Tag Archives: philly

Electricity in the Cities

Cities fascinate me; it’s probably the result of growing up in suburban North Carolina. Philadelphia was a primary reason I chose to come to Swarthmore, the school provided an idyllic and tranquil suburban campus with easy access to the benefits of a large city. Those benefits have become relatively trivial for me, I basically only go into the city to buy records or to watch arthouse films now, but it’s nice to have those opportunities at least, certainly better than going to some remote school such as Williams.

Probably my favorite part of the cities is the public transportation. Even as a young kid, I was always fascinated by trains, subways, buses, and other forms of transport; on visits to Washington DC, I would want to ride to subway just for fun, with no particular destination in mind. On the train ride into Philadelphia this morning, I started to wonder what drove that interest. What made a train so radically different from a car? I think it may have something to do with the human aspect; for some reason I love the idea of riding a cold, soulless machine that will transport me across a city. Obviously that’s not entirely accurate, as there have to be brakemen, engineers, conductors, and track operators to ensure that the train runs along smoothly. But that human element is certainly far more removed on a train than in a car. That still doesn’t entirely answer my question of why I like public transportation, specifically why I would prefer getting a ride from a piece of machinery rather than from a human, but it’s a start. Doesn’t entirely explain buses either, but I will admit that I vastly prefer subways and trains to buses. I know, it makes no sense.

I guess the other aspect of cities I really enjoy is the people-watching. There really aren’t enough characters in the suburbs, everyone is just a typical middle-class family working office jobs and sending their kids to school, just like in the ’50s. When you venture into the downtown portions of the cities in my area, all that’s really there are businessmen and city government workers. I feel like in the South, all the true characters ride around in the rural areas, waving their confederate flags and hunting quail, whereas in the North all the characters are in the city, with a much higher concentration and density.

Just getting off the train at Market East Station, a middle-school aged kid strode up the stairs with a massive mohawk and at least a dozen chains jangling from various articles of clothing and piercings on his body, accompanied by his relatively normal-looking parents. A white-haired 60-year old man walked by, with blue jeans hiked up all the way, and a vintage black Ramones t-shirt. A pair of 30-year old twins wearing identical Sufjan Stevens shirts passed me on the street. Those are sights that I would never dream of witnessing down in North Carolina, but do denizens of the northern cities become accustomed to such encounters? I’m incredulous that it could even be a possibility. At AKA Music, my favorite record shop in the world, the cashier was having trouble swiping my debit card through his machine, and he began to grow increasingly frustrated. The swipes became faster, harder, stronger, and he seemed to become genuinely furious at my card. On the final two swipes, he slammed the card through the machine so hard that it flew out of his hand and calmly fluttered back behind the counter. For some reason, it finally worked on the last try. I feel like this would never happen in North Carolina, there’s just too much patience and Southern hospitality, and so I was fascinated by the display put on by this indie record store clerk.

As usual, I came into the city this weekend with the intent of purchasing records, not for myself this time around, but for the radio station, which didn’t receive a few crucial records from their respective labels over the summer. That objective was quickly accomplished, and so I killed time by browsing the used bins to find some little gems for myself. For some reason, today was an unbelievably exceptional day in the used bin, and somehow I emerged with eleven albums, with an average cost of around five dollars per record. My mom would probably be thrilled to learn that I was saving so much money, but really I’m just cheap. If a three hundred dollar box set was on sale for thirty bucks, I probably wouldn’t take it. I’m more concerned about the final price than I am about the discount.

Here’s what I scored for myself:

  • Elvis Costello – My Aim is True | 4.99 | retail: 18.98 |74% savings
  • Decemberists – The Tain EP | 5.99 | r: 9.99 | 40%
  • Bob Dylan – Bringing it All Back Home | 2.99 | r: 11.98 | 75%
  • Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde | 8.99 | r: 13.98 | 36%
  • Pavement – Spit on a Stranger EP | 0.99 | r: out of print
  • R.E.M. – Out of Time | 0.99 | r: 13.98 | 93%
  • R.E.M. – Automatic for the People | 0.99 | r: 13.98 | 93%
  • Secret Mommy – Hawaii 5.0 EP | 0.99 | r: 8.50 | 88%
  • Talking Heads – Fear of Music (DualDisc) | 8.99 | unavailable outside of boxset
  • Talking Heads – Remain in Light (DualDisc) | 8.99 | unavailable outside of boxset
  • Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues (DualDisc) | 8.99 | unavailable outside of boxset

So far, the Secret Mommy EP was pretty aimless and forgettable, My Aim is True was pretty derivative and wasn’t as catchy as I expected (I’m sure that opinion will change in time), while Bringing it All Back Home is completely destroying me, it’s not as cohesive and consistent as Blonde on Blonde but some of the songs are a lot better, ‘Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream’ and ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ (obviously) in particular. I have to say that I’m incredibly excited about the Talking Heads purchases, I had kinda planned on slowly purchasing each album one by one in chronological order, but I couldn’t pass up this kind of deal. I will be spending a lot of quality time with these records.

Back on campus, Meg was clever and nice enough to post a Crum Woods Sightings Board outside the Bio department office, enabling college students and staff to share any cool experiences in the Crum. Professor Hiebert Burch sighted a Bald Eagle soaring behind Martin one evening, which was unbelievable.

Not to be outdone, I climbed up onto the Parrish fire escape the next morning, trying to catch the peak of Broad-winged Hawk migration. Over a thousand had been seen in Media the day before, so I felt like my chances were pretty good. Apparently I forgot that hawks require warm thermals to soar in the air, and said thermals don’t form until much later in the day as the temperature rises, so I didn’t see any hawks that morning. Looking at my watch, I had about 20 minutes until my Genetics test, so I thought I’d head over to the Science Center Coffee Bar, grab a cup of coffee, and sit down for the exam.

And that’s when I discovered that the fire escape door didn’t have a handle on the outside. So I was locked on the fire escape.

I panicked. I was trapped sixty feet in the air, with no escape routes, with an important test in 20 minutes, with no cellphone, and nobody inside to open the door for me. I thought about punching through a window and scrambling back in. I tried picking the doorlock, but even then I had no way of actually opening it, so no luck. I thought about ramming through the door with brute force. I even briefly considered climbing down the side of the building, Spiderman-style. The birds flying all around me mocked me with their wings. I had a test in 10 minutes, and I was completely trapped. Finally, I noticed a woman walking on the ground far below, so I yelled to try and capture her attention. She looked up, so I explained my situation. She didn’t respond at all, just slowly walked into the building. My only hope, and it’s gone! I have a test in 10 minutes! #$#)@!)(#@%$#@()!!!!!!!1!!!!1111

Fortunately, I heard the elevator doors open, and a few seconds later the woman emerged through the fire escape door and let me back in. I thanked her profusely, but she seemed sleepy and utterly confused as to what I was doing on a fire escape so early in the morning, so I thanked her one last time and ran to the lecture hall for my test. Which I felt I did pretty well on, thankfully, but it was an absolutely bizarre way to start the day. If I ever go up there again, and that’s a big if, I’ll certainly remember to prop the door open.

Later that afternoon, I ventured into Crum Meadow for one final attempt at catching some hawks. All I saw was a lone juvenile Red-tailed, but as I started to head back I saw a small gray bird foraging in the knotweed. Snapping it into my binoculars, it was immediately apparent that this was a flycatcher, just based on structure and habits. But what kind of flycatcher?

I ruled out the tyrant flycatchers and Myiarchus flycatchers by size and shape. I ruled out Eastern Phoebe, as it had an incredibly bold eyering, wingbars, and the wing feathers were well-defined. I ruled out Eastern Wood-Pewee, as there was no dark vest on its chest, only a faint yellow wash on the belly, and a white breast.

