Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lehigh Valley bird sightings for March 17

Yellow-headed Blackbird
Here are the Lehigh Valley bird sightings for the period ended March 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 March 5.
Also seen: Tree Swallow.

Plainfield Township, Northampton County
(at the Grand Central landfill)
Glaucous Gull, 1 on March 3 (adult).

Albert Road Ponds, Northampton County
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 to at least March 13.
Cackling Goose, 1 to at least March 13.

Williams Township, Northampton County
"Gambel's" White-crowned Sparrow, 1 to at least March 15.
Rusty Blackbird, 4 on March 15.

East Allen Township, Northampton County
(along Arrowhead Road)
Lapland Longspur, 1 on March 16.

Gilbert, Monroe County
Yellow-headed Blackbird, 1 on March 14 (an adult at a private feeder).

Brown Thrasher
Beltzville State Park, Carbon County
Red-breasted Merganser, 3 to at least March 13.

Macungie, Lehigh County
(along Alburtis Road west of Route 100)
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 on March 9.

Mertztown, Berks County
(at a farm pond along Chestnut Street)
"Eurasian" Green-winged Teal, 1 on March 8 and March 9.
Also seen: Killdeer and Wilson's Snipe.

Henningsville, Berks County
Brown Thrasher, 1 to at least March 14.

Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County
(at the Church Road area)
"Eurasian" Green-winged Teal, 1 to at least March 9.

(at the Walt Road area)
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 to at least March 4.
Greater Scaup, 2 on March 7.

Lake Nockamixon, Bucks County
Trumpeter Swan, 1 on March 3.

Peace Valley Park, Bucks County
Cackling Goose, 1 on March 3.

Red-breasted Nuthatches and Fox Sparrows were reported at several sites during the past week.

A male Black-backed Oriole, a native of central Mexico, continues to visit feeders along Indiana Street in Heidelberg Township, near Sinking Spring in Berks County. This is the first Black-backed Oriole identified in the United States. Please use caution when approaching the area. The rules are listed in the February 12 blog posting.

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

Monday, March 13, 2017

Have you prepped birds for the snowstorm?

A hopper feeder provides shelter
Bread, milk and eggs. Humans flock to grocery stores every time a snowstorm is forecast. But what do birds do when snowstorms strike? What can you do to make their lives a little easier?

For birds, living in deep snow is like living in a desert: no food, no water, extreme temperatures. At a time when a bird's need for calories is at its greatest, natural sources of food are the scarcest. Most berries, fruits and nuts have been consumed by now. Snow will cover most naturally occurring seed. Water is frozen and the nights may be windy and bitterly cold.

When snow begins falling, birds hunker down in any safe place: a thick hedge, a dense evergreen tree or even beneath a carport or a porch roof. Birds that nest in cavities—chickadees, wrens, bluebirds and woodpeckers, for instance—can retreat to their usual homes in trees. For other species, spruces and junipers are a favorite shelter. The thick foliage keeps the ground snow free. Birds may even find a few windblown seeds beneath the shrub.

Birds tend to congregate when it snows or becomes cold. They huddle together for warmth. This practice also helps them keep an eye out for predators.

Feeders galore!
Birds can eat snow to survive from dehydration, but it takes a great deal of energy to warm the snow and restore body temperature. You're familiar with that experience when you eat a frozen treat to cool off on a hot summer's day. Birds may have to fly long distances to find unfrozen water sources such as creeks, ponds or rivers. That of course consumes a lot of energy which is in short supply. 

Water is important not just for hydration. Birds use water to preen their feathers to maximize fluffy insulation and improve aerodynamic flight.

Here are a few things that you can do to help birds weather the storm.

Keep feeders filled. Before and after the storm hits, provide plenty of food using seed blends that accommodate the widest variety of species. Black oil sunflower seed—or mixes heavy in that seed—provide fat that is converted into energy. A mix that contains dried cherries or other fruit is helpful. Peanuts have fat too. Be sure to keep tube and hopper feeders full.

Platform-style feeders present a different challenge. Unless they have a protective cover, they quickly become buried by the snow. Make sure to brush off the snow as soon as the storm ends. Then fill the platform. If the platform feeder hangs high above the ground, rely on mixes containing black-oil sunflower, white millet and shelled peanuts. Cardinals, blue jays, Mourning Doves and even bluebirds will benefit. If the platform is at ground level, include a greater proportion of white millet. This seed is the favorite of ground-feeding birds such as juncos, doves and sparrows.

Tamp down snow to help ground-feeding birds
Also, make sure to shovel or tamp down snow around the feeders. Give a wide berth. Any seed that falls to the ground from overhead feeders will eagerly be eaten. If fact, you can scatter some white millet seed directly on the ground.

Two cautionary notes: Do not use seed mixes that contain red milo or red millet seed. You can identify these seeds by their round shape and reddish cast. Most songbirds do not eat these seeds. Many big-box stores use them as fillers in a seed mix. You're wasting you money buying these blends. Also, do not feed bread crumbs to birds. Bread has no nutritional value for birds. It may fill their stomachs but it lacks the fat and protein required to generate energy that will keep the birds alive during inclement weather.

