No Meetings in the Summer, but Bird Walks Continue

There are no Club meetings in June, July or August. Twice-a-month walks at New Quarter Park will continue. Some field trips will be held. Check your email and this website for upcoming events.

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 May 2015 19:52

Bird Walk at New Quarter Park, May 23, 2015

Participants were:
  • Joanne Andrews Catherine Bond-in photo
  • Geoff Giles-in photo
  • Molly Sweetnam Burland-not in the photo
  • Chery Jacobson-in photo
  • Joyce Lowry-in photo
  • Tom McCary-in photo
  • Sue Mutell-in photo
  • Mona Overturf-in phoyo
  • Beatrix Woods-in photo
  • John Sweetnam-not in the photo-from Portland, Oregon, visiting daughter Molly
  • One participant who asked not to be named
  • Bill Williams-took photo

    New Quarter Park, York, US-VA
    May 23, 2015 5:30 AM - 8:00 AM
    Protocol: Traveling
    1.5 mile(s)
    Comments:     light northerly breeze, 55 degrees at the start; outgoing tide; one raccoon; nesting species included Osprey, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
    47 species

    Canada Goose  11
    Mallard  3
    Double-crested Cormorant  1
    Great Blue Heron  5
    Great Egret  5
    Snowy Egret  1
    Black Vulture  1
    Turkey Vulture  2
    Osprey  6     at least 3 nesting pairs
    Red-tailed Hawk (Eastern)  2
    Clapper Rail  1
    Mourning Dove  1
    Chimney Swift  3
    Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
    Downy Woodpecker  2
    Pileated Woodpecker  1
    Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
    Acadian Flycatcher  4
    Great Crested Flycatcher  6     pair visiting possible nest cavity
    White-eyed Vireo  1
    Yellow-throated Vireo  1
    Red-eyed Vireo  3
    Blue Jay  2
    American Crow  1
    Purple Martin  3
    Barn Swallow  6
    Carolina Chickadee  3
    Tufted Titmouse  2
    White-breasted Nuthatch  1
    Carolina Wren  1
    Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2     one was incubating
    Eastern Bluebird  1
    Wood Thrush  1
    American Robin  1
    Kentucky Warbler  1     singing near the park entry gate; same location as 2014
    American Redstart  1
    Yellow-throated Warbler  2
    Eastern Towhee  2
    Chipping Sparrow  4
    Summer Tanager  5
    Northern Cardinal  5
    Indigo Bunting  1
    Red-winged Blackbird  3
    Common Grackle  6
    Brown-headed Cowbird  4
    Orchard Oriole  1
    American Goldfinch  3

    View this checklist online at

    This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 May 2015 19:50

Tribute to Ruth Beck by Dan Cristol


Dan Cristol wrote this wonderful remembrance of Ruth Beck for the VA Gazette. He gave the Bird Club permission to reprint it and it is below.

Those wishing to remember Ruth can send contributions to the Williamsburg Bird Club (mention the Ruth Beck Fund), P.O. Box 1085, Williamsburg, VA, 23187. Or you can bring a check or cash to the Bird Club meeting this Wednesday night at Andrews Hall.

"The birds have lost a great friend. It is spring and life is in the air. Eastern Bluebirds are fledging their first broods and wildly attacking any squirrel or snake that comes close, Brown Thrashers are franticly gathering insects from the driveway for their newly hatched chicks, and twittering hordes of Barn Swallows are scrambling to gather mud for their nests in every puddle. Sadly, though, RuthBeck, emeritus professor of biology at William & Mary, passed away suddenly last week at 72.

Ruth helped birds at many levels, starting with the superb bird feeders at the lakeside home which she shared with husband Sherwin. Her feeder spread was so alluring it drew in species rarely fond of birdseed, especially Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings. Ruth worked right up to the time of her death documenting and managing the nesting success of our dwindling colonial waterbirds, most notably the Least Terns of Craney Island and the huge tern and gull colony dependent on the rocks of the Hampton Roads bridge-tunnel.

These human-created habitats have become important refuges for birds being displaced from our Barrier Islands as rising sea levels slowly drown out their natural nesting colonies. The owners of these properties have reason to resent the descending hordes of waterbirds, which create transportation hazards and require workers to accommodate in all sorts of ways. But for decades Ruth has been able to graciously negotiate fair treatment for the birds, and to enlist an army of dedicated volunteers and students to manage their habitats. I have worked alongside retired school teachers, conscripted college students and members of a prison work detail to ensure that the picky Black Skimmers had the proper surface of weed-free, flat sand for their nests.

