Despite the widespread flooding at Vischer Ferry Preserve yesterday and today, there was a reasonably dry towpath trail going west from the main entrance. So, with 15 birders, including several novices and new HMBC members, we proceeded west on the towpath this morning and then returned the same way.
Highlights for the morning were numerous. Before even starting we heard a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker tapping out Morse Code across the road. Not far from the bridge we spotted 2 River Otters crossing the towpath in front of us. Later we spotted two Muskrats in a nest at close range. Most of the ducks we saw initially were Ring-necked. However, we eventually found small numbers of Wood Ducks, Blue-winged Teal (4), Gadwall, American Wigeon, and eventually Hooded Mergansers and one Greater Scaup. Including the Sapsucker already mentioned we eventually reached a total of 6 woodpecker species or a socalled “Woodpecker 6-pack”. Swallows were a major highlight with as many as 200 Tree Swallows foraging over the water despite rather chilly conditions. Naomi eventually spotted 1 Northern Rough-winged and 1 Barn Swallow among them. (As I went back up the towpath later I discovered 20 Northern Rough-winged resting on a snag in the canal. This was the same snag where the rare Violet-green Swallow was photographed last year on 4/22. ) Other typical Vischer Ferry marsh birds seen were a Belted Kingfisher, a Great Blue Heron, and at least 4 Rusty Blackbirds. Three Bald Eagles were also spotted.
The final species count at the end of our walk was a respectable 38 species. In some ways the flooding worked to our advantage because it expanded the length of the ponds going west increasing the available habitat for ducks. Thanks to all who braved the cold temperatures and participated, and we hope to see the new members and birders on future HMBC field trips.
John Hershey, trip coordinator