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Winter Bird Watching at Green Lane Park
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

Snow Bunting

Immature Bald Eagle

Red-Tailed Hawk

Ring-billed Gull


Black Ducks

        The cold and not-so-cold weather this winter has provided us with, so far, has caused many of us to alter our personal schedules and travel habits. The same is true for our avian friends who live or migrate through Montgomery County’s Green Lane Park.

        Since 1996, the Green Lane Park has been designated as an “Important Bird Area” (IBA) by the National Audubon Society.   The more than 3,000 acres of Green Lane Park is one of only 81 other IBA’s in the Commonwealth and is critical to the survival of bird life in the state.
        All seasons present wonderful and different opportunities for local bird watching but this winter has brought a few rarities to treat the eyes and cameras of enthusiasts and it comes at a great time; on the eve of the 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count that will be held February 17-20, 2012.
        The annual four-day event engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where birds are across the U.S. and Canada and helps researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society learn more about how birds are doing – and how to protect them and the environment we share. Last year, participants turned in more than 92,000 checklists online, creating the continent’s largest instantaneous snapshot of bird populations ever recorded.
        The Green Lane Park has a number of spots that present great opportunities for winter bird watching. According to Kevin Crilley, the Park’s Environmental Education Specialist and an avid “birder” himself, it depends on “How much ice do we have and where are the ice-free areas?
Crilley mentioned that Knight Lake (next to Deep Creek Lake) has open water, and becomes a real magnet for waterfowl. Among the numerous Canada geese sighted there are Hooded Mergansers, Common Mergansers, Black Ducks, and Gadwall, just to name a few of the duck species.
 At different times, Walt Road boat launch area and Hill Road day use area offer similar experiences. Cold water, even with icy slush in it, is not a problem for ducks and geese because they are so well insulated by their feathers. 
Bald Eagles are now year-round here, and as long as there are ice-free zones, they do just fine in cold weather. Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks are also fairly easy to find in colder weather.
Land birds are a bit tougher to spot but you might catch a glimpse of them along areas protected from the wind like field edges.
Among the numerous winter visitors like Junco’s, White-Throated Sparrows and Cardinals are the American Tree Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow and others. Since most Woodpeckers are resident and don’t migrate they can also be readily viewed in wintertime.
Crilley’s wealth of experience is of great value to the novice or expert bird watcher. He mentioned that one of his biggest surprises this year was the sighting of a “Baltimore Oriole during the Christmas Bird Count on December 18th. This bird breeds here, but should be long gone by mid-September!” Also sighted that same day were six Fox Sparrows; a bird that rarely sticks around until Thanksgiving. Crilley cites the abundant food crop on the Red Cedar trees and a mild November with lengthening their stays up north.
        Upcoming programs regarding birds at the Green Lane Park include: “Waterfowl Watch” on Saturday, March 3 at 1 p.m.; In Search of the Bald Eagle on Saturday, April 7 at 10 a.m.; and Earlbird Walk on Saturday, May 5 at 8 a.m. For more information on these programs call (215) 234-4528. Visitors can stop in or call Kevin Crilley at the Green Lane Park to see what’s new in recent bird sitings at the park.
        For more information about the Great Backyard Bird Count visit





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