Fifty-two Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) were conducted in Virginia-Washington DC for the 2018-2019 season. Six other counts were conducted in Virginia, but do not meet Audubon–sponsored count requirements so are not included here. The total number of species was 215, which is slightly above the five-year average of 214. The total number of individuals was 869,543, which is below the five-year average for 926,634.
A new count at Sandy River Reservoir was added in 2018. The center of the Sandy River Reservoir count circle is about one-half mile south of the eastern end of Gates-Bass Road. Evan Spears is compiling this count. The 20 participants observed a respectable 76 species for the first year.
There were several compiler changes: Andrew Baldelli took over from Paul Sikes at Back Bay, Mike Hayslett replaced Ed Haverlack at Clifton Forge, Nick Flanders is working with Elisa Flanders on Little Creek, Phil Silas took over for Robert Shipman at Manassas-Bull Run, Bert Harris replaced Sue Gavin for The Plains, and Tom Wieboldt took over for George Barlow at Big Flat Mountain.
No new species were added for the region this year, but there were a few record high counts. A surprising number of somewhat unexpected warblers were found this year; many were new on individual counts but not for the region. Several other species were new for individual counts, which are mentioned below. It was only the third year for the Northumberland-Lancaster count and the second year for the Rappahannock count so there were too many new species reported for these counts to enumerate. Details for individual species follow.
GEESE, SWANS & DUCKS: Only 19,185 Snow Geese were seen which is below the ten-year average of 26,931. The eight Ross’s Geese recorded were seen on two counts (7 Hopewell; 1 Wachapreague). Brant numbers peaked in the 1970s and 1980s when their numbers were sometimes higher than 20,000. Only 2377 Brants were seen in 2018. The number of Cackling Geese is down from last year’s record high of 63 as only 28 were seen this year, 20 of those were on the Hopewell count alone. The 99,747 Canada Geese tallied is down a bit from the last couple of years and below the ten-year average of 103,753; the ten-year averages for Canada Geese have been around 100,000 since the mid-2000s.
A total of 34 Mute Swans were observed on seven counts (3 Chincoteague; 2 Williamsburg; 2 Northumberland-Lancaster; 14 Brooke; 4 The Plains; 6 Chancellorsville; 3 Rockingham), which is thankfully down from the 75 seen last year. The 17 Trumpeter Swans seen on five counts (1 Mathews; 7 Central Loudon; 2 The Plains; 4 Calmes Neck; 3 Rappahannock) are a record high. The previous high count was 6 seen in 2010; Trumpeter Swans first appeared on a CBC in this region in 2005. The 2004 Tundra Swans reported is the lowest since 1486 were seen in 1990.
The 484 Wood Ducks observed are way down from 911 seen last year. The 4150 Gadwalls are the lowest number seen since 3409 were detected in 2010. The only Eurasian Wigeons recorded this year were the three seen on the Chincoteague count. The 1666 American Wigeons logged are above the ten-year average of 1563, but this ten-year average is half what it was in the late 1990s. American Black Duck numbers are the lowest reported in 50 years as only 3179 were seen in 2018. The 11,732 Mallards tallied is down quite a bit from 18,017 spotted in 2017. The ten-year averages for Mallards have been fairly stable at around 16,500 since the mid-1990s; their current ten-year average is 16,332. The 10 Blue-winged Teals recorded are about the same as the 11 seen in 2017. The 1378 Northern Shovelers observed in 2018 and the 1399 seen in 2017 are each less than half the 2911 seen in 2016. Washington DC had a record high count of 118 Northern Shovelers. The 1005 Northern Pintails reported is the lowest since they were completely missed in 2006. The 1327 Green-winged Teals found are up from the 1187 seen in 2017 but below the ten-year average of 2293.
