"Protecting Wildlife Through Field Research, Education and Habitat Conservation For 25 Years"
For this December eNewsletter, we've included a festive photo of a Northern Cardinal feeding on American Holly berries. Many thanks to Jim Easton for this seasonal photo.
December 2019
A Word from the Prez!

Many, many, many thanks to all who helped us with a great 25th Anniversary year. Look for our 2019 Annual Research Report in early spring with details about all of our projects. There are so many highlights.

Anna Stunkel, our hawk watcher, has just posted a fall wrap-up on the CVWO Blog. Click the link to read her charming and informative summary and see some stunning photos. Megan Murante, our educator/hawkwatch intern, did a great job with regular blog posts, greeting platform visitors, and presenting programs for groups. Megan, Michael Ferrara, and Anna, welcomed more than 1200 visitors to the Hawkwatch platform September to November.

It won't be long before we again begin Prothonotary Warbler and butterfly work; waterbird surveys continue year-round at Craney Island, lead by Team Leader Bill Williams. As you all know, there are significant changes to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, affecting nesting seabirds. See the note below about what you can do to help nesting waterbirds at the tunnel construction area.

Here at year's end I want to publicly thank our all-volunteer CVWO Board for their many hours of work behind the scenes - and often out with the public - advocating for CVWO and our mission. In addition to Board work, most are out in the field many days each to record observations in support of our projects. With much appreciation to these friends and Board members:
  • Dave Youker, Vice President
  • Ann Carpenter, Treasurer
  • Shirley Devan, Secretary
  • Dr. Sheila Scoville
  • Nancy Barnhart
  • Cheryl Jacobson
  • Lisa Reagan
  • Andy Hawkins

Best wishes to you and your family for a joyous and nature-filled holiday and a successful 2020.

Will you consider making an end of year donation to support CVWO? Here's the link where you can donate safely and quickly. Thank you for your continuing support of CVWO.

CVWO President

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Harry Armistead counts ducks on the Chesapeake Bay for the 2018 Cape Charles Christmas Bird Count. Photo by Steve Thornhill.
CVWO Helps "Float the Boat" for the Cape Charles CBC
Again this year CVWO will financially support the Cape Charles Christmas Bird Count on the lower Eastern Shore of Virginia by helping rent "the boat." This count is December 30, 2019 - the same date each year. So much of this count circle contains waters of the lower Chesapeake Bay. A thorough count requires a BOAT! If the weather is even close to agreeable, a team of hearty birders surveys the waters to tally the loons, mergansers, gannets, ducks, shore birds, and geese. GOOD LUCK and cross your fingers for good weather.
"Is the Timing, Pace, and Success of the Monarch Migration Associated With Sun Angle?"
So what is SASN* and what does it have to do with the pace and success of Monarch migrations?

And…what do scientists do with the recovered Monarch tags citizen scientists place on Monarchs each fall?

Now you can read about the research and conclusions from this long term data set published by the journal, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, published December 10, 2019 by seven biologists from the US and Canada who studied tagged Monarchs and their arrival dates at overwintering colony sites in Mexico.

"Using data from the Monarch Watch tagging program, we explore whether the fall monarch migration is associated with the daily maximum vertical angle of the sun above the horizon (Sun Angle at Solar Noon, *SASN) or whether other processes are more likely to explain the pace of the migration."
Michael Ferrara holds a just-tagged Monarch.
This research proves the value of such long-term citizen science/volunteer efforts on behalf of Universities and other non-profit educational research organizations, such as CVWO, who has contributed Monarch tagging data for over a decade.
An Exciting New Collaborative Effort in 2020 for CVWO and Kiptopeke State Park
In September 2019, CVWO President Brian Taber and Monarch Study Coordinator Nancy Barnhart, along with the CVWO seasonal staff (biologist Michael Ferrara, educator Megan Murante, and hawk counter Anna Stunkel) and a representative from Kiptopeke State Park, met with Dr. Rob Mackay, a sound artist from the University of Hull, UK.

Dr. Mackay is leading a project called “Following the Flight of the Monarchs”.  This is an innovative, interdisciplinary, acoustic ecology project which will map the changing soundscapes encountered along the route of migrating Monarchs.

Using art, science, and technology, the project includes the installation of audio stream-boxes to record for live-streaming, ecological changes in five locations from Canada to Mexico. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the issues faced by migrating Monarchs, a species that has faced serious decline.
Dr. Mackay chose Kiptopeke State Park for its location on the Delmarva Peninsula and for CVWO’s long-term Monarch Migration Project there.

