ph. June McDaniels). Additionally, the group of female Common Mergansers at Sherwood Lakes persisted through at least 26 Feb (vis. Karen & Tom Beatty, vis. Cathy Williamson). Hopefully individuals from at least one location are still present heading into March, as it is a difficult month-bird to come by out here (for those of us who are crazy enough to maintain month-lists).

Continuing female PURPLE FINCHES were observed at three separate private residences during late Feb, as follows: one in Great Neck Estates on 23 Feb (ph. J.A.), one in Laurel Cove on 26 Feb (ph. Loretta Silvia), and one in Church Point on 28 Feb (vis. Tracy Tate). This continues to be an excellent irruption year for this species in southeastern Virginia, however, there are currently no public locations known harboring the species (possibly First Landing SP?). Perhaps that will change in March?

The wintering flock of BREWER’S BLACKBIRDS along West Gibbs Road in the Blackwater section of Virginia Beach continued to be seen this period, with several reports occurring from 24-27 Feb (ph. Lisa Rose & Jason Strickland, ph. Rob Bielawski, vis. Will McPhail, vis. Cindy Hamilton) after having gone unrecorded dating all the way back to 13 Jan. The birds have been present on a private farm, Breeze Farms to be specific, and like with the Lark Sparrow mentioned earlier it is important to note that observers visiting this site be highly respectful of their surroundings. Unless you receive permission from the homeowners, it’s probably best to stay on the public roadway. The blackbirds will often tee up in the nearby trees, though the bulk of their time is spent hopping around the muddy horse pens (sometimes perching on the fences). Birders beware, there are plenty of Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Red-winged Blackbirds at this location that can cause confusion of which species you might be looking at from a distance.

In what has continued to be a banner winter for the species, continuing BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS were observed at two locations during late February. The single individual that has been observed at Stumpy Lake NA going all the way back to 15 Jan was again viewed on 26 Feb (ph. Steve Myers) along the second loop of the wooded trail, and once more on 27 Feb (ph. June McDaniels). A second continuing individual was observed at a private residence in Great Neck Estates on 25 Feb (vis. J.A.). Four separate locations have yielded Jan/Feb records in the city this year, and with their average arrival date of 5 Apr still a few weeks off, we still have time to find another potential winterer before the true migrants begin arriving, and obscure whether or not a bird wintered here.

Late February is the final period for which BLUE-WINGED TEAL are considered noteworthy, and we had our last such record at Little Island Park on 24 Feb (vis. Andrew Baldelli). Since this species has a 5 Mar average spring arrival date, the cutoff for being mentioned in this journal is 25 Feb (10 days ahead of the arrival date). For more information regarding these dates for other species, please be sure to consult the Noteworthy Observations Criteria Page for 2019.

BRANT continue to defy typical logic this winter, and yet another inland location yielded a foraging flock. This time it was the fields around Great Neck MS on 26 Feb (vis. Loretta Silvia), where a total of 34 were observed! It isn’t unprecedented, but it’s been a few years since we had reports like this continue to stream in for agricultural fields. Others have been noted this winter at Oceana NAS, HRSD’s Atlantic Plant on Firefall Drive, and at Oliver’s Pond near Lake Smith. Also interesting, a total of 22 RED-NECKED GREBES were counted off of Guy Avenue on the Chesapeake Bay on 27 Feb (vis. Andrew Baldelli), marking a 2018-19 seasonal high count, besting the previous high count of 4 by a considerable amount!

Heading into early March, the coastline should continue to be watched closely for large-scale movement of Razorbills as they begin departing the area. Snow Geese should continue to move through in large numbers, with massive flocks descending on agriculture fields in southern Virginia Beach to forage. There is only one expected spring arrival species during early March, being Blue-winged Teal (5 Mar). However, this is a good time of year to get an early Royal Tern or Piping Plover, and it’s also worth searching for Vesper Sparrows which are an early migrant. We are just a couple of weeks away from the real beginning to spring migration so early March is always a good time to wrap up seeing some species that were missed in Jan/Feb before we start the flood of northbound migrants.

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of February 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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For further information regarding this thrice-monthly, online publication, please visit the Journal Overview Page</journal/overview> 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!