Don't forget suet! Cakes of suet (or suet nuggets) have a high concentration of fat and other readily digestible ingredients that birds welcome. Most wintertime suet cakes are high in rendered beef fat. They also may be mixed with peanut butter, berries, nuts or dried insects. Inexpensive suet cages can be hung from an existing shepherd's hook or beneath even the smallest tree limb. 

If you have a heated bird bath, make sure it is plugged in and the cord connections are safely secured from the weather. Fill the bath fully. During the snowstorm, the heater in the bath will automatically melt the snow and keep the bowl free of ice.

Bird baths are popular
Another option is to buy a heating element that can be inserted into a regular bird bath. Just make sure the bath is not made of ceramic or pottery. In a pinch, a heating element can be created in any shallow freeze-proof bowl. If the bowl is deep, place a few pebbles in the bottom so birds can feel comfortable alighting and perching.

The Bird House has 50 percent off on heating elements and any remaining heated bird baths in stock.

You may have noticed the sight of numerous robins on lawns lately. Earthworms and larvae—the robins' favorite food during warm months—have yet to emerge from the depths of the frozen soil. Robins will eat seed or berries if the food is placed on the ground. Robins don't usually eat from tube feeders, hopper feeders or any feeder high above the ground.

It is fortunate for the birds—and for us humans too—that the storm probably will be the last one of the season. The snow may last on the ground for a little while longer however. Usually by this time of year, the average daily temperature reaches into the upper 40s in the day—enough to melt the snow. Temperatures fall into the upper 20s overnight. AccuWeather forecasters say we probably won't come close to those readings until next week. Be prepared to keep your feeders well stocked and your baths full in the meantime.

Lehigh Valley bird sightings for week ended March 10

Tree Swallow
Here are the Lehigh Valley bird sightings for the week ended March 10. The list was compiled by The Bird House from reports on the online E-bird website.

Easton, Northampton County
(at the Forks of the Delaware)
Ring-billed Gull, 350 on March 6.

Easton area, Northampton County
(on North Delaware Drive)
American Wigeon, 2 on March 9.
Hooded Merganser, 2 on March 9.

Martins Creek Environmental Preserve, Northampton County
Snow Goose, 500 on March 5.
Gadwall, 7 on March 5.
Ring-necked Duck, 47 on March 5.
Bufflehead, 6 on March 5.
Ruddy Duck, 1 on March 5.
Tree Swallow, 26 on March 5. (The swallows were feeding over the Delaware River near the boat launch.)

Williams Township, Northampton County
Gambrel's White-crowned Sparrow, 1 through at least March 5.
Also seen: Swamp Sparrow.

Green Pond, Northampton County
Snow Goose, 1 on March 10.

Belted Kingfisher
Monocacy Nature Center, Northampton County
Mute Swan, 1 on March 8 and March 9.
Belted Kingfisher, 1 on March 8 and 2 on March 9.
Winter Wren, 1 on March 8.

Nazareth Quarry, Northampton County
Snow Goose, 4 on March 7.
Tundra Swan, 2 on March 7.
Ring-necked Duck, 35 on March 7.
Bufflehead, 7 on March 7.
Ruddy Duck, 15 on March 7.
American Coot, 2 on March 7.

Lower Nazareth Township, Northampton County
(on Hecktown Road)
Great Horned Owl, 1 on March 5.

Bear Swamp Park, Northampton County
American Woodcock, 2 on March 7.

Echo Lake, Northampton County
Snow Goose, 2 on March 7.
Tundra Swan, 4 on March 7.
Bufflehead, 4 on March 7.

Moore Township, Northampton County
(along Cigar Road)
Fox Sparrow, 2 on March 8.
Rusty Blackbird

Plainfield Township, Northampton County
(at the Grand Central Landfill)
Ring-billed Gull, 100 on March 5.
Iceland Gull, 1 on March 5.

Albert Road Ponds, Northampton County
Snow Goose, 1 on March 4.
Ring-necked Duck, 200 on March 4.

Allentown, Lehigh County
(at the Dorney Park Pond)
Mute Swan, 6 on March 8 and 1 on March 10.
American Wigeon, 2 on March 8.
American Coot, 10 on March 8 and 3 on March 10.
Gadwall, 5 on March 10.

Leaser Lake, Lehigh County
Ring-necked Duck, 35 on March 8.
Hooded Merganser, 12 on March 8.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1 on March 8.
Also seen: Bufflehead.

Trexler Memorial Park, Lehigh County
Gadwall, 5 on March 8.

Fogelsville Quarry, Lehigh County
Snow Goose, 3 on March 8.

Lynn Township, Lehigh County
Snow Goose, 12 on March 9.
American Woodcock, 1 on March 9.
Winter Wren, 3 on March 9.
Rusty Blackbird, 2 on March 9.
Greater Scaup

Scully Court, Lehigh County
Snow Goose, 8 on March 7.
Tundra Swan, 11 on March 7.

