Birding in the Rain

You awake bright and early to go birding only to hear rain falling, not typically the start to a good birding morning. However, if it’s during waterfowl migration, rain that moves in during the middle of the night forces birds down to any available water. While its generally true that larger bodies of water are best, often they are forced to land on any available water. While passerine fall-outs often occur when showers move in during the night and conditions for birding are best if the rain ends by daybreak, waterfowl birding is best if the rain continues, keeping them on the water. Such an event occurred over the last several days in central Pennsylvania. Not the best for photography, but in landlocked central PA, huge waterfowl numbers are exciting! Below is the radar image from pre-dawn Tuesday morning. For the southwestern and central counties in the autumn this could be considered the “perfect storm” to produce fall-outs as birds migrating south during the night fly into the rain and are grounded. Radar can be a good tool for predicting fall-outs.

Heavy rain and some thunderstorms were over south western and central PA for many hours pre-dawn

As the radar predicted, a fairly large fallout occurred in Somerset County. My wife, Trish Miller, and I checked two places, Somerset Lake and Quemahoning Reservior. Here are yesterdays totals with photos below.

Lake Somerset IBA, Somerset, US-PA
Nov 22, 2011 7:15 AM – 9:00 AMCanada Goose 45
Wood Duck 3
Gadwall 14
American Wigeon 3
American Black Duck 3
Mallard 19
Northern Shoveler 1
Northern Pintail 2
Green-winged Teal 1
Canvasback 1
Redhead 96
Ring-necked Duck 92
Greater Scaup 18
Lesser Scaup 37
Surf Scoter 6
Black Scoter 2
Long-tailed Duck 95
Bufflehead 569
Common Goldeneye 21
Hooded Merganser 87
Common Merganser 13
Red-breasted Merganser 26
Ruddy Duck 140
Red-throated Loon 1
Common Loon 45
Pied-billed Grebe 16
Horned Grebe 222
Red-necked Grebe 2
Great Blue Heron 1
American Coot 194
Bonaparte’s Gull 14
Ring-billed Gull 42
Herring Gull 39
Great Black-backed Gull 1

Quemahoning Reservoir, Somerset, US-PA
Nov 22, 2011 3:00 PM – 4:30 PMTundra Swan 40
Gadwall 8
American Black Duck 14
Mallard 24
Green-winged Teal 4
Canvasback 14
Redhead 48
Ring-necked Duck 166
Greater Scaup 14
Lesser Scaup 58
Black Scoter 3
Long-tailed Duck 33
Bufflehead 1286
Common Goldeneye 6
Hooded Merganser 134
Ruddy Duck 61
Common Loon 30
Pied-billed Grebe 22
Horned Grebe 94
American Coot 4
Bonaparte’s Gull 12
Ring-billed Gull 6

Here are a few pictures of some of the concentrations on both lakes. I think it is always difficult to capture the numbers in photos, but I tried to crop horizontally to show more. Photos are not great, but it was pouring rain and not ideal for photos:) I will post more as I have a chance to go through them all! Most of these were digiscoped using my iPhone. Hopefully this will spur a few of you to go birding when the conditions are less than optimal. Waterfowl birding can be great in the rain! Here are some images from 11/22/2011.

Huge groups of ducks were all over the place, this is what you want to see !!

This is the most Horned Grebes I have ever seen at one time. There was a single group of 148 on Somerset Lake!! Also there was a great diversity of other species including Ruddy Ducks, all three Merganser Species, both Scaup, large groups of Ring-necked Ducks, Redheads… and the list goes on. Exciting! The large number of Long-tailed Ducks (some shown below) was definitely a treat!

Bufflehead, Goldeneye, and Hooded Mergansers

Long strings of ducks were everywhere you looked!

Surf Scoters are always a treat, especially this adult male!!

Okay. The pics above and below are not too exciting, but hey, when you are landlocked you get excited by a few gulls! On the lakes were Bonaparte’s, Ring-billed, Herring, and a single Greater Black-backed Gull! The two geese on the left of the photo were intriguing too. They were much smaller than the other geese, possibly Richardson’s Cackling, but the bill did not look quite right to me.