Field Trip to Craney Island, Saturday, February 7

Craney Island is an area in Portsmouth where materials dredged from the Elizabeth River are deposited. Managed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, it is open to the public for birding only every second Saturday and we are most fortunate that Ruth Beck and Bill Williams have agreed to lead our field trip to Craney. Professor Beck has worked for several years with the facility's management to preserve the Island's critical habitat for the use of migratory and resident waterfowl and Bill Williams has assisted her in her conservation work at Craney by conducting weekly censuses of the birds.

Birding hours begin at 8:00 a.m. when the gate will be opened for us. We need to finish by 1:00 p.m. For those who wish to carpool, we will depart from Colony Square on Jamestown Road by 6:30 a.m., so please arrive a little early to allow some time to set up the carpooling.

For those driving separately, the carpooling group will meet you at the McDonalds at 6201 College Drive. This is at the intersection of College Drive and Hampton Roads Parkway in Suffolk/Portsmouth and the best opportunity for a restroom break.

It is important to be on time. Please be ready to leave the McDonalds at 7:30 a.m. because Ruth and Bill need to arrive at the Craney Island gate with the entire group at 7:45 a.m. to be admitted.

The roads on the island are not paved and we are advised to consolidate into vehicles with a higher road clearance to handle the terrain (no Prius!). Additional vehicles may be parked at Craney. You will be birding by car with frequent stops to view/scope the birds. Please dress for the weather and bring drinks and food for your comfort. lt will be helpful for Ruth and Bill to know how many people are coming. Please email me if you will be there.

Questions, call or email Jan Lockwood - 757-634-4164 - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Last Updated on Thursday, 29 January 2015 02:00

January 21 Meeting: Winter Salt-Marsh Sparrows on the Eastern Shore

NOTE: Change in meeting room. We are meeting in Millington Hall, Room 150. We should have signs to guide you to the right building - it is behind Andrews Hall, to the right a bit. Address for parking lot: College of William and Mary, 601 Jamestown Rd., Williamsburg, VA. Park in Phi Beta Kappa parking lot or the larger lot next to it. Remember your parking permit.

Join us Wednesday, January 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm for a presentation by Research Biologist Fletcher Smith who will share with us his research on winter marsh sparrows on the Eastern Shore. In 2011, North American Birds published his photo essay “Subspecies of Saltmarsh Sparrow and Nelson’s Sparrow.”  

Fletcher is a Research Biologist with the Center for Conservation Biology at William and Mary and VCU. He as presented several programs for the Bird Club in the last couple of years – each one a fascinating story! 

To follow up his presentation, he will lead our field trip Saturday, January 24 to the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge to net and band sparrows. THIS TRIP HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER. The forecast calls for rain, and it's not a good idea to band birds in the rain.

The meeting will be in Millington Hall, Room 150. Please remember to display your parking permit on your car’s dashboard. Refreshments will be provided by Virginia Boyles, Marilyn Adair, and Shirley Devan.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 January 2015 14:54

CANCELLED: Field Trip to see Marsh Sparrows January 24

THIS TRIP HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER. The forecast calls for rain, and it's not a good idea to capture and band birds in the rain.

We are so happy to have Fletcher Smith, Research Biologist, Center for Conservation Biology , College of William and Mary & the Virginia Commonwealth University, again joining us on January 21st for the monthly meeting to present on information on the Salt-Marsh Sparrows. He will also lead the field trip on Jan 24th to the Eastern Shore refuge to band the sparrows. According to Fletcher:

The best location to see these birds up close is probably the Eastern Shore refuge. The Bull Tract of the refuge has a causeway road that we can drive out on. The trapping involves walking through the marsh (but the marsh there is hard bottom) and people would need knee boots or hip waders for that. The people that don't have boots could walk on the road and I would band the birds on the road so everyone could see them. I would need at least 3 or so people (and the more the merrier) to help "herd" the sparrows into the nets.

We have three pair of boots for those who want to go out into the marsh and as noted by Fletcher, those who do not want to do so will get great views of the sparrows. This is a great opportunity to get great views of birds that we seldom see or only glimpse for a few seconds. Hope you all come! Cheryl Jacobson, Program Vice Chair

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 January 2015 14:53

WBC Boat Trip to Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Islands January 26

The Williamsburg Bird Club is sponsoring a boat trip to Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Islands Sunday, January 25.

The Club's President, Geoff Giles, has chartered a large comfortable boat for this eye-level look at the bay ducks and other wonderful species around the tunnel islands. Birding and photo opportunities should be very good from the boat. The boat will stay around the CBBT tunnel islands and pilings and will likely go as far as Fisherman Island near the Eastern Shore if the birds are there. The CBBT area tends to have smoother water than ocean trips with many of the same exciting views of birds. It will be possible to do some birding from the warm, dry cabin, but the best views and photos will be from outside on deck, so clothing that protects against wind and dampness is recommended.

