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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!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rare bird search in Arizona - Part 4

Ramsey Canyon INN B&B
          We spent the night at the Ramsey Canyon Inn figuring that it would be adjacent to Carr Canyon where the Tufted Flycatcher was located. So, this morning our original plan was to move on to Fort Huachucha and bird in Hunter and Scheelite Canyons. Well, since we couldn't find the Tufted Flycatcher last evening our plans had to be alterqed in order to make another attempt at the flycatcher.
           The B&B offered a breakfast with our stay but we skipped that in order to get an early start up Carr Canyon to the campsite. Once again we climbed the rugged roadway to the summit, taking about 40 minutes in all. 
            This time when we arrived we were not alone. Several people were milling about in search of our quarry. Sharon started talking to an older gentleman named Lyn Hemlich. We found out he was from Fresno, CA a city we had recently visited on our way to northern California to visit Redwoods National Park. We found out that Lyn was an avid birder who travels to Arizona frequently. As we talked, he asked me what my life list was for the USA and I told him somewhere in the low 700's. So I asked him and he responded with 840. What? I was amazed and told him he must have been to Attu, Alaska. He said he was there during the miracle spring that all the Asian species showed up and was able to add dozens of life birds to his list.
Tufted Flycatcher
           As we were chatting two vans of birders pulled up into the campgrounds. It was the Tucson Audubon Festival this weekend and a group of them came here for the flycatcher. As Sharon and I were strolling around, our newly acquired friends, Ana and Jeff, were waving for us to come over to the Audubon group. They were looking at a Flycatcher that Lyn and I thought was the Tufted Flycatcher, however the trip leader was saying it was a Buff-breasted Flycatcher, which would be another life bird for me. I looked over at Lyn and I could tell he was thinking the same thing I was, that this bird is not a Buff-breasted but was indeed our target bird, the Tufted Flycatcher.
           After walking around for a while the group found another flycatcher and the leader identified it as a Tufted Flycatcher. After looking at my photos of this bird and the first one, we could tell it was the same bird. So Sharon and I were both happy to get a new ABA life bird, but not as thrilled as Lyn since it is getting really difficult for him to add a new species.
Tufted Flycatcher with very little tuft after molt - New Life Bird
             Afterwards we strolled around the campground for another half hour and were able to find a Zone-tailed Hawk, Anna's and Rufous Hummingbirds, Acorn Woodpecker, Mexican Jays, Cordilleran Flycatcher and Western Wood-Pewee. Also making an appearance were Hutton's Vireo, Bewick's and Rock Wrens, Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay, Painted Redstart, Grace's and Black-throated Gray Warblers and Greater Pewee, singing it's Jose Maria song.
Greater Pewee
Unknown insect - any ideas

Spreading  Fleabane
          On our mountain descent we spotted a Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) which is an American low-level airborne ground surveillance system that uses aerostats (moored balloons) as radar platforms.
Tethered Aerostat Radar Balloon
          After saying goodbye to Lyn, we descended the mountain and headed south to Ash Canyon, home of the Lucifer's Hummingbird. For a small charge of $5 you are invited to sit in this woman's yard and watch all the hummingbirds and other species come to her feeders. Curved-billed Thrasher was one of the first birds we added once we found a comfortable seat.

Broad-billed Hummingbird

Not a great photo of a Lucifer's Hummingbird-note decurved bill

Anna's Hummingbird

Gila Woodpecker
            Leaving Ash Canyon we drove north to Fort Huachuca Army base. After getting passes at the gate we went to the playground area, where on our last visit here, we saw the Sinaloa Wren, a Mexican rarity. This time, when I got out of the car it was so hot that I walked around for about a minute, got back in the car and left. That same thing happened when we stopped at San Pedro Riparian Area. 
           Since it was a scorching 107 degrees we just decided to drive on and get a little closer to tomorrow's destination, the Chiricahua National Monument. We would spend the night in Tombstone which is a neat little town where they have reenactments of the gunfight at the OK Corral. We got our motel and then went into town for dinner at "Big Nose Kate's Saloon". Big Nose Kate was Doc Holiday's girlfriend at that time.
Tombstone Arizona

Wyatt Earp doing the Boot Scootin' Boogie

Statue of Wyatt Earp

            So after dinner and dance we headed out to some back roads looking for Poorwills or Mexican Whip-poor-wills. We found neither, but did run across this guy.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake - tail on the left
                So we called it a night and headed back to the motel.

           See you tomorrow.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Rare Bird search in Arizona - Part 3

The ubiquitous Acorn Woodpecker
           This morning commenced with a Canyon Wren boisterously singing right outside our bedroom window; an amiable way to wake up. We started out today in Madera Canyon with a energetic walk around the Kubo Cabins and were entertained by Painted Redstarts and a Rivoli's (Magnificent) Hummingbird.
Painted Redstart
Rivoli's Hummingbird
            We then motored (as the English would say) to the top of the canyon and decided to hike up to the Carrie Nation Trail. In the meantime, at the trail head parking lot, the border patrol pulls up with two trucks. A woman and man get out of the truck and the woman threw a M16 machine gun over her shoulder while wearing a kevlar vest and they both started up another trail. By this time we were used to seeing the border patrol so we thought nothing of it.

Border Patrol arrives at trailhead

          We started up the Mt Baldy trail and came to the junction of the Carrie Nation trail and started climbing. We were soon lending an ear to the squeaky toy call of the Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher just ahead. After chasing the family of flycatcher up and down the trail we finally were able to get some photos. This is one cool looking flycatcher.
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher

            Our main objective however, was to find the Elegant Trogon, which nest up here at around 8000 feet elevation. Following the thrill of observing the flycatcher family's interactions we were then treated to the ventriloquial call of the Elegant Trogon. We meandered up the trail a little further to where I thought the call was emanating and saw a large bird take flight from the trees. It landed further up the trail and we chased it but every time we heard the bird and get close the bird would take flight. I got several great looks at the bird in flight with its bright red belly and long squared off tail but Sharon never did get to see it. We also had a good look at a Blue-throated Hummingbird.

Internet photo of Elegant Trogon
          Leaving the top of the canyon we stopped by the Santa Rita Lodge one more time to take in the feeders. They had an unusual horizontal hummingbird feeder there I had never seen before.

           Around the feeders we spotted Black-chinned, Broad-billed and Rivoli's Humminbirds plus an Arizona Woodpecker and lots of Mexican Jays along with Black-headed Grosbeaks. Much to my chagrin we didn't find a Scott's Oriole,

Black-headed Grosbeak

Broad-billed Hummingbird
Arizona Woodpecker

Mexican Jay
           A little further down the canyon we stopped on Proctor road and were able to get Botteri's Sparrows and found a cute little waterfall.

Proctor Falls

Searching for lizards
Got One!

Desert Flowers

One of many Blooming Barrel Cacti

          As we got lower in elevation we came to Florida (flor-ee-da) Wash where we quickly stopped and heard Botteri's Sparrow on both sides of the road and saw a few. We then headed out of Madera Canyon and went to Florida Canyon where we found the Rufous-capped Warbler a few years back. It was still present but we didn't want to do the hike as it was now noonish and quite temperate. Instead we decided to search for the Black-capped Gnatcatcher which was a complete waste of time.
          Our destination for the evening was the Ramsey Canyon Inn B&B which is located south of Sierra Vista. In order to get there we took the short cut through the mountains following Box Canyon Road. This is a 14 mile long dirt road. In Arizona, you quickly get used to driving on dirt roads. After an hour and a half ride we arrived at the Ramsey Canyon Inn, got our room and started birding the grounds which had a few hummingbird feeders. The Inn is adjacent to the Nature Concservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Also, if anyone is interested, the B&B is for sale for a mere $1,200,000.
Female Broad-billed Hummingbird

Rivoli's Hummingbird in rear

          Our room at the Inn was called the Rufous. Every afternoon the owner makes a pie for the guests and today's pie was plum and apricot pie. It was quite flavorsome.

           Our main purpose of coming to Ramsey Canyon was in pursuit of the Tufted Flycatcher located in the next canyon south of here. That would be Carr Canyon. The location of the flycatcher was in Reef Townsite campground. I had checked the site several times on google earth and the distance was only about 5-6 miles after entering on the dirt road. I figured it looked like an easy drive. But I never figured the elevation change into the drive. I thought the campsite would be on the same level as the entrance to the canyon, about 4000 feet. Well, what a surprise. The GPS told us it would take 40 minutes to go 5 miles. Something had to be wrong. 
            Well, after coming to the dirt road it looked pretty smooth for the first two miles. Then it started getting windy and started climbing in elevation. After about 3 miles the road changed from dirt to large stones with big ruts and divots. The last mile we were stilling climbing and doing lots of hair pin turns. That last mile took us about fifteen minutes. Finally we arrived just outside the campground entrance and were met by a giant gully across the whole width of the road. We debated rather to park here and walk to the campground or lumber through the trench. We slowly trudged ahead and once the front tires were in the gully there was no turning back. Trying to get out of the gully we could hear the front bumper grinding on the stones, but we made it out. Of course, we had to come back out the same way. 

Near campground - city of Sierra Vista in background

Near campground - city of Sierra Vista in background
          Finally in the campground we started our search. It was around five o'clock in the afternoon when we started our exploration. Unfortunately, storm clouds were out in the distance, but they didn't appear to be heading our way. So we continued our search but to no avail. We kept watching the high clouds but they appeared to be going away from us. Suddenly, through a pass in the mountain close by, some quick moving low clouds came barreling in and the monsoons hit. We immediately started our slow descent down the mountain hoping that we wouldn't slide off the muddy road and off a cliff. But we needed to get down fast because on the way up we had crossed a couple of stream crossings and we needed to get through them before any flash flooding occurred.

Picnic Area in Campground where Tufted Flycatcher was seen most often
         Well as you can see we did make it back in one piece. But the disappointment of not finding the flycatcher was weighing on my mind. It wasn't in the plans to go back tomorrow morning but I just knew that we had to make that trek again. Well, we will have to wait until tomorrow to see what the plans will be. Stay tuned.