2007 by the numbers

Since everyone from my brother to Google is posting a list of 2007 by the numbers, I might as well do it too…

3– number of first state records I missed in PA this year (Slaty-backed Gull, Long-billed Murrelet and Yellow-billed Loon)
77– number of posts this year
253– number of species I saw in PA in 2007
269– life PA list as of the end of the year (got my year-end goal a day late- Northern Shrike)
378– number of species I saw in the ABA area for 2007
642– life list
1137ABA area total ticks
2011– total ticks in PA
3860– number of pageloads on my blog last year


Finally a Rufous!

Number 266 for my Pennsylvania list, the female Rufous Hummingbird I was able to see in Berks County this past week was a delight. When I first arrived at the house that it has been frequenting for about a month now, the hummingbird was nowhere to be seen. I was treated to a lovely overview of its habits and daily routine and I was promised that it would appear soon. And all of a sudden it did, she was sitting on one of several butterfly bushes the property owner had around the yard. I rushed to the window and was treated to a fantastic view of it sitting on the bush, then it flew to the feeder and I was able to watch it quite a while there.

female Rufous Hummingbird

I was able to sneak outside and digiscope it a few times, but the lighting was dismal and the bird was playing hide and seek behind the butterfly bush leaves. Nevertheless, you can see the orange on the hummingbird’s flanks. Below is a shot that is a tad better of the bird’s face.

As far as I know, this is the 8th or 9th Rufous Hummingbird in Pennsylvania this fall. Keep your feeders out because there could still be some more coming through and there is always the chance of something exotic like a Green-breasted Mango or a Green Violet-ear.

Clay-colored Sparrow

I saw my 2nd state bird in as many days yesterday. Although its not very common in PA, Clay-colored Sparrows are findable in several parts of the state. They breed in some limited areas in the western part of the state and are sometimes seen in migration elsewhere.

This bird is coming to a feeder in Lancaster County and is the same bird the presumably frequented the same yard last summer. When I arrived I was greeted by the buzzy bzz bzz bzz bzz that is so characteristic of the Clay-colored Sparrows song.

It will be interesting to see if this bird continues to hang around for the summer and maybe finds a mate. Now I am off to training for my summer job doing point count surveys for the 2nd PA Breeding Bird Atlas.

New State bird on the drive home

This afternoon, I was driving home from New Jersey after completing the hawk counting season. It was a pleasant day but I didn’t see much bird-wise for most of the trip. It was pretty ordinary in fact until I turned on to Schantz Rd southwest of Allentown. I spotted a plowed field off to the right that was sporting a large (1/2 acre maybe?) flooded area. Straining my eyes as I slowed down I could see birds moving out in the water and one really seemed to stick out. Slamming on the breaks and swerving to the shoulder in the safest manner possible, I slung by binoculars to my eyes, fully expecting to see the graceful foraging of a Greater Yellowlegs. What I had seen as I was driving was white flashes above the water as a shorebird dipped into the water, but what really stood out was how high above the water the white flashes were.

Binoculars now up to my eyes, I focused….and bam, not a yellowlegs, but a gorgeous black and white bird. A Black-necked Stilt! No wonder the flashes had been so high. I managed to get a few record shots of the bird as it foraged and a video which you can watch once it has been processed by Youtube. I shot of some quick phone calls and then continued to watch the bird as it foraged back and forth over the same little flooded area. It gave me a fright when a Canada Goose landed nearby and all the Least Sandpipers and Semi-palmated Plovers took to the wing. I would have been sorry to see the stilt leave without giving others a chance to see it. Luckily it stayed and I know at least several people have gotten a chance to see it. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to get back to that pond and have a better chance to study it.

Mega! Yellow-billed Loon in Pennsylvania

As already blogged by Birdchaser, there is a beautifully plumaged Yellow-billed Loon drifting up and down the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, PA. Only a little over an hour from my house, this would be an excellent bird to chase for both a state and life bird for me. But, seeing as I am in New Jersey for another week, that chase would be a 4 hour drive each way. Now, I really like adding birds to my state list but sometimes I just don’t feel its worth the 8 hours of driving and the full tank of gas that it would take just to see one bird. I can only hope that it will still be around in a week when I head past Harrisburg to start training for my summer job working for the PA Breeding Bird Atlas.

For some great shots taken by the finder of this great bird go to his photo gallery.

Fortunate series of chases

I had an excellent Easter. I saw 2 of the 3 birds I chased, missing only Yellow-headed Blackbird. That miss is not too big of a deal because between Scott’s Oriole (1st PA record), Lazuli Bunting (3rd PA record) and Y-h Blackbird, the blackbird is the most likely to turn up in PA again in the near future.

Both the oriole and the bunting have now been in PA for quite a while, allowing for those lucky enough to see them often to watch the progression of molt. You can see photos of the Lazuli Bunting from March 8th thru at least April 9th by clicking here.

Palm Warbler

The other highlight was seeing my first Palm Warbler of the spring at Wildwood Lake in Harrisburg, PA. This was one species that I didn’t see in my Florida trip last month. Here is a photo of a Palm Warbler that I took last fall at Cape May, NJ when they were practically swarming the beach by the hawkwatch.

Smith’s Longspur

Well, I didn’t miss this one. Seems like everyone else got to see the Smith’s Longspur in the blogosphere- City Birder, Mike from 10000birds.com, Jersey Birder, etc. I was pretty sure that I was going to come up short again after searching for over an hour and only seeing Snow Buntings and Horned Larks. I had also wanted to see the Lapland Longspurs that it associated with but they were nowhere to be found.

Finally, after walking back and forth several times, scanning the different areas for any signs of movement we went back to the Snow Bunting flock. We had searched the group several times for longspurs but the flock was homogeneous. One last check and, oh what was that, thats not a bunting. The flash of the white outer tail feathers gave us what we needed, the Smith’s was still here. Searching this group also finally produced a Lapland Longspur as well.

It was a good trip, providing me with my second look at Smith’s Longspurs. My first encounter was in Indiana, on the western edge of the state where small flocks faithfully show up for a week in corn stubble before moving on.