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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Delaware Birding Sites

BCDC Members at Silver Lake near Rehobeth Beach watching Canvasbacks
      For those of you who are interesting in getting out and doing some winter birding but can't make up you mind where to go consider the state of Delaware. A small state that is easy to bird with several national wildlife refuges and other great locations. The Delmarva Ornithological Society has a great website and listed on there is a section written by Maurice Barnhill listing some of the many great sites to bird throughout the state. Take a peek at their website to see the sites and some species you might find there.  You can view the site at:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Things you might not know about Niger

     Obviously it's time to be feeding the birds. I feed birds in my yard all year round, but a lot of people only feed in winter. One of the most popular seeds to feed the birds is Niger (often spelled Nyjer). Did you know that Niger seed can dry out. Niger is an oily seed and when left out for a long period it will dry out. The oil provides the fat content in the seed which the birds enjoy, but once the oil dries the seed is no longer attractive to the birds. So only buy the amount that you will use in about a month's time, thus preserving the freshness of the seed.  
      As small as it is, a niger seed does have a shell.  If you think birds aren't eating the seed because you see some on the ground, examine it more closely: you may be seeing mostly the thin niger hulls.
      Niger is an agricultural crop imported primarily from India, Ethiopia, Nepal and Burma (Myanmar). Niger is not the typical niger you see along roadsides. The niger used for feeding birds is imported and must be heated to sterilize the seed so it will not propagate. 
      Niger is also vulnerable to spoilage while in the feeder. It should be changed every 3-4 weeks. The birds are able to tell that the seeds are bad and if you notice the birds are not eating the seed throw it away and refill with fresh seed. I'm sure you are aware that Goldfinches love niger but other birds will also be attracted to it. Pine Siskins, which associate with goldfinches, also love it, as do both Common and Hoary Redpoll. Occasionally, chickadees and nuthatches will also eat the niger.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rough-legged Hawks (Light & Dark) at Voganville Rd

Light phase Rough-legged Hawk

Scenic view of landfill
Dave Eberly, Jacob Socolar and I took an afternoon frolic to Lancaster County hoping for a Lapland Longspur, Horned Larks and Rough-legged Hawks. On the drive put Jacob spotted a Turkey but unfortunately Dave and I weren't able to see it in time. We had no luck with the longspur but we found lots of Horned Larks. Along Voganville Rd we managed to find a light phase immature Rough-legged Hawk. After cruising around some, we found a dark phase Rough-legged Hawk on Amishtown Rd.
Dave & Jacob scouring the gulls
After leaving the Lancaster area we headed to the South Eastern Chester County Refuse Authority landfill and got permission to drive up to the top. The trash trucks were emptying their loads and the bulldozers were pushing the trash around as a thousand gulls flew about. The most common gull was by far the Ring-billed, followed by Herring Gulls. We managed to find at least four Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Other birds present were quite a few Fish Crows, Black & Turkey Vultures and many, many Starlings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Albinistic/leucistic Pileated Woodpecker discovered in West Chester, PA

Partial Albino Pileated Woodpecker (Photos by Bill Stewart)              

        This post is from Bill Stewart's discovery of an almost pure white Pileated Woodpecker in a small park in West Chester, Pa

                        Written by Bill Stewart
I was fortunate enough to observe an albinistic/leucistic female Pileated Woodpecker yesterday morning at Shaw's Bridge Park outside of West Chester, PA.  Best description would be that 98% of the normal black plumage was white as snow, still maintained a red crest, black primaries and a whitish bill.  A rather stunning bird to see.  It appeared to be excavating a feeding hole and was joined by a male piwo making me think these two birds may be on territory and could possibly be re-found.  If you go to the park to try and find the woodpecker, pull into the parking area and drive towards the comfort station, park on your right and the birds were directly in front of me in the treeline along the road.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Winter Raptor Survey - Eastern Delco

Bob Kelly, Dave Eberly & Chris Pugliese
Blurry Photo of our Merlin
      Four members of the BCDC ventured out on Saturday to participate on the statewide Winter Raptor Survey. This year Dave Eberly (Captain), Bob Kelly, Chris Pugliese and myself drove 83  miles through the eastern half of Delaware County and found 10 species of raptors. Turkey, Black Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks were the most numerous, but other species made the count more interesting. Along the blue route in Swarthmore we were able to find a perched Red-shouldered Hawk surveying his surroundings. We attempted to find a Goshawk that was visiting a feeder but our timing was not good. At the Phila Airport we missed American Kestrel but made up for it with a nice male Northern Harrier and a Bald Eagle flying over the river. After that, we drove to the Commodore Barry bridge and were lucky enough to see two Peregrine Falcons, one perched on each of the high spires of the suspension bridge. We also spotted five Bald Eagles. Later in the Chichester Industrial Park we found the best bird of the day, a Merlin.
     We found some other good birds, such as a Horned Lark & Killdeer at the airport and some very late/early Brown-headed Cowbirds. Adding to the delightful days mix of birds were 37 Tundra Swans floating along the river near the Harrah's Casino. It was a fun 6 hours of birding locally throughout the county.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Rufous Hummingbird in Yardley, PA

