Mariton: Birding at Woodland Hills
by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager. Photos by Carole Mebus.
Mariton’s Bird Group went to Woodland Hills in Lower Saucon Township on Tuesday. This was a new location for our group. Woodland Hills was formerly a golf course, but the Township bought the property to prevent development. This was a proactive way to prevent run-off and other issues. They have let the 148 acres go wild and mow two trails. Carole and Marilyn had gone butterflying there last summer, but didn’t know what it would be like for spring birds. My own thought was to schedule a bird walk there to showcase a forward thinking township. If we saw some interesting birds that would be a bonus. (Natural Lands Conservation Services can help municipalities protect open space.)
Tuesday was drizzly day, but I looked at the radar and decided to go ahead with the walk. It was misty off and on, but nine people showed up and were rewarded with nearly 50 species of birds.
We found a few Brown Thrashers. This bird really likes brushy habitats and Woodland Hills provides a nice scrub/brush habitat. Brown Thrashers are one of the mimics that can copy other birds’ songs, or even noises like cell phones. The other two mimics, the Northern Mockingbird and Gray Catbird, were also sighted during our walk. It was a great opportunity to hear all three of them singing in one place so I could work on the differences in songs. It was only a few years ago that it was hard to find Brown Thrashers. They were around if you knew where to look, but their populations seemed depressed. Brown Thrashers seem to be making a comeback now, but we still get excited when we find them.
Another bird that has an interesting song is the Orchard Oriole. It has characteristics of a Baltimore Oriole, but also notes of the mimics. We stopped under one of the golf gazebos during some drizzle and spotted an immature male Orchard Oriole singing at the top of a small conifer. I need to learn the song better to be confident in the field.
Other brush-lovers like the Field Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, Eastern Bluebirds, and Blue-winged Warblers were sighted. We were surprised by some forest dwellers like Wood Thrush and Scarlet Tanager. Because of the ponds, we even saw Wood Ducks. After getting a feel for the property a few of us wondered if it would provide habitat for some uncommon brush loving species. We will have to go back when the weather is better and the migration a little further along. And we know it is a good place to butterfly. Kudos to Lower Saucon Township for protecting and managing this great nature area.