Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Parasitic Jaeger in PA! ~ September 20, 2017

I wasn't feeling well last weekend, so when news spread of a Parasitic Jaeger at Prince Gallitzin State Park, I was excited but bummed out because I wasn't able to try and go for it. This was the only jaeger that I hadn't seen in the state and going for it would require an 8-hour, 508 mile round trip. I was mostly recovered by Tuesday and was surprised that the bird was still there. Jaegers don't tend to stuck around in one place very long. So, I planned on heading out on Wednesday.

I called Jason Horn and he agreed to ride along. I picked him up at 2:45 AM and we got to the marina as it was starting to get light. We walked out onto the fishing pier at the western edge of the marina and set up our scopes. As the fog burned off and more and more of the lake became visible, there was no sign of the bird. We did see the Common Tern that was also reported from there.

Now after sunrise and with almost all of the lake exposed and still no bird, it was looking a little grim. Then, I looked to the left and there was the bird, coming in fast and close, almost right over us! Jason got some nice shots of it, but I concentrated on studying the bird and, by the time I grabbed my camera, the jaeger was past us. I lost sight of it in the background of trees and it was gone. I was thrilled that I had seen it, but I was a little upset that I had blown a good photo opportunity.

We walked over to the east side of the marina, thinking it might have landed somewhere nearby, but it hadn't. After at least a half hour, Jason spotted it sitting in the middle of the lake far out to the west.

At one point, an immature Bald Eagle flew past us and over towards where the jaeger was.

The jaeger lifted off and started flying around with the eagle making half-hearted attempts to pursue it. The jaeger sharply zigged and zagged causing the eagle to eventually give up and head on.

Since it looked like it was much closer to the Range Road boat launch, we drove the short distance over there and set up again. It would fly around for a while and then drop back down onto the lake. Several other birders joined us and, at one point when it was on the far side of the lake, we lost it again. As happened the first time, Jason spotted the bird as it seemed to appear out of nowhere and was making another close pass. This time I was ready and got some nice photos of it.

It made a large loop of the area and came back for a second, close pass, allowing me to get some shots of the upper side of the bird.

All of my photos of it can be found in my Pennsylvania Notables Album.

Totally satisfied, we left around 10:30 and headed for home. Congrats to John Carter for a nice find! And thanks goes to the bird for sticking around until I could get out there.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Promising Shorebird Habitat in Northampton County ~ September 18, 2017

One of the best shorebird habitats in Northampton County has essentially been erased. The flooded fields by Green Pond and the immediate area had produced an amazing total of 183 bird species over the years, which included 21 species of shorebirds. Some shorebirds and a few other species have not been recorded anywhere else in the county. This "flooded field" area is a natural depression that was periodically filled by an overflow of Green Pond itself after significant rainfall. The farming of the surrounding area kept any vegetation from taking over the area, maintaining an open area that attracted shorebirds, waders, and waterfowl. That all changed when the road surrounding Green Pond was raised, cutting off the majority of the field's water supply, ultimately producing a dried-up site. It is presently reduced to a cornfield.

The good news it that there is some hope for shorebirds looking for a place to stop and feed. There's a relatively new retention pond located by Koch Toyota in Lower Nazareth Township. The basin is located along Newburg Road, just east of Route 33. The site's GPS coordinates are: 40.702776,-75.286337. It presently appears to be one of the most promising areas of shorebird habitat in the county.

Recent unusual finds included a Stilt Sandpiper and a Baird's Sandpiper. I visited the site on Monday and saw the continuing Stilt Sandpiper.

Eleven Pectoral Sandpipers were also present.

Other birds noted included a Green-winged Teal, a Semipalmated Plover, both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Spotted and Least Sandpipers among the numbers of Killdeer. This spot also got noticed the other day by a Peregrine Falcon, which was looking for lunch. Hopefully, this trend will continue at least through the rest of the shorebird migration period.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

White-winged Tern in PA! ~ August 11, 2017

I did a last-minute check of my E-mail before leaving for work on Thursday afternoon and did a double-take when I saw the post about a White-winged Tern found at a lake in Tioga County! I tried to keep from thinking about it at work but couldn't wait to get home to see if it continued to be seen later in the day. I was surprised when there was no mention of its status one way or the other on PABIRDS. I made an after-midnight post to see if I could get any information on it. Thankfully, Ted Nichols replied, letting me know that it had been seen up until dark, so I set my alarm for 3 AM.

