In early December, Keith Russell of Audubon PA, led a bird walk through Tacony Creek Park. It was cold and a little damp, but that didn’t deter the group. Starting at the Bingham and Roosevelt gateway, 8 birdwatchers set off down the trail, eager to see lots of birds in the leafless tree canopies.
This bird walk was also the debut of our Tacony Creek Park Birding Guide, developed by TTF interns with Keith’s assistance. The final TCP Birding Guide will contain a trail map, checklist of birds you may encounter in the park, and helpful tips for beginning birders.
We still recommend bringing along a good illustrated field guide on your walks — and having an expert birder like Keith leading the way is always a plus.
We headed down to the creek. Just below Roosevelt Boulevard, the Creek widens and takes a sharp turn before flowing under the overpass. The widened creek creates areas of slower water, which is where we spotted our first bird, a Great Blue Heron, fishing from the bank.
Moving down the trail we began to observe many birds flitting about the tree tops. Blue Jays and Woodpeckers were calling, giving us a chance to pinpoint their location with our binoculars.
Moving into an area full of old vines and fallen branches we began to notice movement. A small brown bird was working its way up tree trunks, probing the bark for insects. Keith excitedly identified the bird as a Brown Creeper, a tiny bird with a long, slender bill, perfect for grabbing bugs from crevices in the bark.
We stood still observing the Creeper, as more songbirds began to perch in the surrounding trees. Carolina Chickadees and Golden-crowned Kinglets were searching for food in the branches above us. White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos hopped around in the fallen leaves. A Carolina Wren flew into sight, patrolling a few small trees in front of us.
Heading northward towards Rising Sun Avenue, we were excited to see the silhouette of a small falcon, which Keith thought was a Merlin, fly quickly over our heads.
As we neared the halfway point in our walk we decided to explore the woods near the creek. We came across a lot of small trees, which showed evidence of Tacony Creek Park’s beavers. Several small cherry trees had been freshly felled and stripped of their bark. One small Box Elder tree had been gnawed through from either side with only a small section left in the center. I imagine this is the beaver equivalent to playing Jenga.
At the end of our walk we had seen about 24 different species of birds:
15 Canada Geese, 1 Great Blue Heron, 1 Ring-billed Gull, 3 Mourning Doves, 2 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, 4 Downy Woodpeckers, 1 Hairy Woodpecker, 5 Blue Jays, 1 American Crow, 3 Carolina Chickadees, 1 Tufted Titmouse, 2 White-breasted Nuthatches, 3 Brown Creepers, 6 Carolina Wrens, 4 Golden-crowned Kinglets, 2 Northern Mockingbirds, 10 European Starlings, 2 Song Sparrows, 5 White-throated Sparrows, 8 Dark-eyed Juncos, 7 Northern Cardinals, 4 American Goldfinches, 15 House Sparrows, 1 small falcon sp. (likely a Merlin, but we were unable to see him well enough)
Even though this was the last bird walk of 2014, we are already planning our walks for next year. We’re always excited to introduce new people to Tacony Creek Park, a gem in the heart of urban Philadelphia.