The Stroud Preserve, 10 January 2013


When I arrived at the preserve today the ground near the parking lot had a large dark blanket over it! This large blanket was approximately 2500 Common Grackles. I know most birders here don’t get overly excited about a flock of grackles. I, however, was overjoyed by this sight.

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For a little over 19 years I lived in Washington State. In that time, I saw exactly one (1) Common Grackle. In Washington State they are accidental and a few years ago (29 April 2007) one showed up a few miles from my home on the north Olympic Peninsula. That is it in the photo on the left. When I saw it I was reminded as to just how spectacular these birds look. When I moved back to Pennsylvania last year, I thought about how much I would forward to seeing them on a regular basis. This flock today was the first close up look that I have had of a large group since my arrival.

Now, I know most people think of them as a nuisance. Even birders think lowly of them as even a modest flock can consume $30 of cracked corn in just a few minutes. I don’t care, I think they are just awesome. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at their glistening iridescent plumage as they worked their way through the grass in the early morning sunshine.

I also enjoyed observing their flock dynamics. They would move across the ground without any individual bird getting to far way from their neighbor. Every 30 seconds or so, something would spook them and they would all fly up into a nearby tree, but for only a few seconds, then, like a cascading waterfall they would spill out the tree back to the spot the flew from and start foraging again. After about 10 minutes of this routine, they all of the sudden lifted off, not to the tree, but to the open sky and headed off to the south as if this was the predetermined plan all along.

If you haven’t stopped and looked at a flock of grackles in a while, you should do it. They are worth it!

As the flock flew up and down from the ground to the trees I noticed a flash of white in and amongst them. My first thought was that there might be a Yellow-headed Blackbird in with them. That would be a pretty good bird to add to the preserve list. However, scanning the flock I found the source of the flash of white. It was a Common Grackle with a completely white head. It actually looked more like a White-headed Woodpecker than it did a Common Grackle!

The rest of today’s walk had many good birds, including a flock of pipits and a repeat of yesterdays Common Mergansers and Black Duck. I had the best day yet for sparrow species with a total of 8! There were approximately 1200 Canada Geese in the field on the west side of the Brandywine, the largest number of Canada’s that I’ve had so far. I scanned the flock as best I could for the two Cackling Geese that I had yesterday but with no luck. The total species count for the day was 41.

Stat time: 8:50

End time: 12:00

Temp: 32-46

Wind: none to slight from the north

Skies: mostly sunny

Species Total: 41

  • Great Blue Heron – 5
  • Black Vulture – approximately 25
  • Turkey Vulture – approximately 20
  • Canada Goose – approximately 1200
  • American Black Duck – 1
  • Mallard – 21
  • Common Merganser – 6
  • Cooper's Hawk – 2, 1 adult, 1 immature
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 5, 3 adults, 2 immatures
  • Rock Dove – 6
  • Mourning Dove – approximately 75
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – approximately 12
  • Downy Woodpecker – approximately 25
  • Hairy Woodpecker – 2, heard only
  • Blue Jay – approximately 15
  • American Crow – approximately 250
  • Fish Crow – 1
  • Carolina Chickadee – approximately 15
  • Tufted Titmouse – approximately 25
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – approximately 15
  • Carolina Wren – approximately 10
  • Eastern Bluebird – approximately 35
  • American Robin – 3
  • Northern Mockingbird – 2
  • European Starling – approximately 50
  • American Pipit – 15
  • Eastern Towhee – 2
  • American Tree Sparrow – 3
  • Chipping Sparrow – 1
  • Field Sparrow – 2
  • Savannah Sparrow – 1
  • Fox Sparrow – 1
  • Song Sparrow – approximately 75
  • Swamp Sparrow – 2
  • White-throated Sparrow – approximately 100
  • Dark-eyed Junco – approximately 25
  • Northern Cardinal – approximately 30
  • Red-winged Blackbird – 3
  • Common Grackle – 2500, Bird(s) of the day!
  • House Finch – approximately 20
  • American Goldfinch – approximately 20