Pennsylvania Birdlists Summary 2012

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Compiled by Peter Robinson

Two new features have been added to the Pennsylvania Bird Lists report this year, ideas borrowed from the Maryland report, to add a little more flavor to this report. The first new feature is the voting for “bird of the year”. Those who sent list reports were asked to vote for the three species most meaningful to them this year (for any reason). First place votes got three points, second scored two points, third one point. The second addition is comprised of listers’ comments about birding in Pennsylvania in 2012.

There are now 79 birders whose Pennsylvania Life Lists are 300 or more, an increase of two from 2011, and 23 now have 350 or more, an increase of one from last year. Six are at 375 or more, also in increase of one. Nine have 300 or more in the Life List- Unassisted category.

This was a very good year for adding to lists. There were some unusual species that continued from 2011 into 2012, five species of hummingbirds were identified, Hurricane Sandy carried a number of rare species into the state, an unusual number and variety of winter finches arrived in the fall, and there were some other vagrants.

Chuck Chalfant established a new all-time high Annual List of 315 species, even having missed a few that he could have seen, yet still seeing a number of species he would never have expected. Chuck was not the only one with a 2012 list above 300: Shannon Thompson tallied 307, after her 305 in 2011, and Geoff Malosh saw 303 species. These accomplishments involve a lot of diligence, time, and travel expense. We should also give some credit to today’s instant communication about sightings.

There were several County Life List lead changes in 2012. David Hawk established a new high of 268 for Carbon. Nick Pulcinella added four to his Chester list for a new high of 276. Al Guarante’s 291 for Delaware finally topped the 289 established by John Miller way back in 1985, but Al has some work to do to find another 30 species in Philadelphia to match John Miller’s 290, also from 1985. Geoff Malosh’s 233 for Washington is another new high county life list.

There now are 19 County Life Lists of 300 or more, two more than last year, and all from four counties: Berks, Bucks, Erie, and Lancaster. New high County Annual Lists for 2012 included: Tim Becker’s 237 for Lebanon, Nathan Fronk’s 190 for Lycoming, and Neil Troyer’s 222 for Mercer.

Other reports of high County Annual Lists were Michael Schall’s 166 in 2011 for Pike, and Tom Clauser’s 228 for 2011 in Schuylkill.

The following people submitted list information for 2012: Tim Becker, Chuck Berthoud, Gerry Boltz, Dick Byers, Bruce Carl, Chuck Chalfant, Tom Clauser, Dick Cleary, Skip Conant, Amy Davis, Dave DeReamus, Gordon Dimmig, Mike Epler, Bill Etter, Devich Farbotnik, Mike Fialkovich, Nathan Fronk, Anthony Ford-Hutchinson, Ian Gardner, Carl Garner, Tom Garner, Deborah Grove, Greg Grove, Al Guarente, Barbara Haas, David Hawk, Janathan Heller, Carol Hildebrand, Chad Kauffman, Jon Kauffman, Bill Keim, Arlene Koch, Dave Kyler, Trudy Kyler, Wayne Laubscher, Ronald Leberman, Harold Lebo, Ken Lebo, Geoff Malosh, Paul Mauss, Mark McConaughy, Jerry McWilliams, Randy Miller, Martin Page, Nick Pulcinella, Thomas Reeves, Dan Richards, Jim Ridolfi, Dave Rieger, Peter Robinson, Michael Schall, Mathew Spence, Russ States, Grant Stevenson, Shannon Thompson, Neil Troyer, Mark Vass, Joseph Verica, Eric Witmer, Matt Wlasniewski, David Yeany II.


The winner for Pennsylvania’s Bird of the Year is Leach’s Storm-Petrel courtesy of Hurricane Sandy, with 13 points. Tied for second with 8 points were Pomarine Jaeger, Rufous Hummingbird, and Saltmarsh Sparrow. Wilson’s Storm-Petrel came in third with 7 points. There were two first place votes for “western hummingbirds”. Rufous Hummingbird would have made first place if those six points had gone to that species as representative of the hummingbird group, which a few voters did do.

