Bird club welcomes Blalock

Published 8:31 am Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Margaret H. Watson Bird Club will hold its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, Oct. 6, at 7 p.m. at the Prince Edward Natural Resources and Agriculture Building, next to Lowe’s. The public is invited to hear Jeff Blalock, birder extraordinaire, present a program detailing the birds, mammals and scenery he experienced on a 2013 trip to Alaska. Refreshments will be served at 6:40 p.m.

While Alaska’s rugged climate constrains the number of mammalian species, hundreds of avian species call the state home. Some are familiar to birders in Virginia; others, such as willow ptarmigan, confine their territory to states far north. Large populations of the country’s national symbol, the bald eagle, can be found nesting, roosting and hunting in Alaska. The official bird of the Virginia Society of Ornithology, the common raven, lives there, along with others locally familiar, such as Canada goose and osprey. Indeed, recent winter census records compiled by the MHW Bird Club indicate the rusty blackbird and Lapland longspur, two Alaskan species, have been found in the Darlington Heights area of Prince Edward County.

Blalock is a seasoned birder who has been studying birds since 1979, the year when a flock of evening grosbeaks on a neighbor’s feeder piqued his interest. He dug out his copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Birds, identified the unusual birds, and was hooked. Blalock has been active in the Virginia Society of Ornithology, heading up the 2998 Halifax County Foray as well as working on the first Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas. Also, he was responsible for the revisions of all sites in the Birder’s Guide to Virginia published by the American Birding Association.

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On his Alaska trip, he visited Anchorage, St. Paul Island, Denali, Stewart, Nome and Barrow.