Mid-February 2019 (11th-20th)

The fields are purple with clover and white with Snow Geese, the early blossoming trees (Bradford Pears, Tulip Trees & Redbuds) are already showing flowers, daffodils are starting to pop, and we logged a remarkable new species for Virginia Beach this period! Mid-February produced a total of 144 species reported to eBird in the city, including four new species for the Virginia Beach calendar year list, which now sits at 177 species! An astonishing number of eBird checklists were submitted this period, bolstered heavily by the Great Backyard Bird Count event sponsored by the National Audubon Society, as well as by field trips in the city hosted by the Hampton Roads Bird Club & Richmond Audubon Society. Highlights this period included new rarity records for TUFTED DUCK (the very first record for Virginia Beach!), AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN & RUSTY BLACKBIRD, continuing rarity records for HARLEQUIN DUCK, COMMON MERGANSER, DOVEKIE & PAINTED BUNTING, new unseasonal records for SANDWICH TERN & BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, continuing unseasonal records for BLUE-WINGED TEAL, an early first of season record for LAUGHING GULL and a first-of-year record for AMERICAN WOODCOCK!

First off, the headliner: TUFTED DUCK! Found during the late morning hours on the lake behind Chartway Federal Credit Union’s headquarters on Cleveland Street on 19 Feb (ph. Andrew Baldelli & Tracy Tate), this represents the first ever record for the species in Virginia Beach. In fact, this is such a rare find that there are only three prior records in the state of Virginia as a whole, with one at Lake Anna in 1994, one at Chincoteague in 1996 and one in Fauquier County in 2006. So, it has been almost 13 years since one was observed in the state, but we were fortunate enough to have it show up here, and even more fortunate that birders checked this location, were able to find and identify it, and put the word out very quickly. It was observed again throughout the day on 20 Feb, so appears to be staying in the area (who knows just how long it’s been present, but simply unnoticed). Given how rare of a find this is, and the volume of birders who are likely to come to see it, please remember to be respectful of the property and anyone you encounter at this site. The grassed areas are marked with ‘no trespassing’ signs, so please do not wander across them.

Typically, in these journal entries, all the new rarities get run through prior to the unseasonal finds. However, this next one is such an incredible out-of-season record that it needs to be mentioned up here alongside the Tufted Duck. An incredible SANDWICH TERN was photographed from the beach at Back Bay NWR on 17 Feb (ph. June McDaniels), making for what appears to be the first winter record in Virginia for the species! Currently, eBird shows no prior winter records for this species north of North Carolina, making this one all the remarkable. With all the excitement of the Tufted Duck, many birders probably missed the initial eBird alert for this tern, but it is possible it might be lingering around Back Bay NWR, especially given gulls & terns often roost on the ‘north mile’ of the park. It certainly means we birders need to scrutinize every single Forster’s Tern we see along the coast, in the hopes that one will turn out to be a (the?) Sandwich Tern.

Back to the new rarities, a group of four AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS was observed flying past the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier at the Oceanfront on 11 Feb (vis. Jessica Klotz). This species has been difficult to catch in Virginia Beach so far in 2019, with all the reports so far being coastal, but with all the individuals being in flight and not lingering around. Last winter we were fortunate to have an individual set down on Sherwood Lakes, where it stayed for a little over 24 hours, allowing looks by many locals. While we’ve had no truly chase-able American White Pelicans yet this year, we still have some time to get lucky. Last year we had records going into May for this species.

RUSTY BLACKBIRDS, rare in Virginia Beach though more common west of us at places like Great Dismal Swamp, were reportedly heard at two locations this period during the Richmond Audubon Society field trip to Back Bay NWR and False Cape SP. Thus far, there still remains only one single photographic record for this species in the city (Stumpy Lake NA in 2017), so anyone hearing (or seeing) Rusties should try their best to document with a photo. It is truly remarkable that more photographs don’t exist, especially given the number of us here who take pride in photo-taking while out birding.

The immature male HARLEQUIN DUCK present since the Little Creek CBC on 31 Dec 2018 was logged quite a few times this period, with the most recent record occurring at Dockside Seafood & Fishing Center just before lunchtime on 20 Feb (vis. Rob Bielawski). This individual has been lingering along the bulkheads and piers along the north shore of Long Creek from Chic’s Oyster Bar and westward to Lynnhaven Inlet. It has also been observed foraging around the oyster reef and small island visible from behind Dockside. It will likely persist in the area for a while, until longer term warm weather sets in and it heads back north along the coast.

