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Voice of the Naturalist

Reports, comments,
   questions (email):  

May 3, 2016
MD/DC/VA central and southern DE/WV panhandle

Lydia Schindler
Audubon Naturalist Society of the
   Central Atlantic states (independent of NAS!)
Steve Cordle

Reporting Guidelines  |  Archives 

Please consider joining ANS, especially if you are a regular user of the Voice (Individual $50; Family $65; Nature Steward $100; Audubon Advocate $200). The membership number is 301-652-9188, option 35; the address is 8940 Jones Mill Road, Chevy Chase, MD 20815; and the web site is http://www.anshome.org.

This is the Voice of the Naturalist, a service of the Audubon Naturalist Society. This report covers the week starting Tuesday, April 26, and was completed on May 3 at 2:00 p.m.

Top birds this week are YELLOW RAIL* in MD and RUFF in DE.

Other birds of interest include TRUMPETER SWAN, loons, EARED GREBE, bitterns, YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, raptors, rails, shorebirds including PIPING PLOVER and RED KNOT, gulls, terns, BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO, BARN OWL, COMMON NIGHTHAWK, CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOW, PEREGRINE FALCON, LEAST FLYCATCHER, COMMON RAVEN, vireos, swallows, SEDGE and MARSH WRENS, warblers including GOLDEN-WINGED and MOURNING, sparrows, SUMMER TANAGER, grosbeaks, and BOBOLINKS.

Overall, migration was in full swing.


A YELLOW RAIL* was found in Baltimore City, MD, by volunteers for Lights Out Baltimore! on the morning of April 27. This was the city's first confirmed YELLOW RAIL--and the first possible since 1893. The bird, which had struck a building during migration, was taken to a rehab center where it was examined, weighed, fed, and, on April 29, released on private property north of the city.

A REEVE—a female RUFF—that was first seen at Bombay Hook NWR, Kent Co, DE, last week proved hard to find among the hundreds of shorebirds milling about in Raymond Pool, but was reported again in the late afternoon of April 30.


The tagged TRUMPETER SWAN that seems to have taken up residence at Lake Churchill in Montgomery Co, MD, was most recently reported on April 29.

On April 27 Occoquan Bay NWR, Prince William Co, VA, hosted a RED-THROATED LOON and 2 COMMON LOONS. Other COMMON LOON sightings included four flyovers at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax Co, VA; three at Lake Frederick, Frederick Co, VA; and one on the Potomac River near MP 24 on the C&O Canal, Montgomery Co, MD—all on April 30. On May 1 a COMMON LOON was found at Burke Lake Park, Fairfax, VA.

Two EARED GREBES were spotted at Point Lookout SP, Saint Mary's Co, MD on April 29. Another was seen from the Bayside Peninsula at Assateague I. NS, Worcester Co, MD, on May 1.

An AMERICAN BITTERN was seen at Piney Orchard Nature Preserve, Anne Arundel Co, MD, on May 1. The distinctive song of a LEAST BITTERN was heard at Swan Harbor Farm Park, Harford Co, MD, on April 28. Bombay Hook NWR, Kent Co, DE, greeted the season's first LEAST BITTERNS, one at Raymond Pool and one at Bear Swamp; an AMERICAN BITTERN was calling along Parson's Point Trail.

YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS were sighted along Sycamore Landing Rd, Montgomery Co, MD; at a retention pond on the University of MD College Park Campus, Prince George's Co; and at Luria Park, Falls Church, VA. On May 2 a YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON was observed strolling along the bed of the C&O Canal near Thomas Jefferson Place, NW DC.

On April 30 a birder in Madison Co, VA, watched a SWALLOW-TAILED KITE soar over his home. On April 26 two SWALLOW-TAILED KITES were noted at the Fort Smallwood Park hawk watch, Anne
Arundel Co, MD. That same day Fort Smallwood tallied an amazing 465 SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS.

Two MISSISSIPPI KITES were reported April 28 near Boykins, Southampton, VA; one was seen at Virginia Beach on April 30. On May 2, the College Creek Hawkwatch on the James River in James City Co, VA, recorded its first MISSISSIPPI KITE of the season.

BROAD-WINGED HAWKS were spotted at numerous locations.

On April 27 Poplar Island, Talbot Co, MD, recorded 10 VIRGINIA RAILS. A SORA was photographed at Hughes Hollow, Montgomery Co, MD, on April 27. On April 29 two SORAS were found at Baltimore's Patterson Park, as was a COMMON GALLINULE; the GALLINULE was seen again April 30.


