Sunday, September 25, 2011

Field Report: Valley Forge National Historic Park, Sept. 24 2011

On Saturday, September 24, Valley Forge Audubon Society was honored to help celebrate Public Lands Day at Valley Forge National Historic Park the best way we know how: with a bird and nature walk through the park's meadows and woodlots. National Public Lands Day is a massive nation wide effort that recruits volunteers to enhance and improve our public lands and parks. Despite gray and rainy weather, Valley Forge had a great turn-out with many volunteers offering their time to help improve the park.

The historic significance of Valley Forge needs no further explanation, but the park is also important to the ecology of the region. With 3,500 acres preserved, Valley Forge holds one of the largest areas of connected wildlife habitat in the Philadelphia region. This is especially significant considering the amount of commercial, residential, and industrial development that surrounds the park. In many ways, Valley Forge stands as a wildlife oasis in one of the busiest and most developed sections of suburban Philadelphia. And it is a diverse oasis, containing large sections of deciduous forest, meadows, streams, and a significant section of the Schuylkill River. Over 730 species of plants occur in the park as well as 315 species of animals including 225 species of birds.

27 of those 225 species were spotted on a walk lead by Rob Evans of the Valley Forge Audubon Society. Among the birds seen were several migrants including Black-and-White Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, as well as raptors including Cooper's and Broad-winged Hawks. Large numbers of American Robins, American Crows, and Blue Jays were a testament to the fact that this is the time of year when birds start to form large flocks. The complete list of birds spotted, as compiled by Brian Henderson and submitted to eBird follows:

Mallard - 3
Cooper's Hawk - 1
Broad-winged Hawk - 2
Mourning Dove - 4
Yellow-billed Cuckoo - 1
Chimney Swift - 4
Belted Kingfisher - 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker - 4
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Hairy Woodpecker - 1
Northern Flicker - 2
Eastern Phoebe - 3
Blue Jay - 23
American Crow - 19
Carolina Chickadee - 3
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2
Carolina Wren - 2
American Robin - 25
Gray Catbird - 4
European Starling - 11
Cedar Waxwing - 15
Black-and-white Warbler - 2
Magnolia Warbler - 1
Eastern Towhee - 1
Northern Cardinal - 1
Indigo Bunting - 1
American Goldfinch - 5

Of course, this was just a small sampling of what can be seen in Valley Forge Park. It's diverse habitats hold a lot of special interest to the Valley Forge Audubon Society. The meadows are one of the most dependable spots in the area to find the Eastern Meadowlark, a grassland bird in slow decline in our area. The meadows also host migrating insects such as Green Darner Dragonflies and Monarch Butterflies, which feed and breed in the abundant milkweed. The river and streams are an important spot for wintering ducks including American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, and Hooded Merganser, and these riparian areas have been important in the comeback of Mink and Bald Eagle.

The park faces many threats, not only from development, but from invasive species including several kinds of plants as well the Rusty Crayfish, which threatens to wipe out the native crayfish species found in Valley Creek. Another problem is the impact of over-browsing from White-tailed Deer. Volunteer activities such as Public Lands day are an important factor in helping to alleviate these problems. Consider volunteering or supporting the park through the Friends of Valley Forge Park. You can also see for yourself how important these areas are on one of our upcoming walks in our Calendar of Events.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Field Report: Norristown Farm Park, Sept. 3 2011

On Saturday September 3, Vince Smith lead a bird walk at the Norristown Farm Park. Over the course of three miles, the group saw a total of 46 species, including nine species of migrating warblers. The complete list, as submitted to eBird:

Canada Goose  12
Mallard  3
Great Blue Heron  1
Green Heron  6
Turkey Vulture  3
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Ring-billed Gull  2
Mourning Dove  28
Chimney Swift  12
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  5
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Eastern Phoebe  3
Warbling Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  4
Blue Jay  8
American Crow  31
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  8
Tree Swallow  1
Bank Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  4
Carolina Chickadee  8
Tufted Titmouse  6
White-breasted Nuthatch  5
Carolina Wren  4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  35
Gray Catbird  12
European Starling  11
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  5
American Redstart  5
Northern Parula  1
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  4
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1
Pine Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  7
Red-winged Blackbird  1
American Goldfinch  9