Christmas Bird Count spotters tally phoebe, wood duck, catbird

On a “mild” Dec. 15, 2012, 18 members of the Lycoming Audubon Society ventured out to do their annual Christmas Bird Count, which also happens nationwide every year.

The count yielded 65 species, and 17,474 individual birds were identified.

“During the count, it was kind of warm and there were winds coming from the south. I don’t think it affected (the count) too much,” said society member Nate Fronk, who complied the results.

The group had many highlights during the count. Wayne Laubscher spotted two canvasback ducks.

“There were two on the Susquehanna River between Maynard and Market streets,” Fronk said and added they were spotted by Wayne Laubscher.

Late season ducks such as the canvasback aren’t usually seen in Lycoming County. Fronk said they stick to the Chesapeake Bay, coastal areas and Great Lakes.

Another great find along the river was a gray catbird, which Fronk described as a hardy bird.

“Most winter in Florida and go south. It’s pretty unusual in Lycoming County this time of year because there is no food for them,” he said.

The bird’s main food is insects, which are not abundant in the winter.

“Several ‘half-hardy’ birds were also found – (the) ruby-crowned kinglet, Eastern towhee, gray catbird, and Eastern phoebe were all found in the count circle. They typically spend the winter in the southern United States,” he wrote in his report.

At the State Game Lands 252, Fronk and fellow member Dave Ferry found a Eastern phoebe foraging over a small open area.

“The large pond was frozen over entirely, except for a very small section, and that is where we found it,” Fronk said.

At Nicely Pond in Indian Park, the pair spotted a lone wood duck, which Fronk said was interesting because it was a male.

The peregrine falcon is back this year and was part of the count. The bird typically roosts along the Susquehanna River near Market Street.

Big numbers came from the usual species such as Canada geese, American crow and European starling.

A flock of geese was found feeding at the landfill because there was grass there.

Also at the landfill, a large number of ringed-bill gulls were feeding on garbage.

“They will be around in that number, but typically they don’t stick around (for the winter),” Fronk said.

Sometimes bad weather will make water birds congregate on the river, but the day was mild enough that this didn’t happen, he said.

In addition to the 300 common redpolls counted, small arctic finches were sighted this year, due to an irruption.

“This has been the first big push in Lycoming County and central Pennsylvania this year,” he said.

About 90 percent of these birds are being sighted at bird feeders.

The club later held a bird count in the northern section of Lycoming County. Twelve people participated, but full results are not yet compiled.

To see some of these birds, Fronk recommends keeping backyard bird feeders stocked. Pine siskins and redpolls may arrive to eat the seeds.