One exciting aspect about living in the country during the winter is the flocks of birds that attend to the local manure covered fields. In fact, Lancaster County can attract blackbird flocks that number in the hundreds of thousands. Usually comprised of Brown-headed Cowbirds, European Starlings, Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds, these flocks can also contain rare gems like Yellow-headed Blackbirds and Brewer’s Blackbirds.
Gulls can also form large flocks at these fresh manure spreads and often drift from field to field in large swirling masses. As far as I can tell, Ring-billed Gulls make up the majority of these flocks with maybe a few Herring Gulls thrown in here or there. If anyone knows of other gulls that frequent these manure fields, please let me know so I can keep an eye out.
Manure can also attract field birds such as Horned Larks and the more elusive Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs. These are the two species that I am generally looking for when I am stopped alongside the road, scanning a seemingly barren and birdless field. I haven’t seen either species in Pennsylvania yet and am eager to add them to my state list.