Monday, April 10, 2017

Learn about wood warblers

Golden-winged Warbler
It's not always easy to find a warbler. They're usually found in the undergrowth of forests, on the search for grubs and insects. The warbler's color and pattern gives them away. But it still takes some knowledge and experience to identify which species is which. 

The Lehigh Valley Audubon Society is conducting a program on Friday, April 14, to help make your task of identification easier. The session begins at 7 p.m. at the Wildlands Conservancy Education Center Building in the Pool Wildlife Sanctuary at 3710 Orchard Place in Emmaus.

Scott Burnet, chair of the Habitat Committee for the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, will explain the details of these impressive species.

Directions: From Route 29 (Cedar Crest Boulevard), turn east on Riverbend Road just north of the Borough of Emmaus. Follow Riverbend Road over a bridge and up a small hill. Turn right onto Orchard Place. The entrance to the Pool Wildlife Sanctuary is down the less, less than a half mile, on the right. Look for the Main Office.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Lehigh Valley bird sightings for week of April 8

Red-throated Loon
Here are the Lehigh Valley bird sightings for the week of April 1. The list was compiled by Dave DeReamus, of the Eastern PA Birdline, which is sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.

Lake Minsi, Northampton County
Common Loon, 38 on April 4.

Bushkill Township, Northampton County
(near Route 512 and Clearfield Road)
Glossy Ibis, 1 on April 6.

Beltzville State Park, Carbon County
Red-breasted Merganser, 4 on April 1 and April 2; 2 on April 5 and April 6.
Red-throated Loon, 1 on April 7.
Red-necked Grebe, 3 on April 1.

Leaser Lake, Lehigh County
Prairie Warbler, 1 on April 5.

Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County
(at the Walt Road area)
Greater Scaup, 1 on March 31.
Red-necked Grebe

Lake Towhee, Bucks County
Trumpeter Swan, 1 on April 6.

NEW ARRIVALS: Several migratory species have now been reported in the Lehigh Valley and environs. They include the Spotted Sandpiper, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Pine Warbler.

A Black-backed Oriole, whose normal range is limited to southwestern Mexico, continues to be seen at feeders in yards on Indiana Street near Sinking Spring in Berks County. For details, please click here. The sighting may be the first ever recorded in the United States. The bird first appeared at Sinking Spring around February 4.

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

Friday, April 7, 2017

Fate of Green Pond Marsh may depend on April 11 hearing

Special to The Bird House

Tuesday is the last chance for the public to have its say about the idea of Green Pond Marsh and 220 new homes sharing a single tract of land.  

A hearing in Bethlehem Township will be the final opportunity to comment on the ecological significance of the marsh, which is visited by 182 bird species, including eight that are either endangered or threatened with extinction in Pennsylvania.

The developer, Traditions of America, has led more than 25 hours of testimony over the past month advocating for its development project while defending its case that building 220 homes adjacent to the wetlands would not harm bird life.

One final session of testimony from the developer will be taken from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. From 7 to 10 p.m., the public will have its turn.

"You do not need to be an expert on wetlands, birds or hydrology to officially voice your concerns at the hearing," said Save Green Pond, a citizens group trying to prevent residential development around the marsh.

The hearing will be conducted at the Bethlehem Township Municipal Building, 4225 Easton Avenue. You do not have to be a township resident to offer comments.

The township has appointed an independent hearing officer to decide whether to grant approval to the developer's tentative plan for construction. A decision must be made by May 5 to grant or deny the tentative plan or it will be deemed approved.

The National Audubon Society has designated Green Pond Marsh as an "Important Birding Area" because of its significance as a migratory route for scores of species seeking rest and refueling. The marsh also provides food, water and shelter for scores of other species that live there year-round.

Traditions of America's proposed development has been debated since July 2014. As originally envisioned, the developer wanted to build 261 detached houses and town homes on 140 acres that includes some of the bird habitat. Residences would be marketed to people aged 55 and older at an average market price of $460,000, depending on the type of home.

Since then, opposition forced Traditions of America to scale back its plans. TOA now wants to build 229 homes, not 261. It set aside more open space—29 acres instead of 22 acres. Eighteen acres would remain undeveloped. A 50-foot buffer would surround the marsh. The closest home would be 309 feet from the wetlands.

Three things happened to influence the course of the debate.

