Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Seaside Hawkwatch











Since our new Seaside Hawkwatch is on a part of Eastern Shore of VA National Wildlife Refuge not open to the public, here are some views looking, from the top, east,west,south and north. It's located in a saltmarsh about 3 miles east of Kiptopeke. Hawks moving down the east side of the peninsula are not visible from the Kiptopeke hawkwatch. A report comparing the two sites for fall 2009 is being prepared.

Brian Taber

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Find the Cowbird!


...blackbird flock, Northampton County, Nov 30, 2009.


Brian Taber

Monday, November 16, 2009

Snow Bunting


This bird was at the Kiptopeke pier, November 16, 2009.


Brian Taber

Saltmarsh Sparrow


On November 15, 2009, just after the November 10-14th nor'easter, this tired bird was at Eastern Shore of VA National Widlife Refuge.
Brian Taber

Monday, September 14, 2009

More on the Staunton Sand-Plover

To go along with the comments below saying "definately" Greater, additional comments by Martin Garner, posted on the VA List Serve, indicate "slam dunk" Mongolian!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Black Tern, James River


This was one of a flock of 20+ birds feeding along the James River shoreline recently in Portsmouth.


Brian Taber

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Staunton Sand-Plover


Distant view of the Sand-Plover. Erik Hirschfeld, co-author of a sand-plover identification paper in April 2000 BRITISH BIRDS, who was shown photos, said (e-mail was posted on the VA List Serve) it was "definately" a Greater Sand-Plover.


Brian Taber

Staunton Sand-Plover


Observers in pouring rain on Sept 8.


Brian Taber

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Counts start at Kiptopeke and Seaside Hawkwatches

Hi all,

Yesterday saw the beginning of another hawk migration season at Kiptopeke State Park, home to CVWO's main hawk count . This fall a second site on the ocean side of the peninsula will have coverage most days (Seaside Hawk Watch). So far the migration has been greatly dominated by Ospreys including 142 on the opening day at the state park with just a smattering of other birds noted.

Regular updates on the hawk counts will be posted to the VA List Serve and all hawkcount data is entered at the Hawkcount.org site.

Calvin Brennan

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Unusual Gull Pic 2


Unusual Gull


This gull, an adult or near-adult, next to a great Black-backed, is the size of a Herring Gull, has pinkish legs, a very dark mantle, appears to have a dark line through the eye and has some dark markings or perhaps even debris on the bill.


If you would like to send comments about it to Taberzz@aol.com please do.


The location is not being disclosed at this time.


Brian Taber

Monday, July 20, 2009

Annual Butterfly Count




Yesterday, on July 19th, the Observatory held its 11th consecutive summer butterfly count at the tip of Virginia's Eastern Shore (using the count circle for the Audubon Christmas Bird Count). The final results are not taillied yet, but here is a picture of a rarity we found...one of 7 Juniper Hairstreaks in just the Kiptopeke section....and a photo of count compiler Lyn Davidson addressing the great turnout.




Brian Taber

Friday, June 12, 2009

Franklin's Gull at Jamestown Ferry


A "second summer" Franklin's Gull was at the Jamestown Ferry today, June 12, 2009. Though not perfect images, the pictures show upperwing and underwing patterns and the large white eye crescents which join behind the eye.


Brian Taber

Thursday, June 4, 2009

College Creek Hawkwatch 09 Season Ends

College Creek Hawkwatch has completed its 13th consecutive season. The site, located on the James River, 3 miles east of Williamsburg, is the only regular late winter and spring hawkwatch in Virginia. The four regular volunteers, Tom Armour, Fred Blystone, Bill Williams and I, covered 143.5 hours over 75 days from February 9th to May 26th. We were on pace for a new season record, but the flights really died after early May and we finished with a total of 1620, just short of the record 1666 set in 2007.

We shared information as the season progressed with many visitors and on the VA List Serve and on this General Blog.

Complete daily information is entered on the Hawkcount.org website of the Hawk Migration Association of North America, though anyone who wants additional details may contact me directly at Taberzz@aol.com.

Some of the season highlights include a new record 47 Northern Harriers (old record was 41), a record-tying 6 Merlins, a species quite scarce in spring migration, 33 American Kestrels, which is up from the very low totals of 12, 18, 10 and 15 from the past 4 years, a Northern Goshawk on March 21 and a Mississippi Kite on May 7th.

We also recorded our highest-ever daily total, 190, on March 20th.

Some non-hawk highlights, in addition to many great swallow flights, include nearly 1400 Tundra Swans on March 11th, an American White Pelican on March 18th and our first Boat-tailed Grackles onMay 24th.

Brian Taber

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prothonotary Warbler Project, Dragon Run


Several boxes had chicks as of May 27, 2009!

