Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rare or Noteworthy Birds at Pennypack on the Delaware Last Week

Besides looking for warblers last week, I also took another trip to a more distant part of Philadelphia to a couple good spots for birds. So, with my kids off from school and impending thunderstorms, I got up early, picked up a birding friend of mine, and headed out to Glen Foerd on the Delaware. There were nesting Osprey and soaring Bald Eagles, but I was more interested in the Red-breasted Nuthatch and numerous singing Chipping Sparrows. I was also intrigued by these guys.

Not a bird.

Wild Turkey at Glen Foerd, by D. Orsetti
But much of the allure of Glen Foerd is the Delaware River that it overlooks, and that day was not good for watching the river. The weather was changing and the winds were gusting mightily whenever we got close to the river. Combined that with most of the ducks and grebes having already left, and we stayed more mainland until we headed to our next destination.

Pennypack on the Delaware isn't the most amazing looking place at first, what with it being right next to a prison and all. But check the eBird listing of the hotspot: 238 birds for a place in the middle of Philly. It is a destination.

The Savannah Sparrows are plentiful there and helped dispel my misgiving with identifying them (if you see them a bunch you go "duh, they are so different and easy to identify!").

Savannah Sparrow at POD, by D. Orsetti

Savannah Sparrow at POD, by D. Orsetti

And then we saw a pair of really early Orchard Orioles (first in the state...or any bordering state for that matter).

Orchard Oriole at POD, by D. Orsetti

Orchard Oriole at POD, by D. Orsetti

Ok, those pictures are not the best, but my birding companion got good ones that clearly show it to be a first year male (they both were). Hooray for FOYs!

Again, we avoided the river because of the wind and instead went looking for White-crowned Sparrows. We didn't see them, but we did look at the gulls on the ball fields and found an interesting one.

Lesser Black-backed Gull at POD, by D. Orsetti

Lesser Black-backed Gull at POD, by D. Orsetti
Now, let's use this to show analyze what gull this is! Let's go through the steps:
-Top picture with Ring-billed Gulls. Obviously not a Ring-billed.
-It appears to be an immature gull, but it isn't all brownish. Not a Herring Gull.
-Whitish head and chest, dark on the wings and all? Sort of "cookies-and-cream" look to it? One of the black-backeds.
-Ok, it is some sort of black-backed gull, but which one? Look at its bill, not very hulking and menacing. Look at its body, very smooth and sleek, and not bulky and heavy. It also isn't dwarfing the Ring-billed Gulls too much. Not a Greater, absolutely a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Another FOY and my gull class (which I'll write about soon) paid off.

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