COMMON MERGANSERS continued at two separate location this period, around Lynnhaven Inlet and at Sherwood Lakes. Last period, a single female Common Merganser was noted on Pleasure House Creek, and this period, a group of three females was observed nearby at Lynnhaven Inlet on 11 Feb (ph. June McDaniels). Additionally, the group of female Common Mergansers at Sherwood Lakes persisted through at least 17 Feb (ph. Rob Bielawski, vis. Jacob & James Flynn, vis. June McDaniels). It’s likely that these Sherwood mergansers are still present, and that the ducks mentioned above perhaps have drawn more birders to different portions of the city, allowing these to go unnoticed for a couple of days. Certainly, still worth looking for into late February.

During a massive, record-setting, movement of Razorbills (7,000+ individuals) past Little Island Park on 19 Feb, an incredible four DOVEKIE were observed mixed in with the flocks (vis. Andrew Baldelli & Tracy Tate). Another individual was seen under similar, yet smaller scale, circumstances on 15 Feb at the same location (vis. Andrew Baldelli). With two prior individuals reported here in January, Little Island has solidified itself as the most reliable spot to attempt spotting this species. Though, it seems to require massive movements of Razorbills to provide the proper backdrop to picking one of these tiny alcids out, and mid-February is the peak season for those movements here on the coast. Changes still exist that heading into late February, one could be found though.

At least one continuing PAINTED BUNTING was recorded this period, with a female/immature type individual visiting a residential feeder in Kempsville on 15 Feb (ph. Teresa Conlon). Though it wasn’t reported again after this, it has been present for several months, so it could return. Elsewhere in the city, there are likely to be quite a few other Painted Buntings hanging around, though there have been none reported from publicly viewable locations this season.

In mid-February we had both a continuing, and a new record for BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, making this a record-setting season for this species in Virginia Beach. According to eBird, there had only been two prior Jan/Feb records for the species here, but in 2019, these two months have provided at least four individuals being logged. Of course, there are probably records that exist and aren’t entered in eBird, but, there’s no way of knowing. A newly reported individual was found at Back Bay NWR on 14 Feb (ph. Cindy Hamilton & June McDaniels), while a continuing individual in Great Neck Estates was last logged on 18 Feb (vis. J.A.). Other individuals reported previously at Pleasure House Point NA and Stumpy Lake NA were not observed during this period, but are likely to still be present at their respective parks.

Another noteworthy species of waterfowl continued to be recorded this period, with BLUE-WINGED TEAL reports coming in from Back Bay NWR & False Cape SP during the impoundments survey on 15 Feb, as well as during the Hampton Roads Bird Club field trip to the park on 16 Feb. The latter outing also produced a record for five Blue-winged Teal at False Cape SP (ph. Andrew Rapp), the first to be recorded at the park this year. Additionally, a drake/hen pair was recorded at Princess Anne WMA’s Beasley Tract on 17 Feb (ph. Rob Bielawski), the first there since early January. With an expected spring arrival date of 5 Mar, we’re heading into the time when Blue-winged Teal reports will start to become not-noteworthy, though reports through 25 Feb will still get logged to the Noteworthy Observations Page on this website.

With an expected spring arrival date of 20 Feb, we had an early arrival for LAUGHING GULL when one was reported on the flats at Pleasure House Point on 15 Feb by a portion of the Richmond Audubon Society (vis. Kathy Louthan, Len Smock & Wes Teets). This species has a narrow window during most winters where they can’t be found, currently set as 10 Jan-20 Feb in eBird. During harsher winters, they’ll leave earlier and return later though, so year to year it is always interesting to see how they react to the weather. Another good example of this is Black Skimmer, typically departing 20 Jan and returning 5 Apr. This year, one skimmer did linger late, but there were no reports this period for this individual.

In addition to the Tufted Duck, Rusty Blackbird & Sandwich Tern mentioned above, AMERICAN WOODCOCK was also recorded this year for the first time in Virginia Beach. Three sightings came in during mid-February, with the first being logged at Back Bay NWR on 11 Feb (vis. Tracy Tate), one at Princess Anne WMA’s Beasley Tract on 17 Feb (vis. Rob Bielawski) and another at First Landing SP on 20 Feb (vis. J.A.). This could be a sign that the species is already on the move and more individuals are showing up here. This mid-to-late winter has been starkly different than last year’s with regard to Woodcocks. The heavy snowfall events of last Jan/Feb made this species a much easier target as the snow tends to push them to parking lot edges and any other open patches where they can continue to forage. With no snow so far this winter, they’re been much harder to find given their perfect camouflage.

