Friday, February 15, 2013

Flocking in the Delco, part 1

I am very fond of Tyler Arboretum. It is one of those places that is nearby and is nice and birdy that an hour or two walking around it probably will get me some new bird. Even on the days I go there without any new sightings, it still is worthwhile because it is really nice and beautiful and has some wonderful trees in it like a huge cedar of Lebanon and a giant sequoia (which is only about 160 years old so it is just ‘large’). I’ve written about Tyler Arboretum before, and it is a topic that will come up commonly throughout the year in my writing.

When I go there with my youngest for their toddler program, I sometimes will see birds (I checked off black vulture that way), but the main time I’ve added birds there is when I just wander around on my own. A week or so ago I went and just walked around and, despite lots of wild areas and it being full of trees, most of my bird sightings were at the feeder there. Sigh. I guess I shouldn’t complain, but it is sort of sad that I go to an arboretum to get feeder birds. But they were good feeder birds!

Before I started this blog I didn’t really keep a life list. Sure, I would mark birds off that I’ve seen on pages in my Sibley guide, but nothing obsessive and involved like what we are doing here (ok, we are still casual here, but casually obsessive and involved). That is the reason that there were some relatively common birds that I’ve never checked off before.

I probably had seen a peregrine falcon and northern shoveler before this year, but I never really went out of my way to make sure and check them off. So when I put them on my list this year, I actually also put them on my life list as well. Yay, life list birds!

So when I saw and identified a red-breasted nuthatch on my one trip to Tyler Arboretum, I was excited that I got another life list bird! Now I am very positive I must have seen one of them before, but I’ve never checked it off. White-breasted were checked off (from my life list and from this year), so I’ve been aware of nuthatches, and I had (for my life list but not for this year) brown creeper checked. I knew the similar looking birds, but never checked off red-breasted. So, yeah, I guess I hadn’t seen them.

While seeing them at the arboretum feeder, I also saw a few finches jumping back and forth. Score! Now, when I lived in Kentucky and had a dozen feeders up in my yard I would get house finches all the time, but I hadn’t seen any sign of them at all since I moved to Pennsylvania in October. This lead me to think that maybe house finches aren’t common at all around here and perhaps these are purple finches! Oh, that would have been great; purple finches aren’t too rare, but they are a harder get than house finches. Oooh, excitement! Spoiler: they were house finches, but new to my list this year!

Two birds in about an hour of walking around an arboretum’s feeders was nice, but I had a nice surprise when I was leaving. As I was putting my stuff back in my backpack I looked back at the feeders and saw a bigger black bird there. Oh, I knew even without binoculars (or glasses at that point) that it was a red-winged blackbird, but I double checked to make sure. It was.

Ok, these stories aren’t quite the adventure-filled quests of finding rare birds, but that is the point. Many common birds just don’t show up when you want them to and you have to go find them. Hell, I’ve had difficulties finding house sparrows, let alone grackles (still not on my list this year) or god-help-me any warbler.

Would it be much easier if I knew the secret birding spots? Would it be much easier if I had help from other local birders?

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