My pandemic-induced city of Reading Bird Count got off to a late start on Feb. 23, but I did manage to find 117 species within the Reading city limits.
In May, I wrote an article that explored the start of the count: https://www.bctv.org/2020/05/27/city-of-reading-count-reveals-diverse-bird-life/.
Below are some highlights of the year followed by the complete list.
Old Faithful: Peregrine Falcon. The pair returned to downtown Reading and nested for the 14th straight season. Four eggs yielded three young, and at least two survived fledging.
Hardest Easy Bird: Northern Mockingbird. I scoured the city of Reading for months looking for a Mockingbird and finally found one singing on a pole near George Field on June 19.
Easiest Hard Bird: Black-billed Cuckoo. Usually a very secretive bird more often heard than seen, a Black-billed Cuckoo flew to a close branch above the Bridal Path Trial below the Pagoda and sat for several minutes, giving me my best view of this species.
With a Little Help from My Friends Part 1: Least Flycatcher. Peter and Jane Wolfe are the good-luck charms. I ran into them on Duryea Drive as they were out pursuing their county list, and Jane picked out the che-bek! call of this flycatcher from a chorus of other birdsong along a power line cut.
With a Little Help from My Friends Part 2: Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I didn’t have a backyard feeder running in the spring, where so many of these birds were sighted throughout the county, so finding this migratory bird out in the woods was a bit of a challenge until Mike Slater and Linda Ingram found one for me near Drenkel Field on May 11.
Look Up! I knew that to get Snow Geese on my count that I would have to look up at the right time to see them flying overhead. I looked up on Feb. 23 for my only sighting of this species.
I’ll Be Darned: Wild Turkey. I didn’t expect to hear the gobble and then see one off a trail near Drenkel Field although Wild Turkeys have been spotted on Mount Penn periodically over the years.
Fowl Surprises: Bufflehead and Wood Duck. Waterfowl will always be an iffy proposition in Reading since the Schuylkill is the only place to find these species. I was surprised to find a pair of Bufflehead ducks on the river and at least seven pairs, a rather large number, of Wood Ducks during the spring on the stretch between the Penn Street and Buttonwood Street bridges.
You Can Leave Now: Scarlet Tanager. Usually this bird is more often heard than seen, and when it is seen it’s high in the treetops hiding in the leafy canopy. But on one day in spring while looking for a Mockingbird in Nanny Goat Hill, I saw a Scarlet Tanager perched on a tombstone for an extraordinarily long time. After taking in a close view that filled my binoculars with this spectacular bird, I finally had to walk away and leave it.
Better Late Than Never: American Kestrel. I finally found a Kestrel Dec. 30 at the end of South Ninth Street, giving me all three falcons for the city: Peregrine, Merlin and American Kestrel.
Last But Not Least: Tree Sparrow. I found a Tree Sparrow on the last day of the year at Angelica Creek Park. It’s noteworthy that the Tree Sparrow is one of only three birds that have been found on all of the Reading Christmas Bird Counts since the first in 1911 along with the Common Crow and the Dark-eyed Junco. The numbers of this bird wintering in Berks have diminished in the last few decades with fewer than a handful recorded on recent counts.
Better Luck Next Year: Any number of birds that I missed this year but should have found like Golden-crowned Kinglet, Herring Gull, Great Horned Owl and all the migrating warblers I was incapable of identifying.
Great Blue Heron
American Black Duck
Eastern Screech Owl
Eastern Wood Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
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