Prothonotary Warbler Project, Dragon Run


Gary Driscole checks Prothonotary Warbler box on the Dragon Run, May 27, 2009.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Boat-tailed Grackles at College Creek Hawkwatch

Today, May 24, 2009, 2 male Boat-tailed Grackles were seen from the hawkwatch. One bird flew south across the river to Hog Island Wildlife Management Area. This is the first record for the species at this site and is unusually far inland. A pair was found together at Hog Island on April 26th, during the annual Spring Count of the Williamsburg Bird Club. A male was recorded a few miles away at Jamestown 2 years ago and a few birds have been regular breeders for years to the east, on the York River, along the Colonial Parkway, near Yorktown.

The hawk and vulture flights have dropped off dramatically during the past 2 weeks and the season will end in a few days.

Brian Taber

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mississippi Kite & Peregrine at College Creek

Today, May 7, 2009, a small weather window unexpectedly opened up in the long stretch of rainy weather for several days and for just 2 hours, Fred Blystone, Bill Williams and I watched as big birds took advantage and crossed the river on very strong, but warm southwest winds and some sunshine. Our first Mississippi Kite, an adult and our first Peregrine, sped by...species number 14 and 15 for the season.... along with a new daily record of 21 Bald Eagles, all immatures. The other big birds which were able to handle the strong winds during this remarkable and exciting period were 2 Cooper's Hawks, a Northern Harrier and 24 Turkey Vultures.

We also passed 1500 birds today for only the 3rd time in 13 years.

Brian Taber

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Great 4-Day Stretch at College Creek Hawkwatch

Following 2 days of rain, the period from April 16-19 was excellent, with a total of 250 birds of 11 species! On 4-19 the total was 120, the 3rd day of 100+ for the season: there were 9 Northern Harriers, which ties the daily record...there were 3 Merlins, which ties the daily record...there were 37 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 1 shy of the daily record and there were 7 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 shy of the daily record. There were also 47 Turkey Vultures, 10 Ospreys, 2 Broad-winged Hawks and 5 American Kestrels. The 5 American Kestrels were much welcomed as the season totals for that species from 2005-2008 were only 15, 10, 18 and 12 respectively.

The total of 73 hawks is the highest daily total for hawk species (not including vultures).

The season total now stands at 1,264, on pace to pass the season record of 1,666.

Brian Taber

Hawk Crew at College Creek Hawkwatch 4-17-09


Left to right...Fred Blystone, Bill Williams, Dr. Mitchell Byrd & Tom Armour

Thursday, April 16, 2009

9 Species at College Creek Hawkwatch

Today, April 16th, 2009, was a nice surprise for both birds and weather at the hawkwatch. The forecast was for strong north winds and chilly temperatures, following 2 days of rain. Though the wind was strong, the temperature warmed quickly and an impressive 9 species of hawks and vultures decided to move across the river anyway! Bill Williams and I found 1 Black Vulture, 19 Turkey Vultures, 13 Ospreys, 4 Bald Eagles, 2 Northern Harriers, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 1 Cooper's Hawk, 1 Red-tailed Hawk and 4 American Kestrels for a decent total of 47. Another 10-20 Bald Eagles circled and fished and didn't apear to move north today.

Brian Taber

Monday, April 13, 2009

1,000th Bird at College Creek Hawkwatch

Today, April 13, 2009, we recorded our 1,000th bird for the season...it was a Turkey Vulture. We like to track this seasonal milestone as an indication of the progress of the migration. By comparison, the 1,000th bird for 2008 was on a very late date, May 13th. In 2007, when we set our seasonal record of 1,666, the 1,000th bird was seen on the very early date of April 2nd.

For the past 3 weeks, the weather has mostly been quite cool and wet and windy...poor migration conditions, though there have been some birds moving each day, except during rain. A few Broad-winged Hawks have been reported already and should be showing up here regularly with the next wave of warm air.

Also today was our first Cattle Egret of the season.

Brian Taber

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Northern Goshawk at College Creek Hawkwatch

Today, March 21, 2009, there was a Northern Goshawk, apparently a sub-adult, that crossed the river, then circled for 2 minutes, affording excellent views through a scope. It's only the 3rd record for the site. The flight continued from yesterday's record with 103 birds recorded today...only the second time there have been back-to-back 100+ bird days at the hawkwatch.

Brian Taber

Friday, March 20, 2009

Record Day at College Creek Hawkwatch

Today, March 20, 2009, the first day of spring, the hawkwatch recorded its highest total in its 13 years! Tom Armour, Fred Blystone, Bill Williams and I watched as 190 birds crossed the river, breaking the record of 173 set on March 23, 2003. The days around the equinox have generally been very good each year and today's exciting flight came with strong northeast winds, usually not a good wind for migration at the the site. We also saw our largest flock ever, 50 birds, in a mixed-species group. The birds struggled to make the water crossing into the headwind.

9 species is excellent diversity for the site:

Black Vulture 2
Turkey Vulture 167 breaks the previous record of 125
Osprey 7
Bald Eagle 3
Northern Harrier 2 first ones of the season
Sharp-shinned 1
Red-tailed 4
American Kestrel 3
Merlin 1 first of the season, rare at the site

Yesterday, with very pleasant temperatures and southerly winds, the total was only 6....but the first Rough-winged Swallows and Royal Terns of the season were at the site.

