3RBC Outings Revisited

Baltimore Oriole — Photo by Chuck Tague
Baltimore Oriole
Photo by Chuck Tague ©

Outings Revisited is a synopsis of the club's latest outings.

To view previous months and years, please see The Peregrine newsletters, also under Outings Revisited.

Outings in 2019

    "Dead of Winter Walk II" — Frick Park, January 19, 2019

    A snow storm was predicted, but not until afternoon, so the outing was held and the snow held off. A great turnout of 30 people joined me!

    A small flock of Dark-eyed Juncos, a Hairy Woodpecker, and a few Northern Cardinals were at the parking lot while we were gathering. A few of us attempted to count flyby crows.
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Feeders at the nature center yielded House Finches, a Downy Woodpecker, Mourning Doves, and Song and White-throated Sparrows. A Red-tailed Hawk perched nearby provided great views. Later, we had very close views of the bird.

    Someone called out five ducks flying over, which turned out to be Common Mergansers. Our proximity to the Monongahela River explains their sudden appearance because they are often seen at nearby Duck Hollow.

    We saw all the expected woodpeckers: Hairy, Downy, Red-bellied, Pileated, and Northern Flicker. We missed Yellow-bellied Sapsucker again this year.
    Carolina Wren
    A large fallen tree along South Clayton Trail provided a perch for a sprite Carolina Wren, calling as we approached. It was quite tame and allowed close approach. Down the trail we found a Cooper's Hawk perching - a male, judging by its small size.

    A Brown Creeper was a nice find. It called a few times, providing a lesson on how this species sounds like a Golden-crowned Kinglet, but with a single syllable.

    One participant mentioned seeing two Great Horned Owls recently in the park, and we spotted one roosting in a tree. Across the trail, a Pileated Woodpecker was working on a snag. A short distance later a Cooper's Hawk flew in and perched atop a snag, giving us a better look than the earlier bird.
    Frick Group
    It was a great walk and good to get out in the winter before the day's weather became unpleasant.

    — by leader Mike Fialkovich

    Click the link to see the complete list of 24 species for this outing on eBird: Dead of Winter Walk II.

    Woodcock Walk — March 20, 2019

    It was chilly and cloudy, but six people showed up for the Woodcock Walk. At the meeting spot we had Mallards, Canada Geese, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robins, Northern Cardinals, Song Sparrows, and House Sparrows. A lone Gadwall was swimming with some Mallards.

    On the river island, the Great Blue Heron rookery was very visible. Some herons were flying in and out, some were roosting, and some were on the nest.

    At the woodcock field, spring peepers were "going to town" vocally as we got out of our vehicles. We headed to a spot where I could show the group not only one, not two, but three praying mantis egg cases.

    It did not take long for the woodcocks' "peenting" to start, and soon the action began. As one bird was peenting, another one was taking off or landing. This action continued as we were leaving almost 40 minutes later. It was a life bird for one person, and another good outing.

    — by leader Tommy Byrnes

    Moraine State Park — March 24, 2019

    A dozen or so birders met at the South Shore of Lake Arthur on a rather cold and overcast day. There was little wind for most of the morning, so the conditions were good for long-distance viewing.
    Moraine Gulls
    We saw a good variety of ducks throughout the morning. Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Mallard, Wood Duck, and Hooded Merganser were seen in the South Shore cove. Out on the open lake, we saw 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 3 Ring-necked Ducks, some Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, Horned Grebes, and Common Loons. Killdeer were present in the beach parking lot and a single Bonaparte's Gull was among the Ring-billed Gulls along the lake edge.

    Continuing around the South Shore loop, and looking out toward the North Shore, we added rather distant Gadwall, a Redhead, Ruddy Ducks, and a Bald Eagle. More distant scaup went unidentified, but I did not see any Greaters among the birds that were close enough. The trip highlight for me was a Red-necked Grebe Red-necked Grebe that had been present on previous days, and I relocated it from this vantage point. At the Bear Run boat launch, we added a Pied-billed Grebe, a Common Merganser, and 2 early Tree Swallows.

    Some of us drove over to the waterfowl observation deck where we found the only Canvasback of the day Canvasback and had more individuals and closer looks at some other species, particularly Redhead, Lesser Scaup, and Ring-necked Duck. No fewer than 4 Ospreys were seen simultaneously from here as well, with one perched on a nest on the tower. We ended the outing at the deck at 12:30.

    Altogether I noted 46 species, which are on the following eBird checklists:

    Moraine State Park - South Shore: S54173041

    Moraine State Park - Waterfowl Observation Area: S54173394

    Thanks everyone for joining me!