So that left me with the Empidonax flycatchers. This was a very gray bird, with a short bill, ruling out the common Acadian Flycatcher and the possibility of Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. That left Willow/Alder, and Least Flycatchers. Again, I was struck by the incredibly bold eyering, the small bill, and the flat head. That led me to Least Flycatcher, a life bird, and a bird that doesn’t even appear on the offical Crum Woods checklist! Strangely, it is mentioned in Pulcinella’s Delaware County guide as occuring in the Meadow during migration, but that possibility, along with many others, are contested by the school’s observational records. Despite this, I’m about 95% sure that this was a Least Flycatcher, an exciting finding to be sure.

Combine all this with my recently sprained ankle, suffered during a soccer exercise, and last night’s successful WSRN party, and we’ve got an unusually eventful week for me. But I’m not one for drama, so here’s to hoping that the next few weeks bring more tranquility, more peace, and less work.

But, more links:


Sweet, Sweet Ambrosia of the Gods

It was almost three weeks ago when I began to view the Swiss Farm Stores with curiousity. It’s a small grocery chain located only here in Delaware County, and their two main selling points are 1) that it’s a drive-thru grocery store, and 2) the buildings are shaped like large white silos. These two gimmicks alone practically assured my patronage, but the question was when that destined visit would actually occur.

This morning, I decided that today was going to be the big day. My stocks of Florida Orange Juice had been severely depleted, and this week’s schedule of soccer, frisbee, and intense research coring demanded vast amounts of Gatorade and/or Powerade. Visiting the website, I found that both Gatorade and Powerade were on sale, with the offer expiring today, imagine that! It seemed that destiny was already on my side.

So I quickly printed out an order form (not neccesary, but I’d rather fill out a form than talk to a person), and scanned the contents. Orange juice, check. Powerade (which was cheaper), check. Eggs, check. Breakfast muffin sandwich since I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, check. That was all I needed, I thought. But on one final scan, my eyes suddenly caught onto one additional product, inconspiciously listed and not on sale.

In my senior year of high school, I had three major concerns about coming up to Swarthmore. First was Swarthmore’s infamously brutal workload. Second was the cold yankee winters, and having to deal with snow in increments of feet rather than quarters of an inch. And third, the one which everyone laughed at me for, was how I could possibly survive without sweet iced tea. It was my favorite drink since childhood, the perfect complement to almost twenty full years of meals in the South. What else was there that I could possibly drink? I didn’t know, and I was scared, and I seriously considered staying close to home at UNC just for the sweet tea. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost.

Somehow, I’ve endured two long school years without my ambrosia. But here, on the Swiss Farm Stores order form, I finally found my salvation from the lonely months of suffering. When I saw that they carried Southern Brew Iced Tea in 1/2 gallon and full gallon containers, my heart exploded with joy. This is where I leap into the air, in slow motion, with a face filled with pure ecstasy, fists pumped into the sky.

My mind was filled with nothing but thoughts of sweet tea as I drove to the nearest Swiss Farm Store. I’m sure that I sped through about four red lights and didn’t even notice or care. Sweet tea is like my heroin, and I will go to whatever lengths necessary in order to obtain it.

The actual ordering process was completely anticlimactic. A surly high school dropout took my form and trudged into the silo. A few minutes later, he emerged with a few plastic bags filled with my goods…except…no sweet tea…I was sinking into a sea of despair…and loneliness…

“We ran out of the 1/2 gallon size of the Southern Iced Tea. Do you want the full gallon?”

The siren’s song lifted me out of my black seas of darkness, and I answered yes as angels began to descend from the clouds above. After I paid, I drove home and my car seemed to levitate above the ground, lifted by the white angels. So yes, it’s actually exactly like heroin.

So now I’m sitting at my computer drinking this Southern Brew Iced Tea. It’s not bad. There’s way too much lemon, for one. Certainly no Bojangles iced tea, but then again, what is? It’s better than Nestea or Lipton at least, and it’s the closest I’ve come up here in this foreign and hostile country of The North. All I can think about right now is: I need another fix.

Links to come later.

No Spinach For You

I’ve heard many things about Popeye’s, both good things and bad things. I’ve heard stories of chicken destroying digestive systems, and chicken completely transcending the realm of fast food chicken. And everything they have is somewhat spicy, which immediately perked my interest. So Barry and I headed out on a pilgrimage to the nearest Popeye’s last week, to dig up the real truth.

