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Thursday, February 16, 2017

February in Florida 2017

Yellow-throated Warbler - Green Cay
I was browsing the internet one morning and a super deal materialized before my eyes. Southwest Airlines was advertising a flight to Fort Lauderdale for $68 round trip. So I told Sharon and we pounced on the opportunity to skip the winter weather for a brief period time.  Having done some research ahead of time on eBird, we knew we had to head north to a little place named Richardson Historic Park and Nature Preserve. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale around 10:30AM and immediately drove to the park. This was the location of a Bananaquit that has been hanging around for about 3 weeks. When we arrived we met two women birders who were searching for birds but didn't know about the Bananaquit. We all walked the park, which was quite small and found very little activity.

I had seen recent reports that the bird was also seen near the bordering condos, so Sharon and I headed back to the parking area. As we walked out of the park a gentlemen asked if we were looking for the Bananaquit and he told us it was over near the condos. We promptly hoofed it to the housing development. Upon our approach we observed a multitude of birders spread out along a very thick hedgerow.

We quickly merged with the crowd and picked our spot to start ferreting out the little rascal. We lingered about five minutes and when suddenly I saw a little bird triasping around the inside of the bushes but couldn’t get a decent view. For the next five minutes the birders kept getting little peaks here and there but nothing to confirm that this was our bird. Finally, the bird landed in the open on a large flower and started picking at the stem of the flower. This was our bird. It was a tiny, warbler sized individual and had a bright yellow breast. It also sported a broad white stripe over it eye. 
My photo of Bananaquit (Bad) - Top and slightly left

Bananaquit - Internet photo - what it really looks like
 This was an ABA life bird for me and we found it within an hour of landing in Florida. As I looked around at the other folks who were giving out high fives, I noticed a familiar face. Standing right next to me was Greg Miller. You might remember him from the movie “The Big Year” where his character was played by Jack Black. I introduced myself and we started chatting. I found out that this was a life bird for him. However, unlike Sharon and I who got to see the Bananaquit on our first attempt, this was his tenth try at seeing this bird. Needless to say, he was real pleased.

As we sauntered back to the parking lot, I heard and quickly found my first flock of parakeets. A quick study of the flying flock revealed them to be Mitred Parakeets, a species I have only seen once before in the San Diego area. It was nice to see them again even though they are an introduced species.

After this sighting we headed to lunch and planned the next portion of the day. We would drive south to Key Biscayne, an island just south of Miami. On Key Biscayne was a marina that reportedly held a Common Eider. We spent 20 minutes perusing the marina but dipped on the Eider. This, we would later find out, was a costly 20 minutes. Crandon Park was the next stop on the key and was only three miles away. We stopped here in search of our second lifer today. We were hoping to find the Western Spindalis, a Caribbean tanager that occasionally is seen in Florida.
Brown Pelican at Crandon Marina

Black-crowned Night-Heron waiting for handout

Sharon and I had made two previous attempts to find this bird in past years and failed both times.  So we were hoping the third time would be the charm. We arrived in the parking lot and saw a few birders meandering around the area so we were hoping that the extra eyes would help in our search. We walked over to the group and asked if the bird was still around. The one gentleman birder told me that we just missed it. It was seen about 20 minutes ago. Does that 20 minutes ring a bell? So while we were waiting around I spoke to the gentleman that had seen it as he was packing up to leave and found out that he was from Pennsylvania. The Scranton area to be more precise. His name was David Trentley and we introduced ourselves. We both said that we recognized each other from posting on the internet and eBird. Small world.
Well, we spent the next three and a half hours wondering around the park to no avail. However, we did find Magnificent Frigatebirds, Tricolored Heron, Brown Pelicans, Piping Plovers, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and many warbler species including Black-and-white, Northern Parula, Yellow-rumped and Prairie Warblers. Some other species are also shown below:
Adorable Bunny

Even more adorable Iguana

Egyptian Goose

Yellow-throated Warbler
Palm Warbler
Royal Terns
White Ibis
Indian Peafowl (Peacock)
Crandon Park Beach Area
Sharon staring down an Iguana
Green Iguana

Sandhill Crane

Monday, February 13, 2017

Loggerhead Shrike Eating Lizard

          While Sharon and I were in Florida recently, we spotted this Loggerhead Shrike eating a lizard while we were in search of a Groove-billed Ani. I thought it was kind of cool, so I'm sharing it with you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