    — by leader Michael David    (Photos by Dave Brooke)

    Woodcock Walk — March 27, 2019

    It was warmer and clearer than last week, and 16 people showed up. As I headed up to the meeting place, I spotted a Great Blue Heron on the far shoreline. It was hunting, and as I got out of my truck, I saw it snag a catfish. As the heron tried to arrange the fish headfirst to swallow it, the heron would drop the fish into a small puddle and stab at it. After a while, the heron was able to position the fish as it wanted and swallowed it. When the heron stretched its neck and head, I could see the bulge travel down its throat.

    Participants began to arrive at the meeting place, so we headed up to see the herons and whatever else might be present. Besides what we saw in the previous week, we found a Carolina Wren, and the Gadwall was still present on the creek.

    The heron was still hunting, and we saw it grab a perch-like fish that it had no problem swallowing. At the rookery, the herons were "doing their thing, " flying in and out, roosting on branches, and sitting in nests.

    The Spring Peepers were still calling at the woodcock field. They never seem to cease.

    As we headed to the woodcock spot, we already heard woodcocks "peenting, " and once we reached the viewing spot, a woodcock landed just a few yards away. The peenting and display flights were frequent.

    I showed the group the praying mantis egg cases, and with a clear sky we could see Mars. It was another good outing.

    — by leader Tommy Byrnes

    Pymatuning Outing — March 31, 2019

    Fourteen birders met at the Wildlife Center with great expectations for discovering waterfowl, raptors, and migratory songbirds. Everyone dressed in layers to deal with the cold temperatures that hovered near freezing. While waiting for late comers to arrive, a flock of twelve Cedar Waxwings pin-balled through the trees along the parking lot. Six Brown-headed Cowbird males also made a quick appearance.

    From the viewing area both adult and juvenile Bald Eagles seemed to be everywhere. Some were observed perched in trees while others flew from all directions over the marsh. It was difficult to accurately total them without double-counting individuals. The rattling calls of Sandhill Cranes were heard, but we never did locate their whereabouts. On the water we enjoyed our first looks at a Common Loon, Horned Grebes, and Bufflehead.

    As we continued our walk along the path back to the parking lot, bird activity began to pick up in the shrubs and trees. An Eastern Phoebe was spotted flitting about in search of insects. A female Eastern Bluebird was admired briefly as it sat still on a low branch. Other birds noted were a White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, a Song Sparrow and the ubiquitous Red-winged Blackbirds.

    Gorgeously colored waterfowl, the males in their breeding finery, provided us with wonderful close-up views at the Fish Hatchery of Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, Lesser Scaup, Hooded and Common Mergansers, Ring-neck Ducks, Bufflehead, and a pair of Pied-billed Grebes. Two Herring Gulls was observed taking turns pecking at a half-eaten catfish. Gross to watch for sure, but it was interesting behavior. Three Bald Eagles sat quietly in a tree seemingly content to just watch the ducks swimming below, while Tree Swallows coursed over the water in their swirling style of flight in search of insects.

    It was seemingly quiet at the Spillway. We found a Bonaparte's Gull flying among a few Ring-billed Gulls. We briefly followed the flight of four Bald Eagles as they circled above the tree line. A group of Canada Geese seemed to be upset as several were squawking and hissing loudly at each other. Two ganders charged each other and locked their bills like a tug-of-war. Eventually the combatants backed off and swam away from each other. We tracked a pair of Common Loons with scopes as they fished. It was amazing how long they seemed to stay underwater. A raft of Ruddy Ducks was also discovered. They seemed to be resting and floating together like it was just another day at the beach.

    As we next headed to the Hartstown pond, three American Kestrels were discovered perching on power lines along the highway. A pair of Killdeer gave way for our cars as we pulled into the parking lot. Eight Sandhill Cranes provided excitement as they were discovered walking slowly along a corn row. We also had our first-time sightings of Redhead and Green-winged Teal as they intermingled with Hooded Mergansers, Gadwall, Ring-necked Ducks, and Mallards. A driver pulled into the parking lot and told us he had just seen a Red-necked Grebe on the Ohio side of the causeway. We quickly jumped into our cars and made our way there. A blustery wind churned up the water and made viewing difficult. We only found Horned Grebes. At that point we decided to warm up and dine at Scooters by the Lake just a minute's drive away.