Ruth, who started at William & Mary in 1969, developed, taught and supervised biology laboratories for tens of thousands of college students. These were the first intensive lab experiences for freshmen, and were often formative. She inspired countless undergraduates to go on to take courses in ornithology and to pursue birds as a hobby or profession. Ruth also hired scores of students to assist in her summer research with tern and gull nesting colonies, and turned many apathetic field hands into aspiring scientists. To the end she carried out weekly surveys of Craney Island, one of Tidewater’s most exciting birding destinations, with a crew of volunteer local birders. Like a reporter who gets to every crime scene first, Ruth’s group broke the story on many local rarities, including last year’s Snowy Owl, and many, many more.

Besides inspiring countless future scientists, birders and conservationists, and spearheading important local research and land management projects, Ruth was also a stalwart contributor to what is known as citizen science. Citizen science is the enlisting of non-professionals to gather data for scientific research, and for more than forty years Ruth and a crew of birders has been monitoring the bird populations of Williamsburg as part of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Never satisfied to stick to her own territory, the college campus and surrounding forests, I would often catch Ruthsneaking on to my adjacent territory to make sure that I was counting things accurately. I forgave her readily, because I never missed a chance to sneak on to campus to count the Rusty Blackbird flock, just in case Ruth had missed a few.

Ruth may be best remembered locally as one of the founders, longtime presidents, and benefactors of the Williamsburg Bird Club. My current fondness for the bird club is directly the result of Ruthhaving engaged me in various roles soon after I arrived on campus. At a time when I should have been focused solely on my duties at the College, I developed a lasting relationship with this thriving civic group. Under Ruth’s direction, the club has for decades raised money to provide research grants to William & Mary graduate and undergraduate students undertaking bird research, as well as providing scholarships for kids to attend Nature Camp, purchasing books for the library, and sustaining educated interest in birds. The Williamsburg Bird Club, through Ruth’s continuous generosity of spirit, has become one of the best examples of a sustained town-gown interaction that I know of anywhere. With generosity, humor and intelligence, Ruth Beck left the world a better place than she found it, and inspired many others to do the same. When generosity, humor and intelligence were not enough, she would turn to the most potent of her charms, extravagant spreads of food, always including strawberries. And like the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings, people were drawn to Ruth Beck’s strawberries. Those wishing to remember Ruth can send contributions to the Williamsburg Bird Club (mention the Ruth Beck Fund), P.O. Box 1085, Williamsburg, VA, 23187. Ruth, we miss you already.”

by Dan Cristol

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 May 2015 19:59

Overnight Field Trip to Delaware Beaches

We are planning a field trip to the Delaware beaches to May 18th and 19th. The basic itinerary is as follows:

Monday, May 18
8:00 AM: Depart Colony Square shopping center
 to late afternoon: Birding at Chincoteague (we should find some new arrivals since the March 28 trip)
Early evening: Arrive at hotel in Delaware (we're currently scoping out favorable locations to spend the night, possibly in Dover)
Tuesday, May 19
Early morning (time TBD): Leave hotel for the beach(es) and bird for the remainder of the morning or early afternoon: Begin trip home
Everyone will have the flexibility to break off and head home whenever it best suits them. We'll also want to consider the timing of the trip home to avoid rush hour through the HRBT. As you can see there are still some details to work out. But the immediate purpose of this e-mail is to gage the interest from club members in making the trip. Once we get an idea of how many people would like to participate we can then start solidifying the plans.
So if you would like to join this trip, please send Jim Corliss an e-mail ASAP at jcorliss240 at Jim will then let everyone know how large a group to expect and can work on the trip details. The horseshoe crab spawning and shorebird migration in Delaware Bay is one of nature's great spectacles. 



