Cattle Egrets in Mercer County PA

On Friday, a Pittsburgh area birder discovered a flock of five cattle egrets in a cow field along the side of I79 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Cattle egrets are quite a good bird for this area of PA and so I was excited to go and see them. However, I wasn’t able to find the time until Sunday. The one good part of going this late was that by the time I was able to go, other birders had found a way to see the birds from a road that was not the highway (therefore allowing safe viewing).

Having just got my learner’s driving permit, I was also very excited to be able to practice driving on some of the roads in rural PA. Therefore this chase marked a milestone as it was the first twitch I had driven myself to. Once we had driven the hour and a half north of Pittsburgh to where the birds were being seen, the egrets were not difficult to locate. In fact, they were almost impossible to miss as they foraged in among the cows not far off the road.

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Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Seeing the egrets also made me think about how ridiculous twitching really is. I have seen thousands of cattle egrets in my life and if I had been in many areas of the United States, these birds wouldn’t even warrant a second glance. However, since they’re out of their normal range they become very important birds indeed. However, despite the occasional arbitrarily of twitching and listing it is still a whole lot of fun!

After seeing the egrets, we also went to Black Swamp, a wonderful birding location in Lawrence County. A long-billed dowitcher had been hanging out there for the past few days and I wanted to see if we could locate it. However, we were running out of time before we had to get back to Pittsburgh so we wouldn’t have much time to admire the bird.

Pulling into Black Swamp (after nearly getting our car stuck on the dirt road which leads to it) we found that the dowitcher was about as easy to locate as the egrets had been. It was conspicuous in an open area of the main pond of the swamp and was the only shorebird present which made it easy to pick out.

A heavily cropped shot of the long-billed dowitcher.

A heavily cropped shot of the long-billed dowitcher.

By this point we had to head back to Pittsburgh (though not without almost getting stuck again and getting really good flyby looks at two northern harriers).

However, it was quite a nice evening of twitching a couple of western Pennsylvania rarities.

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