Week Ending April 3, 2016

The final week of March & the first of April proved to be a rather up and down, though standard, spring week. Overall, temperatures increased a bit to a daily high of 73.6 degrees F (a 2.2 degree rise from last week’s average); the average daytime lows also rose slightly to 55.0 degrees F (up 1.9 degrees) and a total of 1.85 inches of rain fell during the week. No real severe weather impacted Virginia Beach this week, though high winds occurred overnight on Saturday, gusting to a maximum of 45 mph in the early hours of Sunday. With springtime progressing, we were again treated to several first-of-season (FOS) arrivals. This week’s arrivals included Lesser Yellowlegs (28 Mar / Rexanne Bruno / Back Bay NWR), Caspian Tern (29 Mar / Karen & Tom Beatty / Pleasure House Point NA), Green Heron (3 Apr / Eric Alton / Lake Joyce) and Yellow-billed Cuckoo (3 Apr / Back Bay NWR). The Cuckoo preceded the ‘extreme early’ date of 17 Apr listed in the Gold Book by a full two weeks, making it currently the earliest all-time record for the state of Virginia! Another species seen for the first time in Virginia Beach for the year was a single Wild Turkey (2 Apr / Rexanne Bruno / Oceana Boulevard). Of course, turkeys are not migratory species, and it has just taken this long for a report to pop up since they are very tough to find in Virginia Beach, though they are quite common not far away on the Eastern Shore and in more inland counties including Chesapeake & Suffolk. They’re an annually observed species, but there aren’t typically more than one or two reports within the county in any given year, so this was the first! A pair of Piping Plovers was also seen & photographed (1 Apr / Andrew Baldelli / Back Bay NWR), and though they weren’t the first of the year, seeing these birds is always noteworthy here. At Back Bay NWR on 3 Apr, the first Prairie Warblers of the season were heard, along the Loop Road and at the Jack Carter Wetland detachment of the park; just one day ahead of their expected 4 Apr arrival date per eBird’s Virginia Beach filter. A Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Pleasure House Point (28 Mar) was the first of its kind seen at the park so far this spring.

Aside from what might be the final observation of the Lark Sparrow that has been present since early February at Back Bay NWR (28 Mar / Baxter Beamer), there was no other rarities seen within the boundaries of Virginia Beach this week, though the attention of most birders has shifted from really seeking out winter rarities, to searching for early spring arrivals. Yellow-throated Warblers were heard singing for the first time (3 Apr, Tracy Tate, White House Lane), and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers continue to rise in numbers of individuals, and reports. Sightings of other species became more commonplace this week as well, notably the swallows (Barn, Northern Rough-winged, and Purple Martins). Glossy Ibis were seen in a few spots, and migrating White Ibis were on the move as well. Waterfowl variety seemed quite good around the city, but numbers have surely dwindled from the winter counts. Blue-winged Teal, our only duck species that is more transient than winter resident, were seen in good numbers at Back Bay NWR on the C-Pool off the recently opened West Dike. A cautionary note though, since 1 Apr, Back Bay NWR does require payment to get into the park; this will continue through 31 Oct when the dike system is then closed for the winter to protect migrating waterfowl. Songbird migration should really start beefing up over the next week, and southerly winds are expected early this coming week which will hopefully assist them on their path towards us. As always, the log of ‘Noteworthy Observations’ has been updated for this week, and can be found in the Distribution section of the site, or by clicking Here . 

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