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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

One and Done???

About 346 species have been recorded in Delaware County (Delco). Of this total, 32 species have been seen only once. Shall we call these 32 species the One-and-Done group? That is, these birds have been seen once, but, will they be seen again. Let’s take a look at each one and figure out if they’ll be seen again. 

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - Four birds were at the John Heinz N.W.R. 6/2/2020 visiting both Philadelphia and Delaware Cos. I’m a little surprised that it took so long for this species to make the Delco bird list. This species is annual in the mid-Atlantic and I would expect that it will probably make more appearances in Delco. 

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks 6/2/2020 John Heinz N.W.R. (Rob Fergus)

Tundra Bean-Goose - A “Mega” find for Delco and I’m not sure if there will ever be another. The goose was present 12/16-20/2020 first at Springton Res. and then visiting Springton Lake Middle School, Springfield Country Club and some other nearby areas. It is extremely rare outside of its Siberian range. Probably one of the rarest birds to ever visit Delco. 

Tundra Bean-Goose 12/20/2020 Rolling Green Country Club (Todd Fellenbaum)

Harlequin Duck - A female seen in southward flight along the Delaware River from Hog Island Road. Bizarre as to location and date, 7/9/2021, it may have been displaced by the recent passing of a tropical storm. Displaced, but from where, as there are very few July records except for injured birds in the mid-Atlantic.

Eared Grebe - One was on the Delaware River at Hog Island Road 3/23/07. This species should be found again maybe at Springton Res. 

Calliope Hummingbird - A female or immature was seen briefly while perched in a tree at Taylor Memorial Arboretum 9/17/2020. Keeping a close eye on hummingbird feeders, especially after mid-September may turn-up this species again.

Allen’s Hummingbird - One of the rarer hummingbirds to visit the east in late fall and one of the most difficult to identify without in-hand measurements. An adult female was visiting a feeder in Springfield 12/9-19/2020 and was banded during its stay. After departing Springfield, this same bird, verified by recapture, was found in Philadelphia 1/6-22/2021.

Allen’s Hummingbird 12/17/2021 Springfield (Adrian Binns)

Wilson’s Plover - One was reported by two experienced birders at Springton Res. 5/10/1952. This species is extremely rare away from the immediate coast, so I’m not certain it will return to Delco.

Piping Plover - The only report is of four birds seen in the Darby Creek marshes 8/1/1950 by a single experienced birder.  The date of this sighting fits within this species’s Fall Migration pattern in the mid-Atlantic, but the report of four birds raises a red flag for me that maybe it was a mis-identification.

Black-tailed Godwit - The report of this bird in the Darby Creek marshes 10/16-26/1979 attracted birders from all over the country. This is one species I expect will be found again maybe on a sandbar in the Delaware River.

South Polar Skua - Another amazing find. This bird was found and photographed by storm-watchers as it flew along the Delaware River at Hog Island Road during the passing of Hurricane Isaias 8/4/2020. Interestingly, a South Polar Skua was seen on the same day flying south of the George Washington Bridge in New York City. This species is very seldom displaced by storms which makes this sighting exceptional and possibly a One-and-Done.

South Polar Skua 8/4/2020 along the Delaware River at Hog Island Rd., Tinicum Twp.during Hurricane Isaias (Ross Gallardy).

Pomarine Jaeger - A group of 19 was seen flying along the Delaware River near Chester during the passing of Hurricane Sandy 10/30/2012. With the dedicated coverage along the Delaware River by storm-birders, this species will probably be seen again.

        Pomarine Jaegers 10/30/2012 along the Delaware River at Chester (Jeff Davis)

Parasitic Jaeger - One along the Delaware River at Hog Island Road during Hurricane Sandy 10/30/2012. As with the previous species, it should be found again.

Black-legged Kittiwake - The only report is of an immature seen in flight by two birders in a boat on the Delaware River near Marcus Hook 12/11/1992.  With dedicated late fall - early winter coverage of the Delaware River this species will probably be found again

Sabine’s Gull - Two were seen on the Delaware River at Hog Island Road 9/6/2006. Sabine’s Gull has a known overland migration and becomes widely displaced by Tropical Storms so this species should be found again. A caveat, this sighting was not storm related.

Common Gull - One photographed sitting with other gulls on at the Ridley Township Marina on Darby Creek 2/1/2020. The recent splitting of the Mew Gull complex into Short-billed Gull (US west coast) and Common Gull (Europe and Asia) added very little new identification information. This particular individual showed a dark mantle consistent with the Kamchatka race of Siberia. Carefully checking over flocks of gulls might turn up another. 