Barry is a bit averse to spice, so we ordered mild chicken, along with a side of mashed potatoes and some biscuits. Stunningly, Barry has never had coleslaw before in his entire life, which knocked my socks off. But we decided to play it safe, and ended up finding out that even the mashed potatoes and biscuits were slightly spicy, and amazing.

Meanwhile, the chicken was extremely mild, to the point where even the biscuits were spicier. It was also very greasy and very salty; I really wasn’t bowled over by it. But I vowed to return at some future date to sample their spicy chicken, which I hoped would come close to the style of the inimitable and immortal Bojangle’s of home.

Turns out, the return trip was made this past weekend, and I strolled up to the counter and ordered the spicy chicken, and some cajun rice, probably to make further Bojangle’s comparisons, as their dirty rice was my absolute favorite dish as a child. Somehow, it ranked higher than pizza, ice cream, hamburgers, or any of those other childhood favorites. Combined.

The cajun rice was quite good, but surprisingly it was still outstripped by the spicy biscuits and mashed potatoes. But not too bad at all. The chicken, meanwhile, was still salty and mild; I’m pretty sure they got the wrong kind of chicken for me, but by the time I found out I was already far far away, in the magical realm of Mary Lyons.

So in terms of spiciness, Popeye’s ranks its dishes as follows:
Mashed potatoes > Biscuits > Cajun rice > Chicken
Whereas at Bojangle’s, the ranking is:
Chicken > Cajun rice > Mashed potatoes = Biscuits
Nearly the exact opposite. Funny how the two are supposed to be compared then.

Overall? I’ll give Popeye’s a B thus far, though that grade will not be final until I have some truly spicy chicken. I find it amusing that I’m applying such culinary criticism to a fast food joint like Popeye’s, because I’m not even sure how I would go about giving grades to my fast food mainstays such as McDonald’s or Burger King. All I know is that Bojangle’s still gets an A+++. All you yankees and left-coast denizens just don’t know what you’re missing. Oh man, just thinking of Bojangle’s makes images of sweet iced tea and dirty rice dance in the air above my laptop’s keyboard.

A lot of links comin’ at ya:

Captain Crunch; The Beacon of Hope

I was beginning to suspect that everything Trader Joe’s touched turned to pure gold, in other words I was beginning to become one of those frighteningly cultish Trader Joe’s fans who seem to shop there everyday, and have started their own blogs dedicated solely to Trader Joe’s products and openings. Fortunately, I will not be heading down that road, as I’ve discovered that this Mango & Apricot Yogurt O’s Cereal is not one of the more delicious things I’ve ever tasted, and in fact ranks fairly close to the bottom.

I’m now intrigued by the silo-shaped Swiss Farm Stores that seem to populate the area, and how good their breakfast is, and will explore that possibility at some future time. Looking at their official webpage, which is basically one long flash cartoon with very little actual information, this has tremendous upside potential.

Today’s links:

Another photo:

Ridley Creek: Cutting the Loop

7.2.2006, 600-730 am
Ridley Creek State Park, Bridle Trail

The Bridle Trail of Ridley Creek promised many possible new lifers, so a visit seemed necessary. Unfortunately, my planned visits had been rained out for the past few weekends, so everything was delayed until today. I got out as early as possible so I could get back in time for Stage 1 of the Tour de France (which I’m currently happily watching), so I ended up heading out just as the sun rose. The amount of birdsong right at sunrise was really surprising, probably because I haven’t been out in a while.

The Bridle Trail forms a very long loop, which very few people actually complete due to its length, and also because the best birding areas are just in the first few hundred yards of each path. Each direction of the loop features very different habitats, with the east loop featuring hardwood riparian forest, and the west loop has more of a meadow habitat. I started with the east loop as recommended by Pulcinella, but the habitat was quite similar to what could be found at Sycamore Mills Rd or even in the Crum, and I found many of the same species as well, so I headed back and spent most of my time on the west fork, where I found a life bird and some species not found in the Crum.