Female Rufous Hummingbird in Yardley Pa
Showing Band on Right Leg
                           Blog by Holly Merker    

Colleen and I decided at the last minute to run over before the storm this morning to see if we could see the Rufous Hummingbird. It was literally a spur of the moment thing when we realized we could squeeze it in when other plans fell through. She was easy to find, as long as you don't look at the feeders. She was hanging out in a holly tree and a boxwood below it. The holly tree is along Vernon Road. Here is a photo of the Rufous I got. We didn't stay long because I didn't want to prevent her from going about what she needed to do with us present. She didn't seem phased by us, and did a lot of preening and moving from perch to perch. However, with temps in the mid-twenties, I didn't want to take the chance. Hopefully, getting through the snow storm won't be a problem for her.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Trip to find Golden-crowned Sparrow in Maryland

Immature Golden-crowned Sparrow (photo from Internet)

    Sharon and I ventured to Chesapeake Farms near Chestertown, Maryland. We were in search of the Golden-crowned Sparrow. The drive down was about an hour and forty-five minutes through gorgeous snow covered farm fields and small rural towns. We arrived at the location around noon and met some other folks who told us the vicinity along the hedgerow that the sparrow was hanging out. They had seen the sparrow about five minutes before our arrival. So we parked the car and within five minutes the sparrow made it’s appearance. It was a first winter bird with limited amount of dull yellow spread across it’s forehead. It was an aggressive sparrow, chasing all the other sparrow species away from the seed that had been spread around by previous birders. The bird also was noticeably larger than the other sparrows.
    For those of you who have never seen a Golden-crowned Sparrow this is a great opportunity to do so. Other species seen were Brown Thrasher, Hermit Thrush, Cedar Waxwings, White-crowned, White-throated and Song Sparrows.   

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Harlequin Duck in Northampton County

Harlequin Duck - Photo from Barnegat Light
Today Nick Pulcinella and I drove up to Riverton, Pa along the Delaware River in Northampton County. We were in search of the reported Harlequin Duck that was found some time ago. We arrived at the park in Riverton and read the map to get our bearings then headed to the river. Once we reached the river we perused the rapids and sure enough there was the Harlequin about a 1/4 of a mile down river. We then headed down river for a better view and the Harlequin was very cooperative. It was a nice male and was keeping company with 23 Common Goldeneye, a pair of Buffleheads and a Common Merganser.
      After watching the Harlequin for a while we searched for Saw-whet Owls in the nearby cedars but no luck. Then we headed to Montgomery County to try and add the Bullock's Oriole to our trip. This was my second time there and once again I struck out. The oriole refused to show and it was last seen early yesterday morning, so it might have moved on to greener pastures.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Bullock's Oriole makes appearance at Montgomery Co Home

Male Bullock's Oriole
First seen on December 31, 2010, a male Bullock's Oriole has been frequenting a backyard in Barto, northern Montgomery County. Rob Fergus has posted a map of the backyard showing where the bird has been spotted and also posted a few pictures. You can check out the site at But for better photos go to Howard Eskin's photos at If you scroll down you will see our own Holly Merker in one of the pictures. her field marks are a white ski cap and white telephoto lens and of course her Foster Grant sunglasses. For those who are interested the howe owners are welcoming birders to come visit their yard and view the Oriole.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Day in southern Delaware

Sunrise at Port Mahon
Canvasbacks - Silver Lake
      The birding club of Delaware County spent New Year's Day traversing across southern Delaware in search of any avian life forms. We started at Port Mahon Rd in Little Creek and found many Harriers and gulls but could pin down a Short-eared Owl. At Cartanza Road we found a Savannah Sparrow, Am Pipits flying overhead and a singing Meadowlark. Next we headed for Indian River inlet and found Bonaparte's Gulls, Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Boat-tailed Grackles, all three species of Scoters and lots of Long-tailed Ducks. At Silver Lake the expected large flock of Canvasbacks were present along with two Am Wigeons. Most of the lake was frozen as was the bay side of Indian River which cut out a lot o waterfowl that we usually observe.
      Cape Henlopen produced a flock of Snow Buntings, Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-breasted and Brown-headed Nuthatches, a Sharpie and Pine Siskens and Black-capped Chickadee. The surprise of the day was at the Cape Henlopen Hawk watch. There was an usually large amount of cars in the parking lot when we approached and when we got to the beach there was a Polar Bear Swim that was just about ready to start. So we stayed and watch the crazy people strip down to their swimsuits and run into the water. Not many of them stayed in for more then a few seconds. I don't blame them.
      Prime Hook was our last stop and we added a few birds on the bay. We ended the day with 74 species and the weather was quite warm for a New Year's Day.