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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Recovering America's Wildlife Act

          I have written and sent an email to my U.S. Representative in congress to request that he co-sponsors the Recovering America's Wildlife Act H.R. 4647. I have attached a copy of the wording that was sent in the email hoping that you will copy the letter and email it to your representative. If you don't know your representative's email address you can find it here:

          Letter is below and thanks for your interest:

Please co-sponsor the Recovering America's Wildlife Act H.R. 4647, which provides dedicated funding for proactive conservation measures that will secure the long-term future of all fish and wildlife.

The conservation funding would not come from new taxes, but rather from a portion of existing annual leasing and royalty revenues from federal lands and waters. It would complement effective existing programs and provide the states, territories and the District of Columbia with desperately needed financial resources to effectively implement their Wildlife Action Plans and conserve the thousands of species at greatest risk through collaborative, proactive efforts, rather than more expensive and often litigated emergency room measures.

I urge you to create a bright future for America's wildlife and rich natural heritage by putting your full support behind the bipartisan Recovering America's Wildlife Act H.R. 4647.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Longwood Gardens Prescribed Burn

Setting The Prescribed Burn
           Yesterday, March 19, 2018, Sharon and I witnessed the prescribed burn of the meadow at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. 

         Some talking points about the burn are provided by Tom Brightman of Longwood.

2018 Prescribed Meadow Burn Talking Points:

         What is a Prescribed or Controlled Burn? A Prescribed or Controlled Burn is fire applied in a knowledgeable manner to live and dead vegetation on a specific land area under selected weather conditions to accomplish predetermined objectives.

·        Why are we burning the Meadow Garden? To ensure the continued health and vibrancy of the Meadow Garden, we use the practice of conducting ecologically beneficial prescribed burning. A prescribed burn controls woody and non-woody invasive plants and enhances native herbaceous plant communities. In turn, it also encourages diverse wildlife populations. Almost as important, controlled burns help reduce the fuel load (live and dead vegetation) of the meadow, reducing wildfire risk and making it a safer place for our community.

·        Are we burning the entire Meadow Garden? No. We will only be burning four areas of the Meadow Garden, or about 30% of its 86 acres. Conditions permitting, we plan on burning units 1, 4, 8 and 10 (as indicated with black circles on the map below).  We rotate the units from year to year as ecological conditions warrant, and to maintain a large amount of wildlife habitat throughout the year.

·        Who conducts the Prescribed Burn? With safety at the forefront, these burns will be conducted by contractors and Longwood staff specifically trained in the safe and effective practice of prescribed fire management. In addition, local and state authorities and emergency resources are aware and on standby if needed for assistance.

The PA Prescribed Fire Standards have established detailed requirements to the planning and procedures for a controlled burn.  The Standards are in place to ensure every burning operation has the correct equipment, enough trained personnel, and proper smoke management plan.

·        Will the Meadow Garden be closed?  Yes. All access to the Meadow Garden and Webb Farmhouse will be closed to guests and staff. In addition, the Lookout Loft Treehouse and selected paths adjacent to the Meadow Garden will be inaccessible for March 19 and possibly March 20.

·        How do you protect the structures?
Large firebreaks are mowed around tree lines, trees and structures to protect them during a burn.  We also have plenty of water resources on –hand during the controlled burn.

·        What happens to the wildlife during the burn?
Animals and other wildlife have natural instincts concerning fire.
They burrow under the ground, or move to a part of the meadow which will not be burned. This time of year is selected as birds are not yet nesting in the meadow grasses.

View of Meadow after the burn. It should be green again in 3 weeks

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch in Pennsylvania

          Sharon and I decided on Friday that we would chase the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch in Meadville, PA. Meadville is located in western Pa a little south of Erie. It was approximately a 6 hour drive and since we didn't leave until 2PM we arrived at our hotel in the dark. We had contacted a local birder named Shawn Collins to lead us to the private location. He had made arrangements with the homeowner where the bird was visiting a feeder in a gated community. 
           Saturday morning we met up with Shawn at 7AM and made the five minute drive to the location. The gracious homeowners allowed 14 of us to crowd into their small living room with a large picture window.
Wishful Birders
           We arrived around 7:10 and by the time everyone was settled into the room it was 7:20. Well, we didn't have to wait long because at 7:34 the finch made his appearance.
Target Acquired

Another more distant view of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
          The Rosy-Finch seemed to like hanging out with a large flock of 30 or more American Goldfinch.
Small portion of American Goldfinch flock

           Also visiting the feeders were Black-capped Chickadees and an American Tree Sparrow.
American Tree Sparrow

           After great views of our target bird we decided to head even further west and go to Pymatuning State Park on the PA/Ohio border.

           Pymatuning Lake was mostly frozen but there were patches of open water and thus some gulls and waterfowl. We missed the reported Glaucous Gull but managed to locate Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked Duck, and Common, Hooded and Red-breasted Mergansers.
Lesser Scaup

           A special treat was a small flock of six Snow Buntings on the causeway pullout.
Snow Bunting

Sorry but I can't get enough of these little guys

Welcoming us back to PA
          So, we had a successful trip and started heading home around 10AM. The drive home was a little longer as we stopped at Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs but it ended up being a big mistake. After stopping there and also having lunch it was around 2PM and just as we were entering the State College area it started snowing. It never let up for the rest of the drive home. It was about a six hour drive just from Penn State to home. Going 30 mph on the turnpike takes forever. But I would still say it was a successful and worthwhile trip.
In the lodge at Bald Eagle State Park