The 2045 Canvasbacks documented are less than half the 4339 seen in 2017. Their current ten-year average is 2623; this has decreased steadily from ten-year averages that were over 10,000 at the beginning of this century. The last time their numbers were over 10,000 was 2007 with 10,118. On a brighter note, The Plains had a record high count of 94 Canvasback. The 157 Redheads logged is less than the 615 seen in 2017; their ten-year averages have remained around 200 to 300 for most of the past twenty years. Only 3439 Ring-necked Ducks were seen region-wide which is the second lowest in the past ten years. The 242 Greater Scaup seen throughout the region are the highest number in ten years; their ten-year average is only 58. The single Greater Scaup seen on the Buchanan count was a new species there. The 12,260 Lesser Scaup observed are less than the 16,279 seen last year, but not far from the ten-year average of 13,687. The lone King Eider was seen on the Back Bay count.
The six Common Eiders tallied are much better than none seen in 2017 and about the ten-year average of five. The lone Harlequin Duck was seen at Little Creek. The 3995 Surf Scoters were down slightly from the 4055 in 2017. The 13 White-winged Scoters observed are well below 51 seen in 2017. The ten-year averages for White-winged Scoters have decreased over the past thirty years from 411 in 1989 to 67 in 2018. The 1058 Black Scoters tallied are above the 825 seen in 2017. The 61 Long-tailed Ducks found are well below the 148 seen in 2017; the lone Long-tailed Duck recorded at Banister River was a new species for that count. The 8374 Buffleheads reported are below 13,029 seen in 2017. The ten-year averages for Bufflehead have been fairly stable around 9000 to 10,000 for the past ten years; their current ten-year average is 10,020.
The 104 Common Goldeneyes tallied are close to the ten-year average of 119. The 2876 Hooded Mergansers observed are less than 5196 seen last year. However, their numbers have climbed over the past 50 years from ten-year averages around 300 in the early 1970s to ten-year averages in the 3000s over the past 20 years; their current ten-year average is 3618. The 1280 Common Mergansers tallied are below the 1762 seen in 2017 but above the ten-year average of 937. The 2898 Red-breasted Mergansers found are the highest number seen since 4129 in 2011 and well above the ten-year average of 1,929. The 9877 Ruddy Ducks reported are below the 12,452 seen in 2017 and below the ten-year average of 12,191.
GAME BIRDS: Northern Bobwhites continue to decline as only 32 were recorded this year on six counts (1 Nassawadox; 8 Williamsburg; 1 Hopewell; 4 Walkerton; 6 Washington’s Birthplace; 12 Gordonsville) and are down from 56 seen in 2017. The four Ruffed Grouse seen on four counts (1 Rockingham; 1 Mount Rogers-White Top; 1 Blackford; 1 Breaks Interstate Park) are a slight improvement over just three documented in 2017. The 1217 Wild Turkeys observed are an improvement over 875 seen in 2017.
LOONS & GREBES: The 7801 Red-throated Loons seen are almost three times the 2812 reported in 2017. The 505 Common Loons seen are close to the ten-year average of 557 for the species; Common Loon was a new species on two counts (1 Glade Springs; 1 Breaks Interstate Park). The 277 Pied-billed Grebes recorded are less than half the 660 seen in 2017 and also less than half the ten-year average of 601. This is the second lowest number of Pied-billed Grebes seen in the past 30 years since 184 were seen in 1990. The 899 Horned Grebes reported are the highest in over five years since 1094 were seen in 2013. The four Red-necked Grebes observed are an improvement over none seen last year. No Western Grebes were seen in 2017, but Back Bay logged one this year.
GANNETS, CORMORANTS & PELICANS: The 1504 Northern Gannets spotted are below not only the 5071 reported in 2017 but also the ten-year average of 2901. The 8981 Double-crested Cormorants are less than the 14,165 seen in 2017 and the ten-year average of 12,948. The single Double-crested Cormorant seen at Breaks Interstate Park was a new species for that count. The six Great Cormorants recorded were seen on the Cape Charles count. The only American White Pelicans reported were the three seen on the Williamsburg count. The 296 Brown Pelicans observed are up from 109 seen in 2017, but still below the ten-year average of 413.
