Sunday, January 23, 2011

January Birding

The birding year began when I woke up on January 1 and found an American Goldfinch at the thistle feeder. This was followed by several common feeder birds including chickadees, titmice, and juncos. Even a Pine Siskin joined in the feeding frenzy. As the sun rose, my dad and I headed out to the yard to look for birds. We found several common species as well as a Great Blue Heron that flew low over our heads.

Great Blue Heron

As I posted in the previous blog entry, a Harlequin Duck had been hanging out along the Delaware River near Riverton, Northampton County, PA. My dad and I had gone to see it two days before, but my mom did not get to go along. My mom and I decided to take a New Year's Day trip over the the river to search for the rare duck. When we arrived, we found the duck floating in the middle of the river with a small group of Buffleheads. The Harlequin was a lifer for my mom.

Harlequin Duck

While at the Harlequin spot, we ran into a birder who had just seen the Anna's Hummingbird that had been visiting a feeder since late November. This winter visitor was the first of this species for Pennsylvania.

Excited about seeing this unusual bird, my mom, brother, and I headed to Mountain Springs Camping Resort in Berks County, PA. After a bit of searching, we found the house where the feeder was hanging and waited for the bird. After about twenty minutes of waiting, the bird visited the feeder for a quick drink before flying off. This bird was a lifer for both my mom and me.

On the way home from the hummingbird location, we stopped at the Fogelsville Quarry, a local 'hotspot' for waterfowl during the winter. Most of the birds in the quarry were Canada Geese and Mallards, but we also found American Black Duck, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Common Merganser, Ruddy Duck, and American Coot.

On the 15th, I helped out with the Winter Bird Survey run by the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. The volunteers were split into groups and we headed out to bird northern Lehigh and southern Carbon counties. The group I was with found 33 species, including Horned Larks and Savannah Sparrow.

On the 21st, I was birding in my yard when I heard the flight calls of Common Redpolls. Sure enough, two of these winter finches were flying over the yard. This species is in a group of irruptive winter finches that do not reach Pennsylvania every year. That same day, I heard a Hermit Thrush and saw a Brown Creeper climbing up an oak.

On the 22nd, my family and I headed to Brodheadsville for my brother's soccer game. While driving home after the game, we spotted an adult Red-shouldered Hawk sitting on a power line. After seeing the hawk, we stopped at Weir Lake which is a small lake that was built for the community that surrounds the water. As my dad and I learned on the 2010 Wild Creek-Little Gap Christmas Bird Count, this lake sometimes holds interesting species, such as Hooded Mergansers, Lesser Scaup, and Ring-necked Duck, as well as gulls and more common duck species. On this day, however, much of the lake was frozen so the number of waterfowl was down. Despite the small amount of open water, we found 23 Hooded Mergansers swimming around with the more common Canada Geese, Mallards, and American Black Ducks.

This year, two members of the Pennsylvania Birding Listserv are holding a yard-listing competition. Birders from around the state will count all of the species that they can see or hear in the yard during 2011. So far I am up to 35 species. In past years, the highest yard counts have been just over 150 species. During 2010, I found 148, so my personal goal is to reach 150. If anyone reading this post is a birder, I encourage you to keep track of the bird species that you see in your yard!

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