An unforgettable New Year's Day Trip for 11 BCDC Members

Sunrise at Port Mahon
          We didn't know it at the time but this was going to be the most awe-inspiring day that we have witnessed on a BCDC New Years trip. Eleven participants elected to spend New Year's Day in the state of Delaware birding the southern portion of the state. We would commence the day at Port Mahon Rd where Vance and Sue Downing along with Emma Chou found a Short-eared Owl for their first bird of the year. Unfortunately the rest of us arrived a little to late to see the owl but did find a lot of Northern Harriers.
           Afterwards we dashed over to Cartanza Rd in search of field birds. We stopped, got out of the car, and immediately found a large flock of birds flitting around the fields. In the group were about 60 Horned Larks and to our astonishment there were also 30 or so Snow Buntings in the group. Some of the birders got to see them in the scope but because of the birds' hyper behavior it was hard to keep track of them as they hid in the gullies.
         Heading south we arrived at Prime Hook refuge. We were entertained by approximately 100,000 Snow Geese, give or take a thousand here or there.
Blue Goose (by Nick Pulcinella)
Just a small portion of a very large and noisy flock of Snow Geese

      Also present were Tundra Swans, Long-tailed Duck, Surf and Black Scoters and a Red-shouldered Hawk. While we were birding at the bay we encountered a man coming out of his house.  His wife was telling me that he was going in the water for his annual New Year's Day swim. But the wife explained that he forgot his swim trunks, so he was going in with his boxer shorts instead. I was hoping at this point that he wouldn't lose the shorts as he dove into the frigid waters. Well, he survived but none of us took any photos. That was probably a good thing.
Tundra Swan (by N Pulcinella)
Red-shouldered Hawk -Immature (by N Pulcinella)
         After meandering through Prime Hook refuge we traveled to Gordon's Pond on the southern edge of Cape Henlopen State Park. In the parking lot we met up with Delaware birder, Rodney Murray, who pointed out the area where an Ash-throated Flycatcher had just been seen. After looking around for three minutes,  Rodney yells out that he has the bird in a little snag. Sure enough there was the flycatcher, a vagrant from the western United States. For the next ten minutes, the flycatcher put on quite a showing, allowing great looks and pictures.
Ash-throated Flycatcher(by N Pulcinella)

Photo by Nick Pulcinella
BCDC group celebrating the Ash-throated Flycatcher

          For many, this was a life bird. We then went to the beach to scan the bay. In the bay,  there was a flock of at least three thousand Snow Geese and overhead small flocks were still coming in from feeding at various inland locations.
Snow Geese with a blue phase Snow Goose trailing 
          While we were still birding at Gordon's pond I received a call that the Crested Caracara was at the ball field not far away. Gathering up the team, we headed directly to the ball field. We were too late as the Caracara had flown the coop.
         So off to Indian River Inlet for more birding. The tide at the inlet was quickly flowing out the inlet producing rips at the end of the jetty. This is usually good for gull activity, as they feed on the food brought up by the rips. However, for some reason, that wasn't true today. For the first time that I can remember there weren't any Bonaparte's Gulls to be found. When the Bonaparte's are feeding in large flocks we can sometimes pick out a Black-headed Gull, Little Gull or even a Kittiwake but that wasn't going to happen today.
           However, we did find some good birds. We added more Dunlin and Sanderlings, plus a Ruddy Turnstone and Purple Sandpiper. There was a nice size flock of Long-tailed Ducks (formerly known as Oldsquaw) and about 8 distant Gannets, plus both species of loons. We located two Forster's Terns which were the only ones seen today and a few Buffleheads. While at Indian River I received another call, this time from Andy Ednie that the Caracara was back at the ball field. 
           Instead of heading directly back we made a stop at Silver Lake for the Canvasbacks that winter there ever year. We were hoping to find a Redhead in the flock of Canvasback but no luck this trip. 
Canvasback (by N Pulcinella)

           Upon arriving back at the ball field, there were a few folks standing around looking through telescopes, so we knew luck was on our side. We all quickly jumped out of our vehicles and walked to where the bird was perching and preening in a tree. We all had great views of the bird and looking through the scope we could even see the pink on the bill, the nice striped tail and the small spotting on the lower neck region. I quickly put out a text message to the Delaware birders and within minutes people started arriving. George Wrangham told me that he counted fifteen cars and 28 birders at the height of the gathering crowd.