WADING BIRDS: The only American Bitterns were the two seen on the Back Bay count. The 1304 Great Blue Herons recorded are the lowest since 1255 were seen in 2009. The 73 Great Egrets logged are the lowest in over 35 years, since 29 were seen in 1983. The eight Snowy Egrets tallied are about the same as the nine seen in 2017. The only Little Blue Heron was seen on the Back Bay count. The 20 Tricolored Herons reported are less than half the 51 seen in 2017. The 19 Black-crowned Night-Herons seen are close to the ten-year average of 20. The 392 White Ibises seen on two counts (11 Cape Charles; 381 Back Bay) are up from 80 seen in 2017.
VULTURES & HAWKS: The 6115 Black Vultures found are above the 5468 seen in 2017. Their numbers have been steadily increasing over the past twenty years. In 1999 the ten-year average for Black Vulture was 2261; today the ten-year average has more than doubled to 4734. Three counts had a record number of Black Vultures (89 Blackford; 75 Chatham; 13 Mount Rogers-White Top) and the two Black Vultures in Wise County were a new species there. The 8210 Turkey Vultures seen are up from 6933 recorded in 2017 and above the ten-year average of 7294. Clifton Forge had a record high of 131 Turkey Vultures.
The 14 Ospreys reported are close to the ten-year average of 16. The Osprey seen at Brooke was a new species for the count. The 10 Golden Eagles tallied are nearly equal to the ten-year average of 11. The 215 Northern Harriers seen are below the ten-year average of 256; although three counts had record high numbers of harriers (22 The Plains; 7 Gordonsville; 2 Fincastle). In 2009, 230 Sharp-shinned Hawks were seen but their numbers have dropped nearly every year since to 133 seen this year. The 214 Cooper’s Hawks logged are close to the ten-year average of 217. Warren had a record high of seven Cooper’s Hawks. The 1365 Bald Eagles reported are down from 1443 seen in 2017, but above the ten-year average of 1181. Five counts had record high numbers for Bald Eagles (18 Charlottesville; 2 Chatham; 39 Calmes Neck; 93 Shenandoah NP-Luray; 2 Mount Rogers-White Top). The 712 Red-shouldered Hawks seen are down from 821 in 2017, but slightly above the ten-year average of 693. Three counts had record high numbers of Red-shouldered Hawks this year (13 Warren; 9 Fincastle; 2 Mount Rogers-White Top). The 1089 Red-tailed Hawks spotted are about the same as the 1088 seen in 2017 but below the ten-year average of 1233. The only Rough-legged Hawk was seen on the Waynesboro count.
RAILS, COOTS & CRANES: All of the rail and coot numbers seem to be declining. The 10 King Rails seen are below the ten-year average of 15. The 34 Clapper Rails recorded are below the 59 seen in 2017 and also considerably less than the ten-year average of 94. The 17 Virginia Rails observed are the same number seen in 2017 but below the ten-year average of 25. Only two Soras were seen this year on two counts (1 Little Creek; 1 Back Bay). The 316 American Coots found are less than a tenth of the 3801 seen in 2017 and less than a twentieth of the ten-year average of 6671. The only Sandhill Crane this year was one seen at Wachapreague.
SHOREBIRDS: The only American Avocets seen were the 112 at Nansemond River. This is an all-time high count for American Avocets for the region. The 440 American Oystercatchers reported are less than half of the 1027 seen in 2017 and below the ten-year average of 701. The 930 Black-bellied Plovers tallied are somewhat below the 1027 seen in 2017 and also below the ten-year average of 1326. The six Semipalmated Plovers seen on two counts (2 Nassawadox; 4 Cape Charles) are significantly less than the 51 seen in 2017 and also below the ten-year average of 27. The 322 Killdeers seen are less than a sixth of the 1951 seen in 2017 and well below the ten-year average of 1411; the last time the number of Killdeer seen fell below 1000 was when 860 were seen in 2003. Despite the low number of Killdeers seen in the state, a record high count of 10 was recorded in Chatham. The only Spotted Sandpiper was seen count week on the Mathews count.
