Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lehigh Valley bird sightings for week of February 17

Great Black-backed Gull
Here are the Lehigh Valley bird sightings for the week ended February 17. The list was compiled by Dave DeReamus, of the Eastern PA Birdline, which is sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.

Martins Creek Power Plant, Northampton County

(at the boat launch area)
Spotted Sandpiper, 1 to at least February 11.
Eastern Phoebe, 1 fly-by on February 11.

Plainfield Township, Northampton County

Peregrine Falcon, 1 fly-by on February 11.

Williams Township, Northampton County

Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow, 1 on February 16.

Moore Township, Northampton County

American Woodcock, 1 on February 16.

Allentown, Lehigh County

(at the Dorney Park pond)
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 to at least February 16.
Cackling Goose, 1 on February 11.

Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County

(at the Walt Road Area)
Ross's Goose, 1 to at least February 14.
Common Merganser (male)

Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County
(at the Church Road area)
Great Back-blacked Gull, 1 on February 11.

Deep Creek/Knight Lake area, Montgomery County
Common Goldeneye, 1 to at least February 11.

Peace Valley Park, Bucks County

Common Merganser, approximately 1,910 on February 11.
Red-breasted Merganser, 1 on February 11.
Great Black-backed Gull, 33 on February 11.
Also seen: Hooded Merganser.

Bald Eagles and Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to be reported from several sites this past week.

The male Black-backed Oriole, a native of central Mexico, continues to visit feeders in backyards on Indiana Street in Heidelberg Township, near Sinking Spring. This is the first Black-backed Oriole identified in the United States. The bird is a neotropical species seen only in southwestern Mexico. Please use caution when approaching the scene. The rules are listed in the February 12 blog posting.

To report bird sightings to Dave DeReamus, send an e-mail to with the word "Birdline" in the subject heading.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mid-winter sale runs from Thursday through Saturday

The Bird House is having a mid-winter sale Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from February 16 to February 18. 

Everything is on sale, with some special items marked 50 percent off.

The sale includes:

  • Seed
  • Suet
  • Bird houses
  • Feeders
  • Bird baths
  • Books
  • Accessories

It's a great opportunity to replace a tired feeder or bird house. We have several new houses in stock. 

And don't forget about our all-season bird baths. They have thermostatically controlled heaters for the winter. When warmer arrives, just unplug the bath and you're ready to enjoy watching birds outdoors. We also have heating units that can be added to existing bird baths.

Don't miss out on the sale! 

(Products are available only while supplies last. Sorry, no special orders. The sale cannot be used in addition to other offers.)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Oriole native to Mexico found in Berks County

Black-backed Oriole in Berks County (from the Reading Eagle)
A male Black-backed Oriole, a native of central Mexico, is creating a stir in Berks County.

A bird is being seen at backyard feeders along Indiana Street in Heidelberg Township near Sinking Spring. If the sighting is validated, this would be the time the bird has been seen in the United States. A Black-backed Oriole was reported in southern California in 2000 but it was not accepted as valid because of a question of whether it was an escaped cage bird.

Rudy Keller, who compiles bird sightings for the Pennsylvania Ornithological Records Committee, theorized that a number of severe storms in the Pacific Ocean may have swept the bird far from its home range in Central Mexico, the Reading Eagle reported on February 4. Keller said the bird was in fresh breeding plumage and doesn't have the characteristics of a bird that escaped captivity.

Within two hours of news spread on the Internet, birders from as far away as Philadelphia and York lined the street, according to the Reading Eagle. Crowds gathered.

The bird is accessible but please follow these rules:
  • Visiting hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. only.
  • Park only on Indiana Street. Do not block driveways or mailboxes.
  • Please don't stand in front of the house. It might scare the bird away from the feeder, which is located near the front window. The bird is shy.
  • Please stay on the sidewalks and do not enter people's yards. Respect the neighborhood's privacy and property.
  • Please sign the logbook. The homeowners are interested in knowing who visits the bird and where they come from.

The Black-backed Oriole is a neotropical bird native to the central plateau of Central Mexico, according to the Cornell Lab or Ornithology. During non-breeding season, the bird flies southwest to Oaxaca, in the the extreme southwest of the country. The species inhabits forests in arid to semi-humid environments, including riparian groves and pine oak forests.