    Our first destination following lunch was the old Tuttle Campground to search for Red-headed Woodpeckers. We instantly found two of them as they flew around the marsh and landed briefly on various snags. The woodies put on a good show and allowed us to admire their beauty and observe their behavior. A Red-tailed Hawk provided an additional thrill as it flew through the marsh.

    At the small pond on Swamp Road, better known as Miller's Pond, we had good looks at Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, Hooded Mergansers, and four Bald Eagles that soared over the the surrounding trees. When a male Northern Harrier arrived on the scene, things really got interesting. As the raptor approached lowly over the pond, it flushed flocks of eight Wilson's Snipe and fourteen Greater Yellowlegs that were hidden from our view by the pond's vegetation. The ducks also took off in tandem to escape. Luckily for us, the snipe and yellowlegs hid in the vegetation along the shoreline closer to our position and provided us with good viewing. The harrier did not seem to be successful in catching any prey.

    From the Firemen's Beach parking lot at Conneaut Lake, we had our first looks at Red-breasted Mergansers and more good views of Bufflehead, Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, Common Loons, and Hooded Mergansers. While observing a pair of flying Bald Eagles, we thought about how common it has become to view these majestic birds and know they are thriving in the northwestern part of our state. There were also many Tree Swallows whirling around. How were they finding food in such cold weather?

    Moving on to Geneva Marsh, the wind suddenly picked up and snowflakes blew into our faces. Looking through scopes and binoculars was fruitless, so we headed to Custards, our last stop for the day.

    Our first bird here was a flyover from a Bald Eagle, and soon after we heard the calls from a pair of Sandhill Cranes also passing over the marsh. Ring-necked Ducks were here in large numbers. American Wigeon were soon spotted, but we really had hopes of locating Long-tailed Ducks that birders discovered before the outing commenced. As luck would have it, a pair was discovered right in front of us. Getting everyone to see these ducks wasn't so easy, as they kept diving quickly and changing their location slightly after returning to the surface.

    A sudden snow squall swept over the marsh and quickly put an end to the outing. But as one birder once told me, "As long as I am seeing birds, I don't think about the weather." With 51 species totaled for the day, they provided us with plenty of smiling faces and warming thoughts.

    — by leader Bob VanNewkirk

    Click the link to see the complete list of 51 species for this outing as a PDF: Sewickley Heights List 4/26 (PDF).

    Sewickley Heights Borough Park Outing — April 26, 2019

    The phrase "weathering the storm" was appropriate for the six birders who came for a joint outing with the Fern Hollow Nature Center at Sewickley Heights Park. The outing was briefly delayed as we waited for a drenching shower to pass through the area. A quick check on an iPhone weather map indicated that there would be a lull in the rain for about three hours. Prompted by that encouraging report, we were eager to see what species we might find.
    Eastern Towhee
    Birding in the parking lot revealed the presence of goldfinches, cardinals, robins, and bluebirds. The bluebirds were nesting in the bird box close by. We took this level of activity as a good omen. Soon, we noted some migrants including Eastern Towhee, Blue-headed Vireo, Chipping Sparrows, Purple Finches, Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. We heard the calls of a Pileated Woodpecker and Carolina Wrens.

    The horse pastures along the Bayberry Trail turned out to be birdy with sightings of many Barn Swallows and a few Tree Swallows constantly coursing their way over the fields in search of insects. A lone Killdeer was briefly sighted before it flew off. Scanning a cluster of trees on the hillside revealed a dark silhouette perched in one. It was identified as an American Kestrel as it flew away.
    Longhorn Cattle
    There was one pasture sectioned off that I was anxious for everyone to see. If we were lucky, I told everyone, we might see a group of Longhorned Cowbirds. The "cowbirds" were really Texas Longhorns. There were four of them along with three calves. Like a pastoral scene reminiscent out of the Old West, there were six Brown-headed Cowbirds and some Red-winged Blackbirds padding the ground close to the bovines.
    Broad-winged Hawk
    As we headed back towards the parking lot via Laurel Trail, a Broad-winged Hawk flew overhead. Our only White-breasted Nuthatch was also discovered. We spied a flock of warblers foraging high in the tree canopy consisting of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Black-throated Blue Warblers. Picking out other warblers was made difficult by the increasing wind and darkening clouds.

    As we rushed back to the parking lot to avoid an imminent downpour, a Field Sparrow was heard calling. This was the last bird for our list of 30 species. Despite the rain, it was a wonderful morning to be out on the trails.

    — by leader Bob VanNewkirk    (Longhorn Photo by Michelle Kienholz)

    Click the link to see the complete list of 30 species for this outing as a PDF: Pymatuning List (PDF).

    Glade Run Lake Park — April 28, 2019
    Glade Run Group

    Twelve hearty birders showed up in 43 degree, damp and overcast weather for our Glade Run Lake spring outing. We walked out on the fishing pier and were treated to good views of a male Belted Kingfisher flying past us and a Spotted Sandpiper walking across the walkway. We also had a Warbling Vireo singing first in the parking lot and then close to the lake.

    We then walked back to the trail. After many Myrtles some of the group turned back while the rest slogged on through ankle deep mud in search of Virginia Rail and Sora. Both were in the same locations I found them in earlier in the week. I called the Sora twice and after a few minutes it called. We moved on through more mud to the Virginia Rail. I called it twice, and it responded several minutes later and then walked through the marsh giving everyone a chance to see it.

    On the way back out two Sora were heard, one in the same place as earlier and one out on an island across from that location. We covered 3.5 miles in 3 hours and 24 minutes with a total of 44 species.

    — by leader Dave Brooke

    Click the link to see the complete list of 44 species for this outing on eBird: Glade Run Lake List.

    Deer Lakes Regional Park — May 4, 2019

    Last year's 3RBC spring outing to this park on May 12 included 11 participants, and yielded 71 species, including 18 warbler species. This year's outing was held eight days earlier on May 4, also included 11 participants, and yielded 70 species, including 14 warbler species.

    Despite the similarity in numbers of total species, and although the outing did not have any significant lulls in birding activity, the number of individual birds counted differed significantly from 2018 to 2019. For example, in 2018 we counted 239 individuals (including 85 warbler individuals) whereas this year we counted 195 (including 44 warbler individuals). These differences highlight the variation in birding that can occur during migration across days and weeks and from year to year.

    This spring's outing had mostly cloudy skies compared to last year's sunny weather, with many muddy trails from the plentiful rainfall during the week. These conditions made observation difficult at times, and good looks of many birds were hard to come by (e.g., Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and Nashville Warbler). Although Ovenbirds were heard singing throughout the outing, as this is one of the best breeding spots in the county for the species, most in the group were able to observe only one individual over the course of the day. Deer Lakes Group Early in the outing many in the group were treated to only a distant view of a Cape May Warbler.

    Shortly thereafter, with some effort and determination, the group was able to spy a White-eyed Vireo singing and foraging near the upper field. Later in the outing, when the sun began to break through the clouds, close views of a Yellow-throated Vireo near the lower pond were a real treat before the group tackled the steep hill back to the parking lot. Along the way, we were treated to the lovely soaring and calling of Red-shouldered and Broad-winged Hawks. In addition, nearing the top of the hill before the parking lot, we picked up our 14th warbler species: a beautiful male Northern Parula. Surprisingly absent from the day's checklist was Kentucky Warbler, a species that also breeds throughout the park.

    — by leader Todd Hooe

    (Photo by Lisa Kaufman)

    Click the link to see the 44 species seen on this outing on eBird: Deer Lakes List.

    Presque Isle State Park — May 10, 2019

    When scheduling a spring outing at Presque Isle State Park, you can always count on weather playing a role. For the five birders who met on a gray, chilly morning at the south shore parking lot, we started off with fog, strong winds, and a brief light shower. However, there was quite a variety of birds present. Two Common Loons and some Bufflehead, a Wood Duck, a few Double-crested Cormorants, and a Red-breasted Merganser were discovered swimming in the bay. A solitary Common Tern, Tree Swallows, Chimney Swifts and Ring-billed Gulls coursed overhead searching for food. In the surrounding trees of the parking lot, Yellow Warblers, Warbling Vireos, and Baltimore Orioles were noted. One birder also discovered a Ruby-throated Hummingbird flitting among some tree leaves.

    A brief walk across the road to the wood-lined beach parking lot provided several sightings of Swainson's Thrushes, Red-winged Blackbirds, Gray Catbirds, Mourning Doves, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, a Northern Flicker, and more Yellow Warblers. A Wood Thrush was heard but not sighted. A quick check of the lake produced additional sightings of some Red-breasted Mergansers. It was so windy lakeside, that even the gulls that usually perch on the break walls were completely absent.

    A drake and a hen Wood Duck and an Eastern Kingbird were spotted tucked against the shoreline at Leo's Landing. A swarm of Tree Swallows patrolled the marsh, Great Blue Heron but our attention was drawn by a Great Blue Heron. The heron was observed grabbing a rather large fish around its belly and flying with it to the end of the road. While scoping the heron after it landed, the bird dropped its prey - a catfish. The heron repeatedly picked up the fish, held it briefly and dropped it. Not once while we watched this scene did it try to turn its catch head first to swallow it.

    The area around the Ranger Station was quite active. Along the road and walking path we observed three warbler species: a Cape May, a Nashville, and an American Redstart and our first Ruby-crowned Kinglet. A Scarlet Tanager provided us with admiring looks while foraging in the open. We had a surprised sighting of a Forster's Tern as it flew over the pond and another of a flock of about 30 Blue Jays passing overhead. The bird feeding station was quite active with foraging White-crowned Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Baltimore Orioles, a Downy Woodpecker, a Black-capped Chickadee, and Northern Cardinals. While walking back to our cars, a Bald Eagle soared overhead.

    The woods near the Niagara boat launch used to be a banding site. Although it is no longer used as one, this location can be quite productive, and it was. We added Wood Thrush, Eastern Phoebe, Hooded Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat and White-throated Sparrow to our bird list. As we were about to leave in our cars, one birder called out a sighting of a perched Red-headed Woodpecker on a cottonwood tree. While watching it, a second Red-head landed on the same tree.

    There was a flurry of warbler activity along the Old Gas Well Trail as we saw our first Black-throated Blue, Magnolia, and Hooded. A Veery and an Eastern Bluebird were briefly spotted before disappearing into the vegetation. At the nearby pond we watched Purple Martins fly in and out of their colonial nest boxes, and Barn Swallows were zig-zag flying everywhere you looked.
    Great Horned Owl and Owlet
    Since we were lucky to see the woodpeckers, I hoped our luck would continue by finding the Great Horned Owl mother and her recently fledged owlet. They had nested in a snag just up the road. Lady Luck was with us due to the assistance of Rita, an avid Erie native birder, who was photographing this dynamic pair. Both owls were well camouflaged and perched in a very tall pine tree. Great Horned Owlet I don't think we would have been able to find them on our own.

    We decided to eat lunch in our cars to save time and head next for Fry's Landing, the present banding location. The banders told us that the day before they had a one day record of banding 45 different species. Due to today's low temperature and cold, northerly winds, only 15 species had been caught. But our walk through the woods produced warbler sightings of Chestnut-sided, Palm, Black-throated Blue, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Hooded, and Black-throated Green. Two vireo species - a Red-eyed and a Blue-headed were also found. Red-breasted Nuthatches were here also. They were commonly found throughout the park.

    At Thompson Bay we discovered a dozen swimming Bufflehead and a few cormorants. We watched an adult Bald Eagle carry a fish in its talons. We were hoping it would land within our view and show us the location of its nest, but the raptor flew out of our sight. While heading back to our cars, a Killdeer flew into the grassy field near the bath house.

    The Pine Tree Trail was our final stop, and we soon had a good variety of activity from warblers and other birds. We noted Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Green, Cape May, Yellow-rumped, a Northern Parula, and Black-throated Blue Warblers, as well as an Eastern Kingbird, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a Great Crested Flycatcher. Unfortunately, we missed seeing the only Blackburnian Warbler that another birder had reported seeing along this trail.

    Despite the chilling temperatures and overcast skies, we enjoyed our many roadside stops, each other's company, and the ever present joy of watching birds in action. Our warbler total for the day was fifteen, and our total species numbered 75.

    — by leader Bob VanNewkirk

    (Owl photos by Rita Weryha)

    Click the link to see the complete list of 75 species for this outing as a PDF: Presque Isle List (PDF).

    Sewickley Heights Park — May 10, 2019

    Six birders gathered in the parking lot for 3RBC's second joint spring outing with Fern Hollow Nature Center. It looked like rain was possible at any moment, so we wasted no time and started to bird from the parking lot. A White-throated Sparrow was spotted in low bushes, and a Double-crested Cormorant flew high overhead.

    A Box Turtle sat in the middle of the path near the new habitat improvement area that leads to Butterfly Field. It graciously posed in front of the new sign that showed a photo of . . . a Box Turtle! Eastern Box Turtle Eastern Towhees, Indigo Buntings, and American Goldfinches were found at the field's edge.

    Eleven warbler species were found. We had great looks at a Chestnut-sided, a Magnolia and several Black-throated Greens. We caught fleeting glimpses of Bay-breasted, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Tennessees in the poor light. Along the road, we heard a Cerulean Warbler and finally found it in a towering tree, giving us a look at the typical white belly and throat with a thin black necklace. We heard Hooded Warblers everywhere, but they remained hidden. One warbler wasn't seen well and was later identified as a Northern Parula in a photo taken by a member of our group.