Last Updated on Thursday, 07 May 2015 12:46

May 20 Meeting: Wildlife Rehabilitator Pearl Beamer

Join us Wednesday, May 20th, at 7:30 pm for a presentation by wildlife rehabilitator Pearl Beamer of Sacred Friends, Inc., a Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Center. Her organization specializes in raptors and water birds (loons, herons, pelicans, egrets) but will not turn anything away. Her service area is primarily the Tidewater (Hampton, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk) area but they will care for any animals as long as the animal is transported to them. This joint meeting with the Virginia Master Naturalist Historic Rivers Chapter will be in Andrews Hall, Room 101. Please remember to have a parking pass on your car’s dashboard.

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 April 2015 14:19

Next bird walk Saturday, June 13 at 8 a.m. at New Quarter Park

The Williamsburg Bird Club and New Quarter Park co-sponsor bird walks at New Quarter Park, 1000 Lakeshead Dr., Williamsburg, twice a month — the second and fourth Saturdays. The second Saturdays we meet at 8 a.m; the fourth Saturdays we meet at 7 a.m. Meet in the parking lot near the park office. Participants can stay as long as they’d like. Generally, the leader will walk about two hours or so, but participants can peel off as they like. Walks are free and open to the public. You need not be a member to join us. Just show up! Google map.

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 May 2015 19:52

Bird Walk at New Quarter Park, April 25, 2015


Nancy Barnhart
Geoff Giles
Rosemarie and George Harris
Cheryl Jacobson
Sara Lewis
Jan Lockwood
Sue Mutell

New Quarter Park, York, US-VA
Apr 25, 2015 5:30 AM - 8:30 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
Comments:     Fourth Saturday Bird Walk; 43-52 degrees; overcast; calm; gray squirrel; Cope's Gray Tree Frog
58 species

Canada Goose  22
Double-crested Cormorant  5
Great Blue Heron  5
Great Egret  2
Snowy Egret  2
Turkey Vulture  1
Osprey  4     2 pairs at nest sites
Bald Eagle  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  2
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Laughing Gull  2
Forster's Tern  7
Mourning Dove  1
Barred Owl  1     heard by one participant
Chimney Swift  8
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-headed Woodpecker  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Downy Woodpecker  2
Pileated Woodpecker  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  3
White-eyed Vireo  1
Yellow-throated Vireo  2
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  4
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  2
Fish Crow  1
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  2
Carolina Chickadee  4
Tufted Titmouse  7
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Carolina Wren  3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  10     one pair at nest
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Eastern Bluebird  1
Wood Thrush  5
American Robin  5
Gray Catbird  1
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  2
Northern Parula  1
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  4
Yellow-throated Warbler  3
Prairie Warbler  2
Eastern Towhee  2
Chipping Sparrow  6
Song Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  14
Summer Tanager  5
Northern Cardinal  4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1     a gorgeous adult male
Red-winged Blackbird  3
Common Grackle  3
Brown-headed Cowbird  4
American Goldfinch  7

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 23:22

Field Trip to the Dismal Swamp, April 18, 2015

The Williamsburg Bird Club, led by Bob Ake, took a field trip to the Washington and Railroad Ditches of the Dismal Swamp on Saturday, April 18. It was a beautiful day to see lots of birds, including Swainson's Warblers, a Barred Owl, a Blue-headed Vireo as well as a White-eyed and Red-eyed Vireos. Also saw a Wood Thrush and Pine Warbler. Butterflies included  E. Tiger Swallowtail, Zebra Swallowtail, Question Mark, Pearl Crescent, and Falcate Orangetip.

Bob Ake, Leader
Geoff Giles
John Adair
Marilyn Adair
Joe Cade
Shirley Devan
Maria Fleming (visiting from Ottawa Canada)      
Ron Giese
Bruce Glendening
George Harris
Rosemarie Harris
Andy Hawkins
Cheryl Jacobson
Jan Lockwood
Joyce Lowry
Cathy Millar
Alex Minarik
Sue Mutell
Dena Proctor
Linda Scherer

Dismal Swamp NWR Washington Ditch, Suffolk, US-VA

Apr 18, 2015 6:44 AM - 11:12 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 mile(s) on foot
40 species

Wood Duck  2
Double-crested Cormorant  3
Turkey Vulture  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Barred Owl  6
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Downy Woodpecker  3
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
Pileated Woodpecker  3
Great Crested Flycatcher  5
White-eyed Vireo  1
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  3
Blue Jay  1
Carolina Chickadee  2
Carolina Wren  8
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Hermit Thrush  2
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  1
Ovenbird  3
Louisiana Waterthrush  3
Prothonotary Warbler  15
Swainson's Warbler  4
Common Yellowthroat  4
Hooded Warbler  4
American Redstart  5
Northern Parula  2
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  7
Yellow-throated Warbler  2
White-throated Sparrow  2
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  1
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Common Grackle  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
American Goldfinch  3

