22 de mayo de 2020

Birding at Churchville Nature Center

On Friday, May 22nd, 2020, I spent my last day of field ornithology birding at the Churchville Nature Center in Churchville, PA. I arrived at 6:40 am to overcast skies and temperatures around 50 degrees. I started off by taking my usual route through the park because I knew it would off the greatest variety of habitats. I walked past a scrubby field with a stand of Eastern White Pines behind it. Then I passed an open farm field with thicket rows of trees. Next I made it up to the reservior before I headed into deciduous forest. It felt very quiet this morning compared to the first half of the week, but I was very excited to see a Great Horned Owl being chased around by a group of Blue Jays. I was also happy to see and hear a Brown Thrasher perched above the trail. After exploring one half of the reservior I headed back towards the nature center to see what species I might find on the other side. As I scanned the edge of the reservior, a young Cooper's Hawk flew into my field of view! I continued to walk the trails until 11:45 am. Overall, it seems like spring migration might be starting to slow down in southeastern Pennsylvania, but it is always still great to get outside and enjoy some ornitherapy!

Anotado en mayo 22, viernes 21:34 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 58 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

21 de mayo de 2020

Birding at Peace Valley Park

On Thursday, May 21st, 2020, I arrived at Peace Valley Park in Doylestown, PA at 6:57 am. It was a sunny, cool morning with temperatures around 45 degrees. It quickly warmed up and by the time I left at 11:51 am, it was about 65 degrees. Peace Valley Park offers a great variety of habitats. I started off by heading down to the lake where I saw Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, and Greater Yellowlegs. I also saw a mink crawling through crevices in a rock pile by the lake! From there I headed into deeper woods on a trail that followed a stream which let out into the lake. It seemed quiet compared to the past few days, but I still managed to get a few good birds, including nice looks at a beautiful male Canada Warbler singing in a scrubby, open area within the forest. Then I went back to another section of the lake to try to pick up a few more species. I was actually surprised at how empty the lake was. Usually there are large groups of Double-crested Cormorants on the water, but I didn't see anything today. Nevertheless I enjoyed the nice morning and still managed to find more species than I expected.

Anotado en mayo 21, jueves 21:58 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 61 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

20 de mayo de 2020

Birding the Forests of Baldpate Mountain

On Wednesday, May 20th, 2020, I headed to Baldpate Mountain near Lambertville, NJ early in the morning to see what forest species I could track down. I arrived at 6:50 am and was immediately amazed by the orchestra of warblers that I arrived to. It was a cool, overcast morning with temperatures around 45 degrees. I continued to walk around the preserve until 12:05 pm. Baldpate Mountain is my favorite local spot to go to during migration and it definitely didn't disappoint today! I had one of my best mornings for warblers ever, managing to track down 18 species. I got out of my car at the bottom of the road up the mountain near a small water source surrounded with deciduous forest and a few open areas where trees had fallen down. One of the first birds I saw was a beautiful male Canada Warbler singing away. I was also very excited to hear the songs of Tennessee Warblers all around me. I rarely ever get to see Tennessee Warblers but I managed to get great views of multiple individuals this morning. Soon after came the star of the morning, a beautiful Kentucky Warbler that gave me extended views as he sat on an open branch in the middle of a small clearing in the forest with very dense understory growth. Originally, I discounted this birds song as a somewhat odd Carolina Wren because they are so difficult to find in this area. So when he hopped up onto that branch I was thrilled and it was a good lesson to always investigate if something doesn't sound quite right and to not discount the rare species. After finding a few of the harder warblers to find in this area, I was determined to turn this into a "big warbler day" and try to find as many warblers as possible. I decided to walk the rest of the road up to the top of the mountain and found a handful of other warbler species before I made it to the meadow at the top of the mountain. Here I added a few more species like Blue-winged Warbler and Yellow Warbler. Then I headed back into the forest to wrap up my morning. Since I knew of a very close spot that reliably has Prairie Warblers I drove slowly past it on the way home and managed to hear one sing. It was a great way to end such a productive morning!

Anotado en mayo 20, miércoles 21:41 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 54 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

19 de mayo de 2020

Grassland Birding at The Pole Farm

On Tuesday, May 19th, 2020, I arrived at the Pole Farm within the Mercer Meadows near Princeton, NJ at 6:43 am. It was a nice partly sunny morning with temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s. Since the mission of the day was grassland birds, I was happy to hear an Eastern Meadowlark as soon as I stepped out of my car! I continued to walk the trails until 12:18 pm and managed to find 56 species! I began by walking on a path straight through a large field and was surprised by a Ring-necked Pheasant crossing the path in front of me. While this area was quite productive, it was part of a prescribed burn at some point after January of 2020, and I'm wondering if that could be the reason as to why I didn't see Grasshopper Sparrows in the spot that I usually get them. However, the burn definitely didn't seem to affect the Field Sparrows negatively, as they were in large numbers through these fields. Eventually this trail led into a patch of deciduous forest with a few big groves of Eastern Red Cedars. Here I picked up more woodland songirds. I then took another trail which followed the perimeter of the meadows and exposed me to more grassland, woodland, and a few scrub patches where I heard Blue-winged Warbler and saw multiple Indigo Buntings. Unfortunately there was a lot of construction going on which made hearing some birds difficult, but I was glad to see that they were only working on trail maintainance and not developing a part of the grassland. Additionally, the wind picked up greatly in the second half of the morning which I suspect kept many birds down low and hidden in the grasses rather than perched up where I could see them.

