Pennsylvania Birdlists Summary 2020

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Compiled by Andy Keister

At the conclusion of 2020, the number of birders who have reported PA Life Lists of 300 species or greater grew from 93 to 99.

The number of birders with PA Life Lists of 350 species or greater also grew from 27 to 29. As last reported in 2018, Devich Farbotnik has recorded 396 species. It should be noted that Jason Horn shows 409 species reported via eBird but has not directly reported updated numbers to the PSO in recent years. The total number of birders with unassisted Life Lists of 300 species or greater increased to 13. For 2020, the year’s high Annual List was reported by Zach Millen with 285 species followed by Richard Williams with 284 species and Ted Nichols, II at 271 species. Similar to the life lists, several individuals recorded more species through eBird in 2020 but did not report those numbers to me for inclusion within this report.

County life-listers who have recorded the most species in their respective counties and have report new species for 2020 include Geoff Malosh who has recorded 283 species for Allegheny County, Margaret Higbee has recorded 245 species in Armstrong County, Joe Verica who has recorded 279 species in Centre County, Andy Keister who has recorded 219 species in Columbia County, Ian Gardner who recorded 266 species in Dauphin County, Al Guarente who recorded 303 species in Delaware County, Brendyn Baptiste who recorded 266 species in Elk County, Jerry McWilliams who recorded 331 species in Erie County, E.J. Regula who recorded 190 species in Fayette County, Carl Garner who recorded 278 species in Franklin County, David Kyler who has recorded 278 species in Huntingdon County, Margaret Higbee who recorded 286 species in Indiana County, Eric Witmer who recorded 340 species in Lancaster County, Margaret Higbee who recorded 211 species in Lawrence County, Bobby Brown who has recorded 268 species in Lycoming County, Andy Keister who has recorded 241 species in Montour County, Arlene Koch who recorded 301 species in Northampton County, Andy Keister who recorded 246 species in Northumberland County, Michael Schall who recorded 228 species in Pike County, Roy Ickes who recorded 241 species in Washington County, Chris Fisher who recorded 224 species in Washington County and Dick Cleary who recorded 265 species in York County.

In annual county birding, Joe Verica set the new high record for Centre County at 248 species, Brendyn Baptiste set a new high record for Elk County at 178 species, E.J. Regula set a new high record for Fayette County at 184 species, Bill Oyler set a new high record for Franklin County at 233 species, Margaret Higbee set a new high record for Indiana County at 216 species, Chad Kauffman set a new high record in Juniata County at 202 species, Michael Schall set the new high record for Pike County at 210 species, and Chris Fischer set the new high record for Wayne County at 213 species. That’s a significant increase over the previous year when only one new county record was set.

A total of 49 individuals submitted list information, comments on their year of birding or Bird of the Year votes for 2020. This is a substantial increase from 2019 when only 34 people submitted their numbers and votes. I attribute the increase to a combination of factors including a higher overall interest in birding due to COVID 19 restrictions and added effort to collect data from individuals who had not made submissions in recent years.

The Bird of the Year 2020

A total of 37 birders voted for 37 different species for Bird of the Year in 2020. It was an exceptional year for rarities in Pennsylvania. Species like Yellow Rail, Mew Gull, South Polar Skua, Northern Wheatear, Wilson’s Plover, Calliope Hummingbird, White-faced Ibis and Pacific Golden Plover that might win on any other year, couldn’t even crack the top 3 in 2020. The winner was determined by awarding three points for a first-place vote, two points for a second- place vote and one point for a third-place vote.

The overwhelming winner was Tundra Bean-Goose (63 points) with Evening Grosbeak (23 points) and Brewer’s Sparrow (18 points) coming in second and third respectively. The remaining votes included Townsend’s Solitaire (14), Pacific Golden-Plover (11), Pink-footed Goose (8), Painted Bunting (8), Pine Siskin (7), Swainson’s Warbler (7), Red Crossbill (6), Swallow-tailed Kite (6), Allen’s Hummingbird (4), Common Redpoll (4), Lark Sparrow (4), Northern Wheatear (4), Northern Goshawk (3), Eastern Whip-poor-will (3), Sandhill Crane (3), Gyrfalcon (3), Mew Gull (2), Vesper Sparrow (2), South Polar Skua (2), Black-bellied
Whistling-Duck (2), Harlequin Duck (2), Calliope Hummingbird (1), Rufous Hummingbird (1), Black-legged Kittiwake (1), Black-throated Gray Warbler (1), Clay-colored Sparrow (1), Connecticut Warbler (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-necked Grebe (1), Sedge Wren (1), Varied Thrush (1), Western Tanager (1), White-faced Ibis (1), and Wilson’s Plover (1).

Comments About 2020 Birding in PA

(New PA Life List Species and other comments)

Justin Berkheimer 
New PA Life List Species: Iceland Gull, Long-eared Owl, Sandhill Crane, Prairie Warbler, Black Tern, Vesper Sparrow, Golden-winged Warbler, Black-billed Cuckoo, Black-bellied Whistling-Duck.