Heading into late February, the coastline should continue to be watched closely for large-scale movement of Razorbills. Snow Geese should continue to move through in large numbers, with massive flocks descending on agriculture fields in southern Virginia Beach to forage. Outside of Laughing Gull, there are no other expected spring arrivals during this period, but starting in early March, we’ll have expected species arrivals each period through May. The Tufted Duck is certainly one not to miss, given there’s never been one logged in Virginia Beach before, so if you’re looking for a bird to go see, that’s the one!

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of February 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 February 2019 (1st-10th)

Record-setting heat arrived in early February across southeast Virginia, which made this a rather interesting first period for the late winter season. Early on, frigid temperatures in the Midwest and Northeast states continued to push waterfowl into much of Virginia, and while we did benefit a bit here on the coast, it seemed to be the drastic rise and drop of temperatures later in the period that really boosted our sightings locally. All told, the Early February period produced a total of 153 species reported to eBird in the city, including two additions to the Virginia Beach calendar year list which now sits at 173 species! Most reports this period originated along the immediate coast, with the Williamsburg Bird Club’s boat trip to the islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel greatly aiding in the number of lists submitted. Highlights this period across the city included new rarity records for COMMON MERGANSER, AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN, PAINTED BUNTING, PURPLE FINCH & LINCOLN’S SPARROW continuing rarity records for HARLEQUIN DUCK, WESTERN GREBE, PARASITIC JAEGER, BLACK-HEADED GULL & SNOW BUNTING, new unseasonal records for BLUE-WINGED TEAL, continuing unseasonal records for BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, late records for lingering BLACK SKIMMERS, first-of-year records for BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER and interesting records for SNOW GOOSE, BRANT, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, RAZORBILL & ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER!

Kicking things off, we notched our fourth location of the year (and fifth for the winter season) to produce a record for COMMON MERGANSER when a single female was observed with a group of Red-breasted Mergansers at Pleasure House Point NA on 2 Feb (ph. Rob Bielawski). This group of mergansers was observed foraging along Pleasure House Creek, moving upstream into the portion of the creek that sits just south of Shore Drive and east of the Bayville Golf Club. Also relating to Common Merganser, Sherwood Lakes continued to support a group of all females with a peak count of ten being observed this period with the last records appearing on 10 Feb (ph. Nancy Barnhart [7], vis. Tommy Maloney [6]). This group was originally found back on 27 Jan (ph. Prashant A.), with the most recent record occurring 5  Feb (vis. Robert Ake). With other records of single females last period occurring at Little Island Park on 22 Jan (vis. Andrew Baldelli) and on the North Landing River on 26 Jan (ph. Steve Coari & Laura Mae), all waterways seem worth checking for this species, though they tend to prefer clear, freshwater as opposed to brackish/saltwater (the Pleasure House Point individual being an obvious exception)!

Only the second record for the year, a pair of AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS were photographed in flight from Rudee Inlet on 2 Feb (ph. Greg Moyers, vis. David Bridge, Paul Sumner & Matt Wangerin). Back on 20 Jan, a flock of 15 American White Pelicans was observed at Back Bay NWR (ph. Keith Roberts, vis. Clark Olsen), and likely this same group was then later viewed from Rudee Inlet the same day (vis. Tracy Tate). It is possible some of them may have set down on Lake Rudee or another body of water nearby, but it seems more likely that this more recent pair might be separate individuals, perhaps moving from Pea Island NWR in NC to Blackwater NWR in MD, or to Hog Island WMA in Surry County, VA. These are the three locations nearest to us that seem to hold the species as residents rather than catching birds solely passing through like we’re accustomed to.

While there are several known locations (all at private residences) where PAINTED BUNTINGS have been observed this year so far, a new location did pop up during early February when a female/immature type bird was logged in Lynnhaven on 2 Feb (ph. Catherine Johnson). Another female/immature was observed at a private residence in Kempsville on 3 Feb (ph. Teresa Conlon). Though this individual has likely been present since it’s first report date of 7 Nov 2018, it hadn’t been observed since 15 Dec 2018 so it was nice to see another report come in from this location. Adult males have been harder to find in the city, though several are present in at least one undisclosed location in central Virginia Beach. Unfortunately, there are just no public locations known where this species winters in the city.