Common Gull, dark-backed gull in the back, 2/1/2020 Ridley Twp. Marina. (Samuel Neat).

California Gull - One seen on the sandbar in the Delaware River from Hog Island Road 12/31/2020. There are several records of this species in southeast PA, so I think with careful study of gull flocks, another will be found.

White-winged Tern - The bird, discovered during the Big Sit event at John Heinz N.W.R. 10/8/2017 spent most of its time in the Philadelphia Co. portion of the refuge. It was seen flying into the Delco portion during its stay. This bird may have been the same individual that was present near Wellsboro in northeast Pennsylvania 10-13 Aug 2017. There is a slim chance another may turn up in Delco especially during the Black Tern migration.

White-winged Tern 10/8/2017 at John Heinz N.W.R. (Adrian Binns).

Sandwich Tern - One was reported along the Delaware River at Hog Island Road 9/2/2006 during Hurricane Ernesto. Dedicated storm-watching may produce another.

Leach’s Storm-Petrel - Another “Mega” storm bird seen on the Delaware River at Marcus Hook 10/302012 during Hurricane Sandy. Highly unlikely, but not impossible that another will be displaced by a storm.

Leach’s Storm-Petrel 10/30/2012 along the Delaware River near Marcus Hook (Tom Johnson).

American White Pelican - Great find as five were seen heading south in flight over Haverford College 6/4/2019. No doubt, the same five birds were seen 6/5/2019 loafing on the Delaware River from Hog Island Road.

American White Pelicans flying over Haverford College 6/4/2019 (Kristen Johnson)

American White Pelican on the Delaware River near Hog Island Rd., Tinicum Twp 6/5/2019 (Damon Orsetti)

Say’s Phoebe - One was reported without details from Media 11/24/1979. I’m surprised another hasn’t been found since it is a rare and regular late fall visitor in the east.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - The only report was of one seen flying in the area between the south end of the Philadelphia Airport and the Delaware River 10/26/1972. Like the Say’s Phoebe, it is rare and regular in the mid-Atlantic from late Summer through late Fall so another is due. Identification should not be a problem.

Violet-green Swallow - One seen in flight within a flock of Tree Swallows along the Delaware River at Hog Island Road 10/29/2020. Very rare in the east during Fall Migration, this might be a One-and-Done.

Cave Swallow - A bird that was present at John Heinz N.W.R. Philadelphia portion 10/31/2012 would occasionally cross into Delco. Should be looked for again in late fall as there are many records in the east from Oct-Dec. Fall birds have been determined from specimens as belonging to the southwest race Petrochelidon fulva pallida. 

Golden-crowned Sparrow - One reported without details in the Delco portion of John Heinz N.W.R. 1/12/1961. Rare, but nearly annual, in the east, it should be looked for within flocks of sparrows.

Le Conte’s Sparrow - One was at the Darlington Tract 1/25-2/28/2009.There are numerous records in eastern PA in late Fall and Winter and Delco should produce another one of these skulkers.

LeConte’s Sparrow 1/31/2009 Darlington Tract, Middletown Twp. (Adrian Binns)

Swainson’s Warbler - One at Ridley Creek S.P. 8/14/1997 was great find. Most mid-Atlantic records are from overshoots during Spring Migration and it is very possible that is when the next will be found. 

Black-throated Gray Warbler
- One was observed and photographed in Little Crum Park in Swarthmore 11/29/1972. Rare and regular in late fall and winter in the mid-Atlantic states and should be found again.

Black-throated Gray Warbler 11/29/1972 Little Crum Park, Swarthmore (Horace Alexander).

Townsend’s Warbler - A male was seen by many at Cobbs Creek Park 11/20-21/2010. A report from Tyler Arboretum from 17 Nov 1973 could not be verified but may be a good record. Late Nov and Dec is a good time to look for this species in wooded areas.

Black-headed Grosbeak - One bird was seen at the south end of the Philadelphia Airport 5/10/1987. This species is rare and irregular in the east in both Spring and Fall with a few more records in Fall especially Nov. Most likely will be found again.

Painted Bunting - A male seen by many was visiting feeders in Broomall 3/7-20/1993. Rare and regular in the mid-Atlantic in late Fall and Winter especially at feeders. Hopefully, the next one will also be a male.

Here are a few species that have been recorded more than once, but not in a very long time (30+ years). These are all possible again so be on your toes.

