Saturday, February 27, 2010

Field Trip

Today the Lehigh Gap Naturalists Club went on a field trip. The first location was Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, which is an Important Bird Area near Kleinfeltersville, Lebanon County, PA. Every year, large congregations of geese and swans fill the reservoir.

This year, although the numbers of the usual Snow Geese and Tundra Swans were low, we did see some neat species.

Here is our bird list from Middle Creek:

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail
Ring-necked Duck
Common Merganser
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
European Starling
Song Sparrow
House Sparrow

After Middle Creek, we headed up to Parryville Dam, a decent waterfowl spot. We were disappointed by the overall lack of birds, but we did get to see a male Bufflehead. The final stop was along the Lehigh River. We did not see any new birds, but we did find several Allocapnia stoneflies crawling on the snow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Berries, Blossoms, and Bugs

The thermometer has reached the mid-forties during the past few days, triggering a series of changes in the woods. The birds have been more active. A group of robins has showed up, eating whatever berries and food they can find. Pileated Woodpeckers have become a daily sight--flashes of black and white flying from tree to tree.

On the ground, the first flowers of springs are popping through the damp ground. Skunk Cabbage flowers have emerged, attracting flies from the warm air.

Moss is now turning away from its brownish winter colors. The vibrant hues alert any passerby to its presence.

Looking closely at almost any damp, rotten log in the woods reveals a multitude of insects. Springtails, tiny bluish bugs, cover any surface they can find, feeding off of fungus.

Nearby, in the snow, small black dots, each a springtail, can be seen hopping. These springtails belong to the genus Hypogastrura. Under magnification, they resemble space aliens.

Hypogastrura sp.
Springtails, like these Hypogastrura, are a common sight on warm winter days.

Hypogastrura nivicola
Hypogastrura nivicola

More insects rest on the snow, stopping only briefly before flying away.

This stonefly, Allocapnia recta, is one of the earliest stoneflies
to emerge in the late winter/spring season

Monday, February 15, 2010

Backyard Birding

The past four days have been the nation-wide Great Backyard Bird Count. Birders from across the nation (and Canada) count birds that they see in their backyards from Friday morning to Monday evening. As I write this, over 50,000 checklists have been entered totaling 553 species and over 6,000,000 birds!

House Finch
One of the several House Finches that I counted this year

I have had great birding experiences during the Great Backyard Bird Count here in Kunkletown. Here are some highlights from past years:

- 30 Pine Siskins at my feeders
2008-a Cackling Goose with a group of Canada Geese in the field across from my house
2007-Rough-legged and Red-shouldered Hawks and two owl species
2006-Red-shouldered Hawk and Northern Harrier

My highest species count in past years occurred in 2006, with 33 species. My highest bird count was in 2007 with 417 individual birds. These numbers are a total of all four days, so the count of individual birds may contain some of the same individuals.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinals were constantly at the feeders this weekend

This year, due to the snow, a large portion of my backyard birding was done on cross-country skis, which was a fun experience.

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrows occasionally popped out of
the shrubs to grab a bite at the feeder

This year, I birded on all four bird count days. I ended with 29 species and 342 individual birds.

Canada Goose 21
Turkey Vulture 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 11
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 8
Northern Flicker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 2
Blue Jay 14
American Crow 32
Black-capped Chickadee 18
Tufted Titmouse 9
White-breasted Nuthatch 7
Brown Creeper 2
Carolina Wren 1
Northern Mockingbird 3
European Starling 37
American Pipit 1
Cedar Waxwing 4
American Tree Sparrow 6
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 6
White-throated Sparrow 18
Dark-eyed Junco 47
Northern Cardinal 16
Red-winged Blackbird 1
House Finch 36
American Goldfinch 17
House Sparrow 19

House Finch

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Storm!

As many know, the last week or so here in Pennsylvania has been extremely snowy. Last weekend, Philadelphia was hit with close to 30 inches of snow. In Kunkletown, we only got about 4 inches. The past few days, however, have been quite different. Here in Kunkletown, we got 17 inches of snow between Tuesday evening and late Wednesday night. Due to the storm last weekend plus the new storm, some areas of the yard have over 20 inches of snow, making walking difficult.

Today, the sun finally came out. There was no school today due to the poor road conditions, so I was able to spend some time outside this morning. A walk into the woods with the dog proved a bit challenging, for both me and the dog. The woods were filled with woodpeckers: Downy, Hairy, sapsuckers, as well as many juncos and chickadees.

During and after the storm, the feeders have been busier than usual. Lots of juncos, cardinals, and White-throated and Songs Sparrows have been feeding under the feeders, while chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, and finches have been emptying out the sunflower seeds. Tomorrow marks the start of two bird counts, the Great Backyard Bird Count and the Lehigh Gap Feeder Watch.

Good birding for anyone participating in either of the bird counts and happy shoveling to those covered by the snow!