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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

B
Parula

Parula

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.