Anotado en mayo 19, martes 20:21 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 56 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

18 de mayo de 2020

Looking for Water Birds at John Heinz NWR

On May 18, 2020, I went to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, PA with the goal of finding some interesting water birds. John Heinz NWR is a huge park with a large lake in the center of it. The edges of this lake are commonly dry and turn into mudflats. Additionally, there are large portions of the edge of the lake that are covered in phragmites and other vegetation. Next to one half of the lake is an extensive marsh which is largely inaccesible. However, there is an elevated trail that follows the perimeter of the lake and has some trees on both sides. The half of the lake that is not adjacent to a marsh is surrounded by forest. I arrived at 7:16 am and walked the trails until 12:04 pm. It was an overcast day with relatively low temperatures for this time of year, in the low 50s. I was immediately disracted by warblers and it took me about an hour just to walk the ~200m to get to the water. The warblers definitely stole the show today as I got good views of every species I saw. I was especially blown away by the number of Blackpoll Warblers that I saw and heard as these birds are usually in low numbers near me. Wilson's Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Bay-breasted Warblers were also pleasant sights! Although I did end up focusing on warblers this morning, I did still see some cool water birds. The mud flats on the edge of the lake offered views of a few species of shorebirds, and in slightly deeper water I was able to see some ducks and wading birds including a family of Wood Ducks.

Anotado en mayo 18, lunes 22:33 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 61 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

01 de mayo de 2020

Migration is Here

On April 25th, I went to Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve in New Hope, Pennsylvania in hopes of seeing some newly arriving migratory species. It was a beautiful day: sunny and calm with temperatures around 65 degrees fahrenheit. I walked a trail through the outskirts of the park from 1:20 pm to 3:15 pm. To my surprise, the numbers of birds seemed to be low, but I still saw some great things! I watched a pair of Turkey Vultures mate up at the top of a rockpile at the peak of Bowman's Hill, and I watched a pair of Tufted Titmice go in and out of a tree cavity with nesting material. Additionally, I saw many Yellow-rumped Warblers in their bueatiful breeding plumage, and I heard my first Ovenbird and Scarlet Tanager of the year. Overall, it was a great days outing and I am excited to get out more as migration ramps up.

Anotado en mayo 01, viernes 22:41 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 16 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

23 de abril de 2020

Parks Have Reopened!

Just recently, the local parks in Bucks County, Pennsylvania were reopened. To take advantage of this, on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, I went to Nockamixon State Park from 3:40 pm to 6:00 pm. Although Nockamixon offers a wide variety of habitats, I decided to hike a trail that is surrounded by hardwood forest. It was a calm, sunny afternoon with temperatures around 52°F. Although I didn’t see as many migrants as I had hoped to, it was still a beautiful day to be outside.
As I neared the top of the small “mountain” that the trail loops around, I watched a male Red-bellied Woodpecker chasing after a female. This male Red-bellied Woodpecker seemed to have a great territory. It was at a spot near the top of the mountain with a good view all around which would help him to spot predators. Additionally, there were many snags in this area. I imagine that food is relatively abundant in this area with so many snags, of which I saw bugs on many of. Most of these snags either hold large holes carved by Pileated Woodpeckers or natural cavities. These would make an ideal home for a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Since this specific male Red-bellied Woodpecker was in such a good spot and had the time and energy to sing and chase around a female, I imagine that his fitness is quite high. This bird is likely very good at finding food, and it seemed like there was no shortage of it in this spot. This allows him to expend a lot of energy on attracting females and defending his territory.
Another species of bird that I got to watch for an extended period of time while out was the American Robin. American Robins have very different nesting requirements than Red-bellied Woodpeckers. Since these birds aren’t cavity nesters like the Red-bellied Woodpecker, they will likely be spending a lot of time and energy building nests. Luckily, there is no shortage of small twigs lying on the ground where I was! They would likely use those along with some mud that could be found directly on the trail after a rain to weave a strong nest. However, I imagine that Robins would prefer to nest closer to the edge of the forest rather than deep within it. An old logging road that runs along the beginning of the hiking trail may make a perfect spot for one to put its nest.
Although the bird activity seemed to be somewhat slow for such a beautiful spring day, it was a great day to get outside, and I am excited for the bulk of migration to be coming very soon!

Anotado en abril 23, jueves 03:38 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 18 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

15 de abril de 2020

More Neighborhood Birding

On Tuesday April 14th, 2020, I walked around the undeveloped area that my neighborhood has to offer in Newtown, Pennsylvania. I was out from 3:35 pm to 5:20 pm. It was an overcast day with temperatures around 52 degrees Fahrenheit. I explored the field, forest edge, forest, and wetland habitat that my neighborhood has to offer. However, my most exciting encounter came from the roof of my neighbors house. A Red-tailed Hawk decided to use that as a perch and was not bothered by my presence at all!

