The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia sponsored a Birding by Ear Boot Camp on April 30, 2016. Twelve birders joined leader Joette Borzik, and got a good taste of what the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship has to offer for birds and wildlife. The weather prior to the event had been stormy and rainy. Although light drizzle occurred in the early morning hours, it didn't seem to hinder the birds or birders. 54 different species were found, including 8 warbler species. Interestingly, some very common species were not seen or heard, such as House Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, Northern Flicker, Red-winged Blackbird and Common Grackle. The group did not find an American Robin until mid-afternoon.
The highlights of the day were hearing the "Bee-Buzz" of 3 Blue-winged Warblers, which were quite vocal, but difficult to spot visually. In addition to hearing its lovely song, many of us got nice looks at a Cerulean Warbler male singing high in the tree tops. Surprisingly, the most numerous bird seen and heard was the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Gnatcatchers were found on every trail and road we walked, and they were exceptionally vocal throughout the day. Being in record numbers, the gnatcatchers recently arrived in the area, and had not yet dispersed.
Flora was also appreciated in addition to birds. A native showy orchid in full bloom was enjoyed and well photographed by all. There was also consensus in the group that we would all sleep well that evening.
Submitted by Joette Borzik