Erica and Scott Miller of Newville have graciously opened their property to birdwatchers from both near and far as two rare Roseate Spoonbills have made a temporary home on Cool Spring Pond behind their home.
Erica noted these pink wading birds are typically found in coastal areas of Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, and are extremely rare outside those areas.
The Millers noticed the unusual birds on their pond along Laughlin Mill Road on July 11, and used the Audubon iPhone app for identification.
“Logging the sighting triggered an automated ‘rare bird alert’ notification to the birding community, and word spread fast from there,” Erica said.
The Millers estimate upwards of 300 people have come to their property, some traveling from as far away as New Hampshire and North Carolina, to view the winged creatures or capture the shot of a lifetime.
Barb Swartz of New Oxford said she’s been searching for a Roseate Spoonbill for four years.
“A sense of community has quickly developed among the diverse crowds set up along the pond bank, as novice and seasoned enthusiasts alike compare notes and share pictures,” Erica added.
Terri Stabley Hughes of Red Lion said she traveled about 60 miles to capture the birds in action.
“I enjoy going out in nature, and photographing birds and other wildlife,” she said. “Being out in nature is so calming to the mind and soul! When I heard the roseate spoonbills were so close by, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see such a rare and beautiful bird in this area.”
Michael Illo of Shippensburg was also able to capture the birds with his camera.
“Spoonbills are extremely rare in this part of the country. While they are common in much of South America, they’re usually not seen much further north than Florida. The ones visiting us in Newville are roughly 1,000 miles outside of their normal range! This is the first time in my life I've ever seen this species, and that goes for most people living this far north. I’ve spoken to folks who have driven for hours just to get a glimpse of these ones in Newville, as this is a rare opportunity to view these beautiful creatures. Living in Shippensburg, I feel very fortunate to be so close to this event. I plan on visiting them as much as I can while they are here.”
Terri Kochert of the Conococheague Audubon Society said she suspects the birds were blown off course during a recent tropical storm.
“This is not their location or habitat,” she added. “They need to eat shrimp to get that deep pink color.”
According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, www.allaboutbirds.org, “The flamboyant Roseate Spoonbill looks like it came straight out of a Dr. Seuss book with its bright pink feathers, red eye staring out from a partly bald head, and giant spoon-shaped bill. For most people, finding a Roseate Spoonbill requires a trip to the southeastern coast of the United States or even farther afield to Mexico or Central and South America. Look for groups of pink birds foraging in the shallows of fresh and saltwater, often with egrets and ibises nearby. They are usually busy foraging with their spoon-shaped bill under the water, so the bill might not be the first thing to tip you off. Unlike herons and egrets, they typically hold their bodies horizontally when foraging. This unique posture can help you pick them out from afar. If you don’t catch them foraging, check nearby mangrove, cypress, or willows for birds noisily roosting in trees.”
The site also notes that the Roseate Spoonbill is 1 of 6 species of spoonbills in the world, and the only one found in the Americas. The other five spoonbills (Eurasian, Royal, African, Black-faced, and Yellow-billed) occur in Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia.
The Millers, who moved here from Colorado Springs in late 2019, are thrilled to see so many people enjoying these unusual visitors. “We are so blessed to be able to live in such an amazing place; it’s an honor to share the wildlife and peacefulness with nice people,” Scott said.
Erica noted since they have moved to Newville, they have seen bald eagles, trumpeter swans, rare turtles, horned owls, brand new whitetail fawns, fuzzy ducklings and goslings as soon as they hatch along the pond.
“We continue to be stunned by the biodiversity in this little valley. It’s neat to meet other folks who appreciate it like we do, and who share our commitment to protect the habitat,” Erica said.
Editor’s Note: Erica Miller contributed to this article.