Bobby Brown
New PA Life List Species: Pacific Loon, Wilson’s Phalarope, Long-eared Owl, Prothonotary Warbler, Red Phalarope, Least Bittern.

Michael David
New PA Life List Species: Painted Bunting, Swainson’s Warbler, South Polar Skua, Brewer’s Sparrow, Black-legged Kittiwake, Tundra Bean-Goose.

Dave DeReamus
New PA Life List Species: Tundra Bean-Goose

Barbara Griffith
New PA Life List Species: Lark Sparrow, Blue Grosbeak, Long-billed Dowitcher, Red Knot.

Eric Hartshaw
New PA Life List Species: Glaucous Gull, Painted Bunting, Pink-footed Goose, Wilson’s Phalarope, Marbled Godwit, Swainson’s Warbler, White Ibis, Hudsonian Godwit, Calliope Hummingbird, Franklin’s Gull, Northern Wheatear, Black-legged Kittiwake, Hoary Redpoll.

Jeff Hopkins
New PA Life List Species: White-winged Dove, Townsend’s Solitaire, Northern Wheatear, Tundra Bean-Goose.
Comments: I definitely spent more time in the state than usual. I usually travel internationally a lot and this is the first year since 1986 that I haven’t left the US. In fact, I’ve only been to 8 states this year and 3 were pre-Covid.

Ryan Johnson
New PA Life List Species: Common Redpoll, Red Crossbill, Connecticut Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, Grasshopper Sparrow, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, Red- necked Grebe, Peregrine Falcon, American Coot.
Comments: Just when I thought 2019 couldn’t be beaten, 2020 pulled through! This was especially rewarding considering the pandemic challenges. I missed my all-time annual PA Species high count by two, but had my best year species wise for both Wayne and Lackawanna Counties. I had several incredible birding adventures in Wayne, a highly rural and under-birded County this year. It was nice representing this County better in eBird in 2020 along with my good birding friend Chris Fischer. I am sad to see the memories made this past year filed away, but welcome all of those to come in 2021!

Tim Johnson
New PA Life List Species: Eurasian Collard-dove, Least Bittern, Golden-winged Warbler, Alder Flycatcher, Clay-colored Sparrow, Swallow-tailed Kite, Connecticut Warbler, Evening Grosbeak, Townsend’s Solitaire, Red Crossbill and Long-eared Owl.

Michelle Kienholz
Comments: On her votes for Tundra Bean-Goose, Mew Gull and Pacific Golden-Plover – “These are all remarkable visitors who would not immediately scream flashy different bird and would take some skill to pick out as a reportable rare vagrant (especially gull and plover). The Northern Wheatear and South Polar Skua would be up there too.”

Geoff Malosh
New PA Life List Species: Tundra Bean-Goose.

Paul Mauss
Comments: Very limited birding this past year due to Covid-19 travel and closure restrictions (Also just turned 80!). Hopefully this year will be much better.

Zach Millen
New PA Life List Species: Too many to list, but my favorite was South Polar Skua.

Bill Oyler
New PA Life List Species: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Pink-footed Goose, Swallow-tailed Kite, Townsend’s Solitaire, Swainson’s Warbler.

Joe Papp
New PA Life List Species: Painted Bunting, Caspian Tern, Prothonotary Warbler, Clay-colored Sparrow, Sanderling, Northern Waterthrush, Summer Tanager, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White-rumped Sandpiper, Gray-cheeked Thrush, Common Gallinule, Alder Flycatcher, Wilson’s Phalarope, Swainson’s Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Baird’s Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, Long-billed Dowitcher, Brewer’s Sparrow, Connecticut Warbler, Mourning Warbler, Yellow- bellied Flycatcher, Wilson’s Warbler, Evening Grosbeak, White-winged Scoter, Lapland Longspur, Black Vulture.
Comments: 2020 was my best year of birding in Pennsylvania yet, mostly because I connected with an amazing mentor, John Flannigan, who encouraged me to find/chase/see as many new birds as I could.

E.J. Regula
Comments: Got back into birding this year. Really only bird Fayette County. Went with Matt Justowich and Kerry Bell a lot. Feel like Fayette County is a lost gem. But not enough birders live/bird her to cover all of the spots. Highlights include finding Fayette’s first ever Sandhill Crane. Also 1,000+ ducks/swans on Greenlick Reservoir. Joined this organization this year and am very impressed with the quality of the magazine.

Peter Robinson
New PA Life List Species: Brewer’s Sparrow, Black-legged Kittiwake, Tundra Bean-Goose.
Kurt Schwarz
New PA Life List Species: Lark Sparrow, Pink-footed Goose, Painted Bunting.

Richard Williams
New PA Life List Species: Pink-footed Goose, Painted Bunting, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Western Tanager, Red Phalarope, American White-Pelican, Pacific Golden-Plover, Brewer’s Sparrow, Black-legged Kittiwake, Tundra Bean-Goose.