    Eastern Bluebirds were having a great season with pairs inhabiting almost every nesting box. One box held white eggs instead of the usual blue, an uncommon color variation for Eastern Bluebirds.

    An Eastern Kingbird was a surprise find at the longhorn cattle pasture. Elegant fork-tailed Barn Swallows swooped over the fields.

    The rain never materialized, and our small group was able to quickly cover a good portion of the park before returning to our cars just before noon.

    — by leader Sheree Daugherty

    Click the link to see the 40 species seen on this outing as a PDF: May Sewickley Heights List (PDF).

    Cook Forest State Park — May 11, 2019

    Four 3RBC members met Mike Leahy at the new park office. It was a beautiful day to walk in the park's "forest cathedral." Mike is well-versed in the huge trees found in this virgin forest. He provided a lot of interesting and enlightening information about how trees are aged by examining "cookies" cut from downed trees and borings cut into live ones. Cook Forest He also talked about the logging methods used decades ago. He led us on a guided tour of logging equipment and methods on display in a park building.

    We did not encounter a large variety of warblers, but quite a few Black-throated Greens, Blackburnians, and Hoodeds were seen and heard. A highlight was listening to several Winter Wrens and getting a brief glimpse of one. Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos were common, enabling us to notice the difference in their vocalizations. After lunch, some of us visited the fire tower and encountered Cerulean Warblers and Scarlet Tanagers.

    — by participant Carol McCullough

    Click the link to see the 24 species seen on this outing as a PDF: Cook Forest List (PDF).

    Harrison Hills Park — May 18, 2019

    On a cloudy, drizzly day 33 people showed up for the Harrison Hills walk, perhaps our largest group ever for this park! After introductions the group listened and identified several species by song, especially a vigorous Scarlet Tanager that loudly proclaimed his presence. Because of the late date, the trees were almost completely leafed out, limiting many of our species to be identified by song only.

    At the pond we quietly advanced in case any duck or shorebird was present, but none were found. The new resident Virginia Rails were also quiet, so we crossed the boardwalk and focused on the fields and woodland edges. Here we quickly found Carolina Wren, Gray Catbird, Indigo Bunting, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Eastern Bluebird, Chimney Swift, Northern Flicker, and numerous Eastern Towhees. A lone Black-billed Cuckoo called in the distance. We retraced our step back to the boardwalk where a Virginia Rail gave its grunting call! Unfortunately, very few of our group heard it. Back at the parking lot Paul Hess reported hearing a Northern Mockingbird.
    Pileated Woodpecker
    As usual the creekside trail was excessively muddy but provided a long, stunning look at a male Pileated Woodpecker no higher than six feet off the ground as he busily removed bark from a tree in his quest for insects. Everyone got excellent views at the woodpecker no more than forty feet away! As we started to leave, the bird gave his loud territorial call and went back to working on the same tree. More towhees gave close views, including a female carrying a cicada that had just emerged. A Wood Thrush posed in a bare tree for a few quick observers. The cliff side trail was largely disappointing. The resident Cerulean and Worm-eating Warblers were silent on this damp, cloudy morning, but a distant Acadian Flycatcher was eventually heard by all. A Kentucky Warbler sang in his usual territory, and Hooded Warblers provided close views for everyone.

    At the Environmental Learning Center the different habitat and the feeders provided new species for the day. At least 23 Purple Martins were flying above the trees, feeding on some unseen (by us) insect hatch. A Purple Finch appeared at the feeder. Finally the clouds parted and birds started singing. Yellow-throated Vireo, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Parula, Tennessee Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, and Yellow Warbler were heard. A Red-tailed Hawk and a Turkey Vulture soared overhead. Both Orchard and Baltimore Orioles displayed their colors prominently. Paul Hess and a few others heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.

    For the day we had 56 species including 10 species of warblers. Ten of us finished the outing tabulation over lunch at Eat'n Park after a satisfying morning of birding.

    — by leader Jim Valimont

    Click the link to see the 55 species seen on this outing on eBird: Harrison Hills List.

    Piney Tract — June 8, 2019

    Mike Leahy's visit to State Game Lands No. 330 (Piney Tract) in central Clarion County and nearby locations was met with gorgeous weather and great views of several grassland species and others. Henslows Sparrow Outing participants were rewarded with outstanding views of not just one but three Henslow's Sparrows that were either singing or calling atop shrubs or bare vegetation, a real treat given that bird's tendency to stay well out of site among the fields it prefers.

