Saturday, February 28, 2015

Birds In Our Own Backyard, More or Less

Mergansers and Bufflehead at Flat Rock Dam. Early Proof of Woodcut by Ken Januski.

When we first started birding in Philadelphia many years ago we didn't find that many birds here and instead found our best birds at Pocono Environmental Education Center, about 150-200 miles away I believe. We went to marvelous weekend workshops that included room and board for about $100, though the food was cafeteria style and the lodging was bunk beds with thin mattresses.

But we were too busy enjoying the birds and the trips with knowledgeable leaders to mind the spartan room and board. It was all that we needed to keep us going. The odd thing about this is that we got used to looking for Black-throated Green Warblers, among other birds, 100 feet above us in hemlock ravines. Needless to say we didn't get great views at that height.

About five years later I ran across one or more Black-throated Greens at eye level less than a mile away along the Wissahickon. It was quite a revelation to find these seemingly rare birds, here at home and with great views. If I could summarize our birding since then I'd say that much of it has been about discovering just how many birds can be found within 5 miles of our house.

This transformation began with warblers and other passerines but it eventually included raptors, shorebirds and water birds. With the recent cold winters in the Midwest we've gotten more and more unusual, or somewhat unusual waterbirds, right in our own backyard.

Yesterday we saw our first ever Canvasback at the Manayunk Canal, in a very small spot of open water, along with an American Wigeon, two Gadwall and numerous Mallard and Canada Geese. In my last post I mentioned the birds portrayed above, seen near Flat Rock Dam in the nearby Schuylkill River, two male Common Mergansers, a male Red-breasted Merganser and further back a male and female Bufflehead.

We really do enjoy the birds we see when travelling, and we're lucky to have such a rich birding spot as Cape May, NJ nearby. But I think it's even more satisfying to be seeing all these birds of various types so close to home. It certainly makes for easier travelling.

I expect the woodcut above to be in color, using a second woodblock for the colors. But there's a slim possibility I'll just leave it as a one color, one block woodcut. As usual this proof is on copier paper so it doesn't look like much. But for now it's just to give me an idea as to how to proceed. I'll get to better paper later.

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