2023-06-07 Blue Marsh, PA

Field Sparrow - Spizella pusilla
While enjoying a visit with old and dear friends in Pennsylvania, I drove to a nearby nature reserve called Blue Marsh. There, I enjoyed the company of birds I did not see at my friend’s property.

After breakfast Wednesday, and a few errands, I drove a few miles from Wernersville PA, to a reserve called Blue Marsh. I didn’t have much background information about the place, so I was not sure what to expect. Using Google to navigate, it led me to a parking lot and a trailhead. While reading the information on a sign-board, an angler returning from his fishing hole walked out of the dense understory. I took the opportunity to pick his brain. I learned enough to discover that there were several other parking lots positioned around a 1100 acre lake and a 30 mile trail system to explore.

With a name like “Blue Marsh”, I expected a wetlands habitat, but I found a band of woods surrounding the lake, and fallow agricultural fields beyond the trees. I later learned before the Corps of Engineers built the lake’s dam, there really was a “Blue Marsh”, but it was now inundated under the lake.

After driving a mile to the next parking station, I was not sensing any new birds, so I set up my bike and set out to explore the nearby trail. I rode about a mile to the next parking area, then turned back, retracing my route. While on my return trip, I stopped at several places along the trail to study the birds calling from nearby, yet unseen perches. Most of the calls were from birds I was starting to become familiar with. There were Red-Winged Blackbirds, Blue Jays, Brown Thrashers, Gray Catbirds, House Wrens, and Red-Eyed Vireos, each announcing their nearby presence. 

And then I heard a faint song from a nearby brushy field that reminded me of a Black-Chinned Sparrow. But the Black-Chinned’s range would be out west, and very far from its expected range. The glimpses of the bird I caught gave me the impression of a Song Sparrow, so I used my phone to search for another sparrow candidate. When I heard the recording of the Field Sparrow, I knew I had found my bird. This being my first encounter with the species, I was compelled to ride back to the RV, fetch my camera gear, and return to attempt gathering images of these birds. It took me a while, but eventually I had a modicum of success. A few days earlier, I captured my first descent images of the Brown Thrasher, and now I had a second species in the bag (so-to-speak). I was a happy man!

I rode back to the van, and while I was loading the bike back onto its rack, I heard a Pileated Woodpecker calling from a nearby treetop. I tried in vain to get an image, but all I got was a quick flyover and no images <sigh>. While I lingered, hoping the giant woodpecker would cooperate, I caught several images of the local birds in the woods next to the parking lot.

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