Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy New Year...and Thanks

Thanks to all those...staff, volunteers, donors, Board members, Advisors...who made 2014 an interesting and rewarding year...the Observatory's 20th. Best wishes as we fly into a great 2015!
Brian Taber

Friday, December 19, 2014

Monarchs and Education

Thanks to Cole Gandee, who was our fall Monarch butterfly tagger and counter and who, also serving as Educator, gave presentations to visitors at Kiptopeke State Park about his work, other Observatory programs, habitat diversity and the spectacle of migration.
Brian Taber

Friday, December 5, 2014

Kiptopeke Hawkwatch

Congrats to Katie Rittenhouse for a very successful hawkwatch season, which ended Nov 30! She also helped conduct our Purple Finch Migration Survey and she handled the Blog since Sept 1st. Best of luck with your next project!

Brian Taber

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Crested Caracara

Thanks to Old Dominion University student, Natasha Hagemeyer, here's a photo, in the early morning rain, of the Crested Caracara seen today in Virginia Beach.

Brian Taber

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Finches

American Goldfinches have taken over the feeder by the Kiptopeke Hawkwatch Platform. There has been a high count of 32 goldfinches at the feeders and on the ground below. Three Purple Finches decided to join the party today and were seen foraging on the ground alongside the goldfinches.
A busy feeder with 10+ American goldfinch
~Katie

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pest Control on the Hawkwatch Platform

Things have been a little slow lately, as the hawkwatch platform has been closed for the past two days due to a deer hunt at Kiptopeke State Park. The count will resume tomorrow with high hopes for a good flight brought on by the cold front moving through tonight.

Throughout the season there has been a variety of insects and birds on the platform, even two resident five-lined skinks and a group of wasps residing in the wooden beams of the roof. Luckily, there has been some predatory species to help control some of the nuisance species.

A five-lined skink eating a marmorated stink bug
A wheel bug preying upon one of the resident wasps. A marmorated stink bug to the left of them.
~Katie

Sunday, November 9, 2014

4th Golden Eagle for the season

The fourth Golden Eagle for the 2014 hawk watch season at Kiptopeke Hawkwatch was counted today. It was seen flying south and later flying north. A typical behavior of Golden Eagles seen at Kiptopeke, they are very hesitant to fly over the open water.

Waterfowl is becoming more abundant in the skies. 2 Tundra Swans were seen flying past the hawkwatch today and 20 Common Loons yesterday. American Robins and blackbirds have been putting on an amazing morning flight along with smaller flocks of Eastern Bluebirds, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskins, and Purple Finches. Yellow-rumped warblers are dripping from the bushes. 100+ sparrows were foraging around the platform today.
Yellow-rumped Warbler


The hummingbirds have gotten a lot larger these days. A Northern Mockingbird on the
hummingbird feeder by the Kiptopeke Hawkwatch.
~Katie

Friday, November 7, 2014

Greater White-fronted Goose

This bird, found and photographed by Bill Williams recently near Jamestown, in James City County, is rare in Virginia and a first local record.
Brian Taber

Monday, November 3, 2014

Migration Update

The first three Golden Eagles for the season were spotted this past week, and two Northern Goshawks were counted the week prior. Falcons have become scarce while Northern Harriers, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-Shouldered Hawks have been showing up in larger numbers. Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper's Hawks will continue in smaller numbers through November.

American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, American Pipits, Eastern Meadowlarks, Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches, and mixed blackbird flocks (Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Grackle, Rusty Blackbirds) have been filling the skies in the morning.

Waterfowl has started to move through and onto the Eastern Shore of VA. The third flock of Tundra Swans for the season was spotted yesterday along with 60 Canada Geese. Several flocks of 20-40 scoters (Surf Scoter and Black Scoter identified) were seen flying by the platform today. Waterfowl numbers will drastically increase as the month goes on, including large flights of Tundra Swans and Snow Geese visible from the platform.

Monarch Butterflies have become almost non-exist on the Eastern Shore of VA. Very few Monarchs have been seen from the platform in the past week, with only one today. Cole Gandee, the Monarch Biologist for the season has finished up his duties for the season with 486 Monarchs tagged.


Two Red-tailed Hawks passing each other.
~Katie

Monday, October 27, 2014

Passerine Migration Update

Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches and House Finches have been heard flying over the Kiptopeke Hawk Watch Platform throughout the past week. This morning, approximately 50 Purple Finches and 40 Pine Siskins were counted flying over the platform. Later today, 30 Purple Finches were spotted around a bird feeder on the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.

Sparrows have been seen foraging around the Kiptopeke Hawk Watch Platform. This morning 150 were seen around the feeders by the parking lot. The flock consisted of mostly White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos, with a few Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, and Field Sparrows.