Birders visiting the site (from the Reading Eagle)
The appearance is similar to that of the Bullock's Oriole except that the male Black-backed is mostly black on the back, rump and sides. The orange underparts of the Black-backed is yellower than in the Bullock's. Female and immature birds of the two species are comparable but the Black-backed's heads and sides are duskier. 

The birds' diet consists primarily of insects and spiders but they also consume fruit and nectar. They are one of the few birds able to consume Monarch Butterflies, which ordinarily are toxic to most predators. (The Monarchs spend their winters in central Mexico.) The Black-backed Orioles get around the problem by eating only the internal parts of the butterfly.

The Black-backed Oriole seems to be fairly common within its normal range, according to the Handbook of Birds of the World. The global population is estimated at somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 individuals. 

The bird is protected in areas around Pico de Orizaba, a dormant volcano rising 18,000 feet above sea level. It is the highest peak Mexico and third highest in North America. The climate varies widely. The base of the volcano is a rainy semitropical environment, midway up is alpine vegetation. Nine glaciers originate at the northern peak.

Lehigh Valley bird sightings for February 10

Glaucous Gull (first-year bird)
Here are the Lehigh Valley bird sightings for the week ended February 10. The list was compiled by Dave DeReamus, of the Eastern PA Birdline, which is sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.

Martins Creek power plant, Northampton County

(at the boat launch area)
Spotted Sandpiper, 1 to at least February 5.

Plainfield Township, Northampton County

(at the Grand Central landfill)
Thayer's Gull, 2 on February 6 (first-year birds); 1 on February 8 (adult bird).
Iceland Gull, 6 on February 6 and February 8.
Glaucous Gull, 1 on February 4 and February 8 (first-year bird).

Williams Township, Northampton County

Gambrel's White-crowned Sparrow, 1 to at least February 9.

Allentown, Lehigh County

(at the Dorney Park pond)
Great White-fronted Goose, 2 from January 27 to at least February 8.

Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County

(at the Church Road area)
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 on February 8.

Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County

(at the Walt Road area)
Ross's Goose, 1 from January 22 to at least February 8.
Redhead, 4 on February 8.

Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to be reported from several sites this past week.

To report bird sightings to Dave DeReamus, send an e-mail to with the word "Birdline" in the subject heading.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Bird House is open

The Bird House is open this afternoon until 5:30 p.m. If you'd prefer shopping to shoveling, we're here to serve you. 

Our regular hours—10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.—resume Friday. 

And we're open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Backyard Bird Count is February 17-20

Backyard birders have an opportunity to help conservationists understand and monitor patterns of bird distribution throughout the world—and have a lot of fun in the process.

A Florida Scrub Jay wants to be counted
The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place from Friday, February 17, through Monday, February 20, in backyards, parks, nature centers, hiking trails, school play fields, beaches—anywhere you find birds.

You'll count the birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, then enter your checklist at The data you provide will help scientists learn how the pattern of bird life is changing throughout the world.

The first year of the Great Backyard Bird Count in 1998 was an unexpected success, according to Marshall Illiff, a staff member of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Cornell co-sponsors the count with the National Audubon Society.

Participation in the project has grown each year. Last February, 163,763 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted checklists containing the names of 5,689 species—more than half of the known bird species in the world.

"The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science," says Gary Langham, chief scientist and vice president of the National Audubon Society. 

Similar surveys—including the Christmas Bird Count and the Breeding Bird Count—help scientists add to the knowledge base about population fluctuations, migration patterns and how the changing global climate is affecting bird life.

Unusually mild weather so far this winter has created opportunities to observe birds not always seen in such great numbers the Lehigh Valley. Waterfowl in particular are not migrating as far south because they are finding open waters where they can feed. The result is eye-catching flocks of Snow Geese, to name just one species.

An estimated 100,000 Snow Geese were seen at Nazareth Quarry in Northampton County just before Christmas. The flock was by far the greatest concentration of Snow Geese ever seen in the Lehigh Valley. The previous record occurred during the winter of 2005-2006 when 30,000 Snow Geese were reported, according to Birds of the Lehigh Valley and Vicinity, a guidebook published by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.

