See the Kiptopeke Challenge Species List for 2018 here.

Above is the composite list for the 2018 Kiptopeke Challenge.  Very interesting results this year.  Total species seen by all teams was 156.  Only 12 species were seen by all team, and 36 species seen by only one team.  In comparing with last year, the numbers were 13 and 24, respectively.  A lot more individually seen species this time.

After 24 years it's hard to add new species to the list, but we added two this year.  Gulls Gone Wild found a Clay-colored Sparrow, and Wandering Whimbrels found a Roseate Spoonbill.  That brings our cumulative total for the 24 years to 262.


24-hour - Laughing Falcons with 104

3-hour - Hampton Roads Bird Club with 55

Special Venue - Wandering Whimbrels with 93

Youth - Subadult Shorebirders with 96

The only category still outstanding is the most funds raised.  We'll leave this open for those still wanting to donate, and so that you have a chance to get back with your donors.  After all, this is the main purpose of the KC, and CVWO couldn't accomplish its mission without supporters like you and your donors.

Dave Youker
KC Coordinator

2018 Kiptopeke Challenge

Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory



Gulls Gone Wild

By Shirley Devan

At 7:40 am when we arrived at Kiptopeke State Park we had 21 species – after tallying the Great-black Backed Gulls perched on the light poles on the CBBT and ticking off a few usual suspects at Sunset Beach near the bay. No warbler fallout but we did tally a Gray Catbird and Brown Thrasher – always good to get them early in the day. Our usual go-to spot for Ruddy Turnstones, Island #1 of the CBBT, was closed, and we did not find any turnstones anywhere the rest of the day.

The Gulls supersized their team this year. We had planned to survey the Eastern Shore with six Gulls: Nancy Barnhart, Shirley Devan, Jan Lockwood, Sue Mutell, Joyce Lowry, and Barbara Neis. Unfortunately, Jan came down with “gastric distress” Friday and felt it was important to stay back to regain her strength. We missed Jan and her keen eye and ear. We’ll have her next year.

Meanwhile, we needed a bigger vehicle for six Gulls. Joyce Lowry and her husband Rick volunteered their van for the Gulls and we were able to “go wild” in comfort.

2018 Gulls Gone Wild. Left to right: Nancy Barnhart, Sue Mutell, Barbara Neis, Joyce Lowry, Shirley Devan.

We spent 2.5 hours at Kiptopeke State Park – hovering around the parking lot and Hawkwatch Platform. We came across a flock of Chipping Sparrows feeding and hopping up and down along a fence near the parking lot.

Whoops! One looks different! Turned out to be a Clay-colored Sparrow after we consulted our field guides and bird apps on our phones. Bird #30 for the day. That’s a good start!

On one of the concrete ships off the fishing pier, we found a Peregrine Falcon perched, probably enjoying his most recent Rock Pigeon meal! We trekked the Wood Warbler Trail and Boardwalk hoping for some confusing fall migrants. We needn’t have worried about being confused – very quiet with no warblers, just titmice, goldfinch, White-eyed Vireo, and Acadian Flycatcher – all identified by ear.

Back at the hawkwatch, we ran into Bird Club friend Jason Strickland, not competing in the Challenge this year. The activity around the fall webworms in the cherry tree yielded a Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart and Summer Tanager. A Cooper’s Hawk streamed overhead – our only accipiter of the day. We would have loved to have stayed around the hawkwatch to tick off Broad-winged Hawks, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, and Red-shouldered Hawks. But the Broad-winged Hawks did not show until after 11 and the harriers did not show until after 2. So we headed to the Eastern Shore NWR where Jason told us that Tri-colored Herons had been seen.

The Eurasian-collared Dove, an Eastern Shore specialty, that had been reported around the entrance to the state park was a no show in our comings and goings around the park that day.

The herons were waiting for us at the Pond near the Wise Point Boat Ramp, and we quickly heard the reliable Clapper Rails sound off. We spotted a huge roost of White Ibis near the boat ramp, and friends (not Kiptopeke Challenge competitors) showed us an immature Yellow-crowned Night Heron near the kayak launch.