Four PIPING PLOVERS were found at the Point at Cape Henlopen SP, Sussex Co, DE.

Bombay Hook NWR was teeming with shorebirds. In addition to the RUFF, as recently as April 30 there was a MARBLED GODWIT among the AMERICAN AVOCETS, while a breeding-plumaged LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER lurked among the hundreds of SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. PLOVERS included SEMIPALMATED, BLACK-BELLIED, and AMERICAN GOLDEN. Also in the shorebird mix were DUNLIN and PECTORAL, STILT, SEMIPALMATED, and LEAST SANDPIPERS.

A few RED KNOTS have returned to Dupont Nature Center (Mispillion), Sussex Co, DE, with five being reported on April 27.

On April 30, a first-cycle ICELAND GULL was reported from Cape Henlopen SP, on the beach north of Herring Point—as were 10 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS.

Visitors to Prime Hook NWR, Sussex Co, DE, noted the first LEAST TERNS and COMMON TERNS of the season. LEAST TERNS were also found at Cornfield Harbor, St Mary's Co, MD, on April 29. A COMMON TERN was seen at Leesylvania SP, Prince William Co, VA, on April 30.

A BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was seen and heard May 1 in Susquehanna SP, Harford Co, MD, along Stafford Rd. A BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was heard calling in New Hamden, Highland Co, VA, on May 2.

Some COMMON NIGHTHAWKS have showed up, including at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Anne Arundel Co, MD, on May 2.

A BARN OWL and three CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOWS were the highlights in the 117-species Big Day in Albemarle Co, VA, on April 27. Three CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOWS were reported from Calvert Cliffs, MD, on April 30.

On April 27 a PEREGRINE FALCON was observed from the American Legion bridge over the Potomac, perching on a snag on the Montgomery Co side. In years past, PEREGRINES have nested in this area.

A LEAST FLYCATCHER was seen April 30 at a private residence in BALTIMORE, and another at Lake Frederick, Frederick Co, VA, on May 2.

COMMON RAVEN reports came from Patuxent Research Refuge/North Tract, Anne Arundel Co, MD, April 30, and Piscataway Park, Prince George's Co, MD, on May 2.

The area is replete with VIREOS—WHITE-EYED, YELLOW-THROATED, WARBLING, RED-EYED, and to a lesser extent, BLUE-HEADED. A PHILADELPHIA VIREO was found at Monticello Park, Alexandria, VA, on April 30.

On May 1, five species of SWALLOW—ROUGH-WINGED, TREE, BANK, BARN, and CLIFF--were reported from Burke Lake Park, Fairfax, VA.

A SEDGE WREN was discovered April 29 at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, NE DC, in the marsh west of the cells. On April 30 two SEDGE WRENS were reported from Irish Grove Sanctuary, Somerset Co, MD. A SEDGE WREN found at Finzel Swamp, Garrett Co, MD on April 30, was seen again May 1. A MARSH WREN was singing at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax on May 1, and a MARSH WREN was singing in the semi-dry impoundment at Pennyfield Lock on the C&O Canal, Montgomery Co, MD, on May 1 and 2.

More than 30 species of warbler enlivened the area this week, and double-digit lists were not uncommon. GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER was spotted April 30 at Mount Pleasant Farm in Howard Co, MD, as well as on Bell's Lane in Staunton, VA, on MAY 1. LAWRENCE'S WARBLER (Golden-winged/Blue-winged hybrid, predominantly yellow) was found April 30 at Patapsco Valley SP, Howard Co, MD, and also at a yard in Great Falls, VA, while a BREWSTER'S WARBLER (Golden-winged/Blue-winged Hybrid, predominantly gray) was spotted at Baltimore's Patterson Park on May 2. A MOURNING WARBLER showed up at White Oaks Park, Fairfax, VA on April 30, and it was seen again May 1 and 2. (Directions to this park can be found on VA-bird.) Other gems this week were CAPE MAY, CERULEAN, and BLACKBURNIAN WARBLERS. Four SWAINSON'S WARBLERS were found on the regular Tuesday springtime walk at Jericho Ditch in the Great Dismal Swamp NWR, Suffolk, VA, on April 26.

