Thursday, 9 February 2017

Black-backed Oriole: From Mexico to Pennsylvania, no Passport Needed

There aren't any walls blocking Mexico from the US just yet, but no matter how high Donald Trump tries to build them, some Mexican migrants will still find their way into America.  In this case, a vagrant Black-backed Oriole, endemic to Mexico and chief predator of the Monarch Butterfly, found its way to a quiet residential street in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania, to the delight of over 800 - and counting - happy birders who have traveled wide and far to see a bird so rare in the United States it is not yet on the list of the American Birding Association.

I had been following the NARBA reports since it was first reported on February 3, but work and other commitments have kept me from chasing anything more than a Harlequin Duck here in Toronto.  There are birds in California and Arizona that I'd love to find time for, but at the moment, a one day there and back driving trip is all I can fit into my schedule.  So, I drove the 7 plus hours from Toronto, and arrived early Wednesday morning at Indiana Ave. in Sinking Spring, Pennsyvania and joined the 20 or so other birders on a driveway of a local resident, and awaited the Oriole.

Short wait, as it turned out.  Less than 10 minutes and the Black-backed Oriole alighted a top a tree in the distance and within another five minutes came closer and eventually landed on the feeder in the back yard across the road, where it enjoyed a lovely breakfast of fresh cut oranges.  After all the hours I've spent looking for and waiting to find other rarities, it was nice to just arrive and see the bird.  There was probably more socializing on the driveway than there was bird looking.  I actually recognized one gentleman, a birder and nature photographer whom I've run into at least one other time chasing rare birds, likely in Florida.

The bird was discovered by Susan and Richard Hybki and they quickly discovered it was not your average oriole.  It took a few days after she shared a photograph of the bird for it to be identified on an Advanced Bird ID Facebook page by a Mexican birder who was amazed that people in Pennsylvania were seeing a Black-backed Oriole before even he had seen one for himself.


The Homeowner across the street is happy to have birders come and use his driveway to view the Black-backed Oriole.  Just remember to sign in, please and not block the driveways.  And he is not, nor does he intend to become, a birder as a result of this experience. 


On the way to the oirole I had to stop to watch a flyover of somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 Snow Geese: