Monday, 31 January 2011

250 species of birds counted in Berks in 2010

Originally Published: 1/31/2011
By Ken Lebo
Reading Eagle Correspondent

Birdwatchers tallied 250 species in Berks County for 2010, which is also the 10-year average. We did well with ducks, shorebirds, hawks and warblers. One bird that has been seen the last 10 years but was missed in 2010 was the semi-palmated plover, a shorebird that looks like a miniature killdeer.

We had some rare birds for Berks County and a new record, not only for the county, but the state. Here are some highlights of the year:

A male painted bunting visited the feeder of Mary Schmeck of Alsace Township on the afternoon of June 30. It stayed from 2 to 6 p.m. and was not seen again. This is a colorful songbird with a blue head, green wings and red body. It normally lives across the southern states from Arizona to South Carolina and into Mexico. This is the fifth county record.

Larry Koch and Barbara Murse feed ducks year round on the Wyomissing Creek in Mohnton. On Aug. 3, they saw two ducks that were unfamiliar. After studying field guides, they realized they had seen black-bellied whistling ducks. This is a very colorful, tall, long-legged duck with a gray head, reddish-orange bill, brownish-red chest and back with a black belly. The normal range for this duck is from Brazil north through Mexico and just into Texas and Arizona.

Koch called Jack Holcomb on the WEEU-AM radio show "Jack's Back Yard," and local birders were able to see and photograph the ducks. The colorful pair enjoyed the creek for five days before moving on. This is the second record for Berks County.

The most unusual shorebird was a buff-breasted sandpiper, which was was found by Matt Wlasniewski north of Topton on Aug. 30. It was with other shorebirds in a shallow pond off of Long Road until it was chased off by a merlin in late afternoon. This is a medium-sized shorebird with buffy underparts, brown wings, yellow legs, black eye and a short black bill. It breeds in the northern-most parts of North America and winters in southern Brazil. This is the fourth county record.

The bird of the year would be the adult female Anna's hummingbird, a bird that spends its summers along the Pacific Coast and winters in northern Mexico. Due to a glitch in its migrating program, it found its way to the feeder of Renee Gery of Shartlesville. This green hummingbird looks very similar to our female ruby-throated hummingbird but is slightly larger. Gery called Holcomb on his radio show on Nov. 20 and reported the bird. Scott Weidensaul (a hummingbird bander) was called and successfully banded and identified it as an Anna's. Many people were able to see and photograph the bird through the end of the year. This is a new county and state record.

On Nov. 24, Joan Silagy was taking her daily walk at Blue Marsh Lake. Hearing some chirps, she found an adult male yellow-throated warbler. This bird was looking for insects and spiders on the picnic tables, under fallen leaves, up in the trees and around the bathrooms of the beach area. It has a yellow throat, black tear-drop mask, white belly and gray wing with a white wing bar. Many people were able to see and photograph this bird through the end of the year. This species usually spends its summers in the southeastern United States and winters along the Gulf Coast and Caribbean Islands. If we see it in Berks County, it is usually in the spring in sycamore trees along Hay Creek.

It has been a busy birding year, and I look forward to seeing what next year brings.

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