Today there were also 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls sitting onthe sand spit and the American White Pelican was seen again over Hog Island.

Brian Taber

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

White Pelican at College Creek Hawkwatch

Today, March 18, 2009, at about 11 a.m. an American White Pelican was seen soaring over Hog Island, across the river from the hawkwatch, by Fred Blystone, Shirley Devan, Bill Williams and me....and....after 5 days of steady, cold rain, the migration resumed with an excellent 7 species at the hawkwatch....3 Black Vultures, 29 Turkey Vultures, 2 Ospreys, 2 Bald Eagles, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Coooper's Hawk and 3 Red-tailed Hawks...most were low and near the parking lot as they crossed the river after the fog lifted.

Brian Taber

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tundra Swans at College Creek Hawkwatch, March 11




There weren't many hawks or vultures today, but Fred Blystone, Bill Williams and I were treated to a remarkable Tundra Swan show.....nearly 1400 birds...in the marsh, on the river and flying over! Many were also flying over Williamsburg the previous night.




Brian Taber

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Prothonotary Boxes on Dragon Run

Pictured is Gary Driscole, who with his wife Adrienne Frank, installed 10 Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes on March 7th along Dragon Run. For more information about Friends of Dragon Run, there is a website link on the CVWO website. They even managed to get a picture with partnering organization logos....Historic Rivers Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists, Dragon Run and CVWO!

College Creek Hawkwatch, March 8, 2009

Following the snowstorm earlier in the week, temperatures rebounded nicely, reaching the 70s today and the migration rebounded as well. In addition to our first butterfly, a Mourning Cloak yesterday and our first Laughing Gull yesterday, Fred Blystone and I have counted more than a hundred vultures and hawks over the past 2 days, about equalling our February total. Today we saw our first American Kestrel, a species whose totals here have been under 20 for the past 4 years. Hundreds of Tree Swallows and Ring-billed Gulls and nearly a hundred Fish Crows moved north across the river as well.

Brian Taber

Monday, March 2, 2009

Colonial Parkway in the Snow, March 2, 2009


The area around the College Creek Hawkwatch on the Colonial Parkway along the James River always has lots of sparrows when it snows...today 2-3 inches... as there is melting along the edge of the usually quiet road, exposing a narrow band of grass and mud to feed in. Today there was Vesper Sparrow, rare in this area (photo) and 152 White-throated Sparrows, 63 Dark-eyed Juncos, 51 Fox Sparrows, 9 Northern Cardinals, 7 Chipping Sparrows, 3 Savannah Sparrows, 3 Song Sparrows and an Eastern Towhee. In addition, there were many American Robins, 31 American Pipits, 7 Killdeer and a dead Greater Yellowlegs.


Brian Taber

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

College Creek Hawkwatch Feb 25, 2009

The 49 birds we saw today just about equalled the other 9 February days combined. Bill Williams and I saw our first Ospreys...3 of them...4 Black Vultures, 4 Bald Eagles, 2 Red-tailed Hawks and 36 Turkey Vultures crossing the river...a decent total and species mix for February.

A light southeast wind and air that warmed rapidly from a low of 20 last night produced good flight conditions. There were no other migrants noted, except for the usual waterfowl.

Brian Taber

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Williamsburg Area Prothonotary Warbler Project


Thanks to Observatory Vice-president and Master Bander Bob Reilly, CVWO is partnering on a Prothonotary Warbler Nest Box Project with the Historic Rivers Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists and the Williamsburg Bird Club. Nest boxes will be placed in a number of locations and monitored closely for this species of Special Concern. In the photo, volunteers are working on boxes at York River State Park on February 13, 2009.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

James River at College Creek Hawkwatch


The 13th consecutive late winter/spring season for the College Creek Hawkwatch, is underway. The site is on the Colonial Parkway on the north shore of the James River, about 3 miles southeast of Williamsburg. The count is done daily, weather permitting, from mid-February through May. It's the only regular hawkwatch at this season in Virginia. Birds are counted as they cross the river heading north, generally from mid-morning until early afternoon as the warming air provides lift. Today, February 10, 2009, there were 11 Turkey Vultures and 1 Bald Eagle. In addition to the usual waterfowl at the site, a few Tree Swallows and Brown Pelicans were seen, as were 2 rather early Fish Crows. Volunteers today were Brian Taber, Arun Bose, Tom Armour and Bill Williams. Results will be posted on the Hawkcount.org website of the Hawk Migration Association of North America, which can also be accessed through the Observatory's website links page and regular comments will made on the VA List Serve and on this blog. Visitors and helpers are always welcome! For more information contact Taberzz@aol.com.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Leucistic American Goldfinch in Chesapeake, January 3, 2009. Photo by Jerri Howe.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Western Tanager in James City County, January 9, 2009.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009



Short-eared Owl at Hog Island, Surry County, December 21, 2008, Williamsburg Christmas Count.

CVWO Blog

Welcome to the blog site for Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory. This will be accessible from the website at www.cvwo.org. Throughout the year, the website will also feature blogs from programs conducted at Kiptopeke State Park and First Landing State Park.