Thursday, January 25, 2018

BCDC Field Trip to Delaware - January 13, 2018

Snowy Owl along Port Mahon Rd

          Today's weather was much nicer then the originally scheduled trip on New Year's Day. Today was a balmy 25 degrees versus the 0 degrees on New Year's. However, we still had to contend with winds up to 30 mph which made many participants, including myself, very tearful. I want to thank Nick Pulcinella for providing all the photos below with the exception of the American Bittern.
           We left McDonald's at 6AM sharp and arrived at Port Mahon Rd on schedule to see the Short-eared Owls, which was our target bird. But as we were driving along the road, I spotted what I thought was an American Bittern flush up from the phragmites along the roadside. A hundred yards further we had to make a sudden stop, when to our surprise there was an American Bittern standing right in the middle of the road. The bittern stood there for everyone to admire and photograph although the lighting was very difficult as it was still quite dark.
American Bittern in the headlights

A better photo of bittern standing in headlights

           As we moved on Nick and I both noticed movement about 200 yards ahead. We put up the binoculars and were treated to a gorgeous Snowy Owl standing on the rocks right next to the road.

Snowy Owl
           From Port Mahon Rd we did a quick drive along Cartanza Rd and had a nice Northern Harrier perform it's aerial agility. Making another quick stop at Big Stone Beach we only added Red-bellied Woodpecker and Yellow-rumped Warbler. 
Red-bellied Woodpecker

           We than drove to Indian River Inlet trying to arrive in time for an outgoing tide. By the time we reached the inlet the winds were howling at about 30mph and I could tell the participants were hesitant to get out of their cars. Setting up the scopes along the waterway the first thing I noticed was the dearth of gulls and ducks. This is usually an area with a profusion of Bonaparte's Gulls and today we found only two. 
           However, with a little effort and searching the opposite jetty, we managed to pick out a few Purple Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones and then on the distant beach there were some Sanderlings. With tears rolling down my cheeks from the slight breeze, I was able to find one lonely fly by Northern Gannet. Nick found the Great Cormorant on the tower at the jetty terminus.

Great Cormorant
          Nick was our professional photographer that we hired for the day and was able to get some good close up photographs of other birds at the inlet.

Female Bufflehead

Female Bufflehead

Female Red-breasted Mergansers
Ruddy Duck
           Other birds spotted at the inlet were, both Common and Red-throated Loons, all three species of scoters, several Long-tailed Ducks and Greater Scaup.
Greater Scaup
Female Greater Scaup

          We started our drive north after finishing up at the inlet. We pulled over to scan Silver Lake in Rehoboth Beach and were treated to a large raft of Canvasback. We scanned for Redhead but could not find any mixed in with the Canvasback.
Partial raft of Canvasback
           At Cape Henelopen we found Brown-headed Nuthatch and Snow Buntings along with more scoters, loons and Red-breasted Mergansers. At Broadkill Beach, part of Prime Hook NWR, Nick spotted a bird sitting on an Osprey nesting platform which didn't look right for a Red-tailed Hawk. We determined it was a light morph Rough-legged Hawk. When we got out of the car to set up the scope, Bruce Childs asked about another raptor flying around, which turned out to be a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk. Awesome.
Rough-legged Hawk - Light phase
           We ended the trip a little earlier then usual due to the fact that we were being beat up all day long by the wind and most of us were dragging at that point. We totaled 74 species for the day which was a little below our average of 80. Nevertheless, it was a great trip with three fabulous finds, American Bittern, Snowy Owl and Rough-legged Hawk. Can't wait for next year.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Delaware County eBird numbers in review for 2017

***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 through 2017; year total for 2011 through 2017; 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
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
2017:      J-093, F-087. M-115, A-153, M-152, J-097, J-105, A-131, S-156, O-124, N-099, D-097, Y-231

All Time: J-150, F-142, M-156, A-222, M-237, J-157, J-158, A-195, S-236, O-229, N-186, D-174, Y-328

***Discussion via Bullet Points:
  • 328 species have been reported to eBird all time for Delaware County. One new species was added to the Delaware County eBird list since 2013’s American Avocet. That was the Black-headed Gull found at the Delco portion of John Heinz NWR.
  • 231 species were listed on eBird for Delaware County in 2017, 18 more than in 2016. This was due in large part to two birders who were very active in the county in 2017.
  • A new total species high count was set for 6 months out of twelve: March, April, July, August, Sept and Nov 2017.
  • 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. November came oh so close with 99 species recorded.
  • 150+ species is a tough number to reach in any month. Previously, only two months have achieved that lofty number: April & May. In 2017, September has now been added to that category.
  • 42 species have been reported for Delaware County for every one of the eBird bar chart weeks in a year.
  • Here is a list of the top 15 of 50 Delaware County eBird hotspots based on species diversity reported to date:
1.  John Heinz NWR-wetlands (Delaware Co) – 270 (three new birds added this year)
2.  Delaware River-Ft Mifflin/Hog Island Rds-207 (six new birds added this year)
3.  Ridley Creek SP (IBA) – 203 (one new bird added this year)
4. Tyler Arboretum – 185
5. Springton Reservoir (Restricted Access) – 182
6. Ridley Creek SP--Bridle Trail – 178
7. Darlington Tract – 172
8. Crum Woods – 162 (two new birds added this year)
9. The Willows – 156 (eleven new birds added this year)
10. Big Bend Farms (restricted Access) – 147 (one new bird added this year)
11. Haverford College (Delaware Co)- 147 (ten new birds added this year)
12. Rose Tree Park – 140
13. Hildacy Farm - 137 (seven new birds added this year)
14. Crum Creek Reservoir –133 (one new bird added this year)
15. Philadelphia International Airport – 133 (new to top 15 this year)
  • To view the list of the Top 100 eBirders for Delaware County in 2017, go to:
The top 100 birders in Delaware County submitted 231 species and submitted 9032 (an increase of  370%) 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 2017 by the record participation of birders by/for whom data was entered. Thanks to all of you!