Blue-winged Warbler, male. Heard a single male singing, but only got brief views of it, and also of a female and their young fledling. Photo by Chris Young

Blue-winged Warbler was a lifer for me, while Chestnut-sided Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush were also great birds. I struck out on birds like Prairie Warbler, Field Sparrow, and Ring-necked Pheasant, but I was still fairly pleased with the results of the day. Perhaps those birds are found further up the loop.

I also made a brief foray into the southern portion of the trail on the other side of Gradyville Rd., which is the route recommended in the ABA Birdfinding guide, but it seemed quieter than the loop. I will likely investigate it at some point, probably to seek out Hooded and Kentucky Warblers.

  • 3 Blue-winged Warbler – male, female, and young bird together on the west fork, male sang occasionally. Life bird!
  • 3 Chestnut-sided Warbler – West fork
  • 1 Louisiana Waterthrush – flew up near head of the trail, no singing heard, probably because nesting has been concluded
  • 1 American Redstart – single male foraging past bridge
  • 1 Northern Parula – single bird singing at the bridge
  • 7 Veery – very common, quite a few were singing their amazing song as well
  • 7 Cedar Waxwing – fluttering all over the bridge, I’m not sure what they were doing. They rarely landed on neighboring trees, and instead hovered over the bridge and occasionally landed on the railings.
  • 6 Common Yellowthroat – quite a few singing, good views at a male and female as well
  • 3 Scarlet Tanager – great views of two males, one with a female
  • 3 Acadian Flycatcher – calling all along creek
  • 3 Eastern Towhee – great views of a couple, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually seen a Towhee

And back in the Crum, I’ve heard a Veery singing in the Wister forest the past few days, which is great.

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

Tinicum: Stargazing in Broad Daylight

6.4.2006, 730-1115 am
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, dike trail -> observation platform, service road

The second of the Philadelphia hotspots, I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a while, as the habitat set is completely different from that of the Crum. Later in the summer, and into the cooler months, the impoundments here will be completely filled with shorebirds and waterfowl, though they’re mostly absent at this point in the calendar. Nevertheless, I went to gain a familiarity with the area, and to get to know the residents.

My targets for the trip were Willow Flycatcher, Warbling Vireo, and Orchard Oriole. On the drive over however, I realized that I hadn’t the faintest idea of what any of those birds actually sounded like, so I’d have to rely solely on visual location and identification. Arriving at the refuge, I realized that I’d somehow have to pick out these birds from the hundreds of blackbirds and swallows swarming around the refuge. I resigned to my pessimistic impulses, and sought to find what I could.

Right at the mouth of the trail was a singing male Yellow Warbler, which I studied intensely, as it’s not a bird I’ve found in the Crum, and it’s not a bird I can find easily in NC. Little did I know that Yellow Warblers are on territory all along the dike trail, and by the end of the day I’d probably seen somewhere between 20 or 30 birds along this 3/4-mile long trail, which was absolutely dizzying. It seemed that every large tree and shrub held a pair of the bright yellow warblers, singing loudly.

Yellow Warbler, male. This bird was unbelievably abundant at Tinicum, yet I don’t think I ever got tired of seeing it. Photo by James Ownby.

About halfway down the trail, I noticed a drab bird flying into the short marshes to my left, and with my binoculars I realized that I’d found a life bird, the Willow Flycatcher I’d been seeking! The bird spent about 10 minutes hawking from various small perches in the marsh, before flying back across the trail, where it suddenly ran into yet another Willow Flycatcher. I’d gotten great looks, yet not once had I heard the bird vocalize, and to be completely honest, I have no idea how the Willow Flycatcher looks different from the Acadian. The Willow has a different habitat requirement obviously, but visually, they look practically identically. I think the Willow has a less obvious eye-ring, a taller peak behind the eye, and grayer upperparts, but honestly those could all be completely wrong, I’ll need to study the field guides. Basically, I only knew that they were Willow due to the habitat, and that they are commonly reported from the refuge.

