Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Taken By Surprise

You just can't predict birds. My local birding patch is an abandoned housing development in Abington that we refer to as The Mudhole. The developer cut down most of the trees, cleared 15 acres, put in sewer, a road and curb cuts, then abandoned the project. That was 10 years ago. Since then, the local joggers and dog walkers have used the area (posted private property) due to the flat road and lack of traffic. The landscape is weedy fields and small trees backed by mature woods. Peanut LOVES this place. She runs free, darting in and out of the weeds and woods. Most of the time, she has dog friends that join our walk making it that much better. 

I usually bring bins and usually find local breeding birds such as cardinals and a few migrants stop here in spring and fall. I don’t know what happened yesterday, but the Mudhole was hopping with birds. I tallied 35 species on our morning walk including close looks at Tennessee, Wilson’s, Magnolia, BT Green, BT Blue and a Mourning Warbler! In addition, I saw a Pileated Woodpecker for the first time at this location too. Of course, I am in the habit of leaving the camera in the car since it never gets any action. So, no photos. Sigh.

Peanut and I headed back to the Mudhole after work. This time, the camera came with us. We found a few more special birds but not the frenzy of the morning. We added a nice juvenile Palm Warbler.

Palm Warbler
And a Great Blue Heron roosting in a big old tree. I regularly see them flying around the neighborhood but never perched like this. 

Great Blue Heron
The best birds of the evening were the Common Nighthawks soaring overhead. These birds are in the "Goatsucker" family and only fly at dusk and dawn snapping up insects. Folklore has it that they suck on goat tits but that isn't true. They migrate in flocks. I counted 14 of them last night. David Sibley (author of the field guide) describes them: "Long pointed wings held angled and raised, bounding flight and white bar across primaries distinctive".  You can ID the bird even in this crappy photo. 

Common Nighthawk
A better photo shows the markings of the bird. You can still see the white bar but you can also see the giant head that this bird has. They have a wide, gaping beak which helps them snap up the insects in mid air. 

Common Nighthawk

The sad news is that another developer has recently taken over. The Mudhole will soon be turned into an “Active Adult” community for people 62+. They plan to put a walking path in but it won’t be the same. Just when it was getting good. . .