Species             Last Seen         Years since last sighting 

Dovekie         1950          72

Pine Grosbeak 1961 61

Black-backed Woodpecker 1962 60

Black Rail 1970 52

Northern Gannet 1975 47

Boreal Chickadee         1975 47

Yellow Rail 1977 45

Loggerhead Shrike 1979 43

Curlew Sandpiper         1981 41

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Rail Trip April 30, 2022



                On April 30 2022 a group of birders traversed the state of Delaware on a search for nocturnal birds.  Seven of us met at the Odessa Park and Ride at 9 PM with high hopes of finding some birds that we often don’t get the chance to see or hear.  We started by caravanning to Greer’s Pond on Dutch Neck Rd near Port Penn. I was hoping for an American Bittern for my New Castle County list but unfortunately that was not in the cards tonight. The first bird we heard after exiting the cars was a calling Barred Owl. After listening for 10 minutes to the various frogs and other creatures we picked up a calling Sora Rail and Common Gallinule and not long afterwards, we were surprised by a calling Barn Owl flying in the distance. If we didn’t know that it was a Barn Owl the sound of it screaming could be quite scary.

                Moving on to Reedy Point Bridge we encountered at least three calling King Rails. Although the winds were calm and the skies were clear not much else could be heard from the marshes except Canada Geese and Mallards. At the Ashton Tract the marsh was unusually quiet but with binoculars we could see Great Egret and Great Blue Heron silhouettes in the ambient lighting.

                From here we traveled to Bombay Hook NWR. As we were driving down Whitehall Neck Rd we were stopped in our tracks when we spotted the eyeshine of an Eastern Whip-poor-will just resting on the road in front of us not more than 15 feet away.

                Entering the refuge and after using the facilities we drove a short distance and then got out of our cars. Andy noticed a bird overhead and turned on his mega spotlight and was able to follow our second Barn Owl of the evening that was flying in circles above the group. This had to be the best view I’ve ever had of a Barn Owl in flight, noting its bright white underparts as they glimmered in the bright light. We could even see the hear-shaped face and the black eyes staring down at us as it made several passes. It finally flew into the nearby trees and out of sight. It was magnificent!

                At the marsh boardwalk we heard a male and female Great Horned Owl duetting. We picked up our first of several singing Marsh wrens and two Greater Yellowlegs. Although we couldn’t see them in the dark the White-throated Sparrows obviously knew we were there as they would give out their alarm calls as they scattered ahead of us. On the boardwalk we played a tape of Virginia Rail and had at least 6 birds call back, plus three or four Clapper Rails. Andy and I were pretty sure we heard the grunt call of a Black Rail but we decided not to count it. Although I have heard probably a hundred plus calling Black Rails I have yet to mark it off as a lifer since I have yet to see one. In the distance I picked out the call of a Dunlin talking in the marsh. At Raymond Pool we found more Virginia Rails and one Seaside Sparrow decided to let us know of his presence by singing from the reeds across the channel.

Shearness Pool is usually a good spot to find American Bittern but we had no luck with them tonight. We also could not locate a Least Bittern but did take notice of the two Black-crowned Night-Herons calling from the tree line. We stopped at Parsons Point parking area and played a Screech owl tape and got three owls to response. Once again Andy was able to get the light on one of the owls and we watch it flying around the trees for a minute or so.

                As we were departing Bombay Hook, we made one more stop at the construction site of the new HQ building and found a baby fox wondering around its den. Andy was able to spotlight it for the group to view. He was a cute little fuzz ball. We saw at least three foxes in the refuge this evening plus others along the main roads.

                Our last stop of the evening was on Pickering Beach Rd in hopes of hearing a verifiable Black Rail. Some of you might remember a few years back that this road was where we had a Yellow Rail calling. By the time we arrived it was 1:45 AM and the wind had suddenly picked up considerably. It was also getting very chilly. We had no luck with the Black Rail but added another Virginia Rail. So we decided to call it a night and say good night to everyone and start the long drive home.  

We managed to find 4 species of owls and four/five species of rails plus a few herons, shorebirds and sparrows. I’m already looking forward to doing this again soon.

Owls seen or heard included 4 Great Horned Owls, 3 Eastern Screech Owls, 6 Barred Owls and 4 Barn Owls. Rails included 3 King Rails, 5 Clapper Rails, 8 Virginia Rails and 2 Soras.

