Cold Weather Birding 1-15-11

Today, Mark Markiewicz and I made a huge birding loop from Hershey, down to Lancaster County, then Berks County, then Lebanon County, and finally back to Hershey. We were trying to pick up as many of the interesting species of birds recently reported as possible. The first stop was along Hess Road near New Holland to see if any wintering Wilson’s Snipes were along the stream that flows near the road, no luck there, but there was a beautiful Merlin nearby that allowed me to get close for some photos.

Merlin eating a Dark-eyed Junco

Our second stop was the farm fields near New Holland for the Rough-legged Hawks, Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspurs. There were quite a few large flocks of Horned Larks. In one smaller flock, I spotted a single Snow Bunting, but the flock took off before Mark could get on the bunting and we never found it again. We couldnt find any longspurs either. Luckily we had better luck with the Rough-legged Hawks. A light morph was perched in a tree along Wissler Road, but quickly left its perch and flew out of view. Nearby on South Farmersville Road we found the dark morph Rough-legged Hawk perched in the top of a tree behind a barn. The hawk flew and landed nearby on the ground where it began eating something until an adult Bald Eagle came in and flushed it up into a tree, where it was then mobbed by an adult Red-tailed Hawk and a few crows…its a tough life for roughlegs.

Light Morph Rough-legged Hawk flying away....

Dark Morph Rough-legged Hawk

Dark Morph Rough-legged Hawk getting out of an adult Bald Eagle's way

Next, we went to Blue Marsh Lake to look for the Yellow-throated and Pine Warblers that have been hanging around with a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos at one of the parking areas at the lake. After about 20 minutes, both warblers came to feed from the peanut butter and suet at a tree right at parking lot F. A local birder told about nearby Brenemans Quarry, so we drove over there  next. It was loaded with Canada Geese and a few other species of waterbirds including Ring-necked Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, Mallards, American Black Ducks, one Gadwall, one Redhead, American Coots, Ring-billed Gulls, and a few Herring Gulls. An Opossum also ran past us and into the cover of some tall grass.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Pine Warbler and Dark-eyed Junco


Lake Ontelanuee was up next. We were hoping the Greater White-fronted Geese would be around. They werent, but ther was a ncie assortment of other species of waterfowl as well as a pair of adult Bald Eagles. Not to worry though, Moselum Springs Golf Course is the backup location for these geese and as soon as we arrived, I spotted all 9 white-fronted geese flying over and heading towards Lake Ontelanuee.

Pair of Bald Eagles

Greater White-fronted Geese

Mountain Springs Camp Ground was our next stop on the loop. This is the site of the famous Anna’s Hummingbird, a PA first state record. I had already seen the bird back in December, but Mark needed it as a lifer. We waited behind Apartment 69 for about 30 minutes with no luck. We were about to give up, but decided to check out the house the Anna’s had originally been coming to and spent a few minutes standing, and watching that feeder. Just as we were about to leave, the hummingbird flew in! It fed from the feeder twice and landed up in a nearby tree giving us great looks and then it flew away and out of view.

Anna's Hummingbird

Our last stop was Fort Indiantown Gap for the Northern Shrike and the “Oregon” Dark-eyed Junco. We struck out on both and as we began to lose daylight, decided it was time to go back home. It was quite a long day worth of birding, but it was worth it. Plus this is pretty much my last day of birding in the US until April since I am leaving Monday for 10 weeks in South Africa.