Dismal Swamp NWR Railroad Ditch, Suffolk, US-VA
Apr 18, 2015 11:26 AM - 1:26 PM
Protocol: Traveling
6.0 mile(s) by car with some stops along Interior Ditch in the burn area
27 species

Mallard  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  6
Northern Harrier  1
Killdeer  1
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Wilson's Snipe  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Great Crested Flycatcher  8
Eastern Kingbird  1
White-eyed Vireo  3
Carolina Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  2
Carolina Wren  1
American Robin  1
Ovenbird  2
Prothonotary Warbler  6
Swainson's Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  10
Hooded Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  3
Prairie Warbler  6
Eastern Towhee  2
White-throated Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  4
Common Grackle  4
Brown-headed Cowbird  1

Last Updated on Sunday, 19 April 2015 21:57

Field Trip to see Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers, June 6

On Saturday, June 6th, Mike Wilson, Center for Conservation Biology, will lead a trip to Piney Grove Preserve in Sussex to hopefully spot some of the endangered Red-cockaded woodpeckers. Piney Grove hosts Virginia's last breeding population of this endangered species. The Nature Conservancy conducts prescribed burns to manage the pine-savanna habitat for the woodpeckers. Biologists from the Center for Conservation Biology monitor and support what is recognized as the record recovery of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker.

An EARLY departure to catch the ferry and drive to the Preserve to meet Mike is a must if we are to see the birds as they leave the nest cavity to forage. We will meet at the Colony Square Shopping Center at 4:00 a.m. to carpool. If you have a spotting scope please bring it for this trip. Also, you’ll need to bring water, snacks and insect repellent. Sign-ups are not needed for this trip. You will receive reminders and any additional information prior to the trip. Questions? Contact Jan Lockwood at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 April 2015 14:23

WBC Research Grant Recipient Megan Kobiela's Research Published in Animal Behavior

In 2011 the Bird Club awarded one of our research grants to Megan Kobiela, and she presented a short session about her research at our Bird Club meeting in May 2012: “The Effect of Mercury on Starvation and Predation Risk Tradeoffs in Zebra Finches.” Megan has had her research published in the journal Animal Behavior under the title "Risk-taking behaviours in zebra finches affected by mercury exposure." Congratulations, Megan!

Download a pdf of the article

Last Updated on Monday, 30 March 2015 20:28

2014 Christmas Bird Count Summary

The Williamsburg Bird Club’s 38th consecutive Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was…….Well, let’s just say it…PERFECT! from zero-dark-thirty through the Carrot Tree compilation. Birding conditions were as pleasant and welcoming as could be asked for with calm winds, clear skies and temperatures ranging from 28° F predawn to a very comfortable 54° F in the afternoon. Ninety-three participants including two from near Charlottesville, the William and Mary Bird Club and 21 feeder watchers, among them a 10-year old, rallied and tallied 120 species, 5 more than our all-time high 115 recorded for the 16 December 1984 count and well ahead of our long-term 108 species average.

We had a very exciting entourage of count-day “Write-Ins”, or as some call them, “Goody-Birds”. These are truly rare species under any circumstances and/or species that have rarely been found throughout the history of the count going back to 1977. The Hog Island team spotted a Cackling Goose, our third one since this diminutive version of Canada Goose was granted full species status in 2004, and our second in as many years. Also for a second consecutive CBC the Jamestown crew identified a Greater Scaup, a diving duck that needs careful attention to differentiate it from the locally more expected Lesser Scaup. Members of that team had found a White-winged Scoter near Jamestown December 12, two days before count day. So it was quite frustrating that a “scoter” off Jamestown was just too far away to see the necessary field marks to cinch it up as “the” White-winged. That bird bird will go into the official tally as “Scoter sp.” Undeterred the team pressed on sounding out (via audio playback) 3 Virginia Rails and a Sora. Back on December 16, 1984 we had 7 Virginia Rails and the January 1, 1954 Toanao CBC had 10 Sora. There’s no question the mild, windless day for our count this year was critical for these two rallids to vocalize.