Purple Finch by a black sunflower feeder.
~Katie

Monday, October 20, 2014

Newspaper Article about Kiptopeke Hawk Watch

The Virginia Pilot Newspaper reporter, Diane Tennant, and photographer, Bill Tiernan, hung out with myself and others on the Kiptopeke Hawk Watch, two weeks ago, to write an article about the hawk watch. Check out the article here: http://hamptonroads.com/2014/10/hawk-counter-has-sharp-eye-out-raptors

~Katie

Friday, October 17, 2014

Monarch Migration Update

This past weekend, October 10-12, there was a peak in Monarch Migration. Although not many were seen from the hawk watch during this time, the roost site at Wise Point was covered in Monarch Butterflies. Cole estimated 300 Monarchs were roosting at Wise Point during that time.

Monarch Butterflies near Wise Point last weekend. Photo taken by Cole Gandee.

~Katie

Monday, October 13, 2014

October 11 2014 Kiptopeke Hawk Watch Big Sit



The Big Sit at the Kiptopeke hawkwatch started out with heavy early morning rain. The remainder of the day was overcast with intermittent drizzle. Due to these unfavorable conditions, the total for the Big Sit was only 52 species. Thank you to Bob Anderson, Ellison Orcutt, Brian Sullivan, Thuy Tran and Brian Taber for their help with the Big Sit. 
 
The 52 species from the October 11th Big Sit:
Canada Goose
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Caspian Tern
Royal Tern
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Eastern Phoebe
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Parula
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warble
Blackpoll Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting

A Peregrine Falcon visited the platform on Sunday, with Falconer Sharon Montgomery from "Flight of the Falcon"

Friday, October 10, 2014

Swainson's Hawk

A juvenile Swainson's Hawk was seen hunting on Route 13, by Brian Sullivan, this morning.  A crowd gathered as birders arrived for the Eastern Shore Virginia Birding and Wildlife Festival. Unfortunately, the bird was later found dead roadside with a broken leg and neck.

Swainson's Hawk perched on a power line just North of Sunset Beach Inn this morning.
Photo taken by Zak Poulton
~Katie


Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Fantastic Falcon Day!

A cold front moved in late yesterday morning causing a shift in winds, from light SW to strong NW winds. The front brought with it an amazing amount of falcons!  A grand total of 457 Merlins, which is the second highest record at the Kiptopeke Hawkwatch, the highest being 462 in 1998. Along with the Merlins were 251 Peregrine Falcons, another second highest record, with the first being 364 in 1997! Two days ago, there were 214 Peregrine Falcons, which is also a remarkable number! Keep those raptors coming! 
 
In other news, Eric Beck, the Bay-watcher for this year started the watch at the beginning of this month. The CVWO bay-watch is in its second year of operation this year. The bay-watch is located on a private piece of land  that oversees the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately it is not open to the public, but I will keep you updated on sightings the from the watch.
 
A gorgeous sunset to end the day yesterday
 ~Katie

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Monarch Migration Update

Monarch Butterflies have become more numerous in the skies at the Kiptopeke Hawkwatch. Cole is finding more on his point-counts at the hawkwatch and on vegetation like golden rod, milk weed, and lantana. He has now tagged a total of 141 butterflies. Monarch tagging is done by placing a small sticker on the butterfly's hindwing. Tagging is done to find out more information on Monarch migration through recovery of tagged individuals.
A mantis eating a Monarch Butterfly. Photo taken by Cole Gandee


~Katie

Monday, September 29, 2014

2014 Eastern Shore Virginia Birding & Wildlife Festival

The 2014 Eastern Shore Virginia Birding & Wildlife Festival is in 2 weeks, October 10-12. The festival is a wonderful opportunity to learn about migration, birds, and wildlife in an important flyway for migrating birds and Monarch Butterflies. There is a variety of educational field trips that you can sign up for (http://www.esbirdingfestival.com/#!event/component_74511) and Brian Sullivan will be speaking in Cape Charles, Friday night.  There will also be exhibits and vendors at the Cape Charles firehouse. Check out http://www.esbirdingfestival.com/ for more information regarding the event.

~Katie

Sunday, September 28, 2014

1034 raptor day

Today was a grand day at the Kiptopeke Hawkwatch,1034 raptors were counted! Our first 1000+ day, of hopefully many, for the season. These upcoming weeks are a great time for spotting big flights of raptors, black birds, Northern Flickers, Blue Jays, and passerines at the hawk watch. Monarch Butterfly detections have also been increasing and should continue to rise. 170 Monarchs were counted from the hawk watch in the past two days. Check out hawkcount.org/kiptopeke for daily updates on the migration.


