Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Bluebird Sighting
November 27, 2016

Here is a photo I found from a few years ago. In December of that year a flock of bluebirds landed on the railing of our deck. I grabbed my camera and, fortunately,  got a photo before they flew away.


Actually, I made them as a Christmas gift for several family members.


Ovenbird Nest
June 8, 2015

The PA Migration Count is an annual one-day snapshot of bird populations within our state. The count is held on the second Saturday of May and seeks to answer such questions as: Where are the birds? How many are there? Do migration patterns change from year to year?

This year the Migration Count Day was May 9. I went with my son-in-law Ed and my grandson Jeffrey for the morning, heading out at 5:15 AM. We went to Mt Holly Marsh Preserve, which, sure enough, contains a large marsh, with skunk cabbage and cattails and elusive Wood ducks, but also a large mountain area.

Ed is really good at identifying birds by sound or sight; in our 5-hour walk we saw or heard 54 species. Some special sightings were the female Scarlet tanager, Northern parula warbler, Philadelphia vireo and Worm-eating warbler. In the woods and on the mountain we constantly heard, but did not see, the elusive red-eyed vireos. We counted 135 of them!

We got good views of an ovenbird, low in some small trees. We guessed the pair had a nest nearby, but their nests are on the ground and very hard to spot. But I looked around and saw, right along the path,  a small mound of sticks and leaves, and sure enough, it was a nest.

Ovenbird nest 1

Ovenbird nest 2


In the old days, ovens were rounded, and the oven-like shape of this bird’s nest led to the naming of the bird.

This was the first time either Ed or I had seen an ovenbird nest, so it was the highlight of our day.

Have any of you who read this blog seen an ovenbird nest? If so, post a comment to let me know when and where you saw it.

Happy birding!


Winter Birding 2014
January 24, 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.


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.

Bluebird Update
September 23, 2013

Each fall I prepare a report for the Bluebird Society of PA on the activity I have recorded at the various bird nesting boxes I have put up. The society keeps records from anyone who sends in a report, in order to monitor the bluebird population in our state.

For any reader who is not familiar with the Eastern bluebird, here is a photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Bluebird - Cornell Lab of Ornithology


And here is a typical nesting box that bluebirds find attractive.



Other cavity nesting birds such as tree swallows, chickadees, titmice, wrens and house sparrows find this kind of box attractive, too.

I live in a suburb of Harrisburg, PA. There is enough grassy area and scattered trees, that bluebirds nest here, despite the noise of vehicle traffic and (this summer) of a new condo unit being built.

This year I had a total of 23 boxes in three different counties: Dauphin, where I live; Cumberland, where the Brethren in Christ denominational offices are; and Franklin, on the campus of Roxbury Holiness Camp.

Number of bluebird eggs laid – 50

Number of bluebirds that fledged – 43

Number of tree swallows that fledged – 1 (very low; most years I have many more.)

Number of house wrens that fledged – 18 (5 from one nest, and 8 from another!)

Do you see bluebirds where you live? Do you put up a nesting box?


Bluebird Sighting
December 17, 2012

On December 16 a flock of bluebirds landed on the railing of our deck. I got out my camera and, fortunately, got a photo before they flew away.

B luebirds 1B


Let me know if you spot them at your place.

Actually, I made them as Christmas gifts.

Winter birds
January 21, 2012

Reports are out that a snowy owl is being seen in the farm fields north of Shippensburg, PA, so on Thursday, January 19, my son-in-law Ed and I drove to the area and found Mud Level Road, the location where the sightings have occurred.

After a bit of searching, we came upon about ten birders parked on the side of the road, looking at something through their binoculars and spotting scopes. Sure enough – a snowy owl, sitting on the ground in the short green stems of a wheat field.

It was perhaps 60 yards away, so I had no way of getting a good photo, but here is an image from the internet, a free download from

This owl is typically found in the polar regions, but in the winter an individual sometimes comes as far south at places like PA, perhaps because of limited food supply in winter in its normal range.

As we watched this owl, thirty students and their teachers came out of the nearby one-room school and walked up the road to see the owl, too. One of the men with a spotting scope set it up and allowed each student to see the owl through the scope.

The owl turned his head from time to time, surveying the field, but in the hour we were there, he never moved from his spot on the ground.

The field also had a number of horned larks, sitting on the ground, flitting through the air, sitting on fence posts, and singing their short,tinkling musical song. Unlike the snowy owl, horned larks are common in our area every winter.

This image is by Tom Grey or Tom Grey Bird Photos.

Have you seen a snowy owl? Do you see horned larks? Post a comment if you will.