In brief: Irruptive species, councilor liability, hazing incredulity and more

Clockwise from left: Siskin (Darren Swim). grosbeak (Dave Menke), red-breasted nuthatch (Wolfgang Wander) purple finch (dfaulder) from 
Wikimedia Clockwise from left: Siskin (Darren Swim). grosbeak (Dave Menke), red-breasted nuthatch (Wolfgang Wander) purple finch (dfaulder) from Wikimedia

New birds on the block

A red-breasted nuthatch in central Virginia? You gotta be kidding!

Turns out that an unusually large number of irruptive bird species—or species that normally breed in northern boreal forests and sometimes migrate south when their food supply runs out—are wintering in our neck of the woods this year, according to the Center for Urban Habitats. And you’d be doing yourself a favor by checking them out.

Ezra Staengl, a 15-year-old natural history writer and photographer at the organization who’s been watching closely, says there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see some of the boreal finches, such as purple finches and pine siskins, as well as red-breasted nuthatches.

And if you’d like to encourage a sighting, all three species will come to feeders with black-oil sunflower seeds—although the siskins have more of a taste for nyjer seeds, says Staengl. And the nuthatches can be found in almost any stand of pines.

Staengl has his sights set on spotting an evening grosbeak, which is possible, but would be even rarer because they’re much less common.

The same goes for other irruptive finches such as hoary redpolls, red- and white-winged crossbills, and pine grosbeaks—many of which moved south this winter, but not as far and in fewer numbers than the other species, he says.

The non-native finches will be visible until April, and maybe into May.

“Searching for irruptive finches is a great way to get outdoors and more in touch with the nature around you, as well as a way to learn more about how food fluctuations affect bird distribution,” adds Staengl, who is homeschooled in Nelson County, and has been birding for about six years. “Besides, no one can deny the adorableness of a red-breasted nuthatch or the beauty of an evening grosbeak.”

Quote of the week

“In 2017, 1,028 Virginians died of gun-related causes. That’s more deaths due to gun violence than the 956 Virginians who died due to vehicle accidents.”—Governor Ralph Northam in his State of the Commonwealth address January 9

In brief

Councilors liable

Judge Rick Moore ruled that the city councilors who voted to remove Confederate statues in 2017—Wes Bellamy, Bob Fenwick, Kathy Galvin, Mike Signer, and Kristin Szakos—are not protected by sovereign immunity and are individually liable for damages should the plaintiffs prevail in the lawsuit against the city, which contends that City Council violated state code when it voted to get rid of General Robert E. Lee.

Too studious

A judge rejected UVA’s motion to dismiss a suit filed by Sigma Lambda Upsilon January 8. The Latina sorority alleged its constitutional rights were violated when UVA suspended it for hazing in March 2018 because the student group requires pledges to study 25 hours a week. The suit names the Board of Visitors, including Rector Rusty Conner, and top administrative officials, including VP and Chief Student Affairs Officer Pat Lampkin.

Flamethrower fail

Corey Long, the man who was found guilty of disorderly conduct for pointing a makeshift flamethrower at a white supremacist on August 12, 2017, and who planned to challenge the conviction, has withdrawn his appeal. He’ll spend 10 weekend days in jail.

Corey Long (in red) outside court following his June 8 conviction. Eze Amos

Biggest bullies

A study by UVA’s Dewey Cornell and the University of Missouri finds higher rates of middle school bullying in areas that favored Donald Trump in the 2016 election. In spring 2017, students in pro-Trump regions reported 18 percent more bullying than those in areas Hillary Clinton carried, and 9 percent more teasing because of racial or ethnic background.

Once is enough

Norman Dill staff photo

Albemarle Supervisor Norman Dill, who was elected in 2015, will not seek another term on the board. At the supes’ first meeting of the year, they elected Ned Gallaway chair and Rick Randolph vice-chair.

Shutdown promo

Montpelier is offering free tours from January 14 to February 28 to federal employees and their families out of work because of the government shutdown. Bring your federal employee ID.

Homicide victim

Gerald Francis Jackson, 60, has been charged with second-degree murder in the January 10 slaying of 55-year-old Richard Wayne Edwards, who was found dead in his Cherry Street home.

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