3RBC Outings Revisited

Baltimore Oriole — Photo by Chuck Tague
Baltimore Oriole
Photo by Chuck Tague ©

Outings Revisited is a synopsis of the club's latest outings.

To view previous months and years, please see The Peregrine newsletters, also under Outings Revisited.

Synopsis of Outings —

    Ohiopyle State Park — June 24, 2017

    A group of 18 birders gathered at the Ferncliff Peninsula parking lot where we began to explore this scenic state park. Following a week of heavy rain including the day prior, the river was raging and muddy.
    We watched the Cliff and Barn Swallow colony on the bridge that spans the river, noting their differences in flight to help identify them. A few Cedar Waxwings and a close Gray Catbird were nice additions. A Red-tailed Hawk that perched nearby had the local birds on edge. Near the large raptor we observed American Robins, a Baltimore Oriole, and American Goldfinches perched nearby scolding the hawk. Northern Rough-winged Swallows and an Indigo Bunting were added to the list.
    We moved across the river to the Ohiopyle Falls viewing area where we were treated to a rainbow next to the falls. The roar of the tumbling water masked bird song. We also visited the new visitor's center, a first time for many of us. It has a gift shop, restrooms, and great displays of the local habitats and wildlife.
    Around the center we saw a Baltimore Oriole preening in the sun. A Northern Parula was singing from a tall spruce but out of sight. A cooperative Eastern Phoebe perched in the open.
    Next we moved to the cross-country ski trails near the campground. This open brushy habitat has a good diversity of birds and formerly was a great place to find Golden-winged Warblers, Prairie Warblers, and Yellow-breasted Chats, but unfortunately that is no longer the case. We did find several Eastern Bluebirds including juveniles, Tufted Titmice with young, a Black-and-white Warbler, two American Redstarts, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Wood-Pewee, a pair of Scarlet Tanagers, Field Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a singing Purple Finch. Near the end of the loop trail we found a Yellow-billed Cuckoo with a juvenile, the first juvenile I've ever seen.
    Next we had lunch at the Cucumber Run Picnic area. Again the stream was loud with rushing water, so hearing birds while eating was difficult but the sound of the water was pleasing. We walked along Middle Ridge Road where we found a singing Acadian Flycatcher and a Broad-winged Hawk soaring overhead.
    By mid-afternoon, birds were no longer active, so we called it a day. Thanks to everyone who came!
    — by leader Mike Fialkovich
    Click the link to see the complete species list for this outing on eBird: Ohiopyle List

    Harrison Hills Park — September 3, 2017

    Usually after leading an outing, I wait until the evening or the next day to write the outing report. Today, I couldn't wait to write it. The morning was mostly overcast and dreary. Overnight rain had stopped just before the outing began.
    Our walk to the pond produced mostly residents, including Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Northern Flicker, a distant Empidonax flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Eastern Towhee, and House Finch.
    The creekside trail and the cliff were almost devoid of birds, except for Downy, Red-bellied, and Pileated Woodpeckers. Starting back to the parking lot, we stopped where we had heard a Kentucky Warbler on the spring outing. This day, we found a feeding flock that included chickadees (mostly hybrids here), Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, and Pine Warbler. Two Wood Thrushes and two Indigo Buntings also showed nicely. A distant Eastern Wood-Pewee called.
    Farther along the ridge, we found another chickadee-led flock that included Pine Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and Black-throated Green Warbler. Two more Wood Thrushes and another Hooded Warbler also called from the dense shrubbery. A Hairy Woodpecker showed very nicely on a dead tree trunk.
    On the road from the Environmental Learning Center, we added House Wren, Mourning Doves, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Bluebirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and more juvenile brown Indigo Buntings. We were about to call it a day when we saw a flock of birds low in a cherry tree. The flock had lots of warblers.
    When we got close, we found that the birds were mobbing a large Black Rat Snake sprawled along a horizontal branch. In or near the mob were chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Gray Catbird, Carolina Wren, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Hooded Warbler, American Redstart, Cape May Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Chestnutsided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Canada Warbler!
    Our 16 participants tallied 50 species, seven more than last fall's outing. We had 15 species of warblers, 12 of which were part of the mob. We watched the mob for 30 to 40 minutes. The birds were usually slightly above eye level just 20 feet away. What a great experience for the novice birders in the group to see fall warblers very close!
    With everyone feeling so good about the outing, 12 of us went to Eat'n Park for lunch. What a memorable outing!
    — by leader Jim Valimont
    Click the link to see the complete list of 47+ species for this outing on eBird: Harrison Hills List

