Tuesday, May 12, 2015

PA: Ridley Creek State Park - Height of Spring

With one play day a weekend (sometimes none) while working steadily on this environmental history dissertation, I've tried hard to catch the height of spring migration here at home, at White Clay Creek State Park (DE) and at Ridleys Creek State Park (PA) near Philadelphia. Between the yard, the farm lane at work, and my five mile hikes I managed to catch a few arrivals, but the trees have leafed out so full and so fast that my window for good photography quickly closed! Birding by ear, however, has been incredible!

Indigo Bunting, Bryans Field Trail, White Clay Creek State Park

Curious female Towhee, White Clay Creek State Park.
Ovenbird, White Clay Creek State Park.

The northern Piedmont is particularly beautiful in mid-spring as the rolling hills and deep ravines fill with a bright green glow and the male birds, having come from South and Central America, fill the gaps with song and excited activity - nest building, territorial patrols, and displays for mates. Females flit here and there, creeping through the underbrush and leaf litter, and say little. There are nests and eggs to hide.

Red-winged Blackbird snacks on flatworms at Swan Harbor Farm.

One of many goose families at Swan Harbor Farm.

Young male muskrat parades in front of me at Swan Harbor Farm.

Out on the wetlands at Swan Harbor Farm the wetlands are full of Canada geese nesting on top of last winter's muskrat pushups, and the muskrat have started rebuilding new homes for the year. The males construct the mud and stick (mostly mud) platform and douse it with scent in hopes of attracting a mate. When a curious female inspects the new digs he parades and pursues her. I witnessed a parade on a recent lunch walk as a young male swam back and forth in front of me - not sure what I was squatting there on the bank. A female came by shortly after and he quickly turned from me to her! 

Song Sparrow sings his heart out on his territorial patrols, Swan Harbor Farm.

Tree Swallow nesting in a wood duck box.
Glossy Ibis working the flooded fields at Swan Harbor Farm.
Catbird, Ridleys Creek State Park.

Towhee marking territory, Ridleys Creek State Park.

The area in and around Ridleys Creek State Park deserves another few visits. But for this past Sunday's visit I stuck to the Yellow Trail for my birding and picked up some beautiful wildflowers and interesting views of the former Jeffords estate which is now state-owned. This area, the center of colonial and post-colonial horticulture, boasts an amazing variety of stunning public and private gardens, the well-known Longwood Gardens among them. 

Jeffords Estate, build around a German colonial stone farmhouse, Ridleys Creek State Park.

Early 1900s glasshouse in ruins - but what a birding hot spot!

Cedar 'walls' of the sitting garden - another birding hotspot!

More later on Ridley Creek State Park when I go back to visit the Colonial Farm and Tyler Arboretum and explore more of the trails, ruins, historic buildings, and the great fishing creek. For now, it is the height of spring and we are making the not-so-slow swing into summer. Humidity has returned, that wonderful (or not) attribute that makes the Mid-Atlantic either a pleasure (for those who enjoy torture) or a pain for exploring outdoors.

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