Friday, November 5, 2021

A review of species seen thru October 2021 at Hog Island Rd behind Phila Airport


Brown Booby (photo from Internet)

          As most of you know I've been birding behind the Phila Airport for many a year now. I believe this is the best place for me to pick up a new life bird in Delaware County and this year has kind of proven my point. The eBird hotspot is called Delaware River--Hog Island Rd. and if you look that up in eBird you can easily get the directions.

         But let's first take a look at the birds seen there this year. During January and February I was able to find 12 species of waterfowl along the river including Snow Geese, Mute Swan (kind of hard to find in Delco), Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck and Ruddy Duck.  

         One of the highlights back in February was a light morph Rough-legged Hawk circling over the east end of the airport. This was a new county bird for Debbie Beer and Adrian Binns. Another surprise raptor that was a county bird for many, including Dave Eberly, was a Short-eared Owl that I found on January 12th flying around after dark on the airport grounds. This owl stuck around for a few weeks and was seen by many. I was happy to see the return of Short-eared Owls to the airport since the last time I found them was back in 1995. But I haven't really looked for them for quite some time.

        March is usually when Wilson's Snipe appear and this year was no different. They can be seen in what we call the Firemen's Pond, which is a little pool of water surrounded by phragmites near the radar tower. I've had as many as 44 snipe in there at one time but this year the most I could find were 11. My first Forster's Tern appeared on April 10th and my first Pectoral Sandpiper was at the Firemen's Pond on April 11th along with Laughing Gulls. Caspian Terns, which are a regular occurrence along the mudflats, were present on April 24th.

Wilson's Snipe

        The spring migration is always exciting and this year was no exception. On May 2 Debbie Beer called and said she had a Ruff on the mudflats. So I quickly hopped in the car and drove to the flats and the bird was still present. In flight we could see the orange colored back and I noted the u-shaped white rump patch. This was my first new county bird of the year. A few days later on May 10, Rob Fergus and I were at the river when a flock of 44 Common Terns flew downriver. Common Terns are only occasionally found along this section of the river. The same day we also had a Blue Grosbeak, a small flock of Dunlin, Semipalmated Plovers, Spotted and Least Sandpipers, and 13 Bonaparte's Gulls.


Bonaparte's Gull

        The end of May kept producing some good finds. Black-bellied Plovers were seen feeding on the flats and the next day I found a single Ruddy Turnstone there. I put the word out on GroupMe and within an hour Mike Hartshorne from Chester County was there to view it also.  

         One of the highlights of the year was on July 9th. A group of us, Sara Busch, Rob, myself and Jason Horn from the Allentown area were surveying the river. We had been looking over the birds for some time when Sara (who was doing a PA Big Year) received a message that a Roseate Spoonbill she needed was out in Central PA. So she packed her gear and hopped in the car and headed out on the chase. Well, about a half hour after she left Jason yells out that a Brown Booby was sitting in the middle of the river. We all got on the bird easily as it was just maxing and relaxing as it floated down river. So we called Sara to inform her that she was missing a good bird but since she was quite a distance from there we told her not to come back because we didn't expect the bird to linger for long. And within five minutes two large ships crossed paths in the river and flushed the bird and none of us were able to relocate it. Unfortunately, Sara missed that state bird she needed for the year and to make matters worst she also missed the Spoonbill she was chasing. But the good thing for me was that this was another new county lifer. You just never know what will show up along the river.             

       July also produced another hard to find bird when Jason and I were at the river. We received a text from Ken Rieker of Bucks County with a photo of a large tern sitting on a piling at Governor Printz Park. At first we thought it to be a Caspian Tern because of the poor quality of the photo he sent but then Ken sent another photo which showed the bird to be a Royal Tern. So, Jason and I quickly rode down to the park and observed the tern and sent out text messages to other birders alerting them of the tern. Within twenty minutes Jim McConnell and his wife Deborah showed up soon to be followed by Damon Orsetti. Royal Tern is only an occasional species seen in Delco, occurring maybe once every three to five years.  

        August is shorebird migration time along the Delaware River and this year we found some goodies. August 13th gave me my third county lifer when a Willet was present. I was actually heading to the airport but had stopped at Governor Printz Park to scan the river. While there I received a text from Sara Busch who was upriver, telling me about the Willet on the mudflats. Jumping in the car and hoping the bird stayed I quickly arrived at the pull off on Hog Island Rd and Sara and Jason were standing there with scopes set up and allowed me to look through their scope at the Willet. After viewing the Willet I got out my scope for a longer look and to study the bird. Other folks showed up after they saw the text. Also present that day were several Black Terns. Two days later I spotted a Baird's Sandpiper on the spit and it was also seen by Sara Busch, Debbie Beer and Adrian Binns. Still in August I was able to see Sanderling running along the flats and a Short-billed Dowitcher probing the spit.

