Birding Black Rock Sanctuary

This past Sunday, February 6th, we went birding at Black Rock Sanctuary in Phoenixville (near Spring City), Pennsylvania.  For more information about the whereabouts of this sanctuary and its amenities, please visit

One of the many interpretive stations along the Interpretive Trail.

A trail at Black Rock.

One of the first points that I want to make is that if you are planning on finding this park with a GPS, you have to be careful and word it as Black Rock Sanctuary.  We tried finding it using Black Rock Park, and that took us to another place in Phoenixville that was under some sort of construction, and didn’t look much like a park at all.

Many people say that places like Cape May or Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (hoping to be able to get there in spring!) are their favorite places to see Warblers during migration.  Cape May is my favorite spring birding spot, but not for the Warblers.  I would say that Black Rock, a rather local (to me), unknown gem, is my favorite place to see Warblers during migration.  This is the place where I found my first Chestnut-Sided, Black-and-White, Yellow, and Tennessee (I had an interesting experience with this guy last year!) Warblers, and during the winter you can expect to see bounties of Yellow-Rumped Warblers.

Now for the birding!

To start off the day, we started on the interpretive trail leading through a multitude of habitats (unfortunately walking straight into the sun).  Immediately, we experienced one of the great things that happens at this park.  Pockets!

“Pockets” of birds form everywhere, but I notice them the most at Black Rock.  Pockets can be found almost anywhere along the trails at any time of the year.  My favorite part about pockets at Black Rock is that they don’t only consist of one species, you usually can find about fifteen species in one pocket on a spring day.

The birds that we found in our pocket consisted of Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, White-Throated Sparrow, European Starling, a Chickadee, Mourning Dove, Yellow-Rumped Warbler, Mourning Dove, and an American Goldfinch.

A Great-Blue Heron. Messed with the white-balance of this one a bit.

A Yellow-Rumped Warbler that spends the winter here.

Messed with the white-balance of this one, too. A Chickadee who was visiting the nearby feeding station.

Now, one of the questions that you might be asking yourself (if you haven’t already gone onto Black Rock’s website) is “What type of birds could I expect to see here?”.  Well, you are in for a long explanation!

First of all, Black Rock’s trails (more than just the interpretive trail) lead you through such a variety of habitats, I will not be able to name all of the individual species, but I should be able to get you a pretty good idea of what you will see.

When you pull into the parking lot, you will see a field at your left.  This field will have a trail that stretches back for at least a mile, and then loops you back to the parking lot again.  During breeding season, this trail holds many good birding opportunities, as the Parks and Rec Service put up nesting boxes (seemingly for Eastern Bluebirds, but Tree Swallows occupy most of them).  The Tree Swallows that have taken up residence in these boxes allow you to get very close (good for photographers), but please, leave their nests alone.

Anyway, you can expect to see many species on this field trail including many birds of prey, a good variety of Swallow (Northern Rough-Winged, too), some species of Warbler, Sparrow, and Indigo Bunting.

They have the Interpretive Trail, as mentioned earlier.  This has just been paved, so it makes it handicap accessible.  The true Interpretive Trail (true meaning that the Interpretive Trail ends where its pavement ends, and then leads onto an entirely different trail) leads through a multitude of habitats itself.  You can expect to see Warblers during any season (preferably during migration).  You can see Sparrows and Wrens in winter, and Herons and Egrets in summer.  Towhees, Grosbeak, Woodpeckers, Tanagers, Bunting, and Oriole can all be seen at different times throughout the year.

The final trail (well, the last trail that I have found) doesn’t seem to be named, but it can be found off of the Interpretive Trail Loop.  We have ventured only about three quarters of a mile on this trail, and we have made the realization that this is really the part of this sanctuary where you are surprisingly (surprisingly for this area) a good distance from any houses or roads.

A few years ago (not during migration, and we haven’t been on this trail for a very long time.  I am hoping to get there this spring to see what Warblers can be seen, as well as other species), this trail produced my first Great-Crested Flycatcher, which flew right out in the open (unfortunately I wasn’t into photography).  Other species that I guarantee you that you will see on this trail at some time of the year are Buntings, Towhee, Tanager, some Warblers, and Oriole.  This trail, along with the others, leads though a diversity of habitats, including marshes, fields, deciduous forests, and open water (those are the only ones that I passed on my trip), so there is bound to be a much greater quantity of species that can be found there.

For any of you who want to check Black Rock out:  Depending on the weather, you should have an amazing birding day.  Also, if you are not a serious birder, it probably wouldn’t be worth a two and a half to three hour drive, because this place is relatively small; it isn’t like one of the major state parks or wildlife refuge where, if at one part the birding isn’t good, you can just go to another part.  But, if you want to, I hope you have a great time!

Oops!  I forgot!  If you come during spring, summer, or fall, make sure you check out their front garden in the parking lot (the garden pictured in the link that I have attached at the top of this post) for Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds!

P.S.  I have not been posting as frequently as I had hoped.  You can expect a larger wave of posts coming during mid-spring through mid-fall.  School has been keeping me busy!!

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!!

3 thoughts on “Birding Black Rock Sanctuary

  1. Thanks to Dawn on I found your blog Eric. Good work I must say! My daughter Luciana is keen of birds as well. She is four years old. She has been watching birds since she was about a year and a half. She is getting pretty good id:ing the birds in the park on both jizz and calls (with some help from me of course). One of her latest bird related things cracks me up. You know how kids have imaginary friends. Well, Luciana has imaginary birds.
    She had made up two imaginary birds.
    Langalana and Pajaro de la Corvina.
    Langalana is plumbeous in color and lives by the sea.
    Pajaro de la corvina has a blue bill and lives in the park

    Here is a link to Luciana’s birdwatching. Note the Cock of the Rock….
    She still has to see one in the wild, though.

    Finally, some constructive critique to your blog. I hope you don’t mind.
    I do think you should let your pics show over the 600px width or so you have in your main column. Larger pics would look much better. Most blog readers will not click the pics, even if one gets a larger image that way. Thus giving more visual experience is vital to get people re-visiting your blog.

    Good luck to you Eric. I have added your blog to my google reader.

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