On Saturday, September 24th the Blue Ridge Young Birders Club entered a team in the Kiptopeke Challenge Fundraiser for the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory. The team consisted of club president Baxter Beamer and past president, yours truly Gabriel Mapel. We started in Virginia Beach at 4:00am and birded our way north ending up at Chincoteague in Accomack County where we finished birding at 9:00pm.
The first bird we tallied was a vocal Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at Pleasure House Point soon followed by a calling flyover Swainson’s Thrush. One of our most productive stops of the day was at Kiptopeke State Park pre-dawn where we heard a Chuck-will’s-widow and a flyover Hermit Thrush, which was an all-time new species for the Kiptopeke Challenge!
Once daylight struck we rapidly birded our way north and along the way saw one of my personal favorite birds of the day, a Whimbrel at Willis Wharf. My favorite stop of the day was the beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge where we found a group of shorebirds including highlights of White-rumped Sandpiper, Piping Plover and Red Knot. We finished the day post-dusk listening for night migrants over Chincoteague and heard a Bobolink for our final bird, #131!
In total we won the challenge, seeing more species than any of the other nine teams and had the all time highest score of any youth team in the history of the Kiptopeke Challenge. In my opinion birding doesn’t get better than the Kiptopeke Challenge, because you bird an incredible area in the peak of migration, have a ton of fun AND raise money for a very important organization! Thanks everyone for your support, we had a blast. An additional, special thanks goes out to Allen Larner, former Kiptopeke Challenge winner, for all his advice before the challenge! We would have missed a bunch of birds if not for your really helpful tips, Allen!