Ridley Creek: Ranging Afield

5.30.2006, 800-1015 am
Ridley Creek State Park (Sycamore Mills Rd), Rose Tree Park

Somehow Barry and I woke up on our own a full 15 minutes before our 7 am alarms were scheduled to ring, so I decided to take advantage of this newfangled “car” technology and bird nearby hotspots outside of the walking range of school. Obviously first on my list would be the famous Ridley Creek State Park, probably mentioned in every local guidebook, and recommended to any birder visiting the Philadelphia area. The other can’t-miss local hotspot is the John Heinz NWR (Tinicum) by the airport, which I will certainly stop by sometime soon. But today, I was looking forward to birding Ridley Creek.

Shockingly, rush hour was already in full swing when I stepped out of the door at 7:15. Traffic on the I-476 bridge above Baltimore Pike was nearly at a sandstill, and I too found myself stuck in deep traffic by the time I made the turn onto Providence Rd. in Media. Even these local roads were choked. What probably should’ve taken 10 minutes ended up taking about 40, but I figured that the park would at least be a nice quiet contrast to this gridlock. Turns out, not so much. The guides had described the Sycamore Mills Rd as a remote corner of the park, rarely seen by visitors, yet the main parking lot was completely full, and I ended up having to park on an auxillary lot up the road. Walking up the path, there was always a person or two approaching my path from either direction, and I never truly felt isolated at all.

Despite the automotive and human traffic, bird activity was incredibly high, and it was very easy to see why Ridley Creek is thought of so highly. Even the quieter sections of the path were about as busy as the most pristine areas of the Crum. Acadian Flycatchers were on territory along the entire path, yet in the Crum I can only consistently find them in the Wister or Skunk-Cabbage Hollow, the two birdiest areas in the woods overall, and I really cannot find them anywhere else. There were also quite a few species that I haven’t encountered before in the Crum, and I wonder if that disparity is temporal, or spatial, or both, as I’ve never birded the Crum at this point in the season either, so comparisons can’t quite be made. I’ll get to that sometime soon, I’m sure.

At the furthest point to which I ventured, the Youth Hostel about 1.3 miles up the path, several dozen butterflies swarmed around a water fountain, a stunning sight that was a nice way to conclude the walk up.

Common Yellowthroat, male. I’ll have to look out for this in the Crum, Skunk-Cabbage Hollow seems the most likely location, as they were very common in several locations at Ridley Creek.

On the way back home, I decided to stop by Rose Tree Park, which is just on the way, and is home to a hawkwatch during migration, which I’ve watched the results of with great interest. Obviously hawk migration is over, but other birds were still present, as I found a Baltimore Oriole nest right by the parking lot, and bluebirds nesting in the many boxes around the park. Rose Tree Park seems like the absolutely perfect place of a picnic, with its wide open fields and wide open skies, with just enough tree shade to make things bearable. Orchard Orioles and Savannah Sparrows are reportedly quite common here, so I will try and stop by one morning to try and locate them. After visiting these two parks, it will be difficult for me to actively bird in the Crum, as there are so many new things to discover abroad.

  • 1 Veery – singing below the Youth Hostel. First time I’ve ever heard the song in the wild, and it’s a stunning song.
  • 4 Common Yellowthroat – 2 males and a female below the Youth Hostel, and one singing at the Sycamore Mill dam.
  • 1 White-eyed Vireo – below Youth Hostel
  • 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk – fighting with something around the 0.4 mile marker, flew off quickly.
  • 1 Northern Parula – parking lot area
  • 1 Scarlet Tanager – Sycamore Mill dam
  • 5 Acadian Flycatcher – on territory all along the creek.
  • 5 Tree Swallow – wheeling around the dam, dove at a Blue Jay at one point
  • 1 Great Blue Heron – Sycamore Mill dam
  • 3 Mallard – just above the dam
  • 1 Baltimore Oriole – feeding young in a nest just by Rose Tree Park parking lot
  • 3 Eastern Bluebird – fields below parking lot
  • 2 Tree Swallow – above fields

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