The 216 Greater Yellowlegs observed are less than half the 440 seen in 2017 and below the ten-year average of 364. The 1422 Willets detected are up from the 534 tallied in 2017 and also above the ten-year average of 825. The 42 Lesser Yellowlegs found are less than the 58 seen last year, but slightly above the ten-year average of 38. The 117 Marbled Godwits spotted are nearly double the 59 seen in 2017 but still below the ten-year average of 204. The 243 Ruddy Turnstones spotted are up from the 156 seen in 2017 and also above the ten-year average of 157. The 18 Red Knots that were seen on two counts (1 Wachapreague; 17 Cape Charles) are less than half the 42 seen in 2017 and below the ten-year average of 31. The 1109 Sanderlings logged are up from 815 seen in 2017. The 13,782 Dunlins observed are well below the 19,576 seen last year and also below the ten-year average of 18,152.
Only five Purple Sandpipers were spotted on two counts (4 Cape Charles; 1 Nansemond River); their numbers haven’t been this low since four were seen in 1992. The 47 Least Sandpipers recorded are more than double the 20 seen last year. The 668 Western Sandpipers seen are the highest since 1182 were found in 2013. Short-billed Dowitcher numbers have declined since a high this decade of 397 in 2012; this year only 150 Short-billed Dowitchers were reported. The 83 Wilson’s Snipe tallied are the lowest number seen in over 50 years since 78 were spotted in 1964. This is despite a record high count of six Wilson’s Snipe seen at Mount Rogers-White Top. The 121 American Woodcocks observed are well below the ten-year average of 222; although a record high of two American Woodcocks were seen on The Plains count.
ALCIDS & GULLS: The only Parasitic Jaegers were three recorded at Back Bay. The 103 Razorbills seen on two counts (1 Cape Charles; 102 Back Bay) was a record high; the previous high count was 37 seen in 2012. The only Black-legged Kittiwake was spotted at Back Bay. The 2316 Bonaparte’s Gulls seen are above the ten-year average of 1984. The only Black-headed Gull was seen at Hopewell, which was also a new species for that count. The 5414 Laughing Gulls seen are nearly double the ten-year average of 2828. The 71,293 Ring-billed Gulls recorded are the highest since 92,423 were seen in 2008. This includes a record high count of 6481 Ring-billed Gulls at Washington’s Birthplace. But Herring Gull numbers are declining, the 7913 Herring Gulls are the second lowest seen in 60 years. Ten-year averages for Herring Gull have dropped by over half from 23,811 for the ten-year period ending in 2008 to 9890 for the ten-year period ending in 2018. A lone Iceland Gull was reported on the Nokesville CBC. The 248 Lesser Black-backed Gulls observed are up after only 79 were seen in 2017. The only Glaucous Gull was on the Nokesville CBC and was a new species for that count. The 1492 Great Black-backed Gulls seen are the second lowest number recorded in 50 years; the ten-year average for Great Black-backed Gulls has declined by over half in the past 20 years when it was 4913 in 1999 to only 2021 in 2018.
TERNS & SKIMMERS: The 1589 Forster’s Terns logged are the highest since 2147 were seen in 2001 and more than double the ten-year average of 622. The four Black Skimmers were seen on two counts (3 Little Creek; 1 Back Bay); this is up from none seen in 2017.
PIGEONS & DOVES: The 12,312 Rock Pigeons are the highest seen since 12,487 were documented in 2011. The first Eurasian Collared-Dove appeared on a regional CBC in Cape Charles in 2003; 44 were recorded in 2018 on four counts (2 Cape Charles; 16 Rockingham County; 22 Blacksburg; 4 Glade Spring). The 15,817 Mourning Doves seen are the highest since 15,877 were noted in 2012.