I arrived at Lake Nessmuk at around 7:00 and was relieved when I saw a small group of birders watching the bird sitting on a group of pilings just offshore.

After getting some great looks at it through my scope, I started taking photos.

During the two-plus hours I was there, the bird took two short flights out over the lake and back to the pilings.

At around 9:15, I started the 3-1/4 hour drive back home, which entailed a round-trip total of 375 miles. I took a quick look at my uploaded photos and grabbed another hour of sleep before going back into work, this time with a big smile on my face.

Congrats to Rich Hanlon for a fantastic find! If accepted, this bird would represent the first Pennsylvania record and one of not that many for North America!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Roseate Spoonbill in PA! ~ July 15, 2017

I was woke up around 8 AM by a call from Arlene Koch who told me that there was a Roseate Spoonbill at the Conejohela Flats in Lancaster County! I said I was going to eat and then head down there and asked if she wanted to go along. At the last minute, she called back and said she'd be ready by the time I got to her house. We bypassed I-78, which was backed up for some reason, and eventually got onto it in Allentown. When we pulled up to the Blue Rock Road boat launch around 11:30, there was no one there, so we assumed that the bird and all the birders had left. We walked to the top of the launch and I started to train my scope on the Conjohela Flats when Arlene said, "Isn't that it over there?" Sure enough, the bird was feeding along the edge of one of the islands just north of the launch. We managed to get nice looks through the scope and I was able to get some long-distance photos of it.

I called Jason Horn to see where he was and he showed up soon after that. The bird only stayed about 10-15 minutes and then took off a short distance upriver, landing in one of the trees on the island. I was fortunate to get some fairly good flight shots of it when it did.

Needless to say, if accepted, this bird would represent one of only a few records for Pennsylvania!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Plainfield Township Recreation Trail ~ May 14, 2017

I led a walk along the Plainfield Township Recreation Trail today. The rain had pulled out the night before and the morning turned out to be cool with cloudy conditions giving way to intervals of sun and clouds. We headed south from the parking area along Knitters Mill Road, quickly finding Baltimore Oriole, Yellow Warbler, Warbling Vireo, and Common Yellowthroat. We found a nice group of warblers at the first stream crossing. Warblers spotted there included Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, and American Redstart. We also had a probable Tennessee Warbler that never gave us a definitive look. Cedar Waxwing and Scarlet Tanager were also found there.

We eventually tore ourselves away and continued south. We walked all the way down to the second stream crossing, which is just south of Rasleytown Road, and turned around there. Along the way, we heard Ovenbird and saw Black-and-white Warbler and Eastern Bluebird among others.

Just before getting back to the first stream crossing, a Black-billed Cuckoo was spotted right next to the trail, giving everyone a really nice look.

At the same spot, a Wilson's Warbler was spotted, which everyone got fairly good looks at.

Back at the first stream crossing, a Bay-breasted Warbler was found. A Louisiana Waterthrush was briefly seen downstream from the bridge. It was definitely my best birding day so far this spring.

The trip yielded 61 species, which included 15 species of warblers.

Plainfield Township Recreation Trail Trip List

1) Canada Goose
2) Mallard
3) Great Blue Heron (flyover)
4) Turkey Vulture
5) Black Vulture
6) Red-tailed Hawk
7) American Kestrel (along Knitters Mill Road)
8) Rock Pigeon
9) Mourning Dove
10) Black-billed Cuckoo (close, cooperative bird)
11) Chimney Swift
12) Red-bellied Woodpecker
13) Northern Flicker
14) Downy Woodpecker
15) Pileated Woodpecker (heard only)
16) Eastern Phoebe
17) Great Crested Flycatcher
18) Blue-headed Vireo (heard only)
19) Red-eyed Vireo
20) Warbling Vireo
21) Blue Jay
22) American Crow
23) Fish Crow
24) Barn Swallow
25) Tufted Titmouse
26) Black-capped Chickadee
27) House Wren
28) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
29) Eastern Bluebird
30) Wood Thrush
31) Veery
32) American Robin
33) Gray Catbird
34) Northern Mockingbird
35) European Starling
36) Cedar Waxwing
37) Northern Parula
38) Chestnut-sided Warbler
39) Magnolia Warbler (several)
40) Yellow-rumped Warbler
41) Black-and-white Warbler
42) Black-throated Blue Warbler
43) Blackburnian Warbler (several)
44) Black-throated Green Warbler
45) Bay-breasted Warbler (female)
46) Yellow Warbler
47) Wilson’s Warbler (male)
48) Ovenbird
49) Louisiana Waterthrush
50) Common Yellowthroat
51) American Redstart
52) Scarlet Tanager (a few)
53) Chipping Sparrow
54) Song Sparrow
55) Northern Cardinal
56) Red-winged Blackbird
57) Common Grackle
58) Brown-headed Cowbird
59) Baltimore Oriole
60) American Goldfinch
61) House Sparrow