    Many more Henslow's were heard. Grasshopper Sparrows were also heard but chose to stick close to the ground like their namesake. Several Prairie Warblers were singing, and Mike was able to call in one striking male for some close range looks. Throughout the morning Mike shared his extensive knowledge of the efforts of the PA Game Commission to manage SGL 330 specifically for grassland species.
    Bobolink at Mt Airy
    Other stops in Clarion County included Mount Airy, where the group was able to see a fine concentration of Bobolinks, mostly males but a few females as well. Almost on cue as Mike told the group to search the opposite side of the road for Savannah Sparrows, a handsome male was on display immediately. The group's final stop at Curllsville Strips yielded Brown Thrashers. In summary, 31 species were recorded during a terrific late spring morning in rural Clarion County.

    — by participant Ted Weller

    (Henslow's Sparrow photo by Michael Leahy)

    (Bobolink photo by Dave Brooke)

    Click these different links to see the 23 species seen at PINEY TRACT during the outing on eBird: Piney Tract List,
    plus, the 4 species seen at the MT. AIRY part of the outing on eBird: Mt. Airy List,
    and the 14 species seen at the CURLLSVILLE STRIPS leg of the outing on eBird: Curllsville Strips List.

    Hunter's Lane — June 15, 2019

    It's sometimes a good idea to scout the location of an outing if possible, and this was likely the first time I did that. I drove to the site after work the day before the outing to check the trail conditions, because it's often overgrown. I found out that the road to the location was closed for a bridge replacement project, just at the parking area!

    Fortunately, we could detour and enter Route 381 from the north in Rector. This added about 20 minutes of driving time, but we were able to get to the site.

    Eleven birders joined for the walk through this section of Forbes State Forest that features brushy areas, forest, and shrub swamp.

    We parked at a handy lot to access the forest land and had to walk on Route 381 to get to the northern access of the trail. No matter, because the road parallels the trail and the habitat is the same along the road, so we just had to be aware of the occasional vehicle.

    Ovenbirds and Cedar Waxwings were heard at the parking lot and along the road. We came upon an agitated pair of Common Yellowthroats indicating a nest was nearby, and we saw a Yellow Warbler carrying food. A Blue-winged Warbler was singing from the shrubby area and was eventually spotted in the dead branches of a tree. This site was previously good for Golden-winged Warblers, so an effort was made to visually confirm each singing bird. We also heard Swamp Sparrows singing and eventually had good views of one. A Chestnut-sided Warbler was spotted and a White-eyed Vireo made two quick appearances.
    Blue-winged Warbler
    Another Blue-winged Warbler song was heard, and Tom Kuehl spotted the bird. It was a Golden-winged Warbler singing a perfect Blue-winged Warbler song! My thought was that it must have Blue-winged DNA, but after I posted it on Pennsylvania Birds, I had a reply that research at the site showed a Golden-winged singing a Blue-winged song. Not everyone in the group was able to see the bird.

    We finally reached the dirt road that is called Hunter's Lane, where we were greeted by two male Indigo Buntings. We walked down to the trail (called Blair Brother's Railroad) and it was terribly overgrown. Nobody was interested in ticks but no worries, we were able to walk the gravel road with excellent habitat and birds. It was nice to be off Route 381.

    Just as we passed the trail I heard an Alder Flycatcher singing. We were unable to see it because it was in the distance in very dense shrub habitat. We later found another that perched in a tree and sang next to the road. Unfortunately, at this point the group was separated and not everyone saw it.

    A Scarlet Tanager sang right over our heads but managed to stay out of sight. We saw another Blue-winged Warbler and found a Red-eyed Vireo on a nest.

    We saw the interesting courtship flight of a Cooper's Hawk. The bird was flapping with slow, exaggerated wing beats, very different from this species' typical rapid flaps and glides. We also saw a male Common Yellowthroat perform a display flight, singing while flying in a roller coaster-like arc, cocking its tail.

    Back on the main road we enjoyed a Broad-winged Hawk, and two Red-shouldered Hawks interacting with each other. The Red-shouldered birds were very vocal, and a Red-tailed Hawk was thrown into the mix.

    We ended with a beautiful pair of Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies, a rare but regular species at this location.

    — by leader Mike Fialkovich

    Click the link to see the 44 species seen on this outing on eBird: Hunter's Lane List.