Following suit with Painted Buntings, PURPLE FINCHES were picked up at a new location, found again at a continuing location, and unfortunately not observed anywhere on public property this period! A private residence in Laurel Cove had recently been visited by a male Purple Finch back on 27 Jan, but this period yielded a female visitor on 4 Feb (ph. Loretta Silvia). Two additional records of ‘new’ Purple Finches occurred during early February, with single males being photographed at First Landing SP on 8 Feb (ph. June McDaniels) and at a private residence in Larkspur on 10 Feb (ph. Steve Myers). As far as continuing Purple Finches go, a group of three was reported in South Shore Estates on 4 Feb (vis. James Marcum), and individuals have been observed off-and-on at that residence dating back to 28 Nov 2018. It really has been a banner season for Purple Finch in Virginia Beach, though records on public land have been very difficult to come by. The upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count might help ferret out some additional reports next period.

We added our 13th species of sparrow (not including Eastern Towhee, but including Dark-eyed Junco) for the calendar year this period when a single LINCOLN’S SPARROW was discovered at Princess Anne WMA’s Whitehurst Tract on 10 Feb (ph. Rob Bielawski). Winter records for this species throughout Virginia area difficult to come by, though wintering individuals are slightly more expected to occur here in the southeastern portion of the state (like with most species) due to our milder climate during Dec-Feb. However, there has only been one other individual noted in the city this winter season, that being the single bird found at Taste on Shore Drive from 3-14 Dec 2018 (vis. Andrew Baldelli; later photographed on 8 Dec, ph. Rob Bielawski, Lisa Rose & Jason Strickland). Aside from these two records, the last one known in the city was way back on 9 Jan 2018 at Ashville Park (ph. Mary Catherine Miguez). Surprisingly, none were found here during fall migration, which is typically the peak movement for this species (early October specifically).

The immature male HARLEQUIN DUCK lingering around Lynnhaven Inlet since at least 31 Dec 2018 (Little Creek CBC) was again observed this period, on 3 Feb (ph. Andrew Rapp & Matt Wangerin, and observed by a great many others on the Williamsburg Bird Club boat trip), also on 7 Feb (vis. Sahas Barve, William Muhic & Russell Winter; later vis. Cindy Hamilton) and then extensively photographed on 10 Feb (ph. Prashant A.). This has been a hit-or-miss bird for many, though it seems to move into Long Creek with the incoming tide, then probably moves out as the tide falls. It has mostly been observed from the creekside of Dockside Restaurant, and other adjacent properties as it forages along the hardened/bulkhead shoreline and offshore tidal reefs. Interestingly, despite the Williamsburg Bird Club boat trip heading out to the four islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (two in Virginia Beach, two in Northampton), this was the Harlequin Duck to get logged. Typically, it is the reverse, with most boat trips finding at least one around the islands, but not seeing any inshore. In fact, aside from this individual, there is only one other report so far this winter season in the state as a whole, with two observed on North Chesapeake Island of the CBBT in Northampton on 26 Dec 2018 (vis. Edward Brinkley) during an annual Boxing Day seawatch. That said, there was also a single record at Little Island Park on 9 Nov (vis. Tracy Tate), and an individual logged from 10-13 Nov at Rudee Inlet (ph. Mark Sopko, Stuart Sweetman & Elizabeth Wilkins as part of a Hampton Roads Bird Club outing) though these would both be considered fall records by ornithological journals, but still should be counted as part of this ‘winter season’.

The miraculous WESTERN GREBE first found at Back Bay NWR way back on 3 Dec (ph. Diane Hinch & Maggee Smith; later ph. Charlie Bruggemann) was again observed this period from the Little Island Park pier on 5 Feb (ph. Dixie Sommers). Given there has not been a single other Western Grebe reported on the entire East Coast since this one, it seems ‘reasonably’ safe to assume this is the same individual moving along the coastline. Also, it seems pretty likely that this could be the same bird that has been found near here the past pair of winters. Of course, it is difficult to say for certain and maybe we even have more than one present in the area. However, we’ll never know until more than one gets observed at the same time (or very near to it). This ‘individual’ was observed at Back Bay NWR only from 3-6 Dec, then was first picked up at Little Island Park during the Back Bay CBC on 29 Dec, lingering into this period with only one other record, back on 5 Jan.

