Birding Along Peters Lake

Walking along Peters Lake yesterday, 10/16, & spotted an Osprey doing a slow pass along the shoreline before it veered off. I’m thinking that it’s getting around the time when they’ll start moving toward a wintering ground. A very stable metric such as daylight/nighttime hours must be one trigger. Food availability has to play in there also since I’ve read that they don’t make a ‘continuous ‘ migration flight but a series of jumps & layovers on the way to a final wintering ground.

Also wondered when Cormorant move out since I hadn’t seen them for a few days. But then met a walker who described the ‘unusual’ birds she saw yesterday. ” Black, like crows, but with ‘funny’ necks & beaks “. Turns out she was describing 4 Cormorant perched in same tree I usually spot a pair. So we have a little flock of Cormorant. In nice weather they seem to prefer a perch at the top of the biggest, deadest tree overlooking the water and spend more time out of the water than in it. And, in the water, they ride so low that it reminded me of a submarine running with periscope up & deck barely breaking the surface of the water.

More Egrets. Met another couple & the fellow remarked ‘ I think I saw what might have seen 3 Snowy Egret yesterday ‘. I’d also seen some white ‘birds’ in shallows at far end of the lake yesterday but way to far for me to make an ID. I replied that my ‘ birder friends ‘ had advised that we don’t see Snowy’s around here but more likely Great White Egrets. I described the Snowy as a medium sized bird only a couple of feet tall while the Great White is closer to the size of a Great Blue Heron. Nope, he said, weren’t nowhere near that big. So there we are. Trouble is, the Audubon Field Guide on-line for Snowy Egret quotes ” After breeding season may wander well north “.  Their range map shows “Common” breeding area in E PA & coastal areas as far N as Connecticut and ‘Uncommon” breeding area on W end (Ohio Shore) of Lake Erie to a dotted line that approximates the US/Canada border. So, it’s certainly possible. Wonder if there have been other reported sightings of Snowy’s? Either that, or we have some ” Not-So-Great White Egrets ” out there.

Hope the Fall stays brighter for a while. Really tired of rain. Have fun out there.

Ken Yonek

Note from Mon River Towns Program:  We would like to include images of the birds referred to in this blog.  So please, feel free to share your photos with us!!

Outdoors in the Mon Valley Region

Hi. My name is Ken Yonek & I’m going to try to start a conversation about some of the birds and natural attractions in the region. Since this region is defined by the meeting of woods, water & field it provides many different habitats to support a variety of creatures.

When it comes to birds I’ll probably be asking more questions than providing answers. I’m a ‘recreational birder’ at best, but I do have a copy of “ Peterson Field Guides , Eastern Birds “ and when I see something new, I want to know what it is. So, let’s start.

On Thursday , 2/22, my dog & I were walking around a familiar lake park when I saw a flash of color to my right just as a pileated woodpecker landed on a tree trunk in full view. It called out  & almost simultaneously I heard an answering call from my left. That second call was so sudden & unexpected that I wasn’t sure I’d really heard one. But after several seconds, it called again & this was immediately answered by the bird on my right. ( I realize that while I say “ answered “ I have no idea what’s going on in either birds head.) I assumed they were a bonded pair since it would otherwise be unusual to see two pileated woodpeckers in such close proximity because a nesting pair will try to defend hundreds of acres of territory. At this time of the year former mates will be moving closer together in preparation for nest building & mating. And that leads to my 1st question. I checked several on-line sources but none told when the pair will start excavating a new nesting cavity or laying eggs in this region. Anyone out their know that ?

My second observation/question concerns the pileated woodpeckers call. If you’ve heard it, you know it’s not anything you’d call a “ bird song “. I’ve seen it described as a bark, a laugh, or a wuk/cuk call. It’s essentially the same note repeated several times with variations in the length of the repeat chain. The normal call will run several  “ wuks “ with a pause between each, e.g. wuk-wuk-wuk. There’s also the almost manic sounding version that Cornell University called the “ fast wuk series call “. There the repeat chain, length, volume & frequency all seem to increase. It’s more like a WUKWUKWUK.…. My reaction the first time I heard that was : “ What the heck was that ?” Because it seems like a such strident call, I assumed it must be a territorial warning call and thus more common during the nesting period. But the same Cornell website advised that a short “ wuk-wuk “ is the territory boundary or alarm call. Ok, I thought. That’s like us shouting “ stop, no, or help “. But then I thought about my dog’s reactions to potential threats. When another dog has acted too aggressively toward him/me/us the barks & spittle will pour out rapid fire. So, I’m still wondering. Is that “ fast wuk series call “ a special time/purpose call , or just a random variation, even though it seems to be used much less frequently that the “ normal “ wuk series ? Or is it just the pileated woodpeckers version of singing a few bars of “ Ode to Joy “ ? Appreciate any thoughts on that “ fast wuk “ question.

Love to hear about anyone else’s experiences.

Oh yeah. I’ve got 3-4” daffodil shoots all over the beds. Spring is coming.