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Spring migration encounters rare bird species

By Staff | May 6, 2015

PHOTO PROVIDED A sand hill crane, now nesting in PA, was seen near Walmart in Lewisburg. This bird loves marshland and swampland and feeds sometimes on open fields for insects.

MUNCY – An informative session on spring migration for birds in this area was given by Wes Egli from the Lycoming Audubon Society at the Muncy Public Library on Tuesday evening, April 21.

The best time to see these unusual sightings is now according to Egli. Birds are now passing through this area and can be seen up until the end of May. Spring migration usually begins in mid March. “Some may come earlier and some pass through into June,” he said.

Knowing where to go and when will help find these birds of which Egli gave examples of some rare species that have been spotted here in Muncy. Field guides and binoculars also help and a lot of patience, he added.

“Often we never know how long they are going to stay. They are just here to find food and to continue to fuel up on their journey.”

Mostly they can be found along waterways, ponds and marshy grasses.

The osprey was sighted around the first of April. They nest here in Pennsylvania near water such as rivers and lakes. Waterfowl like to hover and dive for fish.

The Muncy boat launch is a good place to spot migratory birds according to Egli. “If you are patient enough, you will see something at some point,” he assured.

Using slides Egli described the more popular species of rare birds, and are just a small sampling of the many birds that come here. The bobolink is a neo-tropical migrant and spends breeding time here and winters in South America. Sightings of these have been spotted on Pennsdale farms.

The barn owl is more common in the eastern part of PA and has been seen in the Elimsport area. “They are a good benefit to the farmers,” said Egli. “However, they are not necessarily loyal to their habitats here.”

Another rare find is the mini mockingbird. It is smaller than a robin and can be seen in open wood lots or forest edges. They feed on trees and shrubs, not feeders.

Egli advised to look for rare birds among flocks. “Sometimes they hang out separately in the flock.”

A gold winged warbler is a breeding species and is a very beautiful bird that is seen from mid-April to mid May. Ruby throated hummingbirds are now in southern Pennsylvania and working their way here, so get out the feeders to attract these rare, delightful birds.

The red-throated loon is another one and many have been spotted at the Montour Preserve. On River Road in Muncy, Egli described the May warbler as one of the most beautiful birds he has ever seen.

A white pelican was seen here in Lycoming County in flight, and back in the 90’s a flock was discovered at the pond in Montoursville’s Indian Park.

The best time to look for these birds is after a severe weather thunderstorm because that is when they come out to feed, drink and bathe.

Night hawks were common once here in Muncy, often seen on flat rooftops, but the numbers aren’t there anymore said Egli.

The sand hill crane is a migrant bird with a shorter stay and is nesting now in Pennsylvania. One was seen not too long ago at the Walmart in Lewisburg. Others have been spotted in nearby Sullivan County. This bird loves marshland and swampland and feeds sometimes on open fields for insects. The cranes identified by their red heads, should not be confused with herons. Both are diving birds, catching fish.

The Golden Eagle is a migrant and does not breed in Pennsylvania. They were spotted at the end of April near the White Deer Ridge mountains.

Egli said he never became interested in birds until he was about 30 years old after a trip to Montour Preserve where he learned a lot about the blue birds there. He has been enjoying bird watching ever since and said he is happy to share his knowledge with “anyone who listens.” He likes to go on walks with experienced people who show him what field marks to look for. “Over 200 species can come through here. It depends on where you are,” he said. “There is always something to learn, and it is a good way to experience the outdoors.”