This coming weekend marks the beginning of the last week of March. April is so close and beginning in just the first week of April, we will see huge pushes of newly-arriving spring migrants into our area. This last week of March is very important too, however, and I have tried to go through eBird bar charts for Centre County and make some predictions and offer some tips for birding this weekend and coming week.
Perhaps the most important event that is happening during this week, is that it is the last big peak of most waterfowl species through the county. American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Common Merganser, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye are all at their peak levels throughout the county during this week. Most of these species may not be seen again until next November. The next few weeks also mark the peak levels and best chance to find a White-winged Scoter in the county. Horned Grebes are almost at peak levels right now – we had 96 around Bald Eagle SP on the morning of 3/22/12. Any rain and harsh weather events during this week should put down waterfowl and other waterbirds. Drew and I may try to plan out a day or two ahead of a weather event to see if we can have different people check particular bodies of water, that way we can really get total coverage of the county and really see what the weather was able to put down. Our best chance for both Red-necked Grebe and Eared Grebe (both very uncommon in the county) is this coming week – any Horned Grebe should be studied closely. We wont have another chance for those two grebes again until late next fall. On Sunday (March 25th) there is a State College Bird Club trip to Bald Eagle State Park – I highly recommend joining us for that trip.
New Arrivals this Coming Week:
A fresh surge of new spring arrivals will hopefully occur this coming week. Osprey and Double-crested Cormorant should show up any day now at local hotspots. Bonaparte’s Gull, which just began showing up in decent numbers over the past few days, should continue to build. Most of the overwintering Red-shouldered Hawks have moved out of the county and north to where they will breed. This coming week we should start to see migrant Red-shouldered Hawks passing through the county as well as potentially seeing (or more likely hearing) Red-shoulders staking out their territories. Great Egret is possible this week. Pectoral Sandpipers should become more regular as this week goes on – Tadpole Rd is the best option for finding them right now.
Northern Flickers should continue their invasion into the county this week, reaching peak numbers soon. Drew was already complaining about their constant chattering the other day at Millbrook Marsh. Brown Thrashers and Gray Catbirds should show up at various locations any day now. Yellow-rumped and Pine Warbler as well as Louisiana Waterthrush are all possible this coming week. I plan on checking some good looking waterthrush habitat one morning this week. Also, Ruby-crowned Kinglet should begin showing up in better numbers this week.
Continuing to Grow in Numbers:
Many spring arrivals that have already returned, seem to grow in numbers every day. Eastern Phoebe, Tree Swallow, Swamp Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, and Golden-crowned Kinglet are all growing to larger and larger numbers every day. Most of those species will officially peak during the first half of April. Fox Sparrow, a secretive and often over-looked sparrow in the county is currently at its peak numbers through our area – Scotia Barrens has had the highest numbers the past week, so that is a great place to check. Just walk the road, and listen for their loud and harsh chip note. The song of the Fox Sparrow is also fairly distinct.
If you have been out birding at all the past few days, you have probably noticed that there are LOADS of Song Sparrows around. Interesingly, this species is not even at peak levels yet! More individuals should arrive this week – I don’t know if there is any more room!
This week is realistically the last chance to try and hear (or see) a Long-eared Owl in the county, before most birds move north to their breeding grounds. We have heard a bird calling behind Scotia Range and there was also a Long-eared near the airport. Eastern Screech-Owls have begun nesting and so this week is the last good week for going out and hearing or trying to lure in a screech-owl.
No matter what happens (rain or sun or whatever) this week should be great for birding. I hope to run in to a lot of you out in the field and if you aren’t up to anything on Saturday morning (March 24th) consider joining us for our monthly bird survey of the Rockview Property, we are sure to see some interesting species out in those fields and brush. Drew and I also plan on posting daily updates on weather events in our area, with more tips on where to try birding that day.