This spring’s Virginia Working Landscapes bird surveys are underway, and this is the fourth year my partner and I have volunteered together to identify and count birds on Kinloch Farm in The Plains, Virginia.
This survey, which is supported by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, promotes conservation of native grasslands and biodiversity. The surveys include plants, pollinators and birds that depend on the grasslands of the Eastern United States. The goal of the study is to encourage the sustainable use of working landscapes through research, education and outreach.
After spending three years at Kinloch’s Hay and Wild fields, Hillary and I transitioned to the Archwood fields, located south of the other two areas. Even though the fields are all on the same farm, we’ve seen many different bird species here after completing our first two surveys.
The abundant red-winged blackbirds have been replaced by field and grasshopper sparrows, and we’ve enjoyed frequent sightings of the common yellow-throat, which we only spied rarely in the previous three years. We’ve also been serenaded by many Eastern towhees, as well as grey catbirds, indigo buntings, goldfinches and bluebirds.
Highlights of our first two surveys were actually stumbled upon: a large black snake, which slithered between our feet as we walked, and a grasshopper sparrow nest I nearly stepped on. Thankfully, the two encounters were on opposite sides of the field, and no eggs were harmed.
I wasn’t quite quick enough to get a photo of the black snake, but the grasshopper sparrow sitting on this nest gave us a wide berth while I quickly snapped a few images after Hillary uncovered it in the grass.
The VWL Biodiversity Report for 2013 was released, and it’s impressive to see the data all come together. This is such a gratifying project, and I’m so glad to be a part of it and to help these dedicated scientists on their mission to preserve our natural environment and the plants and creatures that call it home.