Thursday, August 30, 2012

Glorious Late Summer

Last evening, my wife Mary had to work an hour late, so I had a chance to have dinner ready when she came in the door.  After we ate, I told Mary that we had to go for a walk to take advantage of the nicest weather so far this side of summer since we were enjoying low humidity, a light breeze , and temperatures in the low 70s.  My ulterior motive, though, was to look for migrating Nighthawks over the Raytharn grasslands.

For some reason (probably because it was getting late and this was only going to be a short walk), I decided not to take my camera.  Naturally, a big mistake.  We walked out into the beautiful grasslands full of head-high flowering Indian-grass and Purple-top, and approached the top of the hill with exhilaratingly expansive views across the meadows.  The sun was setting behind clouds and was producing one of the most beautiful celestial displays we've ever enjoyed--but I didn't have my camera.  The image above is borrowed from the Internet, but is remarkably similar to what I would have captured out in the meadows.

And the Nighthawks didn't disappoint.  We counted seven wheedling high up in the sky, joined at a slightly lower altitude by Chimney Swifts.

One phenomenon that I have noticed at the beginning of each autumn is a nightly streaming of perching birds, most of which seem to be American Robins.  As sunset approaches, birds stream across the meadow skies from northeast to southwest.  I believe that the birds are flying to a communal roost for the night somewhere southwest of the Pennypack Preserve, but I have no idea where these hundreds of birds end up.  Scanning from horizon to horizon, there may be a dozen or so birds visible at any given moment.  As some birds disappear in the southwest, their numbers are reinforced by new birds appearing from the northeast.
We've had a Sedge Wren (or pair of Sedge Wrens) in the Raytharn grasslands near the Creek Road cul-de-sac for at least two weeks, and its/their continued presence was confirmed by four birders yesterday (Wednesday, August 29) afternoon.  Sedge Wrens are threatened in Pennsylvania, so we're really fortunate to host this species.

Submitted by David Robertson. Executive Director

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