Anotado en abril 15, miércoles 23:46 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 13 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

08 de abril de 2020

Quarantine Birding!

Since most local parks around my home are closed at this time, I decided to spend more time exploring my neighborhood in Newtown, Pennsylvania. From 5:10 pm to 7:23 pm on April 7th, 2020, I walked around my neighborhood, spending most of my time in the woods and open space that it has to offer. It was a warm evening, about 62 °F, sunny, and calm. Fortunately, my neighborhood has a nice variety of habitat including, deciduous forest, forest edge, open fields, and even a small wetland area. I was able to find fifteen species of birds with a good mix of year-round residents and migrants.
One of the most common year-round residents I observed was the American Robin. This time of year, they spend a lot of time in open fields feeding on worms and other invertebrates in the soil. However, in the winter, the soil becomes firm and is regularly covered in snow. To cope with these feeding difficulties, they switch to primarily feeding on fruit, commonly found on ornamental trees in developed areas. Additionally, they often feed in large flocks, sometimes mixed with other species. This allows them to feed more efficiently. Since there are enough resources for them here year-round, most of them save energy by not migrating.
Another common year-round resident I observed was the Blue Jay. Blue Jays have a reputation for being bullies. They change the gradation of their crest to signal to other birds how they’re feeling. This agonistic behavior can be beneficial to their survival when resources are scarce. Additionally, Blue Jays cache food in different places so that they can have a stock during the colder months when food is harder to find.
In addition to the resident birds I saw, I also saw multiple migratory species that just recently arrived. Flying over an open field, I saw my first Tree Swallow of the year. This bird likely made the journey up from Florida. It will likely stay here for the rest of the summer before heading back down south. As the temperatures rise, so do the number of insects. This is a great resource for Tree Swallows and is likely a large reason for their migration. However, once it gets colder again and the insect die, the Tree Swallows must migrate back down south.
I saw five migratory species while I was out, three of which just recently arrived from the south, and two are soon to move north. I have put all of the migratory mileage of those coming from the south into a table below, showing just how far these birds have traveled.
Species Distance Traveled (Miles)
Tree Swallow 850
Red-winged Blackbird 250 *
Chipping Sparrow 430
Total 1530
*Short-distance migrant. Just an estimate of migration distance

Anotado en abril 08, miércoles 23:58 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 15 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

26 de marzo de 2020

Birding at Washington Crossing Park

On March 24th, I spent the evening in Washington Crossing Park along the Delaware River in Pennsylvania. I was there from 4:40 pm to 6:48 pm. It was a beautiful day, sunny, calm, and around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. This park has a great diversity of habitat. I started off in a sparsely wooded area along the Delaware River. Then I moved toward field edge habitat, followed by marshland and lake habitat. I observed 31 species, most notably a Red-headed Woodpecker which was being reported from that location. 

Another interesting bird that I got to see, and one that I love to see no matter how many times I already have, was the Brown Creeper. One of the reasons I love seeing Brown Creepers is because of how cryptic they are. I first heard the bird and had a very difficult time locating it from just that. Its very high-pitched call made me question over and over again which exact direction the sound was coming from. Then, when I finally got a glimpse of the bird, it still did a great job of hiding. Their cryptic coloration is some of the best camouflage I have seen. The various browns on their back make them blend seamlessly into a tree trunk. However, cryptic coloration is not the only plumage type that can provide good camouflage.
I also observed a few Dark-eyed Juncos feeding along the dark, paved roads going through the park. Their countershading plumage is a perfect example of energy efficient camouflage. The entire top half of these birds are a dark slate color which, on certain surfaces, provides great camouflage. However, the belly of these birds is white. This saves energy because they don’t have to make pigments for these feathers. A final plumage type that can provide defense against predators is disruptive coloration.
The Red-headed Woodpecker that I was lucky enough to see that day was a great example of disruptive coloration. This bird can be broken into just a few major blocks of color: a completely red head, a white belly, and a majorly black back with a large white patch in each wing. While this won’t directly camouflage the bird into its surroundings, it breaks up the general outline of a bird, so it may be more difficult for a potential predator to identify as food.
Another species that I was happy to observe was a large group of Yellow-rumped Warblers. While a few individuals will winter over in PA, this group was likely a migratory flock on its journey to breeding grounds. They had started their pre-alternate molt and were singing their full songs rather than their typical call note which can be used to pick them out in the winter. Since the whole migratory process is very taxing on birds, these Yellow-rumped Warblers were constantly foraging and pausing occasionally to sing. Since I was so excited to see warblers (almost) in breeding plumage, I pished for a little bit to see if I could get a closer look. I think most of the individuals were too preoccupied with their feeding to care about my pishing, but a few came down briefly to see what was going on. I imagine that this sound is so enticing for small birds because it somewhat imitates an alarm call. Since many small birds are preyed upon by tactics of surprise, identifying the location of potential predators helps their survival. So, they may come in to see why the noise is being made.

Anotado en marzo 26, jueves 02:03 por phil_stoll phil_stoll | 30 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario