We are excited to announce that the Nemesis Birders won the Birding Cup with 151 species! Read below for a summary of our 24 hours of birding.
We started the evening of the the Cup by scouting out areas around Bald Eagle State Park. After some lucky finds, we headed to our starting place and waited until 7pm to twitch the Peregrine Falcon that so nicely perched on the bridge in McElhatten. Next we swung by a wetlands in Mill Hall and saw the American Bittern we had scouted half an hour previous.
Next we headed back to Bald Eagle SP and managed to dip on a bunch of the species that were present just a few hours before such as Common Merganser, Common Tern and Caspian Tern. We did pick up Common and Red-throated Loon as well as Horned Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser to start off a nice list of waterfowl. We then headed on to Julian but it was raining too hard and we made a game time decision to head to some strip mines for grassland birds. It took forever to hear a Henslow’s Sparrow for #50 but in the meantime we did hear a Long-eared Owl, several Grasshopper Sparrows and the unique nocturnal song of Ovenbirds. A Sora at Julian just before midnight put us at 53 before heading off for a couple hours of sleep. Yeah, we slept….
In the early morning hours we rushed around to pick up owls and failed. We did hear a couple birds flying overhead and added Black-billed Cuckoo and Swainson’s Thrush to our list this way.
A drive through Scotia Barrens which we expected to be very productive produced very few birds. We got the whole way through the barrens and only added 8 species of warblers – Chestnut-sided, Hooded, Golden-winged, Black-and-white, Pine, Wilson’s Warbler, and American Redstart.
We got frustrated with the lack of migrants and by 6:45am we decided to head to the Lower Trail and see if it was birdier there. We ended up picking some great birds up on the drive down including Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Vireo and Orchard Oriole.
The Lower Trail ended up being productive, despite taking much longer than expected to find our target species of Worm-eating, Cerulean and Yellow-throated Warblers. Worm-eating Warbler came easily but we run over a mile down the trail until some of us finally heard a Yellow-throated Warbler. We all heard the Cerulean nearby but we did not meet the threshold of enough people hearing the Yellow-throated Warbler to count it so we ran back slightly dejected to the car. We decided to quickly run down the other direction a short distance and lo and behold, both Yellow-throated and Cerulean Warblers were singing much closer to our car than the ones we originally found. We did pick up Blackpoll Warbler and Great Blue Heron along the trail so not all was lost.
Moving on, we headed to Old Crow by 9:30m and picked up Bobolink but couldn’t find Marsh Wren or Virginia Rail. We next headed through Huntingdon where we picked up Eastern Screech-Owl and Prairie Warbler at some spots that Ian knew about.
Our next locations were in Rothrock with stops in Alan Seeger and Bear Meadows. On the drive up we picked up Red-tailed Hawk and a lucky spot of an immature Red-shouldered Hawk. In Alan Seeger we were finally able to find Blackburnian Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo, and Dark-eyed Junco among others. The high pitched calls of Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, and Ruby-throated Hummingbird also added to our list.
Next was a quick stop at Colyer and on to the Red-headed Woodpecker stop where we dipped on them. I was a tad bitter that we missed the Red-headed Woodpecker I had staked out earlier in the week, especially once we heard that Justine’s team had found it. We (almost) made up for it by seeing this one on the drive up to Black Moshannon SP later in the day.
The Duck Pond held several easy ticks for us including Ring-necked Duck, Redhead and Canvasback to get us up to 139 species. The American Coots that had held on for some long were gone, and there were very few songbirds around, not surprising as it was in the middle of the day.
At this point it was 1:30pm and we decided we needed to run up to Black Moshannon SP to pick up a couple breeding birds we had not seen yet. On our drive there we stopped at Julian again (now with the benefit of daylight) and still could not find Virginia Rail but did get a family of Hooded Mergansers and a single Bufflehead.
Black Moshannon was productive and we quickly found Canada Warbler, Purple Finch and Hermit Thrush. A distantly calling Barred Owl was a nice surprise after missing it at several spots the previous night.
We then headed back to Bald Eagle SP in hopes of finding the terns and Common Mergansers that had avoided us yesterday. We were unable to find them but did pick up a Tennessee Warbler at Upper Greens Run and a Greater Yellowlegs at the dam.
Our next stop was Toftrees Pond in the hopes of finding a Great Egret. No such luck but we did finally score a Nashville Warbler for #150! An embarrassing miss at this spot was when Ian flushed a Wilson’s Snipe from behind us and none of the rest of us were able to get on it, or refind it.
After failing to get Virginia Rail at multiple locations, we decided to also try Millbrook Marsh, but no luck. We were hoping for some other passerines or maybe a teal, but walked away empty handed. At this point we were running out of time and decided to spend the last hour at the south entrance to Scotia. With just 12 minutes remaining we finally found a Blue-winged Warbler which I initially saw fly across the trail behind us flashing its white outer tail feathers. Finally after some coaxing it came into view for everyone else to see.
At 7:00pm, we headed over to Shaver’s Creek where all the other teams were gathering. We tallied up our species list and had been able to find 151 species! This was a high enough total for us to win the competition! Also, 151 was the second highest total ever for the Birding Cup! If migration had been better the nights before and we hadn’t missed some of the easier targets like Great Egret and Caspian Tern, it is quite possible that we could have easily ended up with closer to 160 or 165 – good thing there is always next year!