Sunday, January 29, 2012

Whiffed!

For more than 3 weeks now, all of the Pennsylvania birding community has been abuzz over 3 rarities that have been seen in Cumberland County near Shippensburg.  The big buzz came with the Snowy Owl that has been hanging around in a corn field since Jan 11th.  The bird has been seen every day since it was first reported.  We were told about it being seen on the same road as the second special bird - Prairie Falcon.  This bird has been seen every winter for the past 3 years faithfully patrolling the fields in search of little birds to eat.  Then, as though on cue, a Townsend's Warbler showed up at some guy's feeder 2 weeks ago and hasn't left. 

All of these birds are out of their normal range.  You can guess where the Snowy Owl normally lives.  You can also put 2 and 2 together about the Prairie Falcon.  The Townsend's Warbler is one that I should tell you is usually found west of the Mississippi river. 

Lori and I set out this morning (with Roxy in tow) to see the trifecta.  We finally had a day to travel out there, so we packed sandwiches and the optics and headed west on the PA Turnpike.  We arrived at the famed intersection of Duncan and Mud Level Roads around 10:20.  We drove up and down the road.  We spoke to other birders.  We scanned every field.

We saw lots of cows and we dodged the Mennonite buggies.



We had a great view of a Common Raven which is pretty unusual.  Notice the blocky head which is a good field mark to distinguish this bird from a crow.


We saw many Horned Larks flitting around the freshly manured fields. Lifers for Lori.



But guess what we didn't see?  I know that you already figured it out otherwise I would have lead the story with a photo of the owl or the falcon or the warbler.  We completely struck out on all three of those rarities.  We were really crushed - along with about a dozen other cars full of birders who had the same disappointed look on their faces.  It was a long drive home.
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