Monday, February 25, 2013

Episode 150 (2-25-13): Winter Birds of the Chesapeake Bay

Click to listen to episode (2:30).

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 25, 2013.

This week, we feature a series of mystery sounds.  Have a listen for about 35 seconds, and see if you can guess what kind of animals these six creatures are, and what they have in common.  And here’s a hint: if you think cold, you’re warm!


If you guessed all birds, you’re right!  The sounds, in order, were from the Horned Grebe, Dunlin, American Coot, Hooded Merganser, Tundra Swan, and Snow Goose.  And one characteristic they share is that they are winter residents around Chesapeake Bay area waters.  According to Life in the Chesapeake Bay, by Alice and Robert Lippson, some 22 bird species are commonly found in winter around the Bay but are uncommon or not present at all during summer.  And a similar number of Bay-area bird species are just the opposite—rare in winter but common in warmer months.  So as spring arrives, the first of two yearly feathered comings-and-goings will start to fill the skies over Virginia’s coastal waters.  Thanks to the Lang Elliott and NatureSound Studio for permission to use the grebe, dunlin, coot, and merganser sounds, and to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the swan and Snow Goose sounds.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Here are photos of some of the birds heard in this week’s episode.  Photos were taken from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s “Birds” Web page at, accessed 2/25/13.

American Coot
Hooded Merganser
Tundra Swan

Snow Goose

Acknowledgments: The sounds of Horned Grebe, Dunlin, American Coot, and Hooded Merganser were taken from the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs-Eastern Region CD set, by Lang Elliott with Donald and Lillian Stokes (Time Warner Audio Books, copyright 1997), used with permission of Lang Elliott, whose work is available online at and the “Music of Nature” Web site, (as of 2/25/13).  The sounds of Tundra Swan and Snow Goose were taken from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Sound Clips” Web site (public domain sounds) at, accessed 2/25/13.

Information on birds inhabiting the Chesapeake Bay was taken from Life in the Chesapeake Bay, by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) (see pp. 307-308 for the seasonal occurrence of bird species around the Bay); and from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s “Birds” Web site, noted above (videos of some Bay birds are also available at that site).

More information about Virginia birds is available from the Virginia Society of Ornithology at; and from Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s “Bird Guide” Web site at, and “Birds of North America Online” at (both Cornell sites include photos, distribution maps, recordings of calls, and ecological information on birds throughout the Western Hemisphere; a subscription is required to use the “Birds of North America Online” site).

Recent Virginia Water News
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Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.