Saturday, December 22, 2012

Western Kingbird in James City County

Tom Armour found this Western Kingbird this morning, about 1/4 mile before the end of Treasure Island Road, along the fence and wires. It was still there as of 1:30 when this picture was taken. This is just across the James River from Chippokes State Park, where one has been seen recently.
Brian Taber

Friday, December 14, 2012

Speaking of Rare Grebes...

Just a few days after the post below, of the rare Red-necked Grebe, this Eared Grebe, a bird typically of western North America and very rare in this area, was found at Craney Island, Portsmouth by Bill Williams. The image, though distant and backlit, shows the characteristic rounded, "peaked" head shape, very thin bill, dusky face and a body profile that rides high on the water.

Brian Taber

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Red-necked Grebe

This Red-necked Grebe, rare in the area, was at the south island of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel today.
Brian Taber

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Our hawkwatcher, Steve Kolbe, has also been documenting the unprecedented finch flight this fall at Kiptopeke and he was able to get this remarkable image as a flock sped past...a male and female Red Crossbill and a male White-winged Crossbill.
Brian Taber

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Finch Invasion!

There are about 100 Pine Siskins hungrily competing for only 6 perches at our thistle feeder at
Kiptopeke State Park...this video was taken on on November 14th...and hundreds more are flying around the area. They are part of an unprecedented invasion of northern finches this fall. A rare Common Redpoll has also recently visited the feeder and flying over the nearby hawkwatch platform in recent weeks have been rare White-winged Crossbills, Red Crossbills and Evening Grosbeaks. They have joined the more common American Goldfinches, House Finches and Purple Finches to create an exciting migration spectacle not seen for many, many years!
Brian Taber

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Baird's Sandpiper

Rare in the region and late in the season, this Baird's Sandpiper was at Craney Island, Portsmouth on Nov 1st.
Brian Taber

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Black-tailed Godwit

This Black-tailed Godwit was at Chincoteague NWR late afternoon on Oct 5th...another, or perhaps the same one, was there several weeks ago...these represent the first, or first two birds for Virginia. Several of us watched for more than an hour...including those who found it in the morning (it was always near the Marbled Godwit at left) before it bathed and preened actively, finally flying a few feet and showing the white wing linings.

Brian Taber

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Clay-colored Sparrow at Kiptopeke

This Clay-colored Sparrow, rare in our area, was at the feeders at Kiptopeke earlier this month, then came over to the hawkwatch platform, where hawkwatcher Steve Kolbe got its portrait!

Brian Taber

Friday, September 14, 2012

800,000th Bird at Kiptopeke Hawkwatch

We have been counting down to this milestone...our 36th season...and 800,000th bird...remarkably, our Hawkwatcher, Steve Kolbe, was able to take its picture as it flew right over the platform at 9 a.m. on September 9th!

Brian Taber

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Color-banded Piping Plover

This color-banded Piping Plover (photo by Bill Williams) was found by Ruth Beck's bird survey team, which I serve on, at Craney Island, Portsmouth on August 2nd. Through banding network communications, it was learned that it was a hatch-year bird from Grand Marais, Michigan. Grand Marais is a remote site on the shore of Lake Superior where volunteers monitor the Piping Plover population. Kathy Davis, who coordinates the volunteers, told me, by e-mail, that there were 3 pairs and that only 7 chicks fledged, out of 10 hatchlings and all 7 were banded. The chicks had hatched on June 11,12 and 13. The adult females left the site in early July, but the adult males stayed through fledging. The last chick was seen on July 29.

In a remarkable coincidence, I was vacationing on Michigan's Upper Peninsula in July and visited Grand Marais on a random stop, but when I saw the Piping Plover signage on the dunes, I walked to the beach where I met volunteer Clyde Heacox, who told me all about the birds. He and I watched one bird feeding on the beach...possibly the same one we saw at Craney nearly 1,000 miles away!

Brian Taber

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

50th Season Underway!

The 50th season of the Kiptopeke Songbird Station, the oldest continuously running one in the United States, began on Aug 15th. Pictured is the first migrant of the 50th season, an immature male American Redstart, caught on the 15th...and banding volunteer and Observatory Treasurer Marty Edmonds, Station Master and Observatory Vice-president Bob Reilly, banding volunteer Joe Beatty and Songbird Bander Calvin Brennan. The Observatory invites everyone to visit the Station this's open daily, weather permitting, in the mornings...and to visit the Kiptopeke Blog on the Observatory Home Page for regular updates. There is also a special 50th anniversary button on the Home Page, for additional information.