Friday, February 17, 2017

Florida Trip ~ February 12, 2017

After constantly reading about a Bananaquit that was being seen in southern Florida, I told Jason Horn I was thinking about going down there to try for it. He was interested in trying for Western Spindalis, which was also being seen down there since he had never seen one in the A.B.A. area. So, I told him I'd check out United Airlines flights since we both had $100.00 vouchers that we got after having to spend seven hours to get from Philadelphia to Scranton on our last trip, a distance that we could have driven in less than three! Surprisingly, I found round-trip flights to Fort Lauderdale for under $105.00 and decided to 'pull the trigger', costing each of us a measly total of $4.60!

At 2:00 AM on Sunday, I picked up Jason at his house and we headed for the Philadelphia airport. We boarded our flight to Washington, D.C., switched planes, and flew on to Fort Lauderdale. We got our rental car and drove to Richardson Historic Park and Nature Preserve, where the Bananaquit was hanging out. There, we met Ken Rieker and his wife, who drove over from the west coast. We spent the remainder of the afternoon there looking for it at the two places it visited the most, but it never showed. The area next to Building 'K' held a couple Spot-breasted Orioles.

A Western Tanager, a pretty good bird for Florida, also made an appearance there.

Jason spotted a dark morph Short-tailed Hawk soaring overhead.

Several Painted Buntings were in the brush inside the park.

Other notable birds seen there included White Ibis, Cooper's Hawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, several Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, White-eyed Vireo, and warblers that included Palm, Prairie, Yellow-rumped, Common Yellowthroat, and Northern Parula.

We spent the night at the Galt Villas Inn in Fort Lauderdale.

Florida Trip ~ February 13, 2017

We spent the morning back at Richardson Historic Park and Nature Preserve. At about 7:50 AM, Jason spotted the Bananaquit just above the fence behind the coral bean that the bird had been visiting weeks before. He finally got me on it and I managed to get to see the bold white eyebrow, downcurved bill, and yellow patch on the belly during the roughly half-minute that it was in view. It was so quick a look that I never had a chance to get a photo of the bird before it moved left out of sight behind some trees and brush.

We moved to behind Building 'K' since that was the direction that the bird was heading but never refound it. While there, a flock of Blue-crowned Parakeets flew in and fed in the surrounding trees.

A few Red-crowned Parrots joined them.

Back inside the park, I was only able to get a poor photo of the Hooded Warbler that set up a winter shop near the boardwalk.

New birds not seen the afternoon before included Blue-headed Vireo and warblers that included Orange-crowned, Yellow-throated, and Black-throated Blue.

We left the park, got something to eat, and drove south to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne to look for Jason's Western Spindalis, which had recently been seen just south of the park office. A Great Crested Flycatcher was perched along the trail.

Later, I got a distant photo of one of the two White-crowned Pigeons feeding on a fig tree.

Additional birds noted there were Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, a light morph Short-tailed Hawk, Laughing, Herring, and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Royal Tern, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, Northern Cardinal, Painted Bunting, and warblers that included Palm, Prairie, Yellow-rumped, Cape May, Orange-crowned, Black-and-white, Northern Parula, and Common Yellowthroat. Unfortunately, the Western Spindalis wasn't on the list.

Just before sunset, we also tried unsuccessfully for a Kirtland's Warbler that had been found near the No Name Harbor area of the park a couple days before. We left the park at dusk and headed back to the mainland.

The night was spent at the Wishes Motel in Miami, which turned out to be one of the worst motels I've ever stayed in. The photos showed a pool in front of the rooms, but it was filled in and covered with stone. It was a good thing we weren't planning on using it. Once in the room, the fan squeaked like the parakeets we had seen that day, the toilet made a weird noise when you flushed it, the tub was nasty-looking, and a little friend that Jason called the "starter roach" greeted me on the cracked sink. There were no wash rags---only the two towels that the "starter roach" tried to hide under before Jason sent him to 'roach heaven'. I told him that everyone that goes there probably 'wishes' they'd never stayed at the 'Wishes' Motel. No wonder it was a steal at just over $100.00 for the night!