In November 2015, the composition of the township Board of Commissioners changed, with the Democrats taking 3-2 control for the first time in memory. One of the new Democrats, Malissa Davis, ousted Marty Zawarski, a Republican developer who was seen as sympathetic to TOA's proposal.

In February 2016, the adjoining Green Pond Country Club, which owns the 140-acre tract that includes both the marsh and the development site, threatened to close the golf course and sell it to developers if the TOA plan is not approved. Stockholders in the country club are counting on new residents from the TOA homes to maintain its shaky financial prospects. TOA is billing its project as a "golf course community."

In November 2016, the Bethlehem Township Planning Commission recommended that the township commissioners grant TOA's tentative plan for the Green Pond residential site. The recommendation came after months of debate and negotiation between TOA and township engineers over housing density, street width and storm water management.

The stage was set in February 2017 for the township commissioners to review the TOA plan. However, pro-development statements by Commissioner Pat Breslin called into question his ability to make an impartial decision. A motion to disqualify him from participating in the review was made, and the township solicitor voiced concern that similar motions could be filed against the three Democrats on the board. As a result, solicitor Jim Broughal recommended that the decision be left in the hands of an independent hearing officer. The township commissioners accepted his advice.

Broughal chose David Brooman, a Norristown attorney who specializes in land use and zoning law, as the independent hearing officer. Save Green Pond opposed the selection, saying Broonan has a record of representing landfills, incinerators and solid waste management facilities.

In a letter dated February 17, Save Green Pond contends that Traditions of America's revised development plan provides no real protections to the sensitive ecosystem surrounding Green Pond.

"TOA is trying to make it sound like they are being generous by saying they are setting aside 29 acres as open space," the letter states. "But what they don't mention is that the way they have placed their detention ponds inside that 29 acres will cause a significant disruption of the Marsh hydrology.

"Their plan is still inadequate to protect the Marsh as a viable ecosystem for the birds," the letter continues.

The township commissioners granted Save Green Pond the right to provide expert testimony to the independent hearing officer.

Save Green Pond's witness, David Brandes, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Lafayette College, testified that TOA's plan would prevent stormwater from reaching the wetlands. Many species of waterfowl depend on small aquatic invertebrates for food, especially during migration.

Green Pond Marsh hosts species not normally seen in the Lehigh Valley. Numerous species of gulls visit the marsh, and terns occasionally are seen after storms. The marsh is one of the largest staging areas of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in North America.

The marsh hosts breeding neotropical birds such as Eastern Kingbirds, Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, Baltimore Orioles and Orchard Orioles.

On one occasion, a Royal Tern visited the marsh. Other rare sightings include the White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, American Avocet, Wilson's Phalarope and Red-necked Phalarope.

Another rarely seen species is the Stilt Sandpiper, a long-distant migrant that breeds in the Arctic tundra and winters in northern and central South America. An insect-eater, the Stilt Sandpiper prefers mudflats, flooded fields, shallow ponds and marshes.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird reported in the Poconos

The first sighting of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was reported in the Poconos on Friday, according to, which monitor the progress of the birds northward each spring. The exact location isn't known, and the information couldn't be confirmed through the e-Bird reporting service. 

Have you seen a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in your backyard? Let us know!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring cleaning

Refresh your feeders and nesting boxes
Get ready for spring and get ready for spring arrivals!

Freshen your feeding areas. Clean the bird feeders. Take down all the bird feeders and thoroughly scrub them in a 10 percent bleach solution (1 part bleach, 10 parts water) and rinse very well. Allow them to dry before filling with fresh seed. This not only prevents seed from getting moldy but also it prevents the spread of disease at the feeding stations.

Consider moving your feeders to different parts of the backyard. This helps grass recover if there is a large accumulation of seed hulls on the lawn. Sunflower seed hulls are particularly toxic to grass if left to sit for long periods of time.

Try adding some different feeders and food to attract the most birds—suet feeder, Nyjer feeder, sunflower feeder, a platform feeder, a fruit feeder, a nectar feeder for hummingbirds. Don't forget a source of water.

Suet is still good in spring. Its soft consistency is great for feeding young nestlings.

Mix crushed, washed and dried egg shells into the seed. It is a good source of calcium for egg formation.

Put out nesting material; drape 8 inches of string or yarn on bushes or fill an empty suet cage with yarn. 

Have fun with mud! Create a sloppy, gooey mud puddle for robins and other birds to use to help form a nest.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Bold, quick and energetic, the Red-breasted Nuthatch is in the same family (Passeriformes) as the White-breasted Nuthatch but seen less often in our area.

