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Saturday, October 27, 2007

End of Scoterfest

After the rain stopped this afternoon I snuck out for an hour to check Lake Nockamixon. Only one Surf Scoter was left on the lake. The Brant continues at the marina, looks like it might stay for a good long time.

Friday, October 26, 2007


This morning in the rain I had 1 Black Scoter, 2 White-winged Scoters, and 4 Surf Scoters on Lake Nockamixon. Fun to watch these sea ducks bobbing on an inland lake. I also had 16 Pine Siskins land in a tree briefly before flying off over the lake. Lots of fun in the rain!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Brant in the rain

Lots of waterfowl moving through right now, and sometimes the rain drops them down to local lakes. This morning at Peace Valley I saw a flock of 9 Brant, as well as 2 Horned Grebes and 6 Lesser Scaup in with the regular Ruddy Ducks. Not much at Lake Nockamixon or Lake Towhee. Then I got home to read of other friends at these areas last night and earlier this morning who saw scoters, a Long-tailed Duck, and even a flock of over 100 brant. These birds are all moving through and the more you can be out there, the more chances you have of picking some of them up.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bush and Birds

No matter what your politics, it was nice to see President Bush spend a morning watching birds and talking about bird conservation on private lands. Laura Bush is a birder, and President Bush is known to talk up the Golden-cheeked Warbler when he's in the Hill Country of Texas. Just wish he put as much into helping birds and the environment as he has put into some of his administration's other policies!
(photo:Washington Times)

Friday, October 19, 2007


A nice couple hours walking around at Peace Valley and Pine Run this morning. Lots of sparrows, no real surprises--but did see my first of season Vesper Sparrow at Sailor's Point. It all seemed so ho-hum until I started to think about it--since when should flocks of hundreds of Canada Goose, a nearly adult Bald Eagle, and five Wild Turkeys be considered ho-hum? These are spectacular animals--real Wild Kingdom kinds of animals, emblems even of American wildlife. So along with hundreds of sparrows, I got to enjoy these amazing birds on a hot and sticky late October day before the rains arrived in the afternoon.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Drive By Birding

There's a little spot on Neshaminy Creek that I always give a quick glance on my way to and from work. In the winter, American Black Ducks and Common Mergansers congregate here sometimes, and I've seen coots there. Today as I was driving by, I was surprised to see an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron flying downstream, low over the water. These birds aren't seen around here very often, so it was a nice surprise after a long two days of meetings.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Boycott Cape May?

You might think that Cape May is the birding capitol of the United States. But you would be wrong. Cape May city council has decided to allow feral cats to roam free. Letting cats roam free is bad for the cats, and will result in dead birds. This is what happens when birders allow misguided cat lovers to have a disproportionate say in civic life. 1,500 emails from cat lovers and 50 cat people at a public meeting and this is what we get. Where were the birders? Shame on you Cape May. Enjoy your cat-astrophe!

But here's the good news. No civic action is ever set in stone. Decisions can be overturned. But it will take pressure. Lots of it. If you think Cape May made a bad call here, you might want to do something:

1) leave a comment on the Cape May website.
2) urge the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to bring action against Cape May for knowingly violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and other provisions in place to protect birds (New Jersey is in USFWS Northeast Region 5)
3) email Cape May Mayor Jerome E. Inderwies (
4) spread the word that Cape May needs to clean up its act
5) avoid Cape May until they realize that protecting birds is better for the health of cats, the environment, and business.

Note: I am not anti-cat. I actually like cats. I want them to be inside where they belong, safe from harm. This is not a forum for anti-cat messages. Please be respectful of those who care about cats. Lets help Cape May do the right thing for cats, birds, and people--keep cats inside, don't let them roam, require them to be fixed, licensed, and tagged.

Much as I'm in favor of feeding birds, lets not let this happen to any more cats in Cape May:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Schwarzenegger makes good

Governor Schwarzenegger has resisted pressure from the NRA and signed a bill that will restrict the use of lead ammunition in the range of the California Condor. Lead in animal carcasses is the leading killer of California Condors, so if adequately enforced, this measure should really help those birds. Good job Governor! More info here.

Owl Banding

(photo: Meera Subramanian)

Saturday night my wife and I took the kids out to Scott Weidensaul's Saw Whet Owl banding station at Hidden Valley in Schuylkill County. What a great night. My kids got to help release thee of the five owls we banded that evening. One owl sat on my three year old's outstretched arm for five minutes before flying off into the darkness. We got to hear the owl's heartbeat--a quick whirring like the purring of a cat. I also got to hear some Saw Whet calls that aren't on most of the commercially available owl tapes, and see a Saw Whet in a tree near the nets. We didn't get back home until 2am, and were exhausted the next day, but it was a night we'll remember for a long, long time.

For more about the owl banding project you can click here, and you can even adopt a Saw Whet Owl by clicking here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dark Clouds

As a professional bird conservationist, I spend most of my time looking for ways to help people and birds co-exist. That's because I love birds, and people. I'm not a misanthrope. I believe in the innate goodness of most people.

But every once in awhile I have blue moments. Today, as I read the latest BirdLife International assessment of the impending loss of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper--a bird I've dreamed of seeing since I was a kid--its hard not to be depressed. These little birds depend on a world that modern societies are hell-bent on taking away, a world of extensive coastal estuaries and mudflats. What most politicians and developers see as inexpensive flat land to be drained and converted into cash producing real estate, have been the migratory haunts of these unique little animals for millions of years. Now there are less than 300 pairs left.

