Greene County Birding Spotlight
April 28 – May 1, 2023
Summary of Trip
The next chapter of PSO’s county spotlight took us to the far reaches of southwestern PA into Greene County. Yes, there is a Greene County way down on the left of the map. If you haven’t explored down that way, you should. This county certainly qualified as one that is towards the lowest in number of ebird checklists and species. I personally needed to get down to that corner to get more birds for my lists as well.
We first reached out to Margie Howard who is a long-time friend and former board member of PSO and one of the main members of the Ralph Bell Bird Club. She was happy to have us visit her area and help lead us around as well as get some others to join us. As we watched the calendar days drift by, the weather forecast kept changing from horrible to bad to nothing to bad, so we needed to roll the dice with Mother Nature’s offerings.
Friday was a travel day for many who were coming. Noah & I left our home early from central PA. The weather wasn’t so nice traveling west but until I crossed over into Greene County, it stayed fairly dry. We started making checklists as soon as we crossed the county line. After meeting Marg at noon, we ran around several notable spots and back roads and were able to find 64 species between us and those birders who were out and about.
Michael David and his friend Molly arrived later in the afternoon evening and did some stops on their own before joining us at our AirBnB in Waynesburg. Deb Grove and Ro Fuller arrived on their own and added to Friday’s totals.
Friday’s notables were a pair of Bald Eagles perched near a nest, Blue-winged Warbler, White-eyed Vireo, Common Merganser with a fleet of young and Yellow-throated Warbler. Barred Owl was heard by Deuane Hoffman & Carolyn Blatchley who stayed in a cabin at Ryerson Park.
After arriving at our rental late, Joe Gyekis woke up really early to get out and about for some birding before our crew headed for the first field trip. He was able to really score with some nocturnal birding at SGL 223.Highlights for his predawn and early morning birding included White-crowned Sparrow, an early cuckoo gurgling in the sky, plenty of American Woodcocks still peenting away, and Yellow-breasted Chat singing in a hilltop clearing.
Our first official field trip of the spotlight started at the Ralph Bell farm which is run and owned by Ralph’s son Dave and grandson Dave. 17 birders came and went through the day with a really nice walk down the hill from the farm along the stream to the iron bridge. A total of 69 species were found just on that walk in over 3 hours. Our highlights included flyover Wilson’s Snipe and Common Loon, a Cliff Swallow down by the stream, and Cerulean and Yellow-throated Warblers in the bottomland forest.
The bird club hosted a free lunch for all attendees and it was nice to sit down and relax after that walk and enjoy the farm’s atmosphere. The Bells were so welcoming and pleasant. They really enjoyed showing off their place and how much we all enjoyed being there. This is the property were Ralph K. Bell lived his entire 99 years. His grandson lives in the house that Ralph was born in.
Doing her solo birding again, Julia Plummer was out and about recording audio of birds. This works best if she is alone and doesn’t have as much noise coming from other people. She was able to share recordings of species to add to our spotlight tally. She really enjoyed Rice’s Landing Saturday morning and her memorable moments were recording White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo and Yellow-throated Warbler. She was able to see and record a Northern Parula and really enjoyed hearing a Barred Owl from across the Greene River.
On the group’s way to our 2nd birding spot, we found a nice pond on Goslin Rd and found a really close Savannah Sparrow as well as some shorebirds on the pond. Greater Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpiper were nice to add to our tally, we got great scope views of each to compare.
After getting to Rice’s landing, we had a nice walk on the paved surface and enjoyed getting the weekend’s first Eastern Kingbird. We were able to tally 40 species on that walk.
Our last organized trip for the day was to the Trigger farm. Rebecca was thrilled to have so many birders come and explore her farm and trails with her.She gave us several choices of paths and we decided to take the one that had Owls on it before and after several failed attempts, they chose to not show any love to our mouth calls we tried. We were very tickled to see the Red-breasted Nuthatch on the walk as well as White-eyed Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler, killer looks at a Hooded Warbler that was missing a few feathers on his face, Yellow-rumped and Yellow-throated Warbler, plus a humming bee hive in a natural tree cavity.
