Tinicum: When the Hype Builds

6.6.6 (haha), 800-1030 am
John Heinz NWR at Tinicum, dike trail -> observation blind, warbler woods

I guess this is what I get for revisiting such a revered spot so quickly, it was just bound to disappoint, and I should’ve realized that earlier. I was expecting a repeat of Sunday morning’s success, and instead just got a much quieter version. I probably saw only half as many Yellow Warblers as before, and so I wasn’t walking around in an awe-induced trance this time either. The birding certainly wasn’t bad, it was better than most any day I could possibly have in the Crum, but it still felt quite disappointing, especially considering the earlier start and the better weather.

I was pleased to find a lot of the same birds in the same places, for example I once again saw the same Warbling Vireo seen on Sunday, in the exact same tree as before even. There just seemed to be fewer birds overall, and there were some species that I didn’t pick up at all until my return walk to the parking lot. I did pick up two new species however: Marsh Wren, which was a life bird but which I only heard singing, and Black-crowned Night-Heron, a bird I really haven’t encountered in a while.

Black-crowned Night-Heron, which breeds in small numbers near the Philadelphia airport. Photo by Dan Bastaja.

A return to the Warbler Woods just off the service road netted nothing new, and so I sat for a while on the boardwalk watching the Tree Swallows swooping into the nestboxes. One individual repeatedly dived straight towards my head, which was absolutely thrilling. I realized it was probably because of my bright red hat, with the white Swarthmore “S” on the front. White apparently is an alarm signal for a lot of wildlife (see White-tailed Deer, Cottontail Rabbits, etc), and the red hat certainly didn’t help. Once I took the hat off, the swallows calmed down, and resumed feeding their nestlings inside the boxes.

  • 3 Marsh Wren – life bird, but heard only, singing in the Tidal Marsh
  • 2 Black-crowned Night-Heron – adult and immature flying around by the observation blind
  • 12 Yellow Warbler – all around refuge
  • 1 Orchard Oriole – just above observation blind
  • 2 Willow Flycatcher – along dike trail
  • 1 Green Heron – boardwalk in Warbler Woods
  • 3 Wood Duck – single individuals in flight, no good looks like last time

Arguably the most productive aspect of the trip was a look at the Visitor Center’s giftshop, which featured an amazing find for me – Birds of Delaware County, by Nick Pulcinella, published by the Birding Club of Delaware County. The book gives detailed descriptions of key sites throughout the county (including the Crum Woods!), and comments and abundance charts for every species that has been found in Delaware County.

Though the writeups for most of the sites seemed extremely helpful, I’m puzzled by many of the birds that he describes as possibilities in the Crum. I won’t go into the details, but to make it short, if I were ever in the Crum and saw a few of the birds that he mentions, I would probably have a heart attack, and die a happy man. A few don’t even appear on Janet Williams’ checklist at all, not even as anecdotal possibilites. Other extremely rare migrants are reported by Pulcinella to actually be quite common and easy to find, but if that were the case, I would probably never even go to class. Why would I head to class if I could ogle at the abundant Blackburnian Warblers right in the Science Center parking lot? I don’t think this is a case of changes in habitat and abundance in the past ten years, I severely doubt that Blackburnians have ever been easy to find, much less right in the parking lot. I wonder if this is simply pure conjecture based on the habitat, or if its even overhyping, in order to try and attract birders to the area.

Despite its shortfalls, I will certainly be using this guide on my visits to other local birding areas. Hopefully the information contained in those sections is roughly accurate.

And now, some miscellaneous sightings in the Crum from the past few days

  • 1 Scarlet Tanager – singing in the Wister, really easy to find now
  • 1 Eastern Wood-Pewee – Upper Wister Draw
  • 1 Common Yellowthroat – probably on territory in Skunk-Cabbage Hollow
  • 2 Acadian Flycatcher – can be heard from Harvard Rd. on the walk to campus from ML, also on territory in Wister
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