We will have a good opportunity to observe sea ducks, shorebirds, raptors and more from a large, comfortable boat with ample heated cabin space, rest rooms, tables and indoor seating. WBC founding member Bill Williams will be the trip leader and help us identify the birds.

Fee is $30 per person. Your check is your reservation. 

We will depart from Lynnhaven Inlet in Virginia Beach Sunday, January 25, at 9 am and return to the dock at about 1 pm. There is a very good seafood restaurant dockside for those inclined to have lunch on return. If the trip gets weathered out, we'll return your check, of course, or give you the option of a rain date about two weeks later.

Please sign up early to reserve your place on our crew -- we already have the number needed from our club's members for the trip to go. Reservations will be taken on a first come, first served basis until the trip is filled.  Hope you'll join us!

For additional info contact Geoff Giles at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or (757) 645-8716.

Please make checks ($30.00 per person) payable to “Williamsburg Bird Club” and mail to Geoff Giles, PO Box 133, Lightfoot, VA 23090. Include your email address and phone # so Geoff can get back to you to confirm and let you know the final details.  

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 January 2015 21:42

CBBT Islands Field Trip, February 21

Dan Cristol has agreed to lead our February 21 field trip to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Islands. This trip gives participants the opportunity to observe birds and waterfowl from the four manmade islands. Normally only one island is open to the public. Due to the constraints imposed by security for the CBBT, the trip is limited to 15 participants per group. If more than 15 people are interested in going, we will start a waiting list to see if we can get permission to take a second group. 
On a beautiful, mild February day in 2014, Dan found Razorbills, a Harlequin Duck, Long-tailed Ducks, all three Scoter species, Northern Gannets, Red-throated Loons, Mergansers, Grebes, Great Cormorants, Harbor Seals and much much more. 
To comply with the security requirements, the Bird Club must apply for a Group Permit. In addition, each participant must provide the following information: name, address, phone, email, and Drivers' License info. The cost is $10.00 payable in advance. The fee covers the cost of the police officers who will escort us around the islands.

We will have forms at our January 21 meeting for you to complete if you want to go on this field trip. 
If you will not be at the January meeting, download a copy, complete it and return with your $10.00 payment to P.O. Box 1085, Williamsburg Va 23187, ASAP. Our numbers are limited and we will list you for the trip according to the date stamp on the envelope.

Last Updated on Monday, 26 January 2015 14:27

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

Williamsburg Bird Club Offers Two Bill Williams Nature Camp Scholarships

The Williamsburg Bird Club requests applications from Williamsburg, James City County, and York County students in grades 5 to 12 for the Bill Williams Nature Camp Scholarships, two full tuition scholarships for a two week summer camp program in 2015 at the Nature Camp in Vesuvius, Virginia (

Download the application here. The completed form should be submitted along with a 300-word essay about the student’s interest in nature and a letter of recommendation from a teacher or guidance counselor. The application form includes additional details about requirements and camp expectations. Essays will be evaluated for the best age-appropriate expression of interest in nature and anticipated benefit from attending the camp. The deadline for applications is January 15, 2015. The Williamsburg Bird Club will contact the students who earn the scholarships in early February 2015.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 November 2014 17:19

Next bird walk Saturday, January 24 at 7 a.m. at New Quarter Park

Please consider bringing a donation for the Peninsula Food Bank at the January 24th Bird Walk. 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, 18 January 2015 16:33

Bird ID from Recycle Bin Photos of Joe Piotrowski from Previous Months

Bird ID from Recycle Bin - Photos By Joe Piotrowski

Our Photo Gallery

October's birds were Cattle Egrets.

September's bird was a Northern Gannett.

Summer's bird was a  Ruddy Turnstone.

April's bird was a Tri-Colored Heron.

Last Updated on Monday, 10 November 2014 02:44

- Check out all of Joe's mystery birds from previous monthsBird ID from Recycle Bin Photos of Joe Piotrowski from Previous Months

Can you identify this? Joe's Mystery Bird

Bird ID from Recycle Bin - Photos By Joe Piotrowski
This feature is only on the website and in the electronic version of The Flyer.

See all birds from previous months in Our Photo Gallery

Click on photo and comment in our photo gallery. What bird do you think this is?


Last Updated on Monday, 10 November 2014 02:41

The Birds of Virginia’s Colonial Historic Triangle

Cover of Bill Williams' book, Birds of Virginia's Historic Colonial Triangle

The Bird Club has published “The Birds of Virginia’s Colonial Historic Triangle.” Editor Bill Williams compiled the data from local birders' records since the 1960's and 1970's. The cover, shown here, sports a stunning photo of our mascot bird, a Red-headed Woodpecker taken by Club member Mike Powell at Greensprings Trail. The book contains over 30 color photos by local nature photographers.

You can obtain one of “Bill’s Books” at just about any Bird Club event. They are also available at Morrison’s Flowers and Gifts at Colony Square Shopping Center on Jamestown Road and at Wild Birds Unlimited at Monticello Marketplace.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 July 2014 20:02

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