Just a few dozen more yards down the trail, I saw a similarly drab bird fly into a willow tree, which I initially thought was another flycatcher, but looking more closely, I suddenly realized it was the Warbling Vireo I’d been looking for! Once again however, it flew off without giving any vocalizations, and so I was still left in the dark regarding how to find this bird in the future, as it is notoriously difficult to see, and is far easier to hear.

I’d been carrying my spotting scope with me for the first time, and I felt like such an expert birdwatcher for doing so, though that’s clearly not the case. Non-birders passing me on the trail, however, asked if I’d gotten any more pictures, thinking that I was carrying a camera on the tripod. One gentleman asked me why I was using a telescope to go stargazing in broad daylight in a wildlife refuge. Sadly I had few opportunities to use the scope, only to get better looks at birds that were still easily seen with binoculars. When I returned to the car from the observation platform, I stuck the scope in the trunk, knowing that I wouldn’t need it on the wooded Service Road.

While at the observation platform, I munched on my breakfast, some slices of rye toast, and looked up the song of the Warbling Vireo in my Sibley. I was surprised to discover that a mysterious singer which I had spent almost 45 minutes trying to see earlier on the trail was actually the Vireo, and so I’d found two already. The song was much more distinctive than I had expected, so I’ll be keeping an ear out for it in the Crum, as they’ve been reported before.

The service road proved to also be quite productive, in that a great deal of marshy open areas and second-growth forest supported some interesting species, including another Willow Flycatcher (still not vocalizing!) and another singing Warbling Vireo, and also a pair of Orchard Orioles, another target bird! Another trail parallels the service road before merging further down, and so when I reached the merging I took the parallel trail back, to see what I could find there.

But right at the intersection, a doe White-tailed Deer was foraging, and instantly it bolted upright and stared at me, staring at her, staring at me. We watched each other for almost two minutes, with neither one of us moving at all, until I decided to take a small spur towards the impoundment that also intersected here. As I slowly walked down the spur, I kept looking back, and noticed that the deer watched me the entire time. It was the best look I’ve ever gotten of wild deer. When I returned from the lake, the doe was still there, watching me, but this time I needed to take the trail that it was blocking. Gradually, it began to lose interest, and wandered into the forest, so I headed up the parallel trail. Looking off to the side into the forest however, I noticed the deer again, still watching me. Incredible.

I enjoyed this excursion far more than my trip to Ridley Creek, probably due to a combination of less human traffic, less automotive traffic (though this could change on the weekdays), and more unique birds. I will undoubtedly be back later in the summer, when the shorebirds begin to descend, and probably before then as well.

  • 5 Willow Flycatcher – two pairs along dike trail, one individual along service road, none calling. Life bird!
  • 3 Warbling Vireo – one observed and one singing along dike trail, one singing at bottom of service road.
  • 2 Orchard Oriole – pair along service road
  • 1 Green Heron – flying over impoundment, seen from observation platform
  • 24 Yellow Warbler – pairs absolutely all over the refuge
  • 12 Cedar Waxwing – all along dike trail and service road
  • 12 Wood Duck – several pairs, including amazing scope views of a pair under the boardwalk, and also a mother with six ducklings
  • 2 Brown Thrasher – along service road, one singing. I’ll have a tough time finding this in the Crum, and seperating the song from Catbirds or Mockingbirds.
  • 3 Common Yellowthroat – singing along service road
  • 4 Eastern Kingbird – two pairs along dike trail
  • 8 Song Sparrow – singing a very different song from the birds here on campus, which is very interesting.
  • 19 Double-crested Cormorant – a huge raft of 16 birds descended past the spur off the service road
  • Tree Swallow – innumerable, but probably in the hundreds
  • Red-winged Blackbird – ditto

Edit: After consulting the Sibley, I got 2 out of 3 on the Willow Flycatcher. It does have a less distinct eye-ring than the Acadian, and is grayer, but there doesn’t seem to be a difference in the peak behind the eye, and the other field mark would a more obvious white throat. I’m comfortable calling these Willows, and not stray Acadians.

Another update: As I emerged from a short walk in the Crum, someone asked me if my binoculars were for night-vision, and why i would need that in the early afternoon. Baffling.