Date: 1/30/18 3:34 am
From: Clayton Koonce <cg.koonce...>
Subject: [MDBirding] Rusty Blackbirds in Columbia Town Center (and a Phoebe)
I saw the post about the flock of rusties in Montgomery County. Another flock has been found here in Columbia, Howard County. Last Saturday (Jan. 27), during the Howard County Bird Club's Mid-winter Count, I had a look at the Symphony Woods Park in Columbia Town Center where I had been noticing large (for Town Center) flocks of Canada geese and crows foraging on the ground around the trees. I found plenty of crows on Saturday (mostly American with some fish crows), then when I turned to return to my car, I noticed a flock of smaller black birds on the ground. They turned out to be rusty blackbirds, after I realized I had something other than starlings or grackles. One of my photos showed 39 individuals, which was flagged as a high count for date and location in eBird. Attached photo doesn't show the whole flock but was taken during that count. (I posted other photos on my Flickr page and on our group Flickr page.)

The next day, Jan. 28, other birders continued to find the rusties around Symphony Woods Park. This is also the location of Merriweather Post Pavilion. Kurt Schwarz counted 47 inside a fence. I'm guessing the fence around the Post Pavilion grounds, which are closed to the public when events are not in progress. Yesterday morning, Jan. 30, another birder on eBird had the rusties along South Entrance Road at the east edge of Symphony Woods. That afternoon, while I was driving by and stopped at a traffic light on the corner of South Entrance and Little Patuxent Parkway, I spotted rusties on the ground right by the sidewalk in that corner of the park. Crows were next to them feeding on the ground, too. My quick estimate of 20 rusties still got the high count flag in eBird.

(Symphony Woods is a large stand of mature deciduous trees on rolling terrain. It's the site of festivals and concerts during the summer, so the ground doesn't have much understory. It's a mix of mowed grass, mulch and packed earth. Some of this will change as development plans get underway and some features and amenities are added.)

Meanwhile, on Sunday at Lake Kittamaqundi nearby, I found a phoebe hanging around the south end of the lake. I posted a couple of cropped compact camera photos quickly snapped in the rain on eBird. I was not able to find the bird again yesterday. Not flagged as rare, but still odd to see one in winter. (What would phoebes be eating here at this time of year?)

Clayton Koonce
Columbia, Maryland
member, Howard County Bird Club

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