    Sewickley Heights Borough Park — September 8, 2017

    Bob VanNewkirk greeted nine birders at the park. It was chilly enough in the early morning to see our breath, but it looked like it would turn into a beautiful day. April Claus, the park naturalist, reported that the bittersweet bushes that had taken over one of the upper fields had been removed and that native wildflowers and other plants had been put in. We were eager to see the results, so we took the path up to the Wildflower Meadow. Blue Jays, Tufted Titmice, and a Carolina Wren were calling as we walked.
    An Eastern Phoebe was the first bird spotted in the meadow. There were numerous American Goldfinches, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker called from the top of a tree. A Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, and Pileated Woodpecker were also calling. A flock of Cedar Waxwings congregated in a tree, and a Baltimore Oriole flew over. A Song Sparrow moved in and out of a brush pile. We almost missed a Great Blue Heron, but someone turned around and noticed it flying behind us. A Common Raven isn't that common at Sewickley Heights, so it was exciting to hear one call!
    The old field that had once been choked by bittersweet looked completely different. Tall Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susan, Ironweed, Goldenrod, and other wildflowers were in bloom, and a new path stretched into the woods. Even better, chickadees and other small birds were calling and darting here and there. A few people caught a glimpse of a Philadelphia Vireo, and most of us got good looks at Yellow-throated and Red-Eyed Vireos. We started calling out warblers: Ovenbird, Nashville, American Redstart, Magnolia, Bay-breasted, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, Blackpoll, and Blackthroated Green. Other birds included Mourning Dove, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Gray Catbird, and Eastern Towhee.
    We had been moving slowly along, strung out in single file on the narrow path, and Bob in the lead was now at the edge of the woods, when April suddenly shouted "STOP!" We froze in place while April hurried to the front and pointed out a Yellow Jacket nest which we had almost walked into! Sewickley Heights Park has its share of these wasps and they can be quite dangerous when they feel threatened. Unlike bees, they can sting multiple times. A few people experience a severe allergic reaction, and in worst cases, go into anaphylactic shock. We very quickly executed an about-face and thanked April for keeping us safe!
    We retraced our steps to the Wildflower Meadow, flushing a Northern Flicker on the way, and headed to the corner of the field which is usually good for warblers. However, only two American Redstarts were moving through the trees. Back in the woods, we were delighted when a young Broad-winged Hawk landed on a tree directly above us. It glared at us for a minute before taking off, and we started climbing the hill to the horse pastures. Two Pileated Woodpeckers took off as we approached. A family of Carolina Wrens foraged in the bushes, and another flock of Cedar Waxwings had settled into a tree bordering the field. Our first Canada Geese went winging over us. We counted four Turkey Vultures circling in the sky, and noted a few Barn Swallows and Chimney Swifts. Eastern Bluebirds and Northern Mockingbirds are usually foundhere, and they did not disappoint us this day.
    The park staff this summer had been busy re-routing a muddy section of the Laurel Trail and put in a new "turnpike" which certainly made walking easier! Along the path, we noticed a small tree that had rows of fuzzy white dots along the branches. April invited Bob to touch the dots, and the branch came alive, shimmering and shaking! These were Beech Blight Aphids, more commonly known as "boogie-woogie aphids." You never know what you might find, once you go walking in the woods!
    Back in the Wildflower Meadow, we spied a new woodpecker, a Hairy, making a quintet of woodpeckers for the day.
    It had warmed up considerably since we started out, and we eagerly shed our jackets in the parking lot. A few people left, but the rest of us continued down the Pipeline Trail, enjoying different kinds of butterflies, among them several Monarchs, and managing to find a Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant. We added Great Crested Flycatcher, Swainson's Thrush, and Scarlet Tanager to our list. A small wave of warblers were disappearing into the woods, but aside from a Magnolia and a Black-throated Green, most of them went unidentified.
    Back at the parking lot, most people left, as it was alreadyafter noon, but a couple of us went on to Walker Park for lunch and then to Pontefract Park, where we snagged a Green Heron. It had been a lovely day for a walk with friends! We had 49 species, including 10 warblers.
    — by participant Debbie Kalbfleisch
    Click the link to see the complete list of 42+ species for this outing on eBird: Sewickley Heights List

    Deer Lakes Regional Park — September 16, 2017

    Eleven participants led by Todd Hooe and Oliver Lindhiem gathered at the park. Most were seasoned birders, but it was exciting to have a first-time birder on the outing. It was unseasonably warm, and fall colors were beginning to show on many trees making for a spectacular morning.
    A Rose-breasted Grosbeak was seen in the top of a tree from the parking lot while the group was gathering. The first treat of the day was a Philadelphia Vireo perched on a snag, allowing for good views by the group. The vireo sang intermittently helping to confirm its ID. There were fewer flycatchers than expected, with just two Eastern Wood-Pewees, two Least Flycatchers, and a single Eastern Phoebe.
    The highlight of the day was a good number of warblers, 12 species in total. Throughout the morning small but steady waves of warblers made their way through the treetops close to the path. Many allowed for good views. The most common were Magnolia (6), Black-throated Green (5), and Hooded (4). At least two of the Hooded Warblers were still singing. The other warblers confirmed were Ovenbird, Black-and-white, Tennessee, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Cape May, Bay-breasted, Chestnut-sided, and Black-throated Blue. Other warblers passed too quickly to be identified confidently.
    Halfway through the outing we were surprised by the loud croak of a Common Raven overhead. Near the end, we enjoyed a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Other highlights included Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Swainson's Thrush, Wood Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, several Brown Thrashers, and a large flock of Cedar Waxwings.
    We identified 52 species.
    — by co-leader Oliver Lindhiem
    Click the link to see the complete list of 52+ species for this outing on eBird: Deer Lakes List