A single PARASITIC JAEGER was noted harassing gulls off the Little Island Park pier in the late morning of 9 Feb (vis. Robert Ake). A first at this location dating back to 5 Jan when another individual was noted, the only other record(s) so far in the city this year have been a single jaeger viewed from the VA Aquarium Whales & Wildlife boat trips offshore of the oceanfront resort area in mid-and-late January (see those entries for more information). As we get closer to spring, this species could start popping up along the coast with more frequency, given that most records occur during transitional months and individuals in true winter are tougher to observe. Though, the fall migration in early November seems to still be the best time of year to observe jaegers from shore with 2017’s migration standing out as the season to beat in terms of sheer numbers of jaegers that passed by our coastline.

An adult BLACK-HEADED GULL, likely the same individual that had been reported on the Lynnhaven Inlet tidal flats on 13 Jan (vis. Andrew Baldelli), was observed at Pleasure House Point NA on 2 Feb (ph. Rob Bielawski; later ph. Steve Myers). This individual was observed dip-feeding with a group of five Bonaparte’s Gulls over the same school of fish that the Common Merganser female & Red-breasted Mergansers mentioned earlier were chasing/feeding on along the upstream tidal reaches of Pleasure House Creek. A separate report at Rudee Inlet on 4 Feb (vis. Tom Beatty) could pertain to this same individual if it is moving around with the tide cycle between the Lynnhaven Estuary and the inlet; or we could have more than one present in the city, which wouldn’t be that out of the ordinary for southeast Virginia in terms of recent years’ records.

Last of the continuing rarities, the small flock of SNOW BUNTINGS that took up residency starting on 12 Dec 2018 (ph. Stephen Keith) on the dune/beach line of the oceantfront’s north end was again picked up this period starting on 2 Feb (ph. Allen Bryan) after an absence of almost a month! The peak count for the flock this winter was 16 back on 26 Dec (ph. Susan Remmie), with a peak of 14 observed this period from 4 Feb (ph. Andrew Baldelli & Cindy Hamilton) through 5 Feb (vis. Cathy Williamson). Reports thus far have all ranged from 88th to 82nd Street, though the same habitat continues south to 58th Street so there is a good chance they’re using that whole stretch of vegetated dunes and being missed frequently as a result.

We had a pair of unseasonally-occuring species noted again this period, with BLUE-WINGED TEAL leading things off since they were reported from a new location for the year. Three individuals were first observed at Little Island Park on 1 Feb (vis. Andrew Baldelli), with additional reports for two individuals on 4 Feb (vis. James Marcum) and on 5 Feb (vis. Andrew Baldelli). Previously, the only other winter records in the city occurred at Back Bay NWR on 29 Jan (vis. Robert Ake) & 2 Dec 2018 on the Virginia Society of Ornithology outing, and at Princess Anne WMA’s Beasley Tract on 6 Jan (ph. Rob Bielawski). The species is likely present each winter somewhere around Back Bay, but getting to them is likely the problem.

Two separate records for continuing BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLERS popped up this period, with singles at Pleasure House Point NA and in Great Neck Estates. The former was first observed back on 6 Jan off of Dinwiddie Drive (ph. Nathaniel Abrahams, Logan Anderson, Carson Lambert, Andrew Rapp, Garrett Rhyne, Sam Simon & Robert Wood) and then amusingly found by two members of the same group again on 3 Feb following the Williamsburg Bird Club boat trip (ph. Carson Lambert & Andrew Rapp). The Great Neck Estates individual was observed first on 11 Jan (vis. J.A.) and then re-found at the same site on 5 Feb (vis. J.A.). A third wintering individual that had been recorded throughout January at Stumpy Lake NA ended up being reported right at the close of the period on 10 Feb (ph. Reuben Rohn), so we still have at least three Black-and-whites being seen within the city this winter which is quite remarkable!

As mentioned in the late January journal, with an expected departure date of 20 Jan in an average year, lingering BLACK SKIMMERS managed to continue to best the eBird filters this season. Though wintering is rarely observed in the state, Lynnhaven Inlet tends to be the most expected site for this to occur. A single individual has persisted at the inlet, visible from Pleasure House Point NA through at least 9 Feb (vis. Anonymous), though the last photo record (thus far) occurred on 7 Feb (ph. Cindy Hamilton). This is the only Black Skimmer still being reported in the state as a whole, and thus far Virginia Beach & Norfolk are the only cities/counties with records in Virginia during 2019. Perhaps given the unseasonal heat we experienced in early February we’ll see this individual linger all the way through to the spring season?

