Concept, Format & Abbreviations
The inspiration for this blog is primarily the similar, but much more scholarly, writings detailed in the North American Birds and Virginia Birds journals which are published by the American Birding Association and the Virginia Society of Ornithology, respectively. In general, the information & observations listed in the blog have been compiled using publicly displayed information submitted to www.eBird.org. Entries to the blog are written three times per month, spanning the 1st-10th, 11th-20th, and 21st through the end of each month for a total of 36 entries per year. Earlier versions of this blog were written on a weekly schedule, but I felt it was important to have a more standardized schedule in order to keep observations of species & of weather more comparable on a year to year basis. Each entry contains an Introduction, Weather, Slideshow, Observations, Media & Lookahead section, which are detailed in depth below. Abbreviations are also used for many cases to assist in a timely publishing schedule, and to help keep the size of the entries manageable to the readers. Abbreviations Used May Include: Blvd. (Boulevard), Cir. (Circle), FOS (First of Season), FOY (First of Year), Ln. (Lane), LOS (Last of Season), LOY (Last of Year), NA (Natural Area), Rd. (Road), SP (State Park), WMA (Wildlife Management Area).
Each entry begins with a short Introduction, typically just a few sentences that gives a quick overview of the weather that has occurred throughout the period, and highlights of the most noteworthy species of birds that were observed. Of course, the concept of "noteworthy" isn't always that straightforward, and species that are noteworthy at one point in the year aren't necessary noteworthy during another season. For example, a Red-breasted Merganser present in December is something highly expected, but a Red-breasted Merganser observed in say late June or early July would be a sighting worthy of note. More information on this sort of thing can be found by studying the Distribution sections of this website.
After the Introduction, there will always be a discussion pertaining to the weather patterns that were observed throughout the period. Temperature, winds, precipitation, and any extreme weather (deluges, nor'easters, blizzards, tropical cyclones, etc.) will be mentioned in this section. All weather data is gleaned from the Oceana Naval Air Station gauges that report to the Weather Underground. While this is not a a National Weather Service gauge, it is maintained and used by the United States Navy, has been in service for generations which allows for comparisons of data over time, and it acts as a centralized location in Virginia Beach (a city where there can be major differences in weather from corner to corner).
After the Introduction and Weather paragraph, there will be a slideshow of photographs taken from within Virginia Beach during the current period. The photographs posted are always shots that I have personally taken. The reason for this is that ownership in internet ventures can become a very complicated endeavor if receiving materials from outside parties, and I do not have any desire to get involved with this. If you'd like your photographs to gain exposure through this blog, then it is important to add them to your eBird reports, which I provide links to. By putting your photographs into eBird, you are helping to document the species you are observing, and the data is valuable to organizations and government agencies that help steer conservation efforts. The more data input to the system, the better we understand our species of birds, and the better we can help to protect them.
As mentioned above, all Observations listed in this blog are gleaned from public records having been input by users of eBird. On occasion, I will enter supplemental information that I may have come across through personal conversations with the observer. If you think you have found something noteworthy, please ensure that it gets entered into eBird, so that it may be properly validated by the regional reviewers; validation will allow inclusion here on the site. Noteworthy observations change throughout the year, but typically, any bird that flags as "rare" in eBird is going to warrant inclusion into the blog. One should note that observations flag for several reasons:
Rarities - a truly rare species that is not expected with any degree of certainty throughout the year in Virginia Beach (ex: a Purple Gallinule)
Unseasonal Occurrences - a species report that occurs very far outside of typical arrival/departure dates (ex: a Prairie Warbler in February)
Early Arrivals - reports of species that are one to a few days before the expected seasonal arrival date (ex: a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in mid-March)
Late Departures - reports of species that are one to a few days after the expected seasonal departure date (ex: an American Coot in late May)
High Counts - species being reported in much higher counts than is typical of most years on the data of report (ex: 50 Prairie Warblers in May)
Any Media whether it is a photograph, audio file, or video attached to an eBird report within Virginia Beach during the applicable time period of the blog entry will be noted. Typically, I start going through all the reports for the period on the evening of the 1st, 11th, or 21st so if you'd like your media to be mentioned & linked to, please have it uploaded into your eBird reports by that time. I run a tight schedule so that the entries are posted relatively soon after a period ends, primarily so the Lookahead section can reach birders in a timely fashion.
In the Lookahead portion of the entries, I will try to call attention to expected species that should be arriving into Virginia Beach during the next entry's time period. Expected dates of arrival are based on the Coastal Plain dates listed in the Gold Book (Virginia's Birdlife: An Annotated Checklist), and so that I don't infringe too badly upon copyright, I will not list the dates specifically, just that sometime during the upcoming period the species should arrive. These listed dates are supplemented by eBird data specific to Virginia Beach as well, so in the case of species that are known to arrive earlier or depart later (ex: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron), expanded windows of expectancy are listed.
Special credit for these blog entries goes to my mother, Peggy, who takes time to do a quick proofing of each entry before it is posted to the public. Even after proofing, there may still be sentence structure & English errors, and I'm fine with that. To be frank, I'm not trying to be the world's next great writer, I'm simply trying to provide information on bird sightings in a timely fashion to those who are interested. So as long as the more glaring errors are eliminated, I'm perfectly happy with the quality of the entries. Also, I'd like to thank all the folks who continually update me via text message, phone calls, emails, and one on one conversations, as well as all those who continue to contribute to the eBird project. This blog would not be able to function without all of this assistance, so please, keep up the great work!