Other point totals were: Allen’s Hummingbird (5), Black Skimmer (4), Calliope Hummingbird (4), Dickcissel (4), Pink-footed Goose (3), Herald Petrel (3), Cory’s Shearwater (3), Whimbrel (3), Black-chinned Hummingbird (3), Red Phalarope (2), Sabine’s Gull (2), Prairie Falcon (2), Cave Swallow (2), Bullock’s Oriole (2), Northern Gannet (1), American Oystercatcher (1), Long-billed Dowitcher (1), Kirtland’s Warbler (1), Kentucky Warbler (1), and White-winged Crossbill (1).


This year, birders were invited to submit comments on birding in Pennsylvania in 2012, along with their votes for Bird of the Year (BOTY). Each birder who submitted comments is shown below, with their current PA Life List total, the species they added to their PA Life List in 2012 in parentheses (if less than 10), their #1 vote for BOTY, and any comments submitted. Birders are listed in no particular order.

Jonathan Heller, 362. (Leach’s Storm Petrel) I should have been at West Fairview during Sandy not in Lancaster County!

Tom Garner, 369. (Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Saltmarsh Sparrow) My BOTY is Rufous Hummingbird, not because of the rarity, but because of the remarkable year in the state for western hummers that so many people shared in and were able to enjoy, with Rufous being the most “common” representative. Hurricane Sandy was a major birding event, but unfortunately caused devastation for many people and the death of many of the displaced birds. If I had to pick a bird of the year from that storm it would be Leach’s Storm-Petrel because it is not only a great bird for the state, but probably the most widespread rarity from Sandy.

Dave Rieger, 300. (Western Grebe, Prairie Falcon) Ian Gardner, 286. (40 new PA Life Species) BOTY: Wilson’s Storm-Petrel at Seven Points Marina, Lake Raystown, Huntingdon County.

Dick Cleary, 315. (Snowy Owl, Summer Tanager, Black Skimmer, Calliope Hummingbird, Pacific-slope Flycatcher) Arlene Koch, 364. (Prairie Falcon) BOTY: Black-chinned Hummingbird (long overdue).

Greg Grove, 310. (Townsend’s Warbler, Nelson’s Sparrow) Jerry McWilliams, 337. (Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Kirtland’s Warbler) BOTY: Herald Petrel. Ken Lebo, 368. (Gyrfalcon, Wilson’s Storm- Petrel, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Parasitic Jaeger, Pomarine Jaeger, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Pacific-slope Flycatcher) BOTY: Wilson’s Storm-Petrel. Added the following for Berks County in 2012: Gyrfalcon, Northern Wheatear, Wilson’s Storm- Petrel, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Parasitic Jaeger, Pomarine Jaeger.

Al Guarente, 367. (Prairie Falcon, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Parasitic Jaeger, American Oystercatcher) BOTY: Leach’s Storm-Petrel. I finally moved ahead of John Miller for Delco thanks to Hurricane Sandy adding five new county birds. Michael Schall, 345. (None) BOTY: Allen’s Hummingbird.

Eric Witmer, 372. (Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Saltmarsh Sparrow) BOTY: Leach’s Storm- Petrel. Birds of the year for me would be “Sandy storm birds”. Unfortunately, I was not at West Fairview to see a couple of the mega rarities there. I will go with: 1) Leach’s Storm-Petrel: 5-9 seen during Sandy along the Susquehanna, 2) Saltmarsh Sparrow at Pine Run Reservoir, 3) Red Phalarope: finally seen in Lancaster County for me during Sandy with multiple observations.

Wayne Laubscher, 317. (Say’s Phoebe, Whiteeyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Pomarine Jaeger, Calliope Hummingbird, Pacific-slope Flycatcher)

Mike Fialkovich, 342. (Yellow Rail, Black Skimmer, Allen’s Hummingbird and Calliope Hummingbird) BOTY: Pomarine Jaeger.

Amy Davis. BOTY: Dickcissel.

Barbara Haas, 382. (Trumpeter Swan, Calliope Hummingbird) BOTY: All those western hummingbirds!

Nick Pulcinella, 359. (Trumpeter Swan, Calliope Hummingbird, Saltmarsh Sparrow)

Devich Farbotnik, 380. (Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Pomarine Jaeger, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel) BOTY: Cory’s Shearwater.

