Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s sparrows are always a treat to see in fall migration in Pennsylvania.  Their finely streaked sides and breast, along with their buffy malar stripe and upper breast, an eye ring, and white throat and belly all combine to make for one handsome bird. s This fall I discovered some wonderful habitat for migrating sparrows and warblers.  At the bottom of a private lane of a neighbor, where field, prairie (shrubby grassland), and deep woods converge; dozens, if not hundreds of mostly sparrows are often found in the grasses, multiflora […]

Great Blue Heron Juvenile

Great Blue Heron

All About Birds states: Whether poised at a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wingbeats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind. Juvenile Great Blue Herons […]

Great Egret, Bathing Beauty

Great Egret

All birds bathe in order to maintain their plumage, but when a Great Egret takes a bath, it makes a big splash!  While kayaking this week at Montour Preserve, I noticed a Great Egret at the far end of the lake.  Keeping the sun behind me, I paddled up to a respectable distance from the bird and let the boat slowly drift towards the shore.  He deftly plucked one small fish after another from the shallows, and after downing at least 8 fish, he began to bathe. Down went his […]

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a very conspicuous bird when it makes its appearance during migration, choosing the top of a snag, or in this case, a telephone pole wire on which to perch.  Except for the Great Crested Flycatcher it’s the largest flycatcher in our region, and is identified by its dark vest, white throat, large thick bill, and sometimes-visible white spots on either side of the rump. These white tufts stood out to me as I slowly drove down the road looking for warblers.  There is only one bird […]

Great Egret

Great Egret

Great Egrets are huge, elegant birds that frequent wetlands and shores of the river and lakes in summer.  They are not often seen in our area of North Central PA, but one was visiting a friend’s wetlands and I was able to put in with the kayak and get close shots of this awesome bird!  Like other herons and egrets, they will watch for fish or frogs in the water and like lightning, spear them through or grab them with their dagger-like beak. This Great Egret may look silly way […]

The Garden Spider and the Monarch Butterfly

Monarch butterfly

Garden Spiders are impressive with their large size, and bright markings.  They belong to the orb weaver family, and are known to build webs as wide as several feet, only to take them down and rebuild again the next day. They will spin a heavy zig-zag in the middle of the web.  For whatever reason this is done, it gives warning to any bird flying by to stay clear and prevents damage to the web. I remember as kids, going out to the field with our jars, to catch the […]

Great Horned Owl family

Great Horned Owls

Great Horned Owls as neighbors While doing some incredible winter birding this past February in our nearby farmlands, our group of birding friends spotted a huge nest in a long row of trees surrounded by hundreds of acres of fields. The locals call these hedge rows, even though they are mature trees separating one farmer’s field from another.  With frequent checking, we soon saw a pair of Great Horned Owls at the site!  One was on the nest and the other nearby.  A Red-tailed Hawk was also nesting a few […]

Seven Surprising Facts about Moths I Learned on my First Mothing Night

Luna Moth

What’s a Mothing Night? Something I had always wanted to try, but never did, was to set up a bright light at night in order to attract moths.  When I heard of other birding friends who did this regularly, I invited them to my house in the woods of Central PA to see what they could attract.  Paul Dennehy, a 9th grade science teacher who has been mothing for a score of years, brought his equipment and set it up in the yard before it got dark. I learned some […]

Damselfly party!

Bluet Damselfly Wheel

After the storm yesterday, I noticed a few hazy patches of vegetation in the water, maybe 25 feet out from shore.  A photograph with a long lens showed what was making the hazy movements.  There were hundreds of damselflies, most in tandem, busily laying their eggs in the vegetation!  These are mostly Powdered Dancers, with a few Bluits joining the massive egg-laying party.  Wikipedia gives an interesting explanation for the Latin name of Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta): The common name refers directly to the male’s pruinosity, appearing to be covered […]

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Ducks are one of our smallest ducks, at 15 inches. They are all head, beak, and stiff tail, with a short body in between. They often swim with their tails upraised, and unlike other ducks they are able to slowly sink below the surface of the water.  According to allaboutbirds.org, Ruddy Ducks can be very aggressive during breeding season and will even attack rabbits along the shore!  Males perform unusual courtship displays in which they stick their tails straight up while striking their bills against their inflated necks, creating […]