The 122nd Christmas Bird Count in Washington, D.C. and Virginia

Audubon’s special pandemic protocols for conducting CBCs remained in effect for the 2021-2022 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season. The Gordonsville CBC was not conducted this season and results were not submitted for the Clifton Forge CBC.

Fifty-three Audubon CBCs were conducted in Virginia in the 2021-2022 season. The results from three additional counts conducted in Virginia (Chesapeake Bay, Darlington Heights, and Giles County) are not submitted to Audubon for various reasons and thus are not included here. The total number of species tallied on the 2021-2022 counts was 213; the total number of individuals was 854,511.

There were a few compiler changes for the 2021-2022 CBC season: after compiling the count since it began in 2006, Henry Armistead handed over the reins for the Nassawadox CBC to Roberta Kellam; Cynthia Morris is the new compiler for the Dismal Swamp CBC replacing Jen Wright; Mark Sopko assumed compiling duties for the Mathews CBC from Joyce McKelvey; since 2005 Arun Bose has compiled the Hopewell CBC, but turned over those duties this year to Ellison Orcutt; and finally Bridget Bradshaw is the new compiler for The Plains CBC replacing Alison Zak.

NEW SPECIES: A first year Heermann’s Gull had been observed regularly around the Hopewell City Marina since October 2021 and was photographed December 19, 2021 on the Hopewell CBC. This is a new species for Christmas Bird Counts in Virginia.

UNUSUAL SPECIES REPORTED: Greater White-fronted Goose (2 Walkerton & 1 Fort Belvoir); Eurasian Wigeon have been observed every year since 2017 at Chincoteague with three this year plus a CW observation at Nansemond River; Blue-winged Teal (3 Back Bay & CW Hopewell); one Ruffed Grouse at Rockingham County; one Ring-necked Pheasant (introduced species currently extirpated) at Washington’s Birthplace; Red-necked Grebe (2 Little Creek & 1 Nansemond River); one Western Grebe at Back Bay; American White Pelican (114 Williamsburg & 9 Northumberland-Lancaster); one Cattle Egret at Back Bay; Green Heron (1 Brooke & 2 Lynchburg); Golden Eagle (CW Northern Shenandoah Valley, 1 Highland County, 2 Tazewell, & 2 Blackford); one Red-tailed Hawk (abieticola) at Back Bay; King Rail (2 Back Bay & 1 Fort Belvoir); Sora (2 Chincoteague, CW Back Bay, 1 Williamsburg, 1 Hopewell, 1 Walkerton, & 2 Fort Belvoir); for the second year a Sandhill Crane was discovered at Chincoteague; American Avocet (3 Chincoteague & CW Nansemond River); one Spotted Sandpiper at Lynchburg; three Whimbrel at Cape Charles; CW Razorbill at Back Bay; one Black-headed Gull at Hopewell; the previously mentioned Heerman’s Gull at Hopewell; one Iceland Gull at Central Loudon; one Royal Tern at Back Bay; one Snowy Owl at Washington DC; one Northern Saw-whet Owl at Mount Rogers-Whitetop (last time recorded on CBCs in Virginia was 2015 when 1 was reported at Glade Spring & 1 at Calmes Neck); Ruby-throated Hummingbird (1 Newport News & 1 Blacksburg); Rufous Hummingbird (1 Rappahannock & 1 Blacksburg); one Selasphorus hummingbird sp. at Charlottesville; three Red-cockaded Woodpeckers at Dismal Swamp (the most found on a CBC in Virginia since 4 were at Back Bay in 1976); one Ash-throated Flycatcher at Fort Belvoir; one Western Kingbird at Cape Charles; Nashville Warbler (1 Back Bay & 1 Williamsburg); one American Redstart at Fort Belvoir; one Black-throated Blue Warbler at Newport News; one Wilson’s Warbler at Cape Charles; and Lark Sparrow (1 Nansemond River & 1 Mathews).

NEW RECORD HIGH COUNTS FOR THE REGION: 1675 Bald Eagle; 329 Lesser Black-backed Gull; 137 Barred Owl; 4721 Red-bellied Woodpecker; 1647 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; 3710 Downy Woodpecker; 662 Hairy Woodpecker; 1405 Pileated Woodpecker; 546 Eastern Phoebe; 32 Blue-headed Vireo; 122 House Wren; 1446 Hermit Thrush; 12 (+ 1 CW) Black-and-White Warbler; 53 (+ 2 CW) Orange-crowned Warbler; 2474 Chipping Sparrow; and 43 Baltimore Oriole (ties the record set in 2020).

OTHER HIGH NUMBERS (but not record high counts): 10,008 American Robins observed at The Plains contributed to 70,926 in the area (not a record high count as that was 90,828 set in 2017); 306 Gray Catbirds are the most reported since 308 were seen in 1974; 76,953 Common Grackles are the highest number since 106,833 were reported in 2001; 13,541 Brown-headed Cowbirds are the most recorded since 24,393 in 1998; and 42 Red Crossbills (20 Fincastle & 22 Mount Rogers-White Top Mountain) are the most seen since 83 were discovered on eight counts (Cape Charles, Back Bay, Warren, Northern Shenandoah Valley (CW), Shenandoah NP-Luray, Roanoke, Blacksburg, & Nickelsville) in 1977.

LOW COUNT: 325 Canvasbacks are the lowest number sighted in over 60 years since 66 were seen in 1956.

I apologize for the brevity of this report as a family emergency took priority in the Spring of 2022.


Rottenborn, S. C. and Brinkley, E. S. 2007. Virginia Birdlife: An Annotated Checklist, Virginia Society of Ornithology



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