Crested Caracara - overall brownish coloration instead of black like an adult bird
Caracara - back view - notice striped tail

Notice crest and pinkish base to bill - young bird.
          After viewing this magnificent creature for over thirty minutes, everything afterwards was anti-climatic. We made one more stop for the day at Broadkill Beach near Prime Hook Refuge and added Shovelers, Am Wigeons, Pintails and Green-winged Teals, plus Red-breasted Mergansers in the bay. We also found a flock of 13 Avocets in winter plumage.
Adult Cooper's Hawk (N Pulcinella)

Avocets (N Pulcinella)
           This was definitely an awe-inspiring day and one that will not be soon forgotten. We found 74 species which was a little below average, but the quality of birds certainly made up for that. We are already looking forward to next year's trip. Happy New Year everyone and have a good year of birding.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Chasing Northern New Jersey Rarities

Rock Wren

          My son Chris and family were visiting over Christmas and their stay was over.  Sharon and I had to drive them to the airport at 5:30 in the morning on Saturday. So we figured since we were up anyway that we would drive to northern Jersey and chase a few rarities that have been hanging around for awhile. 
         Our first stop was near Princeton Junction which was the location of two Barnacle Geese. Since we left the Philly airport around 6AM we arrived in Princeton around 7AM which proved to be too early for the geese to be roaming around in the fields where all the reports were saying they were located. So we drove around not having high hopes and eventually gave up on them and headed further north to a construction site in Somerset County.
          We arrived at the construction site and a few birders were standing around with binoculars and scopes but after asking, no one had found the bird as of that time.  We were looking for a Rock Wren, a western bird only occasionally found in the east. Since everyone was standing around, another birder from New York and I started walking around the building. I spotted some dumpsters and headed in that direction and what do you know but a Rock Wren pops up out of some old wooden pallets.
Cute little guy trying to hide from me
            Once we found it, I ran back to get the other folks while the New Yorker kept an eye on the wren's whereabouts. Fortunately, everyone got to see the bird. While we were standing around watching the wren I asked this local guy about other birds in the area. He happened to be doing the Christmas Count for Somerset County. He told me that about a mile from here there were 7 Sandhill Cranes in a corn field. So we jumped in the car and drove directly there. Sure enough they were right where there were supposed to be.
Seven Sandhill Cranes
          From here we headed 40 miles southeast to a location that was supposed to harbor both Pink-footed Goose and Greater White-fronted Geese. We spent about an hour searching the area but came up blank. It's always hard to find geese because they roam around so much and can be in a field not visible from your car. So we decided to head back and search for the Barnacle Geese again. 
             We searched for half an hour in the small area where they are usually found to no avail. So we started heading home and stopped at McDonald's for a bite to eat. In the meantime I checked the eBird alerts and some woman had relocated three Barnacle Geese on a little pond in a development. So we finished up lunch and drove back up north again for our third attempt. This time luck was with us and we were able to locate our quarry. We couldn't find three but were able to locate one.

          So after chasing four state birds we came away with two. I always say that if you can find a third of the birds you are looking for you are doing good. So we were happy with achieving 50%.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Black-headed Gull at John Heinz Refuge - 12/26/16

Black-headed Gull - 1st winter

          A first winter Black-headed Gull was first reported from John Heinz refuge on Christmas Day. The eBird alerts went out to late in the day for me to get to the refuge before sunset so I was there at first light on Monday Dec 26th. When I got the the boardwalk I was a little frustrated because there were only three Ring-billed Gulls flying around among the Common Mergansers, Northern Shovelers, Pintails, Hooded Mergansers and Buffleheads. So after a half hour or so the gulls started streaming into the area but still only Ring-bills and one Herring Gull showed themselves. 
          Damon Orsetti soon showed up and then came Frank Windfelter. Around 8am I finally spotted the Black-headed Gull circling around behind us and it was putting on a real exciting show giving us great looks at this European vagrant. This was a new Philadelphia County bird for me and apparently only the second record for the county.
          Later that day I headed to the the Philadelphia Naval Yard and was able to find a Black Scoter sleeping among the mixed flock of Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks and Greater Scaup. This was my second new county bird of the day.
Black Scoter and Ruddy Ducks

Some of the 60 Canvasbacks

           So I figured good luck was with me today so Sharon and I drove up to the Wissahickon Valley Park. We arrived just after dark and walked a little ways down the trail to get away from the road noise. We then played a tape of the Eastern Screech-Owl. Sure enough I soon saw one fly in over our heads and land on a bare branch and started calling. This was a bird that I should have had on my Philadelphia County list previously, but never made the attempt to find one. Now that I did it was my third new county bird today. What a great day!
Black-headed Gull in flight - notice black tipped primaries, red legs and bill

And finally a great photo of an Eastern Screech-Owl at night

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Hi all

       I have made a simple analysis of eBird submissions from the past 6 years and you can see it below.