On Wednesday, December 10 Bruce Peterjohn, Chief of the North American Bird Banding Laboratory in Patuxent, Maryland, came to Williamsburg to attempt to band two different hummingbirds at two different locations. One cooperated, the other did not. The one Bruce was able to band proved to be a hatch-year female Rufous Hummingbird Selasphorus rufus visiting a feeder in Ford’s Colony. On days when temperatures exceed 50°, like it did for us on December 14, wintering hummers tend not to visit feeders, preferring instead to forage on flying insects and whatever late blooming flowers there may be. It took Sharon Plocher 3 lengthy vigils at the home where the banded bird was feeding before she saw the little Miss.

Confounding this for our count was that after December 10 and Bruce Peterjohn’s banding effort the homeowner confirmed there were TWO hummingbirds at his house! Both were Selasphorus hummingbirds. One for sure, because it had been identified so at banding, was S. rufus. The other was probably S. rufus, but it takes a bird-in-hand analysis to know positively it is not an Allen’s Hummingbird S. sasin. So which of the two did Sharon see? Banded S. rufus or unbanded S. rufus/sasin? Thankfully, on December 15 the homeowner took pictures of the hummingbird(s) at his feeder throughout the day. Based on those photos which clearly show a bird with a band, and the bird’s behavior, it seems pretty clear the bird observed count day was the banded Rufous Hummingbird and was so entered in the final tally. This species has now been listed for the Williamsburg CBC 3 of last 4 years. Our first one was recorded on December 16, 2001. In all cases these were birds identified by capture and banding prior to or just after count day.

Another count-day rarity was an early morning Merlin seen zipping over the William and Mary campus. This was our 8th one in 38 years. The Skimino group picked out 7 Horned Larks, only the 3rd time since 1977 this species has made a count-day final. We had had Orange-crowned Warbler on just 5 previous CBCs. This year 5 teams ferreted out a CBC record-total of 6; Hog Island had 2, with one each for Kingsmill, Jolly Pond, Middle Plantation and Jamestown. Now becoming a testament to longevity, a male Western Tanager in Settlers’ Mill made his fourth consecutive CBC appearance. A young male Baltimore Oriole was at the same feeder that day too. Our CBC has had that species 18 times in 3.8 decades, and 7 of the last 8 years. As thrilling and remarkable as these rare birds were for count day, it was a bird that showed up at Geoff Giles feeder December 16 and 17 that stole the show. There, just inches away from his window, was a young male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a winter first for our area and one of only a handful ever documented in winter for Virginia. This guy, the December 12 White-winged Scoter and Osprey will all go into the Audubon CBC record as “Count-Week” species, not included in the final tally, but present during the 3 days prior to or after December 14. With so many eyes on the skies and feeders we broke several Williamsburg CBC peak count records. Believe it or not our 4,671 Canada Geese broke a record that had stood 54 years. The January 2, 1960 Surry CBC recorded 4,220. This year’s 397 Gadwall bested the 215 found on the December 15, 2002 count. Breaking the Bald Eagle high count would not surprise anyone. Our 65 this time out was 4 more than the December 15, 2013 total. Likewise Cooper’s Hawks seem to be everywhere locally. Last year we set a new CBC peak count with 7. This year we upped that record to 8. We tied the Red-shouldered Hawk high-count with 27, same as 2013. Our logo-bird Red-headed Woodpecker thrived and, more importantly, stayed close by this year because of a very abundant acorn crop. We had 38 for the count, 6 more than the 32 on December 16, 2012. Six Marsh Wrens was one more than the December 17 1989 total of 5. Finding that many of this shy bird was another benefit of the quiet birding conditions. Three cheers to the local Eastern Bluebird nest-box trails. This December our total came to 436 a hefty 50 more than the 386 for the December 16, 2012 CBC. We also beat our Hermit Thrush peak count posting 62, a plus-five over the 57 from December 16, 2012. Every CBC has its missed species. This year those included Red-throated Loon, American Woodcock, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Palm Warbler and Purple Finch.

Many, many thanks to everyone for a stupendously great day for Citizen Science. Also, a standing ovation for Carrot Tree Kitchen and our secret Santas for the best of the best compilation table-fare and hospitality. 

Participants list

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 January 2015 14:09

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