Dr. Mackay and the CVWO team discussed locations for the audio stream-box and scouted locations based on observations by the CVWO staff. Installation is scheduled for April 2020.

Dr. Mackay conducted interviews with the CVWO team and will be making a 30 minute radio program for BBC Radio 3 in the spring.

This project will include collaboration with artists and scientists from the UK as well as Richmond-based independent curator and sound artist Dr. Vaughn Garland who will serve as a local contact.

Look for more info about this exciting new research in our spring eNewsletters.
We're including this note below from last month's eNewsletter because we think it's important to maintain pressure on Virginia officials to provide habitat for nesting terns and other waterbirds around the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel as construction continues on a new tube.
Contact State Officials to Urge Construction of Island for Nesting Birds Next to HRBT
CVWO has mailed letters to four state executives encouraging support for the creation of an island adjacent to the new tunnel being built at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel between Hampton and Norfolk.

The birds need your help too.

Read more here from Virginia Public Radio and listen to an interview here with Steve Holmer at the American Bird Conservancy.

Will you write a letter to Virginia officials in favor of building an island for this waterbird colony that will otherwise be lost due to inaction. Urge them to do the "right thing."

Thanks so much!

Here are names and addresses (feel free to copy and paste):

The Honorable Ralph S. Northam
Governor of Virginia
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218

Matthew J. Strickler
Secretary of Natural Resources 
Patrick Henry Building
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Ryan Brown, Executive Director
VA Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
P.O. Box 90778, 
Henrico, VA 23228-0778

Ms. Shannon Valentine, Secretary
Virginia Department of Transportation
1401 E. Broad St.
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Royal Terns on south island of Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel
SAMPLE TEXT FOR LETTER TO STATE OFFICIALS (copy and paste and modify as you wish):

I’m sure you are aware of the urgent situation concerning bird nesting on the South Island of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. With the construction of the new tunnel, as many as 25,000 birds of eight species will be displaced, including the state threatened Gull-billed Tern. The South Island is also the only nesting area in Virginia for Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech has studied this critical situation and proposed that an island be constructed in the Hampton Flats area near the HRBT. Numerous state conservation organizations also support this island.

I strongly support this proposal to build an island for the tern colony that has, for decades, nested on the South Island of the HRBT. Since the HRBT expansion project will radically alter the South Island this winter, it is imperative that a suitable replacement nesting site be built before the tern colony returns from wintering grounds in March.

Luckily, plenty of substrate for creating such an island will be available nearby in January as a result of dredging the Port of Hampton Roads.

Thank you for considering my comments.
Last minute shopping?
Consider this stocking stuffer by Brian Taber - "Riding the Wind - A Birder's Ups and Downs"
Riding the Wind is a book of essays by CVWO President Brian Taber about birds, birding, and conservation, several of which were previously published. Cover art by our hawkwatcher Anna Stunkel and 20 illustrations by award-winning artist Julie Zickefoose.

For a donation of $20.00 per book (plus $5.00 shipping & handling), email Nancy Barnhart and she will mail a copy out to you.

If you live in the Williamsburg area, you can save shipping and handling by visiting Backyard Birder at 1490 Quarterpath Road, or Wild Birds Unlimited, 4625 Casey Blvd, Suite 300.

You can also get a copy from Buteo books .
You can support CVWO just by shopping at AmazonSmile
It's same Amazon you know and love. Start at www.smile.amazon.com. Log in as you always do and then look for Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory in their list of charities. Amazon donates a small portion of your purchases to CVWO! Easy as that! And thanks!
Add CVWO Merchandise to your Holiday Shopping List
Now you can show your support for CVWO with your tote bag, coffee mug, water bottle, or t-shirt! A small portion of each purchase comes back to CVWO to support our efforts.

Click over to CVWO's store on Cafe Press to see what else is available and the cost. No tax but there is a nominal shipping fee.

CVWO Has A New Website!
Visit and Share CVWO's New Website!

You'll find information on raptor, butterfly, songbird and waterbird research as well as beautiful photos and rich stories from the field!

And don't forget to support our nonprofit work with your tax-deductible donation!
CVWO's Blog Is Hopping!
Anna Stunkel. Photo by S Devan

Read Anna Stunkel's final posts on the hawkwatch season on CVWO's blog.