The first rarity roundup I participated in was the Virginia Rarity Roundup in the fall of 2018. Held every year in Northampton County, one of the state’s best for birding, this event emphasizes finding state rarities and building the local birding community. It was great birding — my team found an ash-throated flycatcher! — and lots of fun, and it got me thinking about the ways in which the format of the event could be applied to my home county. Obviously Nelson is not Northampton. There are no — or very few — Western, European, or Caribbean birds in the county each fall. However, I believe Nelson is actually one of the better Central VA Piedmont counties for rare and uncommon but regularly occurring migrants, from species like Connecticut warblers and Philadelphia vireos to northern goshawks and golden eagles. There are several eBird lists from Rockfish Valley trail with multiple rare species. Some of the most mouth watering lists are below:
Rockfish Valley Trail is one of the only places in Nelson that gets regular coverage in migration. Just across the border in Augusta County, State Route 610 also used to get regular coverage, by Edward Brinkley. He reported massive fallouts of migrating songbirds, including some rare species, like golden-winged, blue-winged, and Connecticut warblers, and olive-sided flycatcher. More recently, I’ve had good numbers of birds on foggy days in fall, although nothing yet approaching what he reported. The number and variety of birds that can be observed when an area is thoroughly covered by birders is amazing. Here’s one of Edward Brinkley’s best lists: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S12891616
I wonder how many more rare migrants are out there along the Blue Ridge that we don’t detect? How many more fantastic migrant trap locations like Rockfish Valley Trail and State Route 610 are waiting to be discovered? If birders birded all of Nelson County in one day, how many species and how many individual birds would we find? I think the format of a rarity roundup provides a good way to encourage people to explore and begin to answer these questions.
I’ve divided Nelson County into 18 territories of unequal size and shape. They’re drawn somewhat randomly, but I’ve tried to make the boundaries logical and to make it clear what territories the already well established birding spots lie in. My hope is that I can get as many people or teams as possible to commit to bird a territory as thoroughly as possible for the day of Sunday October 6. The territories are humongous compared to the one’s used for the VA Rarity Roundup in Northampton, and have much more private land, so I recognize that thorough coverage will be impossible. The idea is more to use the territories as a broad organizational tool, so birders can split their effort across the county. Some territories don’t have an eBird hotspot in them. Some may not even have public land, which is OK. There’s a lot of barely traveled backroads in Nelson, many of which could prove to be good birding. How many new eBird hotspots can we add?
If you’re a birder, and interested in helping discover birds and birding hotspots in Nelson County and are available on October 6th, please consider covering a territory! Here’s a link to a map of the territories. Covering any of them would be a huge help, although I’m personally most curious about the territories along the Blue Ridge that don’t get birded, like 12 and 13. I also think the territories along the James River, including the one with James River State Wildlife Management Area, could be interesting and productive. Don’t worry if you don’t get your first choice territory, because I’ll be making a text group so we can alert each other to any rarities we find. Once you know which territory you would like, or if you have any questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.