Our drive north along Seaside Road and quick stop at the end of Magotha Road yielded American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Forester’s Terns, Snowy Egret, and Great Blue Heron. A house on Magotha Road featured a Purple Martin house. Eastern Bluebird – check! Wait...that bluebird was there the first time we drove by. No fair – bluebird decoys.

With 65 species, our next top was that all important Eastern Shore hot spot – THE DUMP, sometimes called the landfill at Oyster. We were hoping for some ducks, but we only found Canada Geese swimming around in the pond. The edges held a Green Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron. Away from the water we saw and heard Marsh Wren, Bobolinks flying over, Indigo Bunting, Yellow Warbler, and Blue Grosbeak. Where were the Mallards?

At the town of Oyster the tide was low and we put our scopes on the oyster beds to search for American Oystercatcher (check!), Willet (check!), and Little Blue Heron (check!). Caspian Terns were loafing out on the oyster beds as well.

We usually have to spend valuable time searching for House Sparrows, but this day we spotted them feeding under a shrub at a stop sign in Oyster! Yea! They don’t deserve more time than that.

Each year we have a nemesis bird – usually a common species that eludes us for the Challenge. This year it was the Brown-headed Cowbird. Ugh! We scanned flocks of black birds hoping to spot one. Only starlings. One year we made a quick U-turn on Route 13 to tick off cowbirds feeding on the lawn at one of the chicken processing plants. Not this year. We never did tally those darn cowbirds.

We made a beeline for Chincoteague stopping at the Queens Sound pull off on the causeway. Only a Boat- tailed Grackle added to our list there. We met a birder from Augusta County who advised us that the water at the Refuge at Chincoteague was VERY high and wading birds were very scarce. No exposed mud flats to attract

the usual godwits, whimbrels, dowitchers, and peeps. Our shoulders sagged at the prospect of missing those birds this year.

At the wildlife refuge, we headed for the sand flats at Tom’s Cove. We were quickly joined by the Laughing Falcons, a Kiptopeke Challenge team with Bob Ake, Nick Flanders, Elisa Flanders, and David Clark (David took the photo of the Gulls). At 4:15 pm at this spot, the light is always TERRIBLE! It’s like this every year for some reason ;)

But it was a great spot because we added Piping Plover to our list (always a good bird on any list) plus Black- bellied Plover, American Golden Plover, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, and Western Sandpiper.

With the light quickly fading and our total at 89 species, we girded ourselves for the mosquitoes of the Woodland Trail in the hope of getting a few warblers and filling in some empty spots. We quickly found a Red- headed Woodpecker and a Downy plus Cattle Egrets hanging out with the ponies in the marsh. A Barred Owl started calling. The mosquitoes were a foretaste of what was to come.

We made a quick tour around the Wildlife Loop looking for ducks. Finally, Mallards and American Black Ducks in the ditches along the road. Whew! Not much else though.

Our next to last stop was Little Island Park in the town of Chincoteague – our last hope for some new warblers for our list. Wood Ducks flew over as well as Glossy Ibis. A Great Horned Owl called in the distance. Finally, Red-winged Blackbirds flying over – which was almost another nemesis bird!

The Red-wing Blackbirds were species #101!

Should we try for the Eastern Screech Owl at the Wildlife Refuge? SURE! It was now dark; we were hungry despite snacking on junk food all day – did we even eat lunch? – and our comfy hotel room was calling.

Back to the Refuge and parked on the two-way traffic road with the lights off and windows open at 7:30. After 15 minutes we all had been chewed by mosquitoes. Sue was hiding under a towel. The rest of us were swatting and scratching. Nancy asked for a blood transfusion! We decided we had given enough blood and we headed to our traditional pizza restaurant to celebrate 101 species.

The Laughing Falcons tallied 104 species and won the 24-hour category. We were pleased that we were only 3 species behind the Falcons. Congratulations to Bob Ake, Elisa Flanders, Nick Flanders, and David Clark.

Of course, the FINAL winner is Coastal VA Wildlife Observatory. All funds from all the teams in the Kiptopeke Challenge go to CVWO to support their efforts to protect wildlife through field research, education and habitat conservation.

Thanks so much for your support, encouragement, and donations.

Shirley Devan, Barbara Neis, Joyce Lowry, Sue Mutell and Nancy Barnhart

“Gulls Gone Wild”