Saturday, January 9, 2010

Conowingo Dam and birding around Lancaster County

Anna and I made plans to go with two of my friends; Mark Mizak and Lexi Hinchey, birding today around Conowingo Dam in Maryland and Lancaster County. While Anna and I were waiting outside my house for Mark and Lexi to show up at around 7:30 am, a red fox crawled out of his burrow in the field behind my house and made a couple jumps at rodents in the taller grass and then went back into his burrow. I havent seen the fox behind my house in about a year, but with all the tracks I found the last time it snowed, I knew he was around.

red fox (photo by Anna Fasoli)
We loaded up in my Xterra and started to head towards Conowingo Dam and along 222 right before you cross the border into Maryland, there was an gorgeous adult red-shouldered hawk perched in a tree next to the road. I turned around and went back and parked across the road from the hawk and were able to get some great photos. While we were parked there, we also spotted a gray catbird (strange in the winter months!), yellow-bellied sapsucker, hermit thrush, and downy woodpecker, along with a few other species. At one point the yellow-bellied sapsucker climbed up a tree to within feet of the hawk and the two looked right at each other and then the sapsucker flew off.

adult red-shouldered hawk

When we got to Conowingo Dam, we were slightly disapointed to see that most of the bald eagles had left the area. However, there were still about 25 eagles flying around the river or perched in trees or rocks on the far side of the river from the viewing area. I spotted a peregrine falcon flying above the dam and we watched it for quite a while as it hunted the rock doves along the dam. It made multiple attempts with spectacular dives at the doves, but without any success. The peregrine even dove at a perched fish crow! There were hundreds of gulls around the dam, but after a lot of work going through each gull, Anna and I couldnt pick out any oddities. Just the typical gulls were there; great black-backed gull, herring gull, and ring-billed gull. A flock of about 15 Canada geese flew overhead going towards the north and a cackling goose was with them.

Brown creepers were a common bird today at Conowingo Dam.

This red-bellied woodpecker was searching for food in an ailanthus above the eagle viewing area at the Dam.

Most of the eagles were adults (like this one) but there were still some juveniles around.

We left the dam and decided to head towards Octararo Lake in Lancaster County. On our way there, along Lloyd's Road, Anna spotted an adult peregrine falcon flying above us in the opposite direction, I quickly turned around and we followed the falcon as it soared higher and higher and then disapeared out of view. Along this road there was also a massive group of turkey and black vultures soaring along with one juvenile bald eagle and an American kestrel.
Adult peregrine falcon

At Octoraro Lake, there were hundreds of Canada geese and also easily over 600 common mergansers. At one point a flock of scaup flew overhead. We spent a little time there but then started to get REALLY cold, so we headed back to Hershey and did a quick run through Swatara Road and some other areas in Hershey to see what raptors were around, but besides red-tails and kestrels nothing else showed itself. We ended the day with a total of 44 species of birds, and three of them were lifers for my friend Mark (cackling goose, golden-crowned kinglet, and brown creeper).

1 comment:

  1. awesome shot of the red shouldered hawk - that would be a lifer for me. even though the eagle count wasn't as high as before, looks like you saw some great stuff.