After the walk, Rebecca shared some of her famous mulled cider with a few of us while we pondered the view on the porch and relaxed from the long day of walks. We were able to tally 33 species on that walk.
After a nice dinner in downtown Waynesburg, some of the birders who still had some energy went back to Margie’s house to look for some birds and they were rewarded with a view of two Eastern Screech Owls poking
out of the tree cavity across the stream. Owl calls the night before failed to produce but Saturday night seemed to have the luck.
Deuane got up early to do some birding on his own at Ryerson Station State Park Sunday morning and was rewarded with both Great Horned and Eastern Screech-Owl.
At our rental, across the street Ritchie Park produced some good looks and recorded calls of Orchard Oriole as we were packing up for the last morning and checkout.
Our first field trip for Sunday was Enlow Fork & SGL 302 that coincided with the annual Enlow Fork Wildflower & bird walk sponsored by Wheeling Creek Watershed Conservancy. Attilia Shumaker and Colleen Nelson plan this walk each year and sell hot dogs, snacks and drinks to pay for the port-a-john. The bird walk was led by Ralph K. Bell Bird Club members Kathy Kern and Margie Howard and members of the W PA Conversancy lead the flower walk. Enlow Fork is a pristine area that is known for Blue-eyed Mary’s and Virginia Bluebells and is a good place to find Cerulean Warbler as you walk along the old road.
Sunday produced the most rain for the whole weekend so we know we lucked out, but we did our walk down to the iron bridge again which also was the county line with Washington. Wonderful wild flowers were there for us to enjoy and get some pics. On the way in, we were able to hear Scarlet Tanager. After leaving, we went on a wild goose chase, or a Red-headed Woodpecker chase to be exact. Someone at Enlow showed Joe G a picture of one and we decided to go chase it as it was only a few miles away. We didn’t get it, but enjoyed exploring more of the area.
This is where Joe peeled off and I followed Michael over to Ryerson, where we hooked back up with Mark Nale and Darla. We got into some more shorebirds and added Lesser Yellowlegs and Sharp-shinned Hawk. After this, Noah and I were done and started heading home.
On Joe’s route home, he was able to add Black Vulture which is rare in that part of the state and Prairie Warbler.
Michael and Molly kept going as well and were able to add Blue-winged Teal, Least Sandpiper and Bobolink.
On Monday, the last day, Margie was left to her wares as the sole eBirder in the county it seems and she manned her property and hummingbird feeders and finally was able to see one come in the afternoon to add Ruby-throated Hummingbird.
So, we ended up with 113 species on 104 checklists with pictures of 18 birds and 34 with audio. We added 21 species to the county for the year. Many of the birders who came like myself were glad to get some species on a county we have never been to or not much before. Deb Grove and I were very pleased to get our lifetime Greene County lists up to over 100 as well as add some to Washington which I had zero in before.
Some of us got to enjoy dinner at Brady’s Roadhouse as well as Don Patrons. I wish I would have visited the coffee shop in town but there was only so much time. We did have to be mindful of the backroads and the big trucks going thru places. Some of us also hoped for the historical sightings of Summer Tanager and Swainson’s Warbler, but we’ll just have to try a few more times for that kind of luck.
Here is the link to our trip report we did with everyone who did eBird sharing their checklists with PSO Birding Data and it gave us our final tally. https://ebird.org/pa/tripreport/116219
We want to thank Margie again for her leadership and all of her birding friends in the Ralph K. Bell bird club as well as locals to the area.Also, to the hardened traveling birders who seem to enjoy this birding spotlight and spend their time and money to get here and explore mother nature with us.
We currently don’t have the next county spotlight plan finalized yet, but some are in the works.
Chad Kauffman, Mifflintown, PA