Reports of huge numbers of Snow Geese have come in from just about every corner of the Lehigh Valley. But the birds won't be here much longer. They breed in northern Canada and soon will begin their migration northward.

Other species uncommon to Lehigh Valley winters may turn up in your backyard this year. Red-breasted Nuthatches usually spend their winters in Virginia and points south. This season, however, you may find them in backyards at bird feeders, where they consume peanuts, sunflower seeds and suet. You may also see them this year in parks, woodlands and orchards.

Remember the winter of 2013-2014 when Snowy Owls made an unexpected but welcome appearance in the Lehigh Valley? The ghostly predator was included in the lists of Christmas and Backyard bird counts. Why the birds suddenly appeared and why they haven't returned in a mystery that scientists puzzle over. The birds breed in the Arctic in summer. According to one hypothesis, Snowy Owls may have run short of mice and other food in Canada and sought food much farther south than they normally do.

How do I participate?

Bird watchers of all ages are welcome. You can count birds from the window of your home or you can walk outdoors in parks, school playgrounds, woodlands, or the banks of rivers or lakes—anywhere birds might be seen.

To begin, visit the Great Backyard Bird Count's website,

On the righthand side of the screen, you'll see a toolkit that will explain the instructions and display a slide show. Links will provide you an opportunity to create your own checklist which you can print out and use to record your findings as you watch. The list can be customized to your postal code, town or national park.

Then enter the results of your list online. You don't have to enter all of your reports at once. You can add species or numbers of birds each time for each counting period, whether it is on different days or in different locations.

You'll be asked to create a free account for so you can enter your data. The advantage here is that you can continue to report bird sightings all year long if you wish. Entering the data is easy. The instructions walk you through the steps.

You can even submit your favorite photographs of birds that you've seen during the count.

What birds might I see?

That will vary depending on your locale, habitat and time of day. Generally speaking, in North America, the species most commonly seen on last February's bird checklists were:

Dark-eyed Junco, 63,110
Northern Cardinal, 62,323
Mourning Dove, 49,630
Downy Woodpecker, 47,393
Blue Jay, 45,383
American Goldfinch, 43,204
House Finch, 41,667
Tufted Titmouse, 38,130
Black-capped Chickadee, 37,923
American Crow, 37,277

By far, Pennsylvania submitted more bird checklists to the Great Backyard Bird Count than any other state except California. A total of 8,705 checklists were sent to from Pennsylvania. A total of 137 different species were reported.

Northampton County
In last February's Great Bird Count, the watchers saw these backyard birds:
European Starling, 227
Brown-headed Cowbird, 152
Mourning Doves, 52
House Sparrow, 50
American Goldfinch, 50
Dark-eyed Junco, 40
White-throated Sparrow, 35
Tufted Titmouse, 27
Common Grackle, 20
Northern Cardinal, 16

Altogether, 72 species of birds were reported throughout Northampton County from a range of locations, including backyards, quarries, rivers, canal towpaths and environmental preserves. The highest counts included American Crows, Snow Geese, Canada Geese, Ring-billed Gulls, European Starlings, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Herring Gulls, Mallard, Mourning Doves and American Goldfinches.

Lehigh County
Watchers saw these backyard birds last February in Lehigh County:
European Starling, 15
Dark-eyed Junco, 74
House Sparrow, 53
Mourning Dove, 44
White-throated Sparrow, 38
America Robin, 34
Song Sparrow, 34
Rock Pigeon, 25
Northern Cardinal, 22
House Finch, 18

As in Northampton County, watchers reported bird species from a wide variety of locations. Altogether, 73 different species were reported in Lehigh County. The highest counts included Canada Geese, European Starlings, Mallards, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Crows, House Sparrows, Mourning Doves, White-throated Sparrows, Ring-billed Gulls and American Robins.

What species of birds will you see next week? Maybe you'll even be able to add a new bird to your lifetime list of species!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Lehigh Valley bird sightings for week ended February 3

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Here the Lehigh Valley bird sightings for the week ended February 3. The list was compiled by The Bird House from reports posted on E-bird, the online bird tracking service.