        September continued to produced many nice finds. Rob found a Cliff Swallow heading down river among other migrating swallows. On Sept 1st Adrian and Debbie found a White-rumped Sandpiper and I saw another three days later. Sept 6 produced an American Avocet and I got the word out quickly so that John Zygmunt and Damon were able to get there in time to watch the avocet feeding as the spit was disappearing under the incoming tide. Later in the month I added Western Sandpiper and thanks to Debbie and Adrian I also added American Golden Plover.

American Avocet-not the best photos

        Although there are still two months left in 2021 I just wanted to show you the potential of finding great birds along the Delaware River behind the Philadelphia Airport. Come down and spend some time there and maybe you'll get lucky. You can't find any birds if you don't go looking.


Monday, November 1, 2021

BCDC Cape May Lewis Ferry Trip October 30, 2021


Parasitic Jaeger 

                I always enjoyed the Cape May Lewes Ferry field trip with BCDC. It is one of my all time favorite field trips. So this past Saturday eleven intripid club members and guests came out to enjoy a beautiful day at sea. The weather was absolutely perfect with clear skies and small swells. Unfortunately, for our first time ever, the ferry left about an hour later than scheduled due to mechanical issues.


BCDC Club Members and Guests

                Once we were able to leave the dock we quickly noted that we were heading right into a head wind so the viewing was a little shaky as it was difficult to hold the binoculars study. After a few minutes we started viewing Northern Gannets and had four species of gulls were following the ferry. Great Black-backed, Herring, Ring-billed and some Laughing Gulls still hanging around. On the return trip we added Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Northern Gannet

               Although I was expecting to see a lot of loons we only ended up spotting five Common Loons and zero Red-throated Loons. We usually saw thirty or so in past years.

               About halfway across the bay we started finding scoters. We had Black and Surf Scoters but never came across any White-winged Scoters which is the rarest of the three.

Black Scoter

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

                 After we arrived in Lewes and started our return trip we were able to spot about 30 Sanderlings along the shoreline and when we approached the jetties Kristi was able to find us a few Ruddy Turnstones. Now with a tail wind it was a lot easier viewing and the waves had calmed as the temperatures increased. 

                We were keeping an eye out on the bow for anything that would fly in front of us but the action was slowing down as the day got warmer. At this point I went to the stern hoping to find a Kittiwake in the wake of the ferry. When I looked at the gulls tailing the ship I noticed that three Jaegers were attacking a Great Black-backed Gull trying to make the gull drop it's meal. 

                   I then called John Zygmunt on the phone and told him to bring the gang to the stern. We were all able to see the Jaegers but they were quite distant. Later as we re-entered Jersey waters a Parasitic Jaeger flew right across the bow of the ship. This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me and the first time that we have recorded this species on this field trip.

                    It was a good trip and everyone enjoyed themselves and I know lots of folks were able to chalk up some life birds. Hopefully we can do this again next year.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Water features really work to attract birds to your backyard


          Have you ever thought about adding a water feature to your backyard? Well stop thinking about it and make it happen. Several years ago I had built a little stream with a waterfall to help attract birds. Did it work? I have to say it was a big success. The following photos are from my patio overlooking my stream. The birds are not only attracted to the stream to get a drink but most of them spent a good deal of time taking a bath. This gives me added time to enjoy their presence. 

Red-breasted Nuthatch at Waterfall

Tufted Titmouse

White-winged Crossbills - eventually they came down to take a bath but I didn't get photo

Song Sparrow

American Robins

American Redstart

American Redstart

American Redstart

American Redstart

American Redstart

American Redstart

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warblers

Bay-breasted Warblers

Black-and-white Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

Black-and-white Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler

(L to R) Cape May, Blackpoll, and Blackburnian Warblers

Bay-breasted Warbler

Bay-breasted Warbler

Black-throated Blue Warbler 

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler



Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Northern Parula

Northern Parula

Pine Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

          I have also had other birds in the stream like Hermit and Swainson's Thrush and Pine Siskins that I didn't have a camera ready to photograph. So as I stated above I think everyone needs a water feature in their yard. Hope you enjoyed the photo.