Tuesday 29 May 2012

Lemon Hill, Philadelphia, May 2012

Another attempt to find some of the fancy wood-warblers migrating up the eastern side of the USA has met with almost complete, abject failure. Philadelphia has not figured largely on Redgannet up until now and I had hoped to be able to bring some of its treasures to life, but apart from a few Warbling Vireos, the migration has passed me by.

Fairmount Park is a great spot to spend a couple of hours, warblers or not and I concentrated my search around Lemon Hill Google Earth ref; 39 58 17N 75 11 17W. My plan was to find a feature that might draw the warblers in. A small wooded hill beside the river seemed to be just the thing, but what do I know?

Canada Geese were parading their chicks as they fed on the grassy patches close to the Museum of Art and House Sparrows chipped from every bush as I cycled the path that runs alongside the Schuykill River. I made the journey twice, once on the Sunday evening on arrival and again on the Monday morning, but I will try to blend them together as one post. The Sunday evening was very busy with bands playing in the cafes near the river and Monday morning was naturally much quieter.
Lemon Hill is a subtle mount with its steeper slope rising from the river side. Once up on the top, the most obvious feature is the Lemon Hill Mansion. Roads describe a circular route of nearly a mile if you keep turning right while walking clockwise. American Barn Swallows and Northern Rough-winged Swallows were common and occasionally stopped for a break and a pre-nuptual tidbit.

There are plenty of Black Locust trees which I have always associated with Black and White Warblers. Despite a thorough scanning of the deeply furrowed trunks and branches, there was not a B&W to be seen. The season was being observed however and plenty of American Robins were out on the lawns collecting nesting material.

Brown-headed Cowbirds were getting into the spirit of spring, displaying with great enthusiasm.

Despite my complaining about the warblers, there were a few other migrants that had waited around to greet me in Pennsylvania. There were half a dozen Baltimore Orioles compared against only one Orchard Oriole. A few sightings of a Blue-grey Gnatcatcher were probably of the same bird and Eastern Kingbirds were fairly common on exposed snags.

Down on the river, a birdy area just above the weir produced more Warbling Vireos, a Green Heron and the Red-winged Blackbirds. Oh and don't forget the Philadelphia Eagle.

Birds seen; 38
Canada Goose 40, Wood Duck 1, Mallard 6, Double-crested Cormorant 9, Green Heron 1, Red –tailed Hawk 1, Ring-billed Gull 2, Mourning Dove 15, Chimney Swift 20, Red-bellied Woodpecker 2, Downy Woodpecker 1, Northern Flicker 4, Eastern Kingbird 6, Warbling Vireo 8, American Crow 3, Northern Rough-winged Swallow 40, Barn Swallow 60, Tufted Titmouse 1, Carolina Wren 2, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher 1, American Robin 60, Grey Catbird 15, Northern Mockingbird 2, European Starling 60, Cedar Waxwing 35, Chipping Sparrow 3, Song Sparrow 1, Dark-eyed Junco 1, Northern Cardinal 5, Indigo Bunting 1, Red-winged Blackbird 10, Common Grackle 40, Brown-headed Cowbird 10, Orchard Oriole 1, Baltimore Oriole 6, House Finch 4, American Goldfinch 3, House Sparrow 150.
To see more posts from Philadelphia, follow the links below;

Visit the dedicated USA and Canada Page for more from the North American continent.


  1. I live in a cabin in the mountains about 2 hours west of Philly and have lived here for 20 years. Tihs was by far the worst spring for wood warblers i've ever had. Very depressing.

    1. Hi Carolyn, Thanks for the comment. When warbler posts are clogging the internet it is easy to think that you are missing out or simply incompetent.