Brian Taber

Monday, August 6, 2012

CVWO Sponsors Butterfly Count

Each year Coastal VAWildlife Observatory sponsors the butterfly count at the tip of the Eastern Shore. This year's count was Sunday, July 29. Lynn Davidson and Hal Wierenga led the effort and four teams spread out across the tip of the Eastern Shore to count butterflies. Here's the group in the Kiptopeke sector, led by CVWO President Brian Taber. This group tallied 35 species -- a very good list.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Three-year old female PROW back at Northwest River

Guest blogger and CVWO Volunteer Shirley Devan back with an update from the Prothonotary Warbler nest box trail at Northwest Rive Park in Chesapeake, VA.

Recaptured Prothonotary Warblers continue to tell interesting stories about the life history of these migratory birds.

July 6, I recaptured two female PROWs.

At box 37, the female with 4 eggs was originally banded as a NESTLING June 22, 2009 in box 36 right next door! She has made 4 round trips between Virginia and her wintering grounds in Central or South America.

At box 39, the female with one egg in her nest was originally banded by Steve Living May 16, 2012 at the SAME box with 4 eggs. Her four nestlings were banded May 29. She will likely lay 2-3 more eggs in this second clutch.

The first male PROW captured at Northwest River in 2012 was at Box 11. Photo attached! Always a treat to capture a beautiful male PROW.

We will continue monitoring through the end of July because second clutches are well underway with females still laying eggs the first week of July.

So far Steve Living and I have banded over 150 nestlings and two dozen “new” female PROWs. See previous posts for more 2012 information about this project.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Second Clutches Underway for PROWs at Northwest River

By Shirley Devan, Volunteer, Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory

We are checking the Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes every week down in Chesapeake at Northwest River Park. These days we're finding lots of second clutches.

But sometimes we find other wildlife…like a Black Rat Snake in one box a couple of weeks ago. Now that's a surprise. Unfortunately, the snake had eaten PROW nestlings. Subsequently we repositioned that box.

The PROW nestlings are only in the box for 10 days before they fledge. Steve Living and I have a short window to band nestlings, who should be 5 grams or 5 days old when banded.

We've banded over 100 nestlings so far and trapped over 30 females, four of which were banded as adults in 2009! At least four migratory round trips for these ladies.

Top photo: Black Rat Snake in nest box
Second photo: Second PROW nest on top of first one
Third photo: Five PROW nestlings with new bands on their legs
Fourth photo: Steve Living returns banded nestlings to Box A7.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Busy Parents

These Great Crested Flycatchers have been busy today bringing moths, butterflies, caterpillars and other items to chicks in the bird bottle on the house here in Williamsburg.
Brian Taber

Friday, May 25, 2012

2012 at Northwest River Park

By Shirley Devan, CVWO Volunteer.

[Brian Taber has invited me again this year to post info about the Prothonotary Warbler project at Northwest River Park in Chesapeake.]

Prothonotary Warblers continue to show strong fidelity to the nesting habitat at Northwest River Park in Chesapeake, VA.

Under the supervision of Dr. Bob Reilly, CVWO’s Master Bander, Steve Living and I are monitoring these cavity-nesting birds again this year. This is one of the songbird research projects sponsored by CVWO.

Steve Living is a Terrestrial Biologist with the VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. I am a CVWO volunteer, Certified VA Master Naturalist and avid birder in Williamsburg Bird Club. Both of us are licensed to band songbirds as subpermittees working under Dr. Bob Reilly. Each of us relies on volunteers to help with the project.

After the 2011 nesting season, Bob Reilly repositioned over 20 of the 100 boxes to more suitable habitat.
We observed the first PROW eggs April 24 and banded the first nestlings May 16. As of May 22, 18 PROW nestlings have been banded and at least 55 of the 98 boxes have nest activity. We’ll be monitoring these boxes through mid-June at least and expect that we’ll band in excess of the 133 nestlings we banded last year. Prothonotary Warblers often have two clutches in one season.

The first females were trapped May 10. So far we have banded 13 adult females. We have “recaptured” 11 adult females [banded in previous years], four of whom were banded as adults in 2009, one was banded as an adult in 2010, and four were banded as adults in 2011.

Here is a photo of a nestling on the scales! He’s ambitious – trying out his wings already!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mississippi Kite at College Creek Hawkwatch

Fred Blystone and I watched as this adult Mississippi Kite, our first of the season, flew across the river low and right overhead! As is typical, because we are looking south, the bird was backlit, so the photo shows little detail besides the distinctive profile.
Brian Taber

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spring Bird Count

The Williamsburg Bird Club held its annual spring bird count on April 29. These American White Pelicans were present on the Hog Island Sector in Surry County ... one displayed the unusual breeding bill plate. American White Pelicans have been seen there since April 4. As a special bonus, this frisky mink also scampered past.

