The momentum gained at August’s close continued throughout September, providing for one of the most exciting months of birding Virginia Beach in recent memory! The impacts of Hurricane Dorian on 6 Sep, and also of several cold fronts and their corresponding migration movements towards the end of the month bolstered diversity of species across the city. Over the course of its thirty days, a total of 183 species were logged to eBird, which was a significant increase from the 152 species logged during August as well as a hefty boost to the 177 species logged during September last year. With September now completed, Virginia Beach has logged records for 291 species to eBird during 2019 (a massive +12 compared with last year’s 279 species through the same timeframe), and the number of complete checklists submitted now sits at 7,908 (2018 produced 8,489 in total, the most of any year thus far) so we’re still on pace to top the 10,000 mark for the first time! With the increase in species diversity came a corresponding rise in species highlights this month! Topping the list this month, rarity records occurred for hurricane-displaced species including Sabine’s Gull, Sooty Tern, Red-necked Phalarope, Roseate Tern as well as a pair of unexpected vagrants, namely Gray Kingbird & Western Kingbird. Additionally, we saw records for rare migrant passerines including Mourning Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Canada Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Hooded Warbler & Yellow-throated Warbler as well as rare shorebirds like American Golden-Plover, Long-billed Dowitcher, Marbled Godwit and even exciting ‘from-shore’ records for both Pomarine & Parasitic Jaeger! Continuing since the springtime, Anhinga were also viewed through a good chunk of the month. Lastly, September provided the city with first-of-season records for expected fall arrivals which, in order of arrival date, included: Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Common Nighthawk, American Bittern, Northern Harrier, Magnolia Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Merlin, Northern Pintail, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Swainson’s Thrush, Palm Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Northern Shoveler, Sora, Nashville Warbler, Veery, Savannah Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellow-rumped Warbler & Black-throated Blue Warbler! Click Here to Continue Reading!
Over the years, this journal has gone through several format modifications. Reasons for these modifications have certainly varied. Several years ago, switching from a personal journal, which this all began as, to a format that celebrated the finds of all Virginia Beach observers during a weekly period afforded me the opportunity to better showcase what was being observed by the full community, not just what was seen through my own eyes. Later, changing from a weekly to a thrice-monthly format allowed for a more scientific comparison across different years during the same timeframe, to better showcase which species would be observed, and what weather patterns were present as well as how the differed year to year. I’ve always maintained that as birders or simply as observers of the natural world, we have a responsibility to document what we see & hear while outdoors. Information is a powerful entity, perhaps more so nowadays than ever. Hopeful of continuing the tradition I’ve set forth with this journal over the years, but also mindful of the time constraints put on me as an individual, I’ve opted to transition the thrice-monthly journal to a full Monthly Journal format. Through this format I hope to give the local birding community a thorough summary of bird sightings and a discussion of weather patterns affection their distribution just as before, but without the personal handcuff of publishing a new edition every ten or so days. Photographs require editing time; reports require time to research; time spent in the field is priceless. Essentially, good things take time to complete, and to do properly. This new format will certainly showcase the highest quality information and photographs available, and with that said, please enjoy what is hopefully the first of many monthly entries to come! August proved to be a worthwhile period to start fresh with. Over the course of its thirty-one days, a total of 153 species were logged to eBird, which was an increase from the 142 species logged during July and also was an increase (+1) on the 152 species logged during August last year. With August now complete, Virginia Beach has now logged records for 278 species to eBird during 2019 (+5 compared with last year’s 273 through the same timeframe), and the number of complete checklists now sits at 7,304 (2018 produced 8,489 in total, the most of any year thus far). Species highlights this month included new rarity records for Cliff Swallow, Marbled Godwit & Common Gallinule, continuing rarity records for Anhinga, new unseasonal records for Yellow-throated Warbler & Black Scoter, continuing unseasonal records for Common Eider, offshore records for Cory’s & Audubon’s Shearwater and Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, early first-of-season records for Bank Swallow, Wilson’s Snipe & Blue-winged Teal, first-of-season records within expected dates for Black Tern, Yellow Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Northern Waterthrush, Red Knot, Stilt Sandpiper, Green-winged Teal, Peregrine Falcon, Bobolink & Baltimore Oriole, and interesting records for Wild Turkey, Least Bittern, Mississippi Kite & Sandwich Tern! Click Here to Continue Reading!
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...Click Here to Continue Reading!
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 and continuing unseasonal records for BLUE-WINGED TEAL & BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER! 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...Click Here to Continue Reading!
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...Click Here to Continue Reading!
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...Click Here to Continue Reading!
Late January proved itself to be yet another period jam-packed with birding excitement! Heavily bolstered by the Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation department’s Winter Wildlife Festival, hundreds of eBird checklists poured in over the last eleven days, producing records for 153 species, including 8 new additions to the city’s 2019 list, which now sits at a remarkable 171 species! Among the vast array of species observed, highlights this period included new rarity records for EURASIAN WIGEON, COMMON MERGANSER, DOVEKIE, PURPLE FINCH & CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, continuing rarity records for CACKLING GOOSE, HARLEQUIN DUCK, ICELAND GULL, PARASITIC JAEGER & WESTERN TANAGER, new unseasonal records for BLUE-WINGED TEAL, continuing unseasonal records for YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER & BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, late records for lingering BLACK SKIMMERS, first-of-year records for WILSON’S SNIPE, GREAT CORMORANT, RUDDY TURNSTONE, TREE SWALLOW & NORTHERN BOBWHITE and out-of-place records for BRANT & LONG-TAILED DUCK! Starting off with the newly found rarities, a drake EURASIAN WIGEON was observed along Long Creek near the Great Neck Road bridge on 27 Jan (ph. Michelle Payne), marking a first record for this species in Virginia Beach this...Click Here to Continue Reading!
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...Click Here to Continue Reading!
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...Click Here to Continue Reading!