Coastal Virginia, 1/17-19/16

All photos are Marshall Faintich

Walt Childs and I had been planning a trip to the east coast of Virginia for a couple of months. Although it's only a three to four hour drive each way, the only civilized way to be there in the early morning is to spend one or more nights in the local area. Scheduling issues made these three days the only time this winter both of us could go there, and it was a go or no-go situation depending on the weather. For the two weeks prior to the trip, the weather forecast, especially for the 17th and 18th, seemed to change every few hours. We decided on the 16th to make the trip, as the forecast was for early morning, light snow on the 17th, and very cold and windy, but sunny, for the next two days.

I had made a target list of six avian species that I wanted to see, and these species had been seen in the Virginia coastal area off and on for a few weeks. Three of them were potential life birds for me: Harlequin Duck (seen off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Island #1 (CBBT #1)), King Rail (seen at Back Bay NWR), and Lesser Black-backed Gull (seen at lots of locations along the coast), and three species for which I had already seen, but wanted photos (or better photos): Snow Bunting (seen farther north at Grandview Beach), Virginia Rail (seen at Back Bay NWR), and male Common Eider (seen at Rudee Inlet). I had probably already seen a Lesser Black-backed Gull, but wanted to make sure I could see their yellow legs as opposed to the pinkish leges of the more common Great Black-backed Gull.

Virginia Beach area birding sites

CBBT #1; January 17

We left Nellysford at 10:00 a.m., and there was light snow all the way to the coast. The temperature was steady at 34 degrees, and it was still snowing when we reached CBBT #1 almost four hours later. The snow changed to light drizzle a short time after we arrived, but it was very windy, and the wind chill was uncomfortable. I had rain gear on my camera, making it difficult to get good photos. There were lots of adult and immature gulls and a few other species there, and most of the birds were huddled together on the rocks trying to keep out of the wind and stay warm.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls

Herring Gull

Double-crested Cormorant

Ruddy Turnstone

Female Red-breasted Merganser

Male Red-breasted Merganser

Immature male Red-breasted Merganser

Immature male Red-breasted Merganser

Pleasure House Point; January 17

We made a quick stop at Pleasure House Point on our way to the hotel at the southern end of Virginia Beach. We saw a few ducks, sparrows, and cormorants, a Belted Kingfisher, and our first Great Blue Heron and Northern Harrier of this trip.

Great Blue Heron

Northern Harrier

Rudee Inlet; January 17

We drove a few blocks past the hotel for a short stop at Rudee Inlet where we saw more gulls, cormorants, and a Forster's Tern.

Forster's Tern

Click here to continue on day two of the trip

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