Notable warbler hotspots included Rock Creek Park, DC; Patterson Park, Baltimore; Leesylvania SP, Prince William Co, VA; Susquehanna SP, Cecil and Harford Cos, MD; and Patapsco Valley SP in Baltimore, Carroll, and Howard Cos, MD; at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax Co, VA, the weekly Monday morning birdwalk May 2 brought 18 species of warbler (and 70 other species, too).

WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS paid surprise visits to yards within the District of Columbia and close-in suburbs on May 1 and 2. A LARK SPARROW was seen at Shirley Plantation, Charles City, VA, on April 30. HENSLOW'S SPARROWS are singing in the fields of Allegany Co, MD. NELSON'S SPARROW was found the evening of May 2 at Ferry Point Park, Queen Anne's Co, MD. A SALTMARSH SPARROW was seen at Rudee Inlet, Virginia Beach, on April 29. SEASIDE SPARROW visited Baltimore's Patterson Park April 30 and May 2; two SEASIDE SPARROWS were at Swan Creek Wetlands, Anne Arundel Co, MD, on May 2. LINCOLN'S SPARROW was reported from Wheaton Regional Park, Montgomery Co, MD, on May 1, and at Howard County's Mount Pleasant Park on April 30.

A SUMMER TANAGER was observed at Blockhouse Point (between Pennyfield and Riley's Locks on the C&O Canal) on April 29. On May 2 a SUMMER TANAGER was singing at Upper Watts Branch Park, Montgomery Co, MD.

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAKS continued to brighten woods and feeders throughout the area.

BLUE GROSBEAK reports included four birds near the Nature Center feeders at Cape Henlopen SP, DE.

Finally, BOBOLINKS began to show up in area fields this week.


This week's report was based on reports on the DE, MD, VA, and WV list servers via the ABA Internet links, and on eBird records.

The Audubon Sanctuary Shop (301-652-3606, http://anshome.org/shop)is an excellent source for guidebooks and many other nature-related titles.

To report bird sightings, e-mail your report to voice@anshome.org. Please post reports before midnight Monday, identify the county as well as the state, and include your name and a Tuesday morning contact, e-mail or phone.

Thank you for your interest, and enjoy the birds.

*Of interest to the records committee.

Reporting Guidelines

The Voice of the Naturalist is written and recorded on Tuesday mornings. If you email your reports, please email voice@anshome.org, by Monday midnight to make sure they are received in time.

Reports prior to the preceding Tuesday will not be considered.

The area covered is (with rare exceptions) DC, MD, VA, and southern DE; all other reports should be sent to the appropriate rare-bird alert for the area in which the birds were observed.

Be sure to report only those birds that you actually saw, not ones that someone else told you about.

And please remember to include a phone number where you can be reached on Tuesday morning; if you can't be reached to verify a rare bird, your report will almost certainly not be used.

There are two main circumstances in which a bird sighting will not be reported on the Voice as a matter of policy. The first is if the report would jeopardize the bird's welfare:

Reports of species that are threatened or endangered at the state or federal level are generally not used, especially during nesting season--local Loggerhead Shrikes are an example; similarly, owls are not listed, with two exceptions--Snowy Owl and Short-eared Owl; and rails are also generally not mentioned; the rails at Huntley Meadows Park, VA, are an exception because birders stay on the boardwalk.

The second circumstance concerns private property: If the property owner does not want birders, the sighting will not be reported--at least in a way that identifies the location.

Please keep your reports concise (no lengthy trip reports, please), and provide the following information:


NUMBER of individuals of each species (estimates for big flocks are fine).

Age and sex, if relevant (important for gull observations, for example).

Location, including COUNTY and STATE (there are four Middletowns in MD).

DATE of observation ("today", "yesterday", "Saturday", etc., are not as helpful).

TELEPHONE NUMBER where you can be reached on Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

DIRECTIONS to little known places (your favorite local hot spot may not be familiar to the Voice compiler or to other nonlocal people); page numbers and map coordinates from the DeLorme atlas/gazetteer are extremely helpful.

Access limitations, if any; and, for birds that are on private property, whether the owner does not want birders, if you know.

Unusual behavior seen.

For RARITIES, a description of features YOU ACTUALLY SAW (not what is in the field guides).

Thanks in advance for your reports. You can be sure that they will be read. Don't be disappointed if your sighting isn't mentioned; when there are a lot of reports, summary comments sometimes have to be made. There are times, however, when every report is used in writing the Voice, for example, during the hot days of summer. -- Voice of the Naturalist


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