Brian Taber

Saturday, April 21, 2012

1,000th Bird at College Creek Hawkwatch

Today we recorded our 1,000 bird of the season...a milestone we like to track to see how the season is progressing, compared to other years. Last year, our record season total was 1811 and we reached our 1,000th bird on the record early date of March 20th. It's usually in early-to-mid April, so this year is very late.

As a bonus, today, though, we again saw a flock of 20+ American White Pelicans...and our first Least Tern flew low right over our heads!

Brian Taber

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More American White Pelicans!

This very high flock of 21 American White Pelicans is one of several groups seen over Hog Island WMA and College Creek Hawkwatch, over the past couple of weeks, including a new State high of by Bill Williams.

Brian Taber

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Songbird Bander Calvin Brennan with a spectacular and rarely captured Pileated Woodpecker at our First Landing Songbird Station this morning.

Brian Taber

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Very rarely seen in Virginia, this Harvester was in my yard today in James City County. Its caterpillar is the only carnivorous one in North America, feeding on woolly aphids on greenbriar and beech, among other plants. The adult butterfly doesn't nectar on flowers, but instead feeds on aphid honeydew, dung, sap and mud.

Brian Taber

Saturday, April 7, 2012

American White Pelicans!

Very exciting this week were 24 American White Pelicans on April 4th and 11 today, seen from College Creek Hawkwatch. The previous local high count was 8, as they are very rare here, mostly seen from the hawkwatch over the years.
Brian Taber

Monday, April 2, 2012

Prothonotary Warbler Program

Prothonotary Warblers are due back any day from their winter stays in the tropics...volunteers Adrienne Frank, Gary Driscole and I paddled the pristine Dragon Run river today to repair and clean out nest boxes, which are placed over the water. Warbler progress will be monitored throughout the nesting season. The program is a partnership with Friends of Dragon Run and is part of a large Virginia network of hundreds of boxes.

Brian Taber

Saturday, March 24, 2012

First Landing Songbird Station

Our First Landing State Park (Virginia Beach) Songbird Banding Station opened at the beginning of March and will run daily, weather permitting, through May. There will be regular updates on our website's First Landing Blog, but I thought I would also show some pictures of a visit there today. Calvin Brennan is our head bander and Ashley Kuflewski is our intern. Here, they are checking mist nets and processing an adult male Dark-eyed Junco.

Brian Taber

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tundra Swans

Tundra Swans come through in early March at College Creek Hawkwatch, sometimes by the hundreds, always a gorgeous sight...these 3 today were lower and closer than the usual high-altitude flocks.

Brian Taber

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hunting Red-tailed

This Red-tailed Hawk at College Creek Hawkwatch today, likely the one from Feb 10 posted earlier, apparently had a small mammal underfoot, as it listened, jumped and stomped around for several minutes in a small marsh after last night's light snow.

Brian Taber

Friday, February 10, 2012

College Creek Hawkwatch Begins

The 16th consecutive late winter/spring hawkwatch at College Creek began today. It's the only regular hawkwatch in VA during this season. It was very hazy today, as the photo shows, unusual for this time of year, but southwest winds and temperatures in the 40s made for a pleasant start. Two birds were tallied coming across the 1 1/2 mile wide James River, a Turkey Vulture and a Red-tailed Hawk. The Red-tailed pictured above was not seen migrating, but welcomed me to the site, atop the only cedar tree there.

The hawkwatch operates daily, weather and schedules permitting, with several volunteers through May. It is generally a morning event, from about 9-1, as birds use the warming air to cross the river. Many other migrants are seen, including swallows, waterfowl and shorebirds. Visitors are always welcome, contact me for other details as needed. It's located on the Colonial Parkway, about 3 miles south of Williamsburg. Information will be regularly posted here, on the VA List Serve and on our Facebook page.

Brian Taber

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Snowy Owl!

A Snowy Owl was reported today from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-tunnel...and a photo was forwarded to the Observatory's Facebook page. There have been a number of widespread reports of Snowys in the east in recent weeks.
Brian Taber

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

50th Anniversary at Kiptopeke

There is now a button on the website Home Page for information about the 50th anniversary of the Kiptopeke Songbird Station this fall...a number of special public events are planned...information will be posted throughout the year.

Brian Taber