The perfect way to spend the Great Backyard Bird Count

Every year, there is an event held for bird watchers of all levels and ages called the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).  To find out more about this fun activity, visit http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/whycount.html.

Now, many people spend the GBBC at their houses, counting from their yards.  For me, this wasn’t the case.  The GBBC in our backyard from previous years was very successful – I added the American Tree Sparrow to my life list – but this year, I wanted to do something different.  So, on Sunday of last weekend, we drove to Atwater Quarry, in Malvern, Pennsylvania.  Note – To find Atwater Quarry, plug in Atwater Drive as the street name.  You can try Atwater Corporate Park, but that might not work in all cases.  Also, the “overlook” of the Quarry is actually the road leading into an Allstate Insurance building, so there is more background noise on weekdays than on weekends.

In my opinion, out of all of the places that I have been to in my life, Atwater Quarry is the third most gorgeous and serene (Second: the U.S Virgin Islands. First: Buttermilk Falls State Park, Ithaca, New York).  On your first visit here, you will fall in love with it, not only because of the exquisite views, but because of the sheer masses of birds!

The water in the Quarry is an amazing blue-green color, and is obviously packed full of fish, because it has a wide variety of fish-eating birds throughout the year.  Feeding on the water alone, you will be able to find a wide variety of species, including Belted Kingfisher, Double-Crested Cormorant, Bank Swallows, Canada Goose, Mallard, and other winter duck species.  But the birds on land are of the greatest variety of all.

You can go through a multitude of habitats – there is a “fit trail”, which overlooks the Quarry, takes you past a few secluded trees, gives you a distant view at a forest mixed with scrub, and then takes you close up past some small trees (which usually harbor Red-Winged Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroat).  There is an area (off of the “fit trail”) that is behind the Allstate building which is a garden.  This area usually has Northern Mockingbird, Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, and the occasional Turkey Vulture that perches on top of the building.

If you are the “off-the-beaten-path-rather-than-heavily-trodden-trails” type of person, then you can always walk on the dirt/stone area leading out farther into the “wilds” of the Quarry.

The rugged path at Atwater Quarry.

Here, you can get a good look at Alder Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Kingbird, and Red-Winged Blackbird (On our trip this past Sunday, this is where we found an American Kestrel).  This area also brings you close enough to get a good look at breeding Killdeer, but not close enough to do them any harm.

This birding paradise’s specialty, though, is it’s Hawks and Vultures.  You are guaranteed a close up view of Turkey and Black Vultures, and possibly a Red-Tailed Hawk (if it comes to you at all).  Even on Sunday’s trip, we had hoards of Turkey Vultures flying relatively low over

One of the many Turkey Vultures hangliding on the thermals here

our heads.

Finally, the most beautiful view of the Quarry is from a cliff – the St. Peters Church side of Atwater Drive.  There is nothing special birding-wise up here, but the view is spectacular.  You get to look over everything – and when I say everything, I mean everything.  To get the best views, though, you will need to come here early in spring, so that the bushy scrub doesn’t get in your way.

All in all, this past Sunday’s GBBC was amazing.  The list of birds seen is listed below

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Redhead
  3. Ring-Necked Duck
  4. Mallard
  5. American Black Duck
  6. American Wigeon
  7. Common Merganser
  8. American Kestrel
  9. Song Sparrow
  10. Turkey Vulture
  11. Killdeer
  12. Eastern Bluebird
  13. Northern Mockingbird
  14. Dark-Eyed Junco

    Canada Goose sitting in the water

    A mixture of ducks at the Quarry including Mallard, American Black Duck, Ring-Necked Duck, American Wigeon, and a couple of Redhead

    A long distance of an Eastern Bluebird. They weren't being very cooperative today!

    A Northern Mockingbird watching over his land!

So, if you ever need to relax, or you want to have a great birding day, give Atwater Quarry a try!

An overlook of the Quarry

An overlook of the Quarry

A high cliff. Taken from near the waters edge

A small waterfall leading into the Quarry

An overlook of the Quarry

An overlook of the Quarry

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3 thoughts on “The perfect way to spend the Great Backyard Bird Count

  1. Hey Eric!
    Great pics of the birds… oddly enough, my favorites are the pic of the turkey vulture, the bluebird and the small little water fall. I’m on a waterfall thing lately… dunno why. 🙂

    I’d never even heard of turkey vultures until a friend’s goat died in the back corner of a field & the turkey vultures had the carcass picked clean in a day! I’ve since seen them here in the area – cool!

    Cheers from the dove-guy in Canada!

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