Having logged 171 species in Virginia Beach to eBird during January, there wasn’t much left out there in the city to be added during early February. However, a single BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER observed on the tidal flats where Long Creek hits the Lynnhaven on 4 Feb (vis. Andrew Baldelli) did provide a first-of-year record, for species #172 on the year in the city and the Lincoln’s Sparrow mentioned in more detail above provided a second new species this period, allowing us to close out with 173 species on the calendar year in Virginia Beach. Black-bellied Plover is similar to Willet (which also showed up on that particular checklist), in that it is a common species during winter both north and south of Virginia Beach. However, finding one within the city is quite a struggle, so anytime one pops up it is exciting.

Additionally, we had a few other not-necessarily-noteworthy, but still interesting observations this period. SNOW GEESE have begun flocking up in the fields of southern Virginia Beach, and a massive group was foraging along Muddy Creek Road just north of Nanney’s Creek road  on 9-10 Feb (ph. J Sherwood, ph. Laura Mae, ph. Karen & Tom Beatty, ph. Rob Bielawski). A single BRANT was observed in flight over Lake Smith on 5 Feb (vis. Tracy Tate), and likely originated at Oliver’s Point where an out-of-place group had been reported during January by the same observer. Another individual of an out-of-place waterfowl species, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, was observed on the north pond at Sherwood Lakes on 2 Feb (ph. Charlie Bruggemann). This made for the very first record of the species at this location and also the first record not along the immediate coastline within Virginia Beach (at least as far as eBird records go)! Amusingly, the scoter was likely observed as a result of the Common Mergansers being present on the lake, but is actually a much rarer find at this site. Another interesting White-winged Scoter record occurred during the Williamsburg Bird Club boat trip when an adult male was photographed (ph. Andrew Rapp; observed by many). Adult males are quite rare in the city so this is an exciting one, and the only photographed so far this winter season in the city.

Early February saw a massive spike in the number of RAZORBILLS whizzing by along the coast, with a remarkable flight of 1,456 observed on 9 Feb from the Little Island Park pier (ph. Andrew Baldelli & Rob Bielawski). Groups and individuals were continuously streaming northbound past the pier for the first two hours of daylight before the flight died down. If hoping to see these lovely alcids, now is the time to watch, especially on days with onshore or northerly winds. The highest tally earlier this year was just over 300, and this is the first flight that has come close to rivaling what was observed in Feb 2017 (the historic, record-breaking season). Moving on to passerines, an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER photographed at Stumpy Lake NA on 1 Feb (ph. Rob Bielawski) provided only the second record for this species at the park in eBird (with the last record in mid-March 2012), and was the first eBird record here with a photograph. Though the species is an uncommon winter resident elsewhere in the city, the habitat at the park isn’t really a fit, which makes this quite an out-of-place record during the winter (it might be more expected here during migration when birds tend to not be so habitat-picky). On that same outing, a pair of female COMMON/RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS were also observed but frustratingly not able to be narrowed better to species given the lighting conditions at sunset hit (ph. Rob Bielawski). Either species would be quite out of place at this location, with Red-breasted holding only three prior records at the park in eBird, and Common with only two prior records (the last one was in 1995).

Heading into mid-February, it seems likely that we might pick up our first-of-season Laughing Gulls given they have a typical arrival of 20 Feb. Also, the Great Backyard Bird Count takes place from Friday, 15 Feb through Monday, 18 Feb, which should bolster the number of eBird checklists being submitted and also has the potential to unveil some exciting birds that have so far escaped the public’s eye! For more information on that event, the dedicated GBBC Website has all everything you’d need to get involved. Typically, February feels like a slower month than January, but a lot of this is simply the fact that we’re all seeing new ‘year birds’ during January, and aren’t as excited when we keep seeing the same species into February. However, February can be peak movement time for alcids and also is the beginning of spring migration for many waterfowl species (White-winged Scoter, Snow Goose, etc.) and also for Red-necked Grebes. Coastal seawatching will continue to be the best means of observing the best variety & counts of these species, but birding the woodlands of the city could always produce something interesting. All this said, it will be interesting to see what folks are able to find next period!

For those hoping to view every photograph submitted for Virginia Beach during this period, please see the complete listing for the month of February 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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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!