About waterbird research

Why It's Important

The Observatory conducts its own surveys and also helps with those of other organizations to document the movements of waterbirds in coastal Virginia. From climate change to development to commercial fishing to pollution to habitat loss, coastal areas are under pressure. 

A recent study in the journal SCIENCE warned that coral reefs are dying, fish stocks are collapsing, seas are acidifying.There is a need to understand how these pressures affect waterbirds -- Bald Eagles, Ospreys, ducks, geese, swans, loons, grebes, cormorants, pelicans, gulls, terns, herons, egrets, plovers and sandpipers -- using Virginia's coastal resources, in order to help prevent problems and promote effective conservation.

Baywatch is a daily survey, begun in 2013, on Chesapeake Bay, in October and November just north of Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore. 

Seawatch trial surveys were begun in winter 2015 to examine ocean areas in Virginia Beach. Regular surveys and management recommendations are also conducted at Craney Island in Portsmouth and at two Hampton locations, the Hampton Roads Bridge-tunnel and Grandview Beach Nature Preserve.


Craney Island Waterbird Surveys

The Army Corps of Engineers operates a river dredge site in Portsmouth that attracts thousands of waterbirds to its impoundments. The four-square mile site is closed to the public, but for many years, waterbird surveys have been conducted there to help the Corps and its contractors avoid sensitive bird nesting areas. In conjunction with the VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory has a survey team there on a weekly basis, year-round. Birds are migrating in every month and the habitat there is critical to their survival. 

The data is sent to eBird and to the Corps and the Observatory helps make management recommendations. Important nesting birds include Least Terns, Black-necked Stilts, Least Bitterns and Common Nighthawks.


wood duck update

By David Youker

Conservation is not just another buzz word.  It provides tangible results.  Many of you may remember the article written last year about our Wood Duck nest monitoring efforts at Harwoods Mill reservoir.  This article provides an update to those efforts.

Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory is committed to protecting wildlife through education, field research, and habitat conservation.  This year marked the 6thyear of this project which has seen a steady growth in the numbers of Wood Duck fledged.  The 2017 season was a record year with 148 eggs produced and 103 ducklings fledged.  This past year, nesting started almost a full month earlier than the previous year.  Again all seven boxes were fully utilized, and three boxes had a second clutch.  All nesting activity was complete by the end of June, and the results were 213 eggs produced with 153 ducklings fledged!

Of the 60 eggs that didn’t hatch, over a third was due to one nest being completely abandoned.  This could have been the result of the adult being predated, as the eggs were attended to for much of the incubation period.

We all hope to witness those downy fledglings jumping from the nest as we’ve seen on nature shows, but the reality is that we usually just find the empty egg shells.  This year my timing was right, and I got to witness the ducklings emerging from their eggs. It’s truly an amazing sight to watch them free themselves from their shells.  After capturing a few photos, I quietly departed before the female returned.

Thanks to Newport News Parks and Recreation for supporting this project.  And thanks to the many CVWO members and donors that enable us to conduct these important conservation efforts.

Wood Duck, by Dave Youker

Wood Duck, by Dave Youker


Subscribe to CVWO's monthly newsletter for inspiration in your inbox!