Saturday, January 1, 2011

Some Birds of 2010

Long time readers of Viewpoint know that birding is a hobby of mine and 2010 produced a number of unusual species of birds in and near Pennsylvania. Here are four that I was able to see while they were "visiting" (The birds in the photos are not of the same individuals I saw):

The first is a shorebird which is experiencing population decline throughout much of its arctic breeding range. It migrates from the far north through the Mississippi valley but occasionally wanders eastward. The islands in the Susquehanna river sometimes attract a vagrant or two, and that's where one was found last summer. The bird is a Buff-breasted sandpiper, and the pic doesn't really do justice to the delicate orange, brown, and black colors the bird displays in good light:

Buff-breasted sandpiper

The next rarity is a small western songbird called a Townsend's warbler that sometimes strays east after the breeding season is over. This one was found in Cobbs Creek park in Philadelphia last fall.

Townsend's warbler
 The third species is a duck found in the northwest and across the northern latitudes to Greenland. It only rarely shows up in winter in Pennsylvania although there have been two sightings in the state this December. The duck is called a Harlequin (meaning fancifully colorful) and the one I saw was in the Juniata river in Huntingdon, PA.

Harlequin ducks

The last find is very rare. It's a European bird related to the American robin called a Wheatear. This one was found by a guy bicycling in Fox Point park in northeastern Wilmington, right along the Delaware river in mid-December.

Northern wheatear
Birds are such beautiful creatures. I never tire of seeing them.