OWLS: The 24 Barn Owls are the most seen since 28 were reported in 1994. Barn Owl was a new species for two counts (1 Lake Anna; 1 Tazewell). The 133 Eastern Screech-Owls seen are the second lowest documented in 45 years, the lowest for that period was 100 logged in 2009. The 113 Great Horned Owls recorded are down from 239 in 2017 but better than only 103 seen in 2016. The ten-year averages for Great Horned Owls have decreased somewhat over the past ten years from 174 in 2009 to 159 in 2018. Do you think the number of Great Horned Owls is declining or is this just due to fewer being detected? The 91 Barred Owls found are close to the ten-year average of 93. The only Long-eared Owl was seen at Northern Shenandoah Valley. The eight Short-eared Owls observed on five counts (1 Washington’s Birthplace; 2 The Plains; 2 Gordonsville, 1 Calms Neck; 2 Augusta County) are down from 27 seen in 2017.
HUMMINGBIRD & KINGFISHER: The only Ruby-throated Hummingbird was seen on the Cape Charles count. The 613 Belted Kingfishers observed are somewhat below the ten-year average of 635.
WOODPECKERS: The 435 Red-headed Woodpeckers reported are up from 303 seen in 2017. The three Red-headed Woodpeckers seen in Chatham is a record high count there. The 3978 Red-bellied Woodpeckers recorded are above the ten-year average of 3650. Two counts had record high numbers of Red-bellied Woodpeckers (62 Gordonsville; 78 Washington’s Birthplace). The 881 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers logged are down from 1327 in 2017 but close to the twenty-year average of 892. The 2234 Downy Woodpeckers seen are the second lowest in 20 years. The 469 Hairy Woodpeckers seen are just under the ten-year average of 491. It is no surprise that the only Red-cockaded Woodpeckers tallied were the two at Dismal Swamp. Biologists continue to monitor this new colony of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers transplanted here over the past five years or so in an effort to establish a second breeding colony in the region. The 2965 Northern Flickers seen are slightly higher than the ten-year average of 2771. The 975 Pileated Woodpeckers observed are close to the ten-year average of 1040; Pileated Woodpeckers numbers were up in Chatham where a record high count of six were seen.
FALCONS: The 507 American Kestrels recorded are the highest number seen since 573 were found in 2012. The 46 Merlins seen are above the ten-year average of 32. The three Merlins seen at Washington’s Birthplace are a new high count there. The 24 Peregrine Falcons logged are the second lowest in 20 years; the lowest for this period is 12 seen in 2009. Shenandoah N.P.-Luray had a record high count with two Peregrine Falcons.
FLYCATCHERS: The 244 Eastern Phoebes seen are about half the 478 recorded in 2017 and slightly below the ten-year average of 296. The only Ash-throated Flycatcher was seen on the Back Bay count.
SHRIKES & VIREOS: The 10 Loggerhead Shrikes seen are up from only seven seen in 2017. But their numbers continue to decline as evidenced by the ten-year averages; the ten-year average for Loggerhead Shrikes was 115 in 1978, 67 in 1988, 41 in 1998, 15 in 2008 and now 11 in 2018. A single Northern Shrike was seen for the third year in a row at Manassas-Bull Run. The three White-eyed Vireos reported on three counts (1 Back Bay; 1 Dismal Swamp; 1 Hopewell) were better than in 2017 when none were observed. The 20 Blue-headed Vireos recorded are the second highest number ever seen; the record high count is 30 in 1992.
JAYS & CROWS: The 11,935 Blue Jays are up significantly from 7595 in 2017 and well above the ten-year average of 8919. Two counts had record highs for Blue Jay (74 Chatham; 136 Washington’s Birthplace). The 16,089 American Crows logged are about half of the 30,104 seen in 2017. The 4258 Fish Crows tallied are down from the 4991 seen in 2017. The 329 Common Ravens seen are about the ten-year average of 326. Contributing to that are the four Common Ravens that were a record high count at Gordonsville plus two Common Raven were a new species on the Walkerton count.
LARKS & SWALLOWS: The 568 Horned Larks seen are the second lowest in 20 years. The 143 Tree Swallows reported are less than the 1099 seen in 2017 but Tree Swallow numbers fluctuate from year-to-year as evidenced by 344 seen in 2016 and 4686 seen in 2015.
