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Monday, June 13, 2016

Glen Providence Park Amphibian and Reptile Walk - June 2016

Dusky Salamander - notice flat tail and large hind legs
           I attended a Reptile and Amphibian walk at Glen Providence Park in Media on Saturday June 11th along with eight other folks including Tom Bush from the BCDC. The walk was led by Kyle Loucks, the South East Regional Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey (PARS) – a project to gather valuable data for study and conservation of amphibians and reptiles (“herps”). 
              Kyle started off leading us to a seep, which is a small wetlands area, in search of salamanders. After a few minutes of tossing some rocks in the mucky habitat we were treated to a Dusky Salamander. The Dusky is a lungless salamander that breathes through its skin. The tail is flattened in a vertical direction and the larger hind legs help identify this species.
              We then moved to a small tributary and almost immediately Kyle found a Northern Water Snake fishing on the bottom of the creek. We were able to capture the snake and determine it was a small male.
Northern Water Snake

Out of focus but snake coming up for a breath of air
A somewhat better view

           As we moved to the small lake we were able to spot several species of turtles. We found Red-eared Slider, Red-bellied Slider (Cooter), Eastern Painted Turtle and Yellow-bellied Slider.
Yellow-bellied Turtle - notice the large yellow stripe on face
            We were also treated to Bullfrog, Green Frog and a Pickerel Frog which was captured for two seconds but managed to escape from the grip of Reese, the son of Stephanie our trip organizer. So we found nine specimens of Amphibians/Reptiles which I thought was pretty good, however we missed both Alligator and Crocodile. Better luck next year.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Nest

Have you ever wanted to see a hummingbird nest?  There is one at Haverford College that is easy to view and close to the parking lot.  Kristen and I discovered it on May 14 when the female was still nest-building.  As of June 6, the female is feeding young but still brooding.

Here are the directions:
Park in the South (Visitor’s) Lot at the back left edge.  Walk straight across the grass in front of you and take the nature trail to the left, staying right when the path forks.  At the edge of the road to the other back parking lot and the Haverford College Apartments, there is a blue recycling can.  Stop on the paved path behind the can and look left to the large oak tree across the road.  Line yourself up so that you, the blue can, and the trunk of the big oak tree are all in a straight line.  Follow the trunk up to the first horizontal branch that goes right.  Then take the first left, a vertical branch that goes up to the next smallish right branch that comes out toward you.  Where this branch splits into two parts, one which is more or less straight and the other which takes a little dip, look for the nest cup atop the straight part.  The orange arrows in the photo below will guide you to the nest location indicated by the red arrow.

Depending on your exact position, and that of the leaves blown by the wind, the nest may be partly obscured, but with binoculars it is easy to find if you know where to look.  In the photo below, you can see the female’s tail sticking out the right side of the nest.  A scope will enhance your view but isn’t necessary.  Now that she is sitting on the edge of the cup to feed the young, she will be easier to see.

Note that if you are entering observations into ebird, you are in the DelCo portion of the campus, so please use the Haverford College (Delaware County) marker, even though that marker is in the pinetum.  [By contrast, the pond and adjacent field are in Montgomery County.]

Have fun and enjoy watching our littlest bird.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Having Fun With Shorebirds

As birders in the Delaware Valley we are fortunate to reside smack dab in the middle of a migration expressway known as the Eastern Flyway. There is probably no better example of this phenomenon as the Delaware Bay shorebird migration. Whether you visit bayshore shorebird gathering sites in Delaware or New Jersey, you will not be disappointed.  This Spring on May 27th, I birded the wetlands and beaches near Fortescue, Cumberland Co., NJ 

Shorebird feeding areas along the Delaware Bay

Satellite image of Fortescue Beach, Cumberland Co., NJ. The beach is protected and posted shorebird feeding area. Good viewing can be obtained from areas along the road.
The shorebird migration along the Delaware Bay begins in late April and gradually increases with a crescendo in late May and then dwindling through early June. These birds are taking part in a journey, thousands of years old, from their wintering grounds in South America to their breeding grounds in the North American tundra. Through yearly banding and re-trapping of these spring migrants, research has shown that the Delaware Bay is a strategic migration stop-over and refueling location as some birds fly non-stop from South America to the Delaware Bay and then some, after gorging on horseshoe crab eggs, make another non-stop flight to the tundra. 

Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs carrying on a thousand year tradition noisy feeding commotion is a spectacle to witness, as birds are calling, flying, swirling, fighting and feeding just a few yards away.  

It's nice to catch these birds on their northbound flight as many of them are very near full breeding plumage.  Here are a few species I saw when I was there:

American Oystercatcher


Red Knot


Ruddy Turnstone

Semipalmated Sandpiper

 Flocks of mixed shorebird species

Laughing Gull

While walking along the road I occasionally saw a few songbirds.

Orchard Oriole

Marsh Wren