Special to the
Twenty-one members of the Lycoming Audubon Society ventured out on a relatively warm Dec. 21, 2013, to participate in the 114th annual Christmas Bird Count. Participants tallied 61 species, a "typical" number for the Williamsport Christmas Bird Count.
The decent weather probably didn't impact the count results too much, besides letting the participants stay out a little longer than they would on a cold day.
A variety of interesting species were reported, including a large variety of waterfowl. Diving ducks such as the common goldeneye, canvasback, greater scaup and bufflehead were reported on the Susquehanna River in Williamsport. These birds typically spend most of their time in large bays and rivers but a few typically winter along the Susquehanna River in Williamsport. American black duck, mallard, common merganser, horned grebe and Canada goose also were recorded.
A record seven bald eagles were observed. Another conservation success story, the peregrine falcon, also was reported. The couple that nested under the Market Street Bridge last summer were found along the Susquehanna River and another individual was reported in the Muncy area.
Another interesting sighting were nine black vultures in the Montgomery area. Typically a "southern" species, these birds are being reported more and more in central Pennsylvania, especially during the winter, evidence of their range expansion.
Gray catbird and yellow-rumped warbler were recorded. These "half-hardy" species sometimes will winter in Pennsylvania but most migrate to the southern United States for the winter. Both birds depend on insects as their main food source but also feed heavily on berries, especially during cold snaps.
The group also conducted a Christmas Bird Count in northern Lycoming County. Highlights were three snow buntings, five rough-legged hawks and a bald eagle. Snow buntings and rough-legged hawks both nest in the Arctic but migrate south in the winter in search of more plentiful food supplies. The two species typically are found in open areas, such as agricultural fields, that resemble their Arctic homes.
Watchers said they surprisingly did not record any snowy owls, despite the irruption of the owls throughout the northeastern United States.
Anyone who has seen a snowy owl is asked to report it to the Lycoming Audubon Society via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.