On Saturday, April 20, we observed a new bird at our backyard bird feeders.  Linda was able to identify the bird as a male Rufous-Sided Towhee.  It was our first sighting of this bird on our property in the 37 years I have lived here. We have observed this bird on the Pine Creek Rail-Trail a number of times.

The Rufous-Sided Towhee is a bird that normally likes open woods, undergrowth and brushy edges. Along the Pine Creek Rail-Trail, that habitat is almost constant except for some open fields.

The Towhee feeds along the forest floor overturning leaves in its search for insects and grubs. We often hear this bird prior to seeing it. The male description is: head and upper parts black; sides robin-red, belly white. Flashes large white patches in the tail section.

The Rufous-Sided Towhee’s range is interesting. In Pennsylvania and states north, it is a breeding visitor. It is a year-round resident of the southern states in the eastern United States. Its winter range is in the western states. including Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. It was quite a privilege for us to sight this bird. No pictures unfortunately, since Linda’s camera was in our 2017 Subaru Outback which we use for most traveling.  The only solution to that problem is to keep the camera in the house between trips.

On Easter Sunday, we observed a weasel as it crossed Route 14 on our way home from church. The location is between McMurray Road and Alba. It came from a pond of water that flooded a crop field in 2018 and literary became ice-covered over winter. The flooding was so great that some of the woods also flooded. It was the very first time that either Linda or I had ever had this sighting along a road.  

In Pennsylvania we have three weasel species: the ermine, also called the short-tailed weasel; the long-tailed weasel; and the mouse weasel. We observed the long-tailed weasel.

Weasels have long slim bodies. They live and hunt mostly near water, except when they prey on domestic animals like chickens.  They kill by sight and smell and are quick and aggressive. Weasels are shy and difficult to study in nature.  

It was a privilege to observe two of God’s creations in nature.

Jim Collins is an outdoor writer for The Sunday Review. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association. He lives in Alba, Pennsylvania with his wife, Linda Marie. Reach him at: jimcollinsinsurance@ frontiernet.net or (570) 673-3622.