A small, compact bird with a long, pointed bill, the Red-breasted Nuthatch has a short tail and almost no neck. It is blue-gray with a black cap and stripe through the eye broken by a white stripe over the eye. The underparts are a rust color.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are mainly found in coniferous forests and mountains. Look for them in fir, pine, spruce, hemlock, larch and western red cedar trees. In northeastern North America, they are also found in deciduous trees.

In summer, Red-breasted Nuthatches eat mainly insect, beetles, caterpillars, spiders and ants, and they feed their young the same diet. They also eat from feeders, taking peanuts, sunflower seeds and suet.

They move quickly and in any direction across tree trunks and branches. They rely on the large claw on their one backward-pointing toe to maintain their grip.

During courtship, males have a soft, musical song. In courtship display, the male turns his back toward the female, lifts his head, droops his wings and sways from side to side.

Nuthatches are among the few non-woodpeckers that excavate their own nests from solid wood. Red-breasted Nuthatches collect resin globules from coniferous trees and plaster them around the entrance to the nest hole. The male plasters outside the hole; the female inside the hole. The resin may keep out predators or competitors. The nuthatch avoids the resin by diving directly into the hole.

Northernmost populations of the Red-breasted Nuthatch migrate south for the winter, but other populations may not come south at all. Red-breasted Nuthatches can be irruptive (not normally found in an area). They move south when pine cone production is poor in breeding areas.

Sightings in our area may be in two- to three-year cycles. This winter was a banner season for Red-breasted Nuthatches in the Lehigh Valley.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Lehigh Valley bird sightings for April 1

Here are the Lehigh Valley bird sightings for the week ended April 1. The list was compiled by Dave DeReamus, of the Eastern PA Birdline, which is sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.

Lesser Scaup
Lake Minsi, Northampton County
Redhead, 12 on March 27.
Greater Scaup, 1 on March 27.
Lesser Scaup, 100 on March 27.
Long-tailed Duck, 3 on March 28.
Red-breasted Merganser, 3 on March 27.

Albert Road Ponds, Northampton County

Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 to at least March 26.

Nazareth Quarry, Northampton County

Redhead, 30 on March 27.
Greater Scaup, 8 on March 27.
Lesser Scaup, 300 on March 27.
Long-tailed Duck, 7 on March 26; 4 on March 27; 10 on March 28.
Red-breasted Merganser, 1 on March 27.
Laughing Gull, 1 on March 27.
Bonaparte's Gull, 8 on March 27.

Bonaparte's Gull
Bethlehem, Northampton County
Peregrine Falcon, 1 on March 29.

Northampton Quarry, Northampton County

Long-tailed Duck, 13 on March 28.

East Allen Township, Northampton County

(along Arrowhead Road)
Lapland Longspur, 1 to at least March 27.

Beltzville State Park, Carbon County

Surf Scoter, 2 on March 29 and March 30.
Red-breasted Merganser, 3 on March 27; 2 on March 28.
Red-necked Grebe, 3 on March 31.

Leaser Lake, Lehigh County

Tundra Swan, 7 on March 26 (fly-bys)
Redhead, 18 on March 27.
Greater Scaup, 4 on March 28.
Long-tailed Duck, 9 on March 28.
Red-breasted Merganser, 6 on March 27 and March 28.
Bonaparte's Gull, 10 on March 27.

Sandhill Crane
Richlandtown, Bucks County
(near Beck and Apple roads)
Sandhill Crane, 2 from March 24 to at least March 28.

Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County

(at the Walt Road area)
Redhead, 2 on March 28; 5 on March 29.
Greater Scaup, 1 on March 24.
Long-tailed Duck, 1 on March 28.
Red-breasted Merganser, 1 on March 28 and March 29.
Red-throated Loon, 3 on March 28.

Lake Towhee, Bucks County

Trumpeter Swan, 1 on March 25 and March 27.

Lake Nockamixon, Bucks County

Redhead, 8 on March 27.
Laughing Gull, 2 on March 27.

Peace Valley Park, Bucks County

Greater Scaup, 1 on March 24.
Laughing Gull, 4 on March 27.

Fox Sparrows were reported at several locations during the week.

A Black-backed Oriole, whose normal range is limited to southwestern Mexico, continued to be seen at feeders in yards on Indiana Street near Sinking Spring in Berks County. For details, please click here. The sighting may be the first ever recorded in the United States.

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