    Presque Isle State Park — September 17, 2017

    Seven birders gathered on a1 sparkling sunny morning at the Vista One parking lot to explore the peninsula for migrants. A few Ring-billed Gulls, Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards, and Wood Ducks were scattered over the bay. A juvenile Bald Eagle flying over was deemed a good omen.
    I arrived 45 minutes before our meeting time to scout the beach on the lake side. A foraging flock of 26 Sanderlings was a good find as they wandered over the sandy shore. Many Ring-billed Gulls rested farther up the lake on some of the breakwaters near Beach 1. In one patch of woody vegetation, I discovered a pair of Brown Thrashers, a Nashville Warbler, a Bay-breasted Warbler, and two Northern Flickers. Since this location was quite active, it was where I wanted to explore first with the group.
    What serendipitous luck! The juvenile Sanderlings were rediscovered combing the shoreline just a short distance from where we entered the beach. But this time, there were more of them scattered around. After several attempts to try for an exact count, we decided 42 was our best total. A small shorebird was noticed among the Sanderlings — a Semipalmated Plover. A check of the gulls revealed they were all Ring-billed. We heard a Warbling Vireo on the walk back to the parking lot.
    A few Wood Ducks were quickly spotted against the shoreline at Leo's Landing, but our attention was drawn to a Great Egret that flew into the marsh. At the end of the landing, we scanned the cattails and noted a Great Blue Heron, 14 Pied-billed Grebes and four American Coots. A Belted Kingfisher announced its presence when it flew overhead. As we walked back down the road, the egret gave us an even better admiring look by foraging in the open. We spotted our first warbler, a Common Yellowthroat, under the observation deck.
    The area around the ranger station was quiet, except for a fledgling American Goldfinch that begged noisily to be fed by its parent. We moved on to check the area around the Waterworks and to walk the Old Gas Well Trail. This area was mostly quiet except for a Red-bellied Woodpecker, some Blue Jays, and two White-breasted Nuthatches. A flock of Double-crested Cormorants flew overhead as we exited the trail. Well, at least we knew where the birds were not and headed to the Long Pond Trail which can be very productive. Birds there included a juvenile Bald Eagle perched near the top of a gigantic oak tree, two Great Blue Herons flying over the marsh, a Downy Woodpecker, a Black-capped Chickadee, a Carolina Wren, an Eastern Towhee, and our second warbler for the morning — a Nashville.
    During a picnic lunch at the Perry Monument, we watched a Caspian Tern flying repeatedly over Misery Bay. On one pass, it plunged into the water. Our first Herring Gulls were also noted. The Graveyard Pond trail is just across the road, so it is where we ventured next. We were disappointed again by the lack of warbler activity. I was the only one to see a fleeting glimpse of a Wilson's Warbler. Two Eastern Phoebes were spotted fly catching. Gray Catbirds were frequently heard or seen, as well as some robins. A Swainson' Thrush was discovered hiding in dense cover.
    Finding warblers was becoming a challenge, so we drove to Fry's Landing, a prime banding area during spring migration. Our first Turkey Vultures flew overhead. A Philadelphia Vireo was a good discovery. Gray Catbirds and Blue Jays were there too. A Swainson's Thrush perching low provided a satisfying look. Finally, near the end of the wooded trail, three Bay-breasted Warblers were discovered bopping around the leaves, but stopping long enough to be identified. Hallelujah, I silently cried!
    Our final destination was Pine Tree Trail, and we had a bit of activity that produced a Blackburnian Warbler, two Brown Thrashers, and our only Tufted Titmouse. A very unexpected sighting was a mystery at first. The bird was discovered on the grassy edge of this brushy trail. Its back was facing us, and it was definitely shaped and colored like a sparrow, but which one? As we approached, the bird slowly turned, and we saw it had a red crown and a pale breast. It was a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow. This species only begins to pass through Presque Isle in September. Now that was an unexpected sighting!
    Despite the lack of warblers, other birds put smiles on our faces. Some birders even got to see one or more lifers. We tallied 41 species.
    — by leader Bob VanNewkirk
    Click the link to see the complete list of 41 species for this outing on eBird: Presque Isle List

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Mission of 3RBC

To gather in friendship, to enjoy the wonders of nature and to share our passion for birds!

© Photo Credits:
Sherron Lynch, Brian Shema, Chuck Tague