Monticello Bird Club History
The Monticello Bird Club held its first meeting on Wednesday, February 19, 1986 at the Stonehenge Club House on Rio Road. About 25 people attended. Co-founders Bill Akers and Leigh Jones Surdukowski served as the first President and Vice-President respectively. Since 2001, the monthly meeting has been held at Ivy Creek Natural Area on Hydraulic Road.
The club was named after Thomas Jefferson’s home on the “little mountain” near the city of Charlottesville.
At the March, 1989 meeting there was a vote for a club Bird, a suggestion from Priscilla Kingston. The Northern Mockingbird received the highest vote (17), with the Carolina Wren coming in second (13), and the Red-bellied Woodpecker third with one vote. It was noted that Thomas Jefferson kept a Mockingbird in a cage at Monticello as a pet.
The first Annual Bird Seed Savings Day took place in October, 1986, at the suggestion of Leigh Jones Surdukowski, who also organized the sale. The annual Bird Seed Sale has been a regular service event and fundraiser for the club ever since.
From its earliest days, the club has been a co-sponsor with Ivy Creek Natural Area of its “First Saturday Bird Walk” program. The two organizations have maintained this popular program for over 25 years now.
Other popular programs have been the “Birding Before Work” morning bird walks over the prime fortnight of the annual spring migration. In addition, the club participates every year in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.
The club has been active in other bird-related activities in the community, including Family Enrichment Day at Albemarle High School, Wintergreen Resort Annual Fall Foliage Weekend, and the installation of a Purple Martin House at the Ivy Creek Natural Area.
The club is affiliated with the Virginia Society of Ornithology (VSO) and sponsored the VSO annual meeting that was held in Charlottesville in May, 1991. More recently, in 2015, the club co-sponsored the VSO annual meeting at Wintergreen. Club members actively support the Monticello Bird Alert website by posting unusual and rare bird sightings.
The club has been instrumental in the creation of the Blue Ridge Young Birders Club (BRYBC) in recent years. In 2015, the club and BRYBC co-sponsored the inaugural annual Bird Conservation Poster Contest for school children.
More and more club members are combining photography with their bird-watching. In 2011, the club created a Facebook page. It now has over 400 members and is an active forum for sharing birding tips and photos.
For more specific information about the history of the Monticello Bird Club and bird study in Albemarle County, see pages 5-9 in our publication, The Birds of Albemarle County and Charlottesville Virginia: An Annotated Checklist, which is found under the “Resources” tab on our website.