What do we do, as a species, when a small bird gets in our way? While most people as individuals would never knowingly back their car over a small bird in their driveway, when a whole bird species can be wiped out by headless economic development, as a society we lament the loss but do little to prevent it.

I like our modern world. I like being able to travel and enjoy a comfortable existence. But when a whole species like this is threatened, we need to take it as a sign that we need to find another path--a path that will allow us to enjoy the luxuries that we've created over the past few decades, while allowing Spoon-billed Sandpipers and countless other species to enjoy the type of life that they've enjoyed for millions of years.

To help save critical habitat for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, read the story here, and then go here to send an email of support.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Great finds this morning

This morning after walking the fields at Sailor's Point, I was headed home but got the feeling I should check out the more weedy field at Pine Run. I'm glad I headed over there, as I was able to find a Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow (local rare migrant) and a Sedge Wren (a Pennsylvania rarity). I also had another strange pipit-like bird that got away before I could really identify it. Lots of fun walking through the weeds, but since I had shorts on my legs got all cut to pieces by multiflora rose. Oh well, worth it to find some nice rare birds.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Come see my talk to the Bucks County Birders

Program: How Birds See the World

Speaker: Rob Fergus
Senior Scientist | Urban Bird Conservation
National Audubon Society

Date: Tuesday October 23, 2007
Time: 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm
Location: Peace Valley Nature Center-170 Chapman Rd.
Car access to PVNC on Chapman Rd. is from New Galena Rd. only. Entry will be from the side door near the bird blind. If anyone needs directions, go to All are welcome.

Have you ever wondered what its like to be a bird, or how birds see the world? Rob Fergus will review the latest research on bird vision and how birds use their senses to perceive and interact with their world. Obtaining a real “bird’s eye view” of the world will help you better understand bird behavior and can enhance your appreciation for their unique ways of life.

Rob Fergus moved to Bucks County in December 2004 to take a position at the National Audubon Society Science Office in Warminster. He is formerly the founding director of the Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory and was the first executive director of the Travis Audubon Society in Austin, Texas. As a Senior Scientist for Audubon, Rob works on programs to encourage urban, suburban, and rural landowners to create and maintain habitat for birds. He also works on a range of bird-related issues including avian influenza, windpower, and alternative energy development, and helps coordinate the Great Backyard Bird Count and eBird. He lives in Bucks County with his wife and their three young birders.

Big Jay Flight

This morning while birding Sailor's Point at Peace Valley, I had 8 groups of 10-30 Blue Jays go over heading south during the 45 minutes I was walking the fields. More species than yesterday, but no real surprises. Nice to see a small flock of juvenile Cedar Waxwings.

Canada Goose 260
Mallard 5
Ruddy Duck 6
Double-crested Cormorant 9
Cooper's Hawk 1
Lesser Black-backed Gull 5
Mourning Dove 12
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Blue Jay 140
American Crow 4
Carolina Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 1
House Wren 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 8 Flying high moving south.
American Robin 30
Gray Catbird 4
Northern Mockingbird 15
European Starling 50
Cedar Waxwing 6
Eastern Towhee 3
Chipping Sparrow 1
Field Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 40
Song Sparrow 35
Swamp Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 5
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 6
Brown-headed Cowbird 4
House Finch 15

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2

Monday, October 08, 2007

They're Heeeeeeear!

Sparrows that is. I always like it when the sparrows are heading south. Today at Sailor's Point at Peace Valley I had dozens of Song Sparrow and Savannah Sparrows, as well as my first Lincoln's Sparrow, Swamp Sparrows, and White-crowned Sparrow of the fall. I love trying to catch glimpses of these guys as they play peek-a-boo in the brush. Its like a sparrow-human ballet!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More Pine Run

Quick stop at Pine Run this morning. No sign of the buff-breasteds. Still a few shorebirds: Solitary Sandpiper (1), Lesser Yellowlegs (1), Pectoral Sandpiper (1), Semipalmated Sandpiper (1), Least Sandpiper (4), Killdeer (30). Also a juvenile Northern Harrier there when I first arrived. It was tough to see what was out on the lake at Peace Valley because of fog, but did see the number of Ruddy Duck there had inched up to seven.

Most interesting bird of the morning was a leucistic (partial albino) Egyptian Goose at Peace Valley. The bird has been around for at least a month.

(Photo: Howard Eskins)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Buffies in the Morning

(Photo: Howard Eskins)

This morning I stopped by Pine Run, where the water levels are down and a few shorebirds are starting to show up. Best birds were what appeared to be a male and female Buff-breasted Sandpipers--always a good bird in this area, and on the late side for them to be moving through. Also 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 6 Least Sandpipers and 45 Killdeer. I also heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch in the woods--looks like it may be a good year for them down here. At Peace Valley, I saw my first Ruddy Ducks (3) of the fall, as well as a nice juvenile Ring-billed Gull, which I usually only see later in the year when they've already molted into their first winter plumage.

Howard Eskins was able to get over and photograph the Buff-breasted Sandpipers on his lunch break. In addition to this shot here, see his other photos of the birds here.
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