Date: 5/26/19 6:36 am
From: Rob Blye <rwblye...>
Subject: Re: Swatara Creek Birds - Dauphin County
Nice report, Ian. It is comforting to this old man to read a series of
complete sentences with rich descriptive adjectives and adverbs. Thanks.

On Sun, May 26, 2019, 9:17 AM Ian Gardner <gardnie07...> wrote:

> Yesterday afternoon, my girlfriend Jess and I took a double kayak down the
> Swatara Creek from Pine Rd to Sand Beach Rd. It started out as cloudy and
> cool, but eventually opened up to a clear warm day, warm enough to leave my
> knees the color of a male House Finch’s head. Kayaking gives me a different
> perspective because I feel more connected to nature and animals are less
> likely to flee as quickly as when I’m walking. We share the same current.
> The time of year has an impact on what I see as well. May 25th means I’ll
> hear many local breeding birds, some just setting up territories and others
> with fledglings, and a few lingering migrants as well. The leaves are out
> on all the trees. Hickories and Walnuts are just about done blooming.
> Silver Maples and Box Elders are setting seeds. And Northern Catalpas
> haven’t started blooming yet, but their long split seed pods are still
> hanging from last year.
> We started out at Pine Rd, adjacent to an active Blad Eagle nest that has
> been occupied for several years now. One adult flew right over the creek as
> we put in our kayak. That also gave us Baltimore Oriole and American Crow
> as both were in active pursuit in order to defend their nearby nests. Gray
> Catbirds, Northern Cardinals, Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos, Song Sparrows,
> American Robins, and Common Grackles were ubiquitous throughout the
> riparian corridor. As we settled in to the landscape we could see toll the
> heavy spring rains left on the stream banks. After 4-6 days of clear skies
> the water level dropped at least a foot and the tree roots looked like
> knuckles of hands clinging to the soil and rocks to prevent them from
> washing away. We passed a few adult Mallards and a family group of Wood
> Ducks with hatchlings in tow. One great highlight was a mother Hooded
> Merganser with 7 chicks weaving in and out of those exposed tree roots. The
> further we traveled, the more songs started popping out. American Redstarts
> sang in choirs, rarely solo. More of a call and response. Louisiana
> Waterthrushes released a few clear whistles followed by a jumble that
> reminds me of several notes bouncing off rocks as they drop over a
> waterfall. Eastern Wood-pewees and Wood Thrushes let their soothing songs
> drift out from the forest pockets and a migrant Blackpoll Warbler let loose
> its high-pitched staccato number. At our second island split we took the
> lesser channel and ended up in the shade of several surprisingly lush
> Eastern Hemlocks. Not much further we were serenedaded by the tinkling and
> melodious song of a Winter Wren, most likely convinced to stay by the
> Hemlocks and a tumbling spring. They typically breed further north or west
> in steep wooded valleys that prominently feature narrow rushing streams. In
> between his songs we could also hear a Yellow-throated Warbler with a
> descending series of notes that rises at the very end. We rounded a turn
> that swept along a high steep mud bank and suddenly Northern Rough-winged
> Swallows darted out from their burrows. A Belted Kingfisher, likely another
> occupant of the bank, chattered from the far shore. Once out of the side
> channel and into the main current the sun finally came out and the stream
> broadened. Painted and Map Turtles were out sunning themselves on exposed
> rocks, logs, and vine tangles. As we paddled closer to an exposed Map
> Turtle to see its swirling topographic and namesake skin pattern, a
> Yellow-billed Cuckoo sallied out from a grape vine that latched itself in
> the canopy of a Sycamore. Another cuckoo sang about half a mile further
> down the stream. And every so often we would flush a Spotted Sandpiper from
> the bank and watch it flit low across the water with its wings barely
> lifting above its body. Before we knew it we were at the boat take out
> point near Sand Beach Rd. There’s a Great Blue Heron and Great Egret
> rookery just downstream that has hosted Red-headed Woodpeckers and
> Prothonotary Warblers in the recently lifeless Ash Trees. Another trip for
> another day.
> Full ebird checklist:
> Ian Gardner,
> Harrisburg, PA
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