Each fall and winter, dozens(sometimes hundreds!) of eagles gather at this hydroelectric facility on the Susquehanna River to feast upon fish. Learn how to “age” eagles and observe how they catch their food. How many eagles will we see? Watch gulls, ducks, herons, and other waterbirds too! Dress warmly for an afternoon along the water.
In the dark of the night, the calls of owls filled the Red Clay Valley: Great-horned, Screech, and Barred Owls all spoke in the blackness.
Atop Hawk Watch Hill at the Ashland Nature Center, the annual tradition in international competitive birding began at 3:00am on October 10, 2010(10/10/10!). At their favorite birding spots around the world, hundreds of other birders joined in the fun of the event known as the Big Sit! You pick a spot that good for watching birds, mark out a 17-foot circle, and spend the whole day in that spot, counting all the birds observed by sight or sound.
On this day, birders from all over showed up to join the Big Sit at Ashland. After a fantastic flurry of bird activity around dawn, we had tallied 50 species by 8:00am. Celebrating by cooking up delicious breakfast sandwiches, we kept right on counting. A Merlin(super-fast small falcon) whizzed by at 9:04am, nearly snapping some necks as we spun to keep our binoculars on it.
The rest of the morning, we added birds like Common Yellowthroat, Ring-billed Gull, Rock Pigeon. Yes, even pigeons are exciting on a Big Sit, since all birds count equally!
Kathleen and Dominic pointed out the Purple Finches and Pine Siskins at the feeders: both great birds visiting us from their normal range to the North. Mike kept watch from atop a 15-foot ladder that allowed a better vantage of birds hiding down in the valley. A fantastic raptor flight gave us looks at American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Broad-winged Hawk, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, and many more. We even watched a pair of adult Bald Eagles battling and chasing each other in the sky right above our heads!
Our last bird of the day? A Black-capped Chickadee visiting the feeders, and cause for great excitement. This is the uncommon cousin of our local Carolina Chickadees who only visits us in the winter. Mr. Black-capped joined our list as species #73 for our Big Sit day. After all the results were submitted and tallied, our team finished in a tie for 16th place out of 240 teams worldwide. Coincidentally, we ended up tied with the team of birders at Tinicum National Wildlife Refuge in Philadelphia, a group that included our friends from the Pennsylvania Young Birders Club!
Thank you to all who participated in the Big Sit event at Ashland– great job team! Enjoy viewing a fun video of the day’s highlights:
Story and photos by Derek Stoner, Delaware Dunlins Field Trip Coordinator