Portland Pedestrian Bridge, Northampton County
Bufflehead, 8 on February 1.

Easton, Northampton County
(along North Delaware Drive)
Snow Goose, 200 in flyover on January 31.

Hugh Moore Park, Northampton County
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 1 on January 31.

Green Pond, Northampton County
Ring-necked Duck, 1 on February 3.

Williams Township, Northampton County
(along Industrial Drive)
Ring-billed Gull, approximately 500 on February 3.

Palmer Township, Northampton County
(along Route 33 near Stockertown)
Bald Eagle, 1 on February 3.

Hellertown, Northampton County
(at I-78 and Route 412 interchange)
Northern Harrier, 1 on February 2.

Monocacy Nature Center, Northampton County
Cooper's Hawk, 1 on February 2.
Mute Swan, 1 on January 28.

Iceland Gull
Pen Argyl, Northampton County
(at the Grand Central Landfill)
Bald Eagle, 4 on February 2 and 5 on February 1.
Ring-billed Gull, approximately 3,500 on February 2; 3,000 on February 1; and 1,500 on January 31.
Herring Gull, approximately 600 on February 2; 750 on February 1; and 250 on January 29.
Iceland Gull, 9 on February 2 and 5 on February 1.
Great Black-backed Gull, 11 on February 2; 5 on February 1; and 2 on January 29.
Snow Goose, approximately 1,500 in flight on February 1.
Also seen: Cooper's Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon and murmurations  of European Starlings.

Zionsville woodlands, Lehigh County
Snow Goose, 200 on February 3.

Dorney Park Pond, Lehigh County
Mute Swan, 6 on February 3.
American Wigeon, 2 on February 3, February 1 and January 28.
American Coot, 2 on February 3 and 3 on February 1.
Gadwall, 3 on February 1.
Also seen: Bufflehead, Redhead and Merlin.

Pool Wildlife Sanctuary, Lehigh County
Great Horned Owl 2 on February 3.

Whitehall Township, Lehigh County
(along Greenleaf Street)
American Coot
Horned Lark, 3 on February 2 and 2 on January 31.
Also seen: Peregrine Falcon.

State Game Lands 205, Lehigh County
Snow Goose, 200 in flight on January 29.
American Tree Sparrow, 6 on January 29.
Also seen: Northern Harrier.

Haafsville, Lehigh County
Red-winged Blackbird, 1 on January 29.

Fogelsville Quarry, Lehigh County
Snow Goose, approximately 5,000 on January 29.
Tundra Swan, 6 on January 29.
Gadwall, 2 on January 29.
Ring-necked Duck, 4 on January 29.
Greater Scaup, 2 on January 29.
Great Black-backed Gull, 3 on January 29.
Also seen: Cooper's Hawk.

Beltzville State Park, Carbon County
Snow Goose, 80 on January 29.
American Tree Sparrow, 17 on February 3 and February 1; 1 on January 29.
Also seen: Cooper's Hawk, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier.

Green Lane Park, Montgomery County
Horned Lark
(at the Knight Road/Deep Creek Lake area)
Gadwall, 15 on February 3.
Bufflehead, 2 on February 3.

Green Lane Park, Montgomery County
(at the Walt Road area)
Ross's Goose, 1 on February 2.

Green Lane Park, Montgomery County
(at the Church Road area)
Gadwall, 53 on February 3 and 15 on January 31.
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 through at least January 31.

Nockamixon State Park, Bucks County
(at the fishing pier)
Gadwall, 9 on February 3.
Bufflehead, 2 on February 3.

Peace Valley Park, Bucks County
American Tree Sparrow
Common Merganser, 1,350 on February 3 and 1,280 on February 2.
Mute Swan, 2 on February 2.
Ruddy Duck, 3 on February 3.
Great Black-backed Gull, 29 on February 2.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, 3 on February 2.
Swamp Sparrow, 1 on February 2.
Also seen: Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Lesser Black-backed Gull.

To report bird sightings to Dave DeReamus, of the Eastern PA Birdline, send an e-mail to with the word "Birdline" in the subject heading. The Eastern PA Birdline is sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.