American Kestrel with a dragon fly
~Katie

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

20th annual Kiptopeke Challenge

The 20th annual Kiptopeke Challenge, a birding competition and fund-raising event, was held this past Saturday, September 20th. Nine different teams competed in three different categories. The hawkwatch platform team, the Platform Poachers, consisting of Zak Poulton and myself counted a total of 68 species between the Kiptopeke State Park hawkwatch platform and Ramp Lane at the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, it was very windy on the hawkwatch making it nearly impossible to hear flight calls of fly-over birds.

The 55 species counted from the Kiptopeke Hawkwatch:
Brown Pelican
Double-Crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Osprey
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Killdeer
Rock Pigeon
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Royal Tern
Forster's Tern
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Red-eyed Vireo
American Crow
Fish Crow
Eastern Kingbird
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Northern Parula
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
American Redstart
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Bobolink
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird

13 Additional species from Ramp Lane:
American Black Duck
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-heron
Yellow-crowned Night-heron
Clapper Rail
Greater Yellowlegs
Willet

The winners are still to be announced.

~Katie

Monday, September 22, 2014

Swainson's Hawk and Olive-sided Flycatcher

This past Friday, September 19, was an exciting day on the hawkwatch platform. A Swainson's Hawk flew by the platform and circled around in the east for a few minutes at 12:30 P.M. Then an Olive-sided Flycatcher, spotted by Brian Taber, perched in a small branch to the southeast of the platform. The bird soon moved over to "The Snag" where it remained for close to two hours.

The Olive-sided Flycatcher from September 19 2014
~Katie

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Imperial Moth Caterpillar

A 10 cm Imperial Moth caterpillar was feasting on some plants to the right of the platform for the past few days.


In other news, the hawk migration is well under way. Ospreys and American Kestrels have been pouring through by the hundreds. Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper's Hawks, and Merlin have begun to migrate in small numbers.

CVWO's Monarch Biologist and Educator, Cole Gandee, has started counting Monarchs and searching for individuals to tag.  I will post the schedule of his education presentations soon.

~Katie

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sabine's Gull at Jamestown Ferry

This very rare and strikingly patterned juvenile Sabine's Gull was following the Jamestown/Scotland Ferry near Williamsburg today...they typically migrate far offshore...a first local record and one of few for Virginia.
Brian Taber

Friday, September 12, 2014

Double Eagle Release

Today, at Kiptopeke State Park, the Wildlife Center of Virginia released two juvenile Bald Eagles that they had been treating that had been found on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Over 200 people attended to witness the eagles take their first flights in over a month. These eagles were not fitted with GPS transmitters, but other individuals who were fitted with GPS transmitters and released at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge can be tracked at http://wildlifecenter.org/critter-corner/success-stories.



The second eagle getting adjusted to the light before release
The first eagle after being released
~Katie

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Upcoming Eagle Release and Rare Birds

This Friday at 12:30 P.M. there will be a Bald Eagle release at Kiptopeke State Park. The Bald Eagles were being rehabilitated at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. Visit http://www.virginiaoutdoors.com/article/more/5209 for more information on the release and to find links to the Bald Eagles' online rehabilitation diaries.

A juvenile Bald Eagle that flew over the hawk watch platform today


On another exciting note, two western species have shown up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia in the past two days.  A Western Kingbird was identified on Route 600 just south of Jones Cove Road on September 9 2014 and a Swainson's Hawk was spotted flying high over the hawk watch platform and headed south today. What will show up next?

~Katie

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ospreys on the Move

A mild cold front moved through Tuesday night, bringing birds with the north winds. The Osprey were the stars of the show for the past two days, with a count close to 200 Osprey today!

One of the 192 Osprey that passed the hawk watch today
~Katie

Monday, September 1, 2014

Hawk Migration has Started!

The 2014 fall hawk watch at Kiptopeke State Park kicked off today with 14 Osprey and 6 American Kestrels. The first raptor of the season was an Osprey. I,Katie Rittenhouse, am the hawk counter again and will be keeping you updated on here about the latest sighting at the hawk watch and bay watch, updates on the monarch butterfly migration, and educational programs.

Harry Armistead, Bob Anderson, Thuy Tran, Bob Ake, and Chris Foster all helped with a count conducted August 30th from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. They had a nice variety of raptors: 32 Osprey, 4 Bald Eagle, 2 Northern Harrier, 2 Broad-winged Hawk, 1 Red-tailed Hawk, 1 Cooper's Hawk, 2 American Kestrel, 1 Peregrine Falcon.