CHICKADEES & TITMOUSE: The 5271 Carolina Chickadees tallied are below the 6739 seen in 2017. The 22 Black-capped Chickadees recorded are less than half the 50 seen in 2017. The 3828 Tufted Titmice spotted are down from 5332 seen in 2017; this is the lowest number observed in over thirty years, since 3780 were seen in 1985.
NUTHATCHES & CREEPER: The 627 Red-breasted Nuthatches noted are the highest since 694 were seen in 2012. The 2453 White-breasted Nuthatches reported are below the ten-year average of 2713. Newport News had a record high count of 32 White-breasted Nuthatches. The 355 Brown-headed Nuthatches observed are up from 286 seen in 2017. A record high count of four Brown-headed Nuthatches were found on the Bristol count. The 483 Brown Creepers detected are the second highest number recorded in 25 years, since 485 were seen in 1995.
WRENS: The 95 House Wrens seen are the highest in just over 20 years, since 112 were recorded in 1998. The 333 Winter Wrens observed are down from 477 seen in 2017 but their numbers have been fairly stable over the past 20 years according to their ten-year averages that range from about 350 to 390; the current ten-year average is 370. The 12 Sedge Wrens found are up one from 11 seen in 2017. But their numbers are declining; their ten-year average is a third of what it was 30 years ago (the ten-year average in 1998 was 47, in 2008 it was 30, and in 2018 it is 15). The 39 Marsh Wrens reported are up from 22 in 2017 and much better than the four seen at the beginning of this decade. The 6074 Carolina Wrens tallied are up from numbers in the 4000s and 5000s for the past four years. Calmes Neck saw a record high count of 242 Carolina Wrens this year.
GNATCATCHER & KINGLETS: The six Blue-gray Gnatcatchers seen on three counts (1 Cape Charles; 4 Hopewell; 1 Walkerton) tie the highest number seen in the past 20 years. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was tallied for the first time on the Walkerton count. The 1500 Golden-crowned Kinglets are close to the ten-year average of 1525. The 621 Ruby-crowned Kinglets reported are down from 1250 seen in 2017. The 40 Ruby-crowned Kinglets seen at The Plains is a record high for that count.
THRUSHES: The 5941 Eastern Bluebirds seen are the lowest number of bluebirds tallied in 15 years; this is despite bluebirds being seen on all of the counts in the region. The only Townsend’s Solitaire seen this year is a new species for the Back Bay count. The 641 Hermit Thrushes recorded are about half the 1219 seen in 2017. The 21,592 American Robins observed are the lowest number since 13,599 were reported in 2006.
MOCKINGBIRDS, THRASHERS & STARLINGS: The 253 Gray Catbirds seen are above the ten-year average of 197. The 247 Brown Thrashers tallied are down from 302 recorded in 2017. The 2814 Northern Mockingbirds observed are down from 3195 seen in 2017. The 76,445 European Starlings seen are below the 100,569 reported in 2017. Starling numbers are declining; they peaked at 3,705,040 in 1974. Their ten-year averages were around a million each year from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s, but have been less than 100,000 each year since 2015; in 2018 their ten-year average is 91,375.
PIPITS, WAXWINGS & BUNTINGS: The 121 American Pipits recorded are the lowest number seen in 50 years. Their numbers fluctuate year-to-year but overall have been relatively stable, as the ten-year averages have circled around 1200 since the mid-1980s; the current ten-year average is 1123. The 5070 Cedar Waxwings detected are less than half the 13,037 seen in 2017, but Cedar Waxwing numbers also vary from year-to-year. The 15 Snow Buntings tallied are close to their ten-year average of 19.
