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.

Synopsis of Outings —

    Dead of Winter Walk — Frick Park, January 27, 2018

    We were lucky to have a relatively mild winter day. Rain was forecast but fortunately held off until well after the outing. I was surprised to have 25 birders present. Some participants were on their first outing!
    From the parking lot, I heard a Fish Crow calling and saw it flying across Forbes Avenue. A Northern Flicker, a few American Robins, and Red-bellied Woodpeckers were in the vicinity.
    We started by watching the feeders at the nature center for a few minutes while discussing hybrid chickadees and the differences between Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees. As we watched a House Finch feeding, someone asked how to identify House and Purple Finches. I tried my best to explain the differences. We even talked about the introduction of the House Finch to the eastern U.S., sold as "Hollywood Finches." A few White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were feeding below the feeders.
    Heading for the Meadow Next we headed toward the meadow where we saw the remains of an old fountain that until recently had been buried under the soil. The area is in restoration, but it's unclear whether that includes the fountain or just the natural area. A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers gave us fantastic views for several minutes. While we watched the pair, another was heard calling in the distance. A few White-throated Sparrows were calling, and Sheree Daugherty spotted a Raccoon curled up in a ball sleeping in a tree.
    We continued down South Clayton Trail where we were treated to a Golden-crowned Kinglet and a Brown Creeper. A Red-tailed Hawk was perched but flew off shortly after we saw it.
    I stopped by a familiar American Basswood tree to show the trunk ringed with Yellow-bellied Sapsucker wells. Unfortunately, we were unable to see one during the outing. Red-bellied Woodpeckers were very numerous.
    On the trails behind the nature center we had another Golden-crowned Kinglet at very close range, allowing us to admire this beautiful and active species. There was a lot of activity here with Blue Jays, chickadees, House Finches, and three Carolina Wrens. The activity ceased as a Cooper's Hawk flew over, but in a few minutes the birds came out of hiding. An unexpected Common Grackle was perched and calling in a tree.
    Northern Cardinals and Song Sparrows were singing, a nice treat in the middle of winter and a bit of a sign of spring.
    —by leader Mike Fialkovich
    Click the link to see the complete list of 22 species for this outing on eBird: Dead of Winter Walk

    Sewickley Heights Borough Park — February 17, 2018

    This was the seventh year that the 3RBC has teamed with the Fern Hollow Nature Center to participate in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count. Ten birders gathered on a calm and chilly morning in the upper parking lot of Sewickley Heights Park prepared to walk around its many habitats to try to find as many birds as we could.
    As birders pulled into the parking lot, their attention was immediately directed to helping count Cedar Waxwings as the birds feasted on bittersweet berries. The final tally amounted to 43 waxwings. A dozen American Goldfinches also occupied the same tree, but they seemed to be just roosting, perhaps waiting for their chance to feed on the berries. Scanning the meadow and wooded edges produced sightings of a male and female Eastern Bluebird, crows, Song Sparrows, a cardinal, and a Blue Jay.
    As we next headed to the Butterfly Field, April Claus, a Fern Hollow naturalists, wanted to show us an area adjacent to this field that was clear cut to eliminate invasive bushes and plants. There was another area of the same size that was also cut near the Pine Tree Trail. The intent of the cutting is to be proactive towards improving habitat for birds and mammals by planting native grasses and shrubs. This project will be interesting to monitor over the next few years to see how birds are drawn to these areas. While walking along the Bridle Trail, the group stopped to count fifteen robins and a dozen starlings roaming over the backyard of a house parallel to the trail.
    The horse pastures along the Barberry Trail turned out to be the most active section of the park. A Northern Mockingbird was sighted at the top of a multiflora rose bush. A Red-bellied Woodpecker flew out of the woods across a field. White-throated Sparrows played Hide-and-Seek as they stayed low in bushes along the fences. We spied a Turkey Vulture flying in the distance and three Red-tailed Hawks put on a good show as they ascended while "riding" a thermal of air. Surprisingly, a flock of 59 Canada Geese flew overhead and were counted by a few sharp-eyed birders. Upon returning near the trail's entrance, we observed large numbers of robins, starlings, and juncos seemingly pour out of the woods and begin to spread out over a field in search of food. A pair of American Tree Sparrows was discovered further up along the grassy edge of the trail. This was a life bird for one participant.
    We next headed toward the Pipeline Trail by walking through the Bird Field as it has been dubbed by the Fern Hollow naturalists. Waxwings and goldfinches were noted here but not counted. We figured they probably split off from the group we first observed in the parking lot. A pair of Golden-crowned Kinglets was discovered as they pin-balled their way through tree branches.
    Unfortunately, the Pipeline Trail and our walk back to the parking lot were void of birds. We totaled 23 species and 321 total birds during the morning walk. Before going our separate ways, we all shared our favorite sightings back at the parking lot and expressed our joy for finding a good diversity of birds. A few of us went on to the Fern Hollow Nature Center to enjoy a pot luck luncheon which has also become part of our GBBC tradition.
    —by leader Bob VanNewkirk
    Click the link to see the complete list of 23 species for this outing on eBird: Great Backyard Bird Count

    Moraine State Park Outing — Sunday, March 18, 2018

    Four birders including Rebecca Hart, Dave Brooke, Mary Elsenheimer and Julie met at the Day Use parking lot of Moraine State Park at 8:00 AM on a cold but sunny morning. The group observed here and along the South Shore for an hour and a quarter. Many migrating ducks filled this part of Lake Arthur including Bufflehead, American Wigeons, Hooded, Red-breasted, and Common Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, a pair of Common Goldeneye, and a Ruddy Duck. The 24 Bufflehead were displaying courtship behavior; the lone Ruddy Duck drake was in non-breeding plumage. An immature Bald Eagle and a flock of ten grackles flew over the area as the four birded.
    The small group moved on to the Bear Run Boat Launch, where an Eastern Bluebird and Belted Kingfisher among others were added to their species list.
    From here the group moved on to the Waterfowl Observation Area, which was rather disappointing because the water was mostly frozen over with only four species sighted; however, that did include a pair of adult Bald Eagles flying overhead.
    A long drive over to McDanel's Boat Launch on the north side of the lake resulted in 11 species sighted. Only eight Ring-necked Ducks had been observed on the South Shore, but here a conservative estimate of 28 ring-necks were found. Six Hooded Mergansers were counted along with several species of passerines.
    At this point Rebecca Hart had to leave to join the Westmoreland Bird Club on another outing, but the three others in the group continued on to the Upper Boat Launch on Route 528. A Common Loon and two Horned Grebes were added to the list here along with more Ring-necked Ducks, Bufflehead, and ten Ruddy Ducks. Another kingfisher also was added.
    Dave Brooke made one last stop alone at the Bear Run Boat Launch again where he found the third kingfisher for the day and the 35th species, eight Cedar Waxwings.
    The group saw a total of 35 species at five locations at Moraine State Park.
    — Compiled from eBird reports from the five locations submitted by Rebecca Hart and Dave Brooke.
    Click the link to see the complete list of 35 species for this outing on a PDF: Moraine State Park List.

    Pymatuning Area — March 24, 2018

    The 34 birders who gathered at the Wildlife Center parking lot were a combined group of 3RBC members and those of the Audubon Society of Western PA co-led by Education Director Chris Kubiak. We were happy to welcome some beginning birders who were making their first visit to Pymatuning. Perhaps as a positive omen, an immature Bald Eagle flew overhead as we began walking to the viewing area.
    With a quick scan, the lake seemed devoid of waterfowl at first, but plenty of eagle sightings were easily scoped in trees, perched close together on fallen logs near the shoreline, or flying close by. These charismatic birds were joyful to observe and caused some of the experienced birders to recall when DDT all but wiped out Pennsylvania's nesting eagles. The last three state Bald Eagle nests were in the Pymatuning region in the late 1970's.
    As we walked back toward the parking lot, an Eastern Bluebird flew out of a nest box. Our first good looks of waterfowl were provided by Buffleheads, a Horned Grebe, and Common Mergansers. A mystery hawk perching across the lake provided an opportunity for a teaching discussion about its identification. Eventually, using the bird's viewable field marks, size, and shape, it was determined to be a Red-shouldered Hawk.
    We caravanned to the Spillway and found a few Herring Gulls mixed with many Ring-billed. An adult eagle was quickly found along the treed shoreline. A Horned Grebe and a pair of Hooded Mergansers foraged near the spillway's overflow. On the lakeside we discovered more Horned Grebes, a pair of Ruddy Ducks, and Common Mergansers. On Glen Island, we spied three more juvenile Bald Eagles perched in the same tree. No one jokingly commented about their commonness.
    The Hartstown propagation pond and surrounding fields proved to be birdy, as usual. Three Tundra Swans, resting close to the shoreline, drew typical "oohs and aahs" from the birders. Sightings of Gadwall, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, and Hooded Merganser also were enjoyed. A swooping eagle over the back side of the pond temporarily scattered the ducks. Our first Turkey Vulture was spotted flying in the distance.
    On our way to the Miller Ponds, two American Kestrels flew across the road and perched on a power line that offered them a good lookout for prey. The ponds were a bonanza for waterfowl and raptors. We enjoyed many close-up views of the elegant looking Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, and Ring-necked Ducks. Crisscrossing over the field, a male Northern Harrier came into view. Just as suddenly, a kiting Rough-legged Hawk was discovered near the end of the same field. Over the treetops and circling into our view appeared two adult eagles, two immatures eagles, and a Red-tailed Hawk. The two young eagles locked talons and spiraled downward briefly.
    Following our traditional lunch at the Spillway Inn, we visited the Fish Hatchery for a short time where we spotted American Black Duck and Lesser Scaup and added six more eagles to our count. As we headed out of the park toward our next birding area, we pulled onto a parking area off Route 285 to watch a Northern Harrier and a Rough-legged Hawk hunt in the same field. The harrier was more obliging to view as he landed on the ground for scope viewing.
    On our way home, we stopped on McMichael Road to see what might be in the marsh. We were soon rewarded with two Sandhill Cranes flying overhead, two Rusty Blackbirds, a hundred or more Northern Pintails, and a small flock of American Tree Sparrows foraging in brush along the stream.
    Our last stop for the day at Custards produced two new species: Redhead ducks and Tree Swallows. The swallows swirled together in a dizzying display trying to catch whatever insects were hatching in the marsh. One more eagle was momentarily seen flying low over the water. My day's eagle tally was 40.
    During the morning's briefing, Chris Kubiak asked the group, "What do you call a flock of eagles?" The answer is a Jubilation. I think it is fair to say that after our successful outing to Pymatuning, it should be noted as our Day of Jubilation. Forty-seven species were noted. Many in the group added one or more lifers to their personal bird list, and the waterfowl and raptors mesmerized us with their beauty, behavior, and diversity.
    — by leader Bob VanNewkirk
    Click the link to see the complete list of 47 species for this outing as a PDF: Pymatuning List.

    Glade Run Lake Park — April 8, 2018

    Fifteen birders met at Glade Run Lake on a brisk 26-degree morning. We started by scoping the west side of the lake for waterfowl. We were going to go out on the fishing pier until we noticed about 40 Tree Swallows and a couple of Barn Swallows that were perched on the railing of the pier.
    Glade Run Swallows We then walked the trail about 3/4 of a mile along the lake to the east end, where we saw the most species of ducks. A highlight was seeing a Great Egret take off and fly up the lake. We also ran into a pocket of Golden-crowned Kinglets and Eastern Phoebes that gave us the opportunity to have four or more of each in view at once. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet was seen by a couple of participants and heard by others.
    The walk ended at about 11:30 with the temperature up to a balmy 34 degrees with snow flurries. We listed 44 species, and all agreed that Glade Run should be an annual spring/fall destination.
    — by leader Dave Brooke
    (Photo by Alan Buriak)
    Click the link to see the complete list of 44 species for this outing on eBird: Glade Run Lake List.

    Sewickley Heights Borough Park — May 11, 2018

    Seven birders were greeted by a few unpredicted sprinkles at the Sewickley Heights Borough Park parking lot. The raindrops soon stopped, but the overcast sky remained. The poor light made for a day of guessing "what is that bird silhouette?"
    Bright Goldfinches were everywhere. A larger yellowish bird proved to be a female Scarlet Tanager. Later in the hike we saw both the glowing males and a few more of the subtle females.
    At the Butterfly Field we watched a pair of Eastern Bluebirds investigate a nest box. Indigo Buntings, Eastern Towhees and Red-eyed Vireos called from the tree line. A Broad-winged Hawk grasping something in its talons made a quick pass overhead. Next a Great Blue Heron, long legs trailing behind, flew over. Two warblers were spotted: a Chestnut-sided and Yellow-rumped.
    Barn Swallows gracefully skimmed over the Longhorn cattle pastures while a Northern Mockingbird went through its varied repertoire. Studying the silhouetted birds in the fencerow trees revealed a Northern Flicker, American Robins and raucous Crows.
    We finally found a wave of warblers moving through the tree tops. Unfortunately, the light was so poor that we could only make a positive ID on one, a Magnolia. Hooded Warblers had been calling incessantly all morning, and we finally found a cooperative male that allowed everyone to have good looks.
    A loud wheep call stopped us in our tracks. The group displayed great patience and waited until everyone got to watch as a Great-crested Flycatcher lived up to its name and repeatedly swooped out from a perch to catch insects from the air.
    As is always the case, some birds, Wood Thrush, Black-throated Green Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, were heard only. A few birds flew by quickly and were only seen by a few who happened to be looking at the right spot at the right time. Several times Ruby-throated Hummingbirds shot by in a high-pitched twittering blur. Zoom!
    We only birded Sewickley Heights Borough Park and did not continue on to the other areas that are traditionally part of this outing. Thirty-nine species, five of them warblers, were found.
    — by leader, Sheree Daugherty
    Click the link to see the complete list of 39 species for 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, Brian Shema, Chuck Tague