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Monday, December 16, 2019

100th Glenolden Pennsylvania Christmas Bird Count

When you are supposed to be birding the river for waterfowl, and all you get is this.
Saturday was the 100th Glenolden PA CBC.  I woke up very excited to try and help the count get to 100 species for the day.  It was a little wet and drizzly, but I left at 5:30 to look for owls.  Long story short--after 17 miles of driving and playing owl tapes, no owls.

I started the day up by the PHL airport to check out the river on that stretch, and wait for low tide at 9:00am to see if any good gulls showed up on the tidal flat.  But the birding was very slow, there wasn't anything around, and after an hour or so fog rolled in and I couldn't even see the river.

That was the theme for the day.  Fog and no birds.  By 11:30 without being able to see the river, I was only at 31 species, far below the 50+ I was hoping for in my area, and ten below my best morning of scouting last week.  Since I couldn't see the river, I took a longer lunch break than I otherwise would have.  It was really pretty pointless.

In the afternoon, the fog continued, then about 2:30 it finally lifted.  I hurried to Marcus Hook to look for swans, geese, and ducks--got the geese but no swans and the wind and heat shimmer off the water made it impossible to identify most distant ducks on the water.  By this point I was racing the sun to scour the 10 miles of river back to the airport.  No real surprises, most of the river was bare, making me wonder if I should have just stayed at Marcus Hook and prayed for better looks at the ducks there.

I ended the day where I started, at my favorite spot behind the PHL airport.  60 Brown-headed Cowbirds flew in at dusk, and as I refused to give up scanning the river after sundown, I was able to see a Wilson's Snipe flying over the river in the gathering darkness to end the day at 44 species.  Much lower than I had hoped.

If I do this area again, depending on the conditions, I would probably start at Marcus Hook for the waterfowl first thing (the fog killed me!) and work my way upstream, rather than the other way around.  But the possibility of owls or other grassland birds at the airport is alluring as well, though a much longer shot.  Oh well, the joys and travails of a CBC birder!  I've been doing Christmas Bird Counts for over 35 years.  Each one is a challenge.  And a memory.  This won't be one of my best, but I put in my best and learned a lot more about the fragmented urban habitats in Delaware County outside of Philly.  This count has experienced several years of bad weather lately, better luck next year!
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