WARBLERS: A surprising variety of warbler species were found this year. The eight Black-and-white Warblers observed on six counts (1 Nassawadox; 2 Cape Charles; 1 Little Creek; 1 Nansemond River; 1 Newport News; 2 Hopewell) are a record high. A lone Tennessee Warbler was found during count week in Washington DC. Previously, a Tennessee Warbler was reported on the Hopewell CBC in 2012. The 40 Orange-crowned Warblers seen are down slightly from 45 reported in 2017; this includes the four Orange-crowned Warblers that were a record high for Newport News. The only Nashville Warblers were the two seen on the Chincoteague count. This is the fifth time in the last ten years that Nashville Warblers were recorded (2011, 2013, 2016, 2017, & now 2018) plus they were seen during count week in 2009 and 2012. The 12 Common Yellowthroats reported are close to their ten-year average of 11. The only Cape May Warbler seen was on the Central Loudon count where it was a new species. This is the third time in the past 20 years that a Cape May Warbler was recorded on a regional CBC (2000, 2016, & now 2018). A lone Northern Parula was seen at Cape Charles. This is the first Northern Parula found in the past ten years on a CBC in this region although one was seen during count week in Rockingham County in 2015. The only Blackpoll Warbler seen was at Back Bay and was a new species on that count; a Blackpoll hasn’t been recorded on a Christmas Bird Count in the region since 1972 on the Roanoke count. A lone Black-throated Blue Warbler was a new species for Augusta County. This is only the second Black-throated Blue Warbler sighting in the last 30 years on a regional CBC. The 85 Palm Warblers logged which includes two western Palm Warblers are less than a fourth of the 385 seen in 2017, but that 385 last year was unusually high as it was the most seen in the previous 20 years. The 281 Pine Warblers detected are the second highest number seen in 50 years. The 5216 Yellow-rumped Warblers tallied are the lowest number seen in 50 years and less than half the ten-year average of 11,474. The only Yellow-throated Warbler was seen at Williamsburg. Yellow-throated Warblers have been reported eight times in the last 20 years on CBCs in this region plus a count week sighting one other time.
SPARROWS: The nine Nelson’s Sparrows found on two counts (3 Little Creek; 6 Newport News) are an improvement over just five seen in 2017. The six at Newport News were a record high count. The eight Saltmarsh Sparrows discovered are also an improvement over last year when none were observed. The six Seaside Sparrows seen are better than just four in 2017. Only 33 American Tree Sparrows were seen this year. American Tree Sparrow numbers are declining; the ten-year averages have dropped in the last 20 years from 239 in 1999 to just 54 in 2018. The 2192 Chipping Sparrows logged are a record high count; two counts had local record highs for Chipping Sparrows (2 Calmes Neck; 4 Mount Rogers-White Top). The three Clay-colored Sparrows reported on two counts (2 Hopewell; 1 Fort Belvoir) are below their record high of six seen last year. The 1623 Field Sparrows logged are above the ten-year average of 1576 but their numbers have been declining since the early 1980s when around 4000 were regularly seen. Despite this regional decline, Washington’s Birthplace had a record high count of 114 Field Sparrows. The lone Lark Sparrow seen was in Washington DC. This is the fifth time in the past ten years that a Lark Sparrow has been found on a regional CBC. The 488 Fox Sparrows tallied are up from 367 seen in 2017 and also above the ten-year average of 407.
The 13,462 Dark-eyed Juncos recorded are below the 18,472 seen in 2017 and the lowest number seen since the early 1970s. The 1441 White-crowned Sparrows observed are up from 1215 seen in 2017. The 24,458 White-throated Sparrows spotted are below the 25,405 seen in 2017 but above the ten-year average of 21,372. This includes the 942 White-throated Sparrows logged at Washington’s Birthplace, which was a local record high count. The seven Vesper Sparrows were seen on two counts (6 Cape Charles; 1 Sandy River Reservoir); this number is below the 22 observed in 2017 but exactly equal to the ten-year average. The 851 Savannah Sparrows seen include 21 Ipswich Savannah Sparrows; this number is down from 1166 seen in 2017 and also below the ten-year average of 971. The 10,274 Song Sparrows found are slightly less than the 10,420 seen in 2017 but above the ten-year average of 9015. The 374 Song Sparrows seen at Calmes Neck set a record high count there. The three Lincoln’s Sparrows tallied on two counts (1 Walkerton; 2 Fort Belvoir) are equal to not only the ten-year average but also the twenty-year average. The one seen at Walkerton was a new species for that count. The 1480 Swamp Sparrows observed are slightly below the 1524 seen in 2017 but close to the ten-year average of 1493. The 1161 Eastern Towhees logged are the highest number since 1242 were seen in 2005. Washington’s Birthplace had a record high count of 72 Eastern Towhees.