Grange Road Park, Lehigh County
Horned Lark, 2 on March 6.

Green Lane Park, Montgomery County
(at the Church Road area)
Snow Goose, 6 on March 9.
Gadwall, 6 on March 9.
Northern Shoveler, 12 on March 9.
Green-winged Teal, 30 on March 5 and 40 on March 9.
Eurasian Green-winged Teal, 1 through at least March 9.
American Wigeon, 2 on March 5.

(at the Walt Road area)
Greater Scaup, 2 on March 7.
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 on March 5.
Ring-necked Duck, 42 on March 5.

Horned Grebe
(at Knight Road/Deep Creek Lakes)
Gadwall, 45 o March 9.
Bufflehead, 5 on March 9.
Hooded Merganser, 5 on March 9.
Fox Sparrow, 1 on March 8.

Nockamixon State Park, Bucks County
Horned Grebe, 1 on March 7 and 3 on March 10.
Double-crested Cormorant, 1 on March 9.
American Wigeon, 12 on March 10.
Greater Scaup, 4 on March 10.
Bufflehead, 2 on March 10.

Peace Valley Park, Bucks County
Green-winged Teal, 4 on March 9.
Hooded Merganser, 1 on March 5 and 2 on March 9.
Ruddy Duck, 72 on March 9.
Great Black-backed Gull, 2 on March 8 and 3 on March 9.
Gadwall, 2 on March 8.
Northern Shoveler, 2 on March 8.
Horned Grebe, 2 on March 8.
Eastern Towhee, 1 on March 5.

Coopersburg, Bucks County
American Tree Sparrow, 1 on March 4.

Northern Shoveler
Beltzville State Park, Carbon County
Snow Goose, 82 on March 10.
Tundra Swan, 11 on March 10.
American Wigeon, 2 on March 10.
Bufflehead, 7 on March 5; 6 on March 6; and 15 on March 10.
Hooded Merganser, 2 on March 6; 3 on March 7; and 2 on March 10.
Red-breasted Merganser, 1 on March 9 and 3 on March 10.
Wild Turkey, 33 on March 5.
American Woodcock, 2 on March 9.
Eastern Screech-Owl, 1 on March 9.
Northern Harrier, 1 on March 7.
Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 1 on March 7.

Bald Eagles and Red-breasted Nuthatches have been reported in several locations during the week. Killdeer have begun arriving in greater numbers. A flock of 165 American Robins was spotted at Beltzville State Park in Carbon County on March 7.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lehigh Valley bird sightings for March 3

Here are the Lehigh Valley bird sightings for the two-week period ended March 3. The list was compiled by Dave DeReamus, of the Eastern PA Birdline, which is sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.

American Woodcock
Albert Roads Ponds, Northampton County
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 on February 28.

Nazareth area, Northampton County
(at Gracedale)
Ross's Goose, 1 on February 25.
Also seen: Eastern Meadowlark.

Nazareth Quarry, Northampton County
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 on February 27.
Cackling Goose, 1 on February 19.
Canvasback, 1 on February 19.
Redhead, 2 on February 19.

Williams Township, Northampton County
Gambel's White-crowned Sparrow, 1 to at least February 27.

Bethlehem, Northampton County
Peregrine Falcon, 1 on February 28.

Moore Township, Northampton County
American Woodcock, 1 on February 26.

Trumpeter Swan
Leaser Lake, Lehigh County
Tundra Swan, 47 on February 25.
American Woodcock, 1 on February 26.

Allentown, Lehigh County
(at the Dorney Park pond)
Greater White-fronted Goose, 1 to at least February 22, and 2 on February 18 and February 21.
Cackling Goose, 1 to at least February 23.

Beltzville State Park, Carbon County
Tundra Swan, approximately 100 on February 25.
Eastern Phoebe, 1 on February 25.
Tree Swallow, 1 on February 25.

Henningsville, Berks County
Brown Trasher, 1 to at least February 26.

Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County
(at the Church Road area)
Ross's Goose, 1 on February 20.
"Eurasian" Green-winged Teal, 1 on February 25 and March 1.
Iceland Gull, 1 on February 26.

Eurasian Green-winged Teal
Green Lane Reservoir, Montgomery County
(at the Walt Road area)
Ring-necked Duck, 138 on February 20.

Deep Creek/Knight Road Lake, Montgomery County
Common Goldeneye, 1 to at least February 26.

Lake Towhee, Bucks County
Trumpeter Swan, 1 to at least February 25.

Peace Valley Park, Bucks County
Ruddy Duck, 69 on February 25.
American Woodcock, 6 on February 24.
Also seen: Hooded Merganser and Merlin.

Bald Eagles and Red-breasted Nuthatches continue to be seen at several sites during the past two weeks.

A male Black-winged Oriole, whose normal range is southwestern Mexico, continued to be seen at feeders along Indiana Street in Heidelberg Township near Sinking Spring, Berks County. For details, please click here.

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



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 becard@rcn.com 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.