2016 Delaware County eBird Years in Review

***eBird Web Site ( for all kinds of data characterizations and how to join in if you care to do so. Except for the value of time and effort involved, it is all available free of monetary charge; allowing access to: review of data submitted from all over the world, rare bird alerts, feature articles, personal lists from life lists to specific area lists, and a venue for contributing to a data-base of world-wide submissions in a "Think Globally, Act Locally" manner.

***Species reported for each month for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016; year total for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016; and All Time totals for each month and year for all years combined back to earliest entry from 1900:
2011:      J-077, F-071, M-083, A-134, M-140, J-100, J-078, A-119, S-098, O-128, N-089, D-092, Y-211
2012:      J-081, F-080, M-084, A-134, M-135, J-098, J-084, A-102, S-124, O-146, N-084, D-086, Y-216
2013:      J-084, F-079, M-098, A-130, M-147, J-087, J-102, A-109, S-129, O-113, N-087, D-098, Y-214
2014:      J-093, F-089, M-100, A-135, M-155, J-098, J-099, A-112, S-123, O-130, N-097, D-097, Y-220
2015:      J-081, F-081, M-104, A-150, M-152, J-112, J-082, A-120, S-129, O-124, N-098, D-089, Y-223

2016:      J-087, F-087, M-104, A-133, M-153, J-101, J-095, A-102, S-134, O-118, N-090, D-088, Y-213
All Time: J-147, F-139, M-152, A-220, M-234, J-156, J-159, A-189, S-233, O-228, N-182, D-173, Y-327

***Discussion via Bullet Points:

  • 327 species have been reported to eBird all time for Delaware County. No new species were added to the Delaware County eBird list since 2013 -  American Avocet.
  • 213 species were listed on eBird for Delaware County in 2016, 10 less than in 2015.
  • A new total species high count was set for 1 month out of twelve: September 2016 and also March tied with the record set in 2015.
  • 100+ species have now been reported in eight out of twelve calendar months at least once,  leaving only the winter months November thru February outstanding.
  • 150+ species have been reported for just two months: April & May. October is the only other month which approaches 150, missing by only six species.
  • 42 species have been reported for Delaware County for every one of the eBird bar chart weeks in a year.
  • The top 15 of 41 Delaware County eBird locations based on species diversity reported to date:

1.  John Heinz NWR-wetlands(Delaware Co) – 267 (two new birds added this year)

2.  Ridley Creek SP (IBA) – 202

3.  Delaware River-Ft Mifflin/Hog Island Rds-201 (two new birds added this year)

4. Tyler Arboretum – 185

5. Springton Reservoir (Restricted Access) – 182 (four new birds added this year)

6. Ridley Creek SP--Bridle Trail – 178

7. Darlington Tract – 173 (six new birds added this year)

8. Crum Woods – 160 (three new birds added this year)

9. Big Bend Farms (restricted Access) – 146 (seven new birds added this year)

10. The Willows – 145 (eight new birds added this year)

11. Rose Tree Park – 138 (five new birds added this year)

12. Haverford College (Delaware Co)- 137 (two new birds added this year)

13. Crum Creek Reservoir –132 (six new birds added this year)

14. Hildacy Farm - 130 (New to top 15 hotspots)

15. Thornbury Township Trail – 129(Two new birds added this year)

  • To view the list of the Top 100 eBirders for Delaware County in 2016, go to:

The top 100 birders in Delaware County submitted 213 species and submitted 2433 separate checklists. Way to go!!! And I know there a several good birders whose lists aren't counted. Maybe they will add their sightings next year. (Hint, Hint)
Delaware County data sets for bar chart and other eBird status & distribution characterizations were greatly increased in 2016 by the record participation of birders by/for whom data was entered. Thanks to all of you!