Geoff Malosh, 360. (Yellow Rail, American Oystercatcher, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Calliope Hummingbird, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Black Skimmer, Pacific-slope Flycatcher) BOTY: Pomarine Jaeger. It seems impossible to believe that the two unthinkable Black Skimmers that appeared on a broken down dock on the Ohio River within sight of downtown Pittsburgh would not be the most memorable bird for me in 2012. Instead, that honor goes to a different Hurricane Sandy bird: the Pomarine Jaeger that winged past Dashields Dam in Allegheny County early in the morning on 10/30. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see either of these species in my urbanized home county over here in western Pennsylvania. But the Jaeger was just a little more special than the skimmer, as it appeared at a spot on the rivers that I’ve watched patiently for nearly 10 years now. Ten long, almost entirely boring years—but every once in a while the payoff is something really amazing!

Bill Etter, 325. BOTY: 1) Rufous Hummingbird. 2012 was the Year of the Dragon according to the Chinese calendar, but it was definitely the Year of the Hummingbird in PA, with Rufous as the star of the show. 2) Calliope Hummingbird. There were two more records in 2012, and I didn’t get to see either of them…still need it. 3) Leach’s Storm-Petrel. Hurricane Sandy drove Leach’s Storm-Petrel into the state in amazing numbers. Leach’s was my 300th Bucks County bird, and my 250th bird for Nockamixon State Park, so it definitely deserves a place in my top three for the year. This particular bird spent the day at rest on Lake Nockamixon. I can only hope it was able to gather the strength to find its way back out to the ocean.

Mike Epler, 283. (19 new PA Life Species) Black-necked Stilt was one of my PA Life Birds in 2012 and it was particularly gratifying as an “unassisted” record and, as far as I know, the only stilt found in PA in 2012. Between the irruptive species and the hurricane this was a crazy year of birding in Pennsylvania. It was also the year I decided to do what I initially described as a “medium sized Lancaster County year”. My goals were to bird more often and to expand my birding destinations around Lancaster County. I was successful in meeting those goals but my year ended up being more of a “big year” than I had intended. I ended up seeing 257 of the 276 species reported to eBird in the county, or 93%.

Shannon Thompson, 338. (19 new PA Life Species) BOTY: Mike Lanzone’s Whimbrel at Somerset Lake. Such a great opportunity to observe it, such a cool bird! The entire year was amazing! I would love to do it all over again!

Chuck Chalfant, 353. (14 new PA Life Species) My votes for BOTY are three species I saw personally, although it is hard not to vote for Cory’s Shearwater and Northern Gannet, which I was not fortunate enough to observe: 1) Pinkfooted Goose, 2) Black Skimmer, 3) Leach’s Storm-Petrel. Near the end of 2011, I thought about doing a PA Big Year list for 2012, as there were lots of rarities from 2011 that remained at year’s end. My goal was 300 species, but even with all the chasing and driving I was doing, that didn’t look very probable by October. That all changed with Super Storm Sandy followed by western hummingbirds, northern finches, Crossbills, Pacific Loon, Pink-footed Goose, Allen’s Hummingbird, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Pacific-slope Flycatcher… you get the picture. Thanks to everyone who helped out, I wound up with 315 birds for 2012. If you are thinking of doing a Big Year I would highly recommend having a car that gets about 40 mpg, is big enough to sleep in, and while you’re at it, get a partner to share the driving and gas. It’s a big state! I also suggest a new category for “hearing impaired senior citizens”. Thanks to all!

Peter Robinson, 378. (Northern Gannet, Parasitic Jaeger, Wilson’s Storm-Petrel, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Calliope Hummingbird) Five new PA species in five days, four of them courtesy of Hurricane Sandy! That was completely unexpected. The Calliope Hummingbird was much appreciated, since I’d been a day late in going to look for the 26-27 November 2002 bird in Montgomery County. Also, 2012 was certainly “the year of the Hummingbird” for PA: Ruby-throated, lots of Rufous, Allen’s, Calliope, and a Black-chinned. Thanks to the hummingbird banders in our state for identifying these.