    Annual Picnic, Harrison Hills Park — June 23, 2019

    The decision to move the annual picnic date to June and the destination to Harrison Hills Park was heartily endorsed after last year's snowy, sleety, rainy October date at Moraine State Park. It was a perfect weather day with blue skies, sun, and comfortable temperatures.

    Eighteen birders gathered at the parking lot near the Rachel Carson Trail. Jim Valimont, our guide, led us down the hill on a muddy trail. At the first opening, a male Scarlet Tanager perched atop a tall tree. At the pond, we had a Belted Kingfisher, a Pileated Woodpecker, and a pair of Mallards. A pair of Orchard Orioles gave us excellent views as they flew back and forth across the meadow.

    The trail above the Allegheny River was noisy with the calls of an Acadian Flycatcher and a Worm-eating Warbler. The well-hidden warbler seemed to follow the group along the gorge rim. Patience paid off for a few who got to see it, and one photographer got a few photos of the elusive bird. Other warblers for the day were Black-and-white, Hooded, Kentucky, and Common Yellowthroat.

    Background music was provided by red-eyed cicadas, which had recently emerged from 17 years underground. Many trees showed evidence of their egg-laying with dead, browning branch tips. The ground was littered with their dark-veined transparent wings, which the birds tore off as indigestible. The fat, calorie-rich bodies provided a bounty for birds!
    Purple Martins
    We enjoyed viewing the healthy Purple Martin colony near the Environmental Learning Center and were happy to see the club's 2018 donation to the Purple Martin Preservation Association in action.

    On the trail near the Environmental Learning Center several new birds for the outing were found including a Baltimore Oriole, a Yellow-billed Cuckoo and an Indigo Bunting. A Brown Thrasher was spotted at the edge of the woods.

    A few more club members met us at the Yakaon Shelter to enjoy the potluck picnic for a total of 22 people. We sampled a variety of tasty foods while enjoying the antics of the nearby Purple Martins.

    We ended the outing with a total of 50 species, an impressive number for June in Allegheny County.

    — by participant Sheree Daugherty

    Click the link to see the 50 species seen on the Annual Picnic outing on eBird: Harrison Hills Picnic List.

    Sewickley Heights Borough Park — September 12, 2019

    Seven birders met in the parking lot of Sewickley Heights Park for a second joint Fall outing with the Fern Hollow Nature Center. High temperatures with matching humidity did not diminish our expectations for finding early migratory species. While waiting for late comers to arrive, bird activity was noted with sightings of a pair of Gray Catbirds, flyovers from several Blue Jays, a Chimney Swift, a small flock of Barn Swallows and a singing Hooded Warbler and Eastern Towhee.

    Warbler activity was quickly evident as we birded the two reclaimed fields with sightings of a pair of Black-throated Green Warblers, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, three Magnolia Warblers, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler. Scanning the trees that separates the two fields and those bordering the woods, produced sightings of a female Scarlet Tanager, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and an Eastern Wood-pewee. One lone small tree in the field close to where we stood gave us close looks at a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Red-eyed Vireo, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

    While walking along the Barberry Trail that parallels the pastures, we were surprised to see 44 Canada Geese foraging in the tall grass. We also discovered four Eastern Bluebirds perched separately on fence posts. In the next field we stopped briefly to admire the Long-horned Steers that are certainly eye-catching and photo worthy.

    Warbler activity picked-up again as we intersected a spur trail leading to Waterthrush Way with sightings of a Black-throated Blue, Bay-breasted, and two American Redstart. One birder had a Ruby-throated Hummingbird suddenly buzz low over his head.
    As we walked along Waterthrush Way, a bird suddenly popped onto the trail and appeared to be walking in a jerky motion while head-bobbing. It was an Ovenbird. Some birders thought it may have been a waterthrush. This was the first time many in the group had witnessed this type of behavior exhibited by this warbler. Eventually, the Ovenbird came into better light and its identity confirmed. A singing Hooded Warbler was heard but not sighted.

    The last bird of note was a poor view of a Pileated Woodpecker spied through leaves. We were alerted to the bird's presence by its pounding on a dead tree trunk.

    We concluded the outing by resting on a picnic table near the parking lot to review the bird list. Despite the heat and humidity, we netted 38 species including nine warblers.

    — by leader Bob VanNewkirk

    Click the link to see the 38 species seen on this outing as a PDF: Sewickley Heights List.

Image Gallery

Mission of 3RBC

To gather in friendship, to enjoy the wonders of nature and to share our passion for birds!

© Photo Credits:
Sherron Lynch, Tom Moeller, Brian Shema, and Chuck Tague