The second Whip Walk of the year was at Betz Tiger Point on Monday, March 16th. Marie and I arrived a little early (around 6:30PM) to listen for things like Northern Bobwhite or Owls. We birded a little bit around Pumpkin Hill Road and found our way to the short fishing pier at Betz, where around 7 or 7:30PM the rails really started making some racket. We heard three distinct groups calling, the middle of which was comprised mostly of Virginia Rail – a species that is very rarely reported in the County, but seems to be fairly reliable in this part of the marsh. We didn’t manage any Whip-poor-wills that evening, but the Chuck-will’s-widows were vocalizing quite nicely after sunset.
The third Whip Walk was much more productive the following night, where temperatures were in the mid to low 80’s in the evening. Marie and I were joined by Dave and Carly at Cedar Point Preserve, where we walked down the trail past the hammock loop to the clearing where the pine forest starts. Dave mentioned this was his sweet spot for the nightjars last year, and they made him look good again this year. Despite an end-of-days type of infestation of gnats and no-see-ums, we had an enjoyable time listening to at least 6 Eastern Whip-poor-wills call between 7:52-7:59PM, in addition to one Great Horned Owl and two Barred Owls. Oddly, no Chucks added their voice to the concert.
Last night (March 18th), I birded Sheffield Park for nightjars and tallied just a single Chuck. It was cooler than the previous night, with temps around 67 and a pretty stiff breeze under cloudy skies. I started by walking around the back side of the large pond in hopes of finding an Ovenbird or Louisiana Waterthrush in the swampy wet bottom lands, but managed just a few Hermit Thrushes and Northern Cardinals. There was a lot of ambient noise between the basketball court, winds, metal clanging from somewhere, and barking dogs (there’s an informal kennel backing up to the property). The catbirds and geese passing over added to the din around dusk, so if any Whips were singing, I certainly couldn’t hear them.