Notes From The Field

Ellis Lake/ West Chester Wetlands

My plans for late this afternoon were simple. Come home from work, let the dog out for a while, go birding at Voice of America Park. VOA is great for breeding Bobolinks, Eastern Meadowlarks, and in years past Henslow Sparrows. Last year I wasn’t able to spot one, so I thought why not give it a try.

Normally when I drive into VOA I drive back towards the athletic fields, where access to the good birding spots are located. Today I was turned back by a park volunteer either wanting to see my new park pass, which I haven’t renewed yet, or $5.00. That to I didn’t have. So I did a U-turn and headed out to Ellis Lake/ West Chester Wetlands.


With all the recent rain, the amount of water was beyond what I expected. And with all this water comes all the wading birds. And me without my spotting scope. Since I was planning on going to VOA, I decided to leave the scope at home for this trip.

However all is not lost, because one of my target birds for this trip is a Bell’s Vireo. Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii) is usually not seen but heard by it’s distinctive call. Last year that’s how David and myself were able to find it. That time we were able to actually see it, as well as hear it’s call. Today I just heard it’s call as it hide in some very dense thickets. The Bell’s Vireo is kind of unusual for our part of the country, however in the past few years several locations around the tri-state has little pockets where you can find them, and Ellis Lake is one of them.

Walking down the paved path that both walkers and cyclists enjoy, I scanned both the saturated field and the thick tangle of low shrubs and trees on the opposite side. I’d scan to my right and see Least Sandpipers, Great Egrets, Northern Shovelers, and on my left Yellow Warblers, Orchard Orioles, and Willow Flycatchers.

This is just a few of the 40-50 Least Sandpipers that were feeding along the waters edge. Without my spotting scope some of the farthest away birds were next to impossible to identify. Another lesson learned the hard way, never leave home without it.

For a nice 90 minute stay I think I turned up a pretty respectable list of birds.

  1. Northern Mockingbird
  2. Northern Shoveler
  3. Mallard
  4. Blue-winged Teal
  5. Red-winged Blackbird
  6. Killdeer
  7. American Robin
  8. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  9. Tree Swallow
  10. Barn Swallow
  11. Least Sandpiper
  12. Pectoral Sandpiper
  13. Solitary Sandpiper
  14. Lesser Yellowleg
  15. Short-billed Dowitcher
  16. Northern Cardinal
  17. Willow Flycatcher
  18. Great-crested Flycatcher
  19. Great Blue Heron
  20. Great Egret
  21. Bell’s Vireo
  22. Gray Catbird
  23. Common Grackle
  24. Indigo Bunting
  25. American Goldfinch
  26. Song Sparrow
  27. Red-tailed Hawk
  28. Turkey Vulture
  29. Mourning Dove
  30. American Coot
  31. Canada Goose

One response to “Notes From The Field

  1. Grats on the Bell’s Vireo! I’ve got to learn my bird calls better- this extra-leafy spring means less eyeball time on our feathered friends.

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