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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Winter Birding in Juniata County

Barn Owl
Image Credit: BBC – Inside Out

After striking out on both Northern Shrikes and the multiple flocks of Horned Larks roaming around the Centre County, PA, I figured a change of scenery might bring some good birding my way. Fortunately, I got a call from Chad Kauffman to see if I was interested in having a look around Juniata County.

I got the OK from the boss (read: wife), so I headed east on Rt. 322 early this morning to meet up with Chad in Mifflintown. We primarily birded the back roads and farms between Routes 35 & 333, from Oakland Mills to Port Royal.

Made several stops along the Juniata River looking for waterfowl. Overall, waterfowl were scarce, other than a few local Mallards and several flocks of migrating Canada Geese. We did spot a Bufflehead and three Common Mergansers on the Juniata, as well as some American Black Ducks and a lone Greater Scaup on a mostly frozen-over farm pond. A Bald Eagle was also observed circling above the river.

Northern Harrier
Image Credit: Lilibirds

The most productive areas were the back roads and farms. Our target raptor for the day was a Rough-legged Hawk. Unfortunately, we were unable to find one. Other raptors were plentiful. Red-tails Hawks and Kestrels were fairly abundant. Seems that there was one or two of each on just about every road we were on. Also had several Northern Harriers, including one individual that stayed out in front of our vehicle for a good stretch, almost as if he was leading us somewhere. The harrier had a light russet color on the breast and tail, suggesting that it was an immature bird.

We also stumbled upon a pair of Barn Owls sitting at the opening of an old barn silo that looks like it had seen better days. This was a particularly exiting, as the Barn Owls were lifers for me - #504!

Horned Larks
Image Credit: Dave Appleton

A few of the farms had recently spread manure. This drew in some good sized flocks of Horned Larks. We carefully scanned the flocks to see what else they might contain. We were unable to find any Lapland Longspurs, but Chad did spot a Snow Bunting.

A few of the farms also had some springs or seeps that seemed to draw a lot of sparrows. We scanned the seeps looking for shorebirds. The first few places we checked were not productive, except for a few Killdeer. Chad said he knew a reliable place where we might be able to pick up a Wilson’s Snipe or two. He was right about that! Just driving slowly along the road, we were able to count 16 Wilson’s Snipe – by far the most I have seen at one sitting. There was also a solitary American Pipit.

Wilson’s Snipe
Image Credit: Toronto Hiking

Near the end of the day, we had a fair number of Black Vultures and one Turkey Vulture. We finished up the day in a small park near the Lost Creek Shoe Shop where Chad spotted a Red-headed Woodpecker chiseling at a tree that looks like it has seen its fair share of woodpeckers.

In all, we tallied 44 species for the day.

1 comment:

Brad said...

I plan on doing some birding with a friend in central PA later this month. Would love to know where you spotted those barn owls. I have only heard them, never saw them.