You can keep updated on the daily counts at www.hawkcount.org/kiptopeke

Katie

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Early Migrants

This tiny Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, near Williamsburg, was traveling with several others, already on the move during post-breeding migration, likely headed for Central America or very southern United States.
Brian Taber

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July Butterfly Count

The Observatory's annual July butterfly count will take place Sat July 19th...participants should meet at 9 a.m. at the Visitor Center at Eastern Shore of VA National Wildlife Refuge.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Calico Pennant

This gorgeous Calico Pennant was at Kiptopeke State Park on June 16th.
Brian Taber

Sunday, May 11, 2014

White-faced Ibis

Shirley Devan used her smartphone and scope to get this photo of the White-faced Ibis found by Bill Williams here in James City County on May 1st....red eye, red facial skin, red legs...it's a first County record!
Brian Taber

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Yellow-throated Vireo

One of our earliest spring migrants, this uncommon and lovely Yellow-throated Vireo was in James City County today.
Brian Taber

Friday, March 28, 2014

White Red-winged Blackbird

This striking, nearly pure white Red-winged Blackbird was at my feeder briefly here in James City County yesterday...a rather poor picture through the glass door. Abnormal white feathering may be caused by a variety of processes.
Brian Taber

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Golden-crowned Kinglets at Feeders

This Golden-crowned Kinglet has been faithfully visiting my feeder daily, here in Williamsburg, for nearly a month...it's a species I haven't seen at my feeders and I've had feeders for decades. It's proudly showing its flashy namesake feature...there's no hint of the orange tones of an adult male. They are so tiny and usually forage for insects so high, it's nice to get this view. It has been eating suet and a peanut butter/cornmeal mix during the recent very cold and snowy weather. I would be interested to know if others have been hosting this species at feeders...if so, please contact me at Taberzz@aol.com.
Brian Taber

Saturday, March 1, 2014

White-winged Scoters

In addition to the Snowy Owls, Short-eared Owls, Red-necked Grebes, Common Mergansers, Iceland Gulls, Glaucous Gulls and Razorbills seen during this unusual winter, White-winged Scoters are being recorded from all over VA. They are usually quite uncommon and mainly just along the coast, but the 90+% freezing of the Great Lakes and other water bodies appears to have forced many to move south and to inland locations as well...this bird was on Chesapeake Bay near Kiptopeke last week at dusk...and what a lucky and spectacular water pattern as well!
Brian Taber

Monday, February 17, 2014

Razorbill

This Razorbill photo was taken by Karen Kearney, during the boat trip to the Chesapeake Bay bridge-tunnel yesterday, sponsored by the Williamsburg Bird Club. It's hard to age distant and fast-flying Razorbills...and most reports seem to indicate young birds, but this shot clearly shows the bulging bill tip and white bill line of an adult.

The trip also recorded hundreds of Long-tailed Ducks and scoters, a rare male Harlequin Duck, at least 7 Red-necked Grebes and at least 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, among other species, despite 36 degree water temperature, which our captain said was extremely unusual.
Brian Taber

Friday, February 14, 2014

College Creek Hawkwatch

The 18th consecutive season of the College Creek Hawkwatch has begun. It's the only regular late winter/spring hawk migration count in VA and is conducted by CVWO. The site is about 3 miles east of Williamsburg, on the Colonial Parkway, on the James River...volunteers will continue until late May, usually recording birds from about 9-1 daily, weather permitting, as migration at the site has proven to be generally a morning event. Results are posted to the Hawkcount.org site, operated by the Hawk Migration Association of North America. Today, there were 4 Turkey Vultures, a Black Vulture and 3 Bald Eagles recorded crossing the river.
Brian Taber

Friday, February 7, 2014

It's Raining Gannets!

There were apparently lots of fish at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in late January...as there were several thousand Northern Gannets diving just off the southern island of the Chesapeake Bay bridge-tunnel...thousands of gulls were also around, with 9 species reported in the area.
Brian Taber

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Black-headed Gulls and Razorbills

These 2 rare Black-headed Gulls, seen on Jan 27, are being seen regularly near Little Creek, in Norfolk, usually at low tide, often in the company of the similar, slightly smaller Bonaparte's Gulls. A little farther south on the coast, at Little Island Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in VA Beach, Razorbills, another rare species, are being seen, mostly in early morning and often streaming by rapidly, low on the waves, in groups of 5-20, among thousands of Red-throated Loons and Northern Gannets...194 were counted on Jan 27 at the 2 sites.
Brian Taber

Friday, January 17, 2014

Short-eared Owl

Snowy Owls have been stealing all the headlines this winter...and rightly so... but another seldom-seen winter visitor from the far north is the very handsome Short-eared Owl...this bird was in coastal Virginia last week, in an area not open to the public. The low light conditions make its buffy-orange plumage pattern even more colorful.
Brian Taber