Today was a pretty good day for the Ides of March. Yesterday I mentioned how it was the first time I’ve ever seen Red-shouldered Hawk two days in a row and that I rarely see them at all. I must not have been holding my mouth right because today I saw three Red-shouldered Hawks. It was also the fourth day in a row for Rusty Blackbirds. I saw three along the banks of the Brandywine. I haven’t made mention of it, but all of the Rusty Blackbirds that I have seen have been males. Today one of the three was a female. I also added a new year-bird with a female American Kestrel.
But as exciting as all that was, I believe the best observation of the day would have to go to the flock of at least 16 Eastern Meadowlarks that were in the unmowed part of the field below “No Hang Glider” Hill. This was the first area I checked when I started this morning. I saw nothing of interest. Then before I left, I decided to walk a little further out into the field to see if I could flush up a Savannah Sparrow (which I didn’t). However, a group of birds took off and headed east, which at first glance I almost mistook as a flock of Starlings. But one look through my binoculars showed them to be meadowlarks. They flew over the trees and it looked as if they put down in the field adjacent to the preserve, but moments later they all streamed back to the high grass between the creek and Strasburg Road, sixteen in all. One they landed they all quickly disappeared. I looked hard to see how many I could see on the ground and all I could find were two. They were also silent, which makes me wonder if I have been overlooking these birds on past visits.
Earlier this week I commented that I saw a strangely out of place Swamp Sparrow that was about 30 feet up in a tree acting like a Brown Creeper. Today I had another equally strange observation. Most of the morning was clear, with many birds flying about. I noticed a large bird directly overhead that was just a speck with the naked eye. I put my glasses on it and was puzzled as to what it was. It was clearly a large bird with a very wide wingspan. It was not dark like I would expect for an eagle, instead it seemed kind of pale. I could just make out that it had what looked like a long tail or streamers and not much head. At first thought “could that be a Frigatebird of some sort?” I dismissed that thought almost immediately as a Frigatebird would have pointed wings, these were rounded. Was it a crane? I strained to see if I could see a head sticking out. There wasn’t one. Then it hit me, this was a Great Blue Heron! It was so high up that it was a mere speck in the sky – barely recognizable at all. I tried to follow it for as long as I could but I eventually lost track of it as it rose higher and higher.
I have read that they will sometimes ride a thermal up high and then glide to distant foraging areas. This bird was so high up it could have glided to a foraging location in Maryland! It is interesting that after forty years of birding you can still see unusual things in the common species you seen every day.
Start time: 8:55
End time: 12:20
Wind: none to a bit gusty by noon
Skies: clear to begin, becoming overcast by noon
Species Total: 44
- Great Blue Heron – 2, one high and one low.
- Black Vulture – approximately 15
- Turkey Vulture – approximately 35
- Snow Goose – approximately 450
- Canada Goose – approximately 500
- Mallard – 18
- Common Merganser – 2
- Sharp-shinned Hawk – 2 adults
- Red-shouldered Hawk – 3 adults
- Red-tailed Hawk – 4 adults
- American Kestrel – 1 adult female, FOY
- Killdeer – 1, heard only
- Wilson's Snipe – 1, flushed from the creek below “No Hang Glide” hill
- Ring-billed Gull – 2
- Mourning Dove – approximately 10
- Belted Kingfisher – 1
- Red-bellied Woodpecker – approximately 10
- Downy Woodpecker – 2
- Hairy Woodpecker – 1
- Northern Flicker – 1
- Blue Jay – approximately 5
- American Crow – approximately 50
- Fish Crow – 2
- Tree Swallow – approximately 12
- Carolina Chickadee – 4
- Tufted Titmouse – 5
- White-breasted Nuthatch – 3
- Carolina Wren – approximately 10
- Winter Wren – 1
- Eastern Bluebird – approximately 30
- American Robin – approximately 200, increasing at a great rate
- Northern Mockingbird – 3
- European Starling – approximately 100
- Eastern Towhee – 1, heard only
- Song Sparrow – approximately 50
- Swamp Sparrow – 2
- White-throated Sparrow – 3
- Northern Cardinal – approximately 10
- Red-winged Blackbird – approximately 50
- Eastern Meadowlark – 16, Bird of the Day!
- Rusty Blackbird – 3, 2 males, 1 female
- Common Grackle – approximately 10
- Brown-headed Cowbird – approximately 10. 2 males and a female engaged in their very interesting “head down” courtship display.
- House Finch – 2