CARDINALS: The two Western Tanagers were seen on two counts (1 Cape Charles; 1 Little Creek). The last time two Western Tanagers were recorded was 2013 although in 2016 and 2017 count week birds were seen in addition to a Western Tanager that was seen every year from 2011 to 2017 in Williamsburg so if we could included count week birds, two would have been tallied for the last three years. The 11,248 Northern Cardinals observed are slightly higher than the ten-year average of 10,325. The two Painted Buntings seen on two counts (1 Williamsburg; 1 Hopewell) are the same number seen in 2017.
BLACKBIRDS & ORIOLES: The 35,810 Red-winged Blackbirds tallied are the lowest number seen since 34,947 were logged in 2013; this is despite 75 Red-winged Blackbirds in Chatham setting a local record high count. Only 796 Eastern Meadowlarks were reported in 2018. The number of Eastern Meadowlarks is declining; their ten-year averages were over 4000 from the mid-1970s into the mid-1980s, in 2018 the ten-year average for Eastern Meadowlarks is only 1268. The 381 Rusty Blackbirds found are about the same as the 390 seen in 2017. Only 16,038 Common Grackles were seen in 2018. Their numbers are decreasing dramatically. While no one expects to see their ten-year averages in the millions like they were from the late 1950s into the early 1970s, their ten-year averages were still six digits from the mid-1970s through 2013 when the ten-year average was 242,446. In 2014 the ten-year average dropped to 86,955. The ten-year average has continued to drop every year since; in 2018 the ten-year average for Common Grackle is only 44,408. It was a better year for Boat-tailed Grackles as 900 were observed, which is better than the 583 seen in 2017 and above the ten-year average of 654. The 3778 Brown-headed Cowbirds spotted are slightly more than the 3717 tallied in 2017; their numbers have been fairly stable as the ten-year averages have been around 4500 for the past ten years including 4488 in 2018. The 20 Baltimore Orioles seen are below the 22 seen in 2017 but above the ten-year average of 13. Their numbers have been unusually high for the past four years with an average of 20; the last time their numbers were high for a period of years was four years around 1980 when the average number seen was 24.
FINCHES & ALLIES: The 3003 House Finches recorded are the lowest number seen since 2827 in 2013. However, the 354 Purple Finches observed are the highest since 600 were seen in 2010. The 11 Red Crossbills were all seen on Big Flat Mountain plus a sighting during count week in Rockingham County; they hadn’t been detected in the region since three were logged in 2013. The only Common Redpoll sighting was seen on the Mathews CBC; the last time one was seen on a count in the region was 2013 in Cape Charles. The 198 Pine Siskins reported are more than double the 91 seen in 2017. The 5571 American Goldfinches found are the lowest number seen since 4990 in 2011. The six Evening Grosbeaks were tallied on two counts (5 Mathews; 1 Chancellorsville) plus one was seen during count week in Rockingham County; this is the highest number recorded since eight were seen in 2012. Only 3378 House Sparrows were spotted in 2018. House Sparrow numbers are declining. In the 1990s their numbers peaked when the ten-year averages were over 9000 for most of the decade. Since then their ten-year averages have steadily declined and in 2018 their ten-year average is down to about a third of that at 3072.
Filling Teta Kain’s shoes as the new regional editor for the Virginia-Washington DC Christmas Bird Counts has been a difficult task. She masterfully did this job for almost 30 years. Luckily Teta has been very willing and quick to answer my numerous questions this year. I am grateful for the patience of all the local CBC compilers. Plus I am indebted to the three anonymous members of the vetting committee that Teta established who were willing to continue in this role and assisted me with some difficult decisions on rarities submitted this year.