Winter Birding 2014

On Saturday, January 18, my son-in-law Ed and my grandson Yohannes, age 17, and I went on a field trip in Juniata County, PA. It was the Juniata County Winter Birding Trip, led by Aden Troyer, an Amish man, and Chad Kauffman.

We met at Lost Creek Shoe Shop near Mifflintown. Aden and his family own and  operate the store. This is an old-fashioned (gas lamps, not electricity) but well-stocked country store, with a lot of fascinating products besides shoes and boots. Horse gear, for example. And binoculars, including some high-end Swarovski binocs that cost $3,000. I didn’t even ask to hold that pair!

There were 14 of us on this adventure, in five vehicles. It was a very cold day. From 1:00 PM until dark we drove the country roads, stopping frequently to get out and check out the birds, and getting warm again as we rode to the next site.

We were hoping to see some winter birds such as Short-eared owl, Lapland longspur and Pine siskin. Unfortunately, we saw none of them. But we did see some species that I see very seldom: Red-headed woodpecker, Northern harrier, Raven, Wilson’s snipe and Red fox. Yes, I know that last one is not a bird, but it was a notable sighting. Yohannes is a keen observer, and he is the one who spotted the fox, walking slowly up a grassy slope into a woods.

We saw four Bald eagles at one time, sitting in trees. One was a buff-colored immature bird that kept our experts guessing for a while, but then they all agreed it was a bald eagle.

I would love to post internet photos of some of the birds we saw, but so far the images I have found are copyright protected, so I will not post them. You can, of course, go online, enter any bird’s name and see marvelous images for yourself.

I do have a photo Yohannes took of the fox. The fox is far from us and not highly visible, which is exactly what every fox aims for.

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Aden Troyer has published a book called Birding Thrills, An Amish, Nature-Loving Family’s Birding Journal. His wife has created the bird drawings in the book. Of course, I had to buy a copy and am enjoying reading it.

The Store also sells bluebird nesting boxes, the kind with a slot opening, intended to discourage House sparrows from occupying the box. So I bought two of them. I already have about 20 nesting boxes set out here and at Messiah College and at Roxbury Holiness Camp, but some are dilapidated from long exposure to the elements, so I need some replacements.

Winter birding is not my forte. Call me when spring and summer come.

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