Birding in the Susquehanna River Valley

Bird Watching
Bird-watching is a wonderful way to enjoy the great outdoors. Below you'll find a list of some of the best spots to relax and watch for majestic Bald Eagles and other raptors, to listen for your favorite songbirds, and to spy perching birds or waterfowl as you enlarge your familiarity with the great diversity of birds and their habitats.

Favorite Local Birding Spots

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Bald Eagle State Forest

Bald Eagle State Forest covers194,000 acres in Snyder, Union, Centre, Mifflin and Clinton counties. The forest spans across the high, sharp ridges of central Pennsylvania and features miles of pristine mountain streams and tracts of old growth forest. Bald Eagle offers unparalleled pleasing beauty and boundless recreational opportunities such as an extensive network of trails, awesome scenic vistas, and picturesque drives.
Facebook: Bald Eagle State Forest

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R. B. Winter State Park
Within Bald Eagle State Forest, R. B. Winter’s hemlock groves, extensive hardwood forests, and open water make this park a good place to look for owls, whippoorwills, many species of breeding warblers, scarlet tanagers, thrushes, vireos, and occasional waterfowl. At the park office and the Halfway Run Environmental Learning Center, flower and herb gardens attract wildlife, butterflies and birds including goldfinches, chipping sparrows, juncos and ruby-throated hummingbirds among others. Enjoy sitting at the center’s observation window listening to birds gathered at the microphone-equipped feeding station or attend an environmental education program or guided walk. In the Natural Area, watch for black and white pileated woodpeckers and barred owls. To find R.B. Winter State Park, drive about 17 miles west of Lewisburg on Rt. 192 until you reach the park. Explore all the roads of the park and the vicinity to find a variety of habitats.

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The Hook Natural Area

Located within Bald Eagle State Forest, the Hook Natural Area is the largest natural area in the state of Pennsylvania and is a very important habitat for many species of birds. The Audubon Society has a page about it here. The Easiest way to get there is to follow Jones Mountain Rd. which is off of Rt. 192 (Buffalo Rd) west of Lewisburg.

Tall Timbers Natural Area

Located near the Hook, Tall Timbers Natural Area within Snyder-Middleswarth State Park is found near Troxelville. Swift Run cuts through this deep forested valley which is less than a mile wide. Snyder-Middleswarth is a virgin old-growth forest dominated by White Pine and Eastern Hemlock, with Pitch Pine. Tall Timbers is a mixed forest of second-growth oak, White Pine, Eastern Hemlock, and Hard Pine.

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A wide diversity of species depend on this site as a stopover during migration, with 176 species recorded here, including Connecticut Warbler, Mourning Warbler, American Redstart, Black-and-white Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, Golden-winged Warbler, and Nashville Warbler. Old-growth conifer forest provides significant breeding habitat for warblers. This is also one of the few natural nesting sites in Pennsylvania for Chimney Swift and a good location to look for unusual breeding species such as Winter Wrens. Directions: 5 miles west of Troxelville, between Swift Run and Bull Hollow Roads.



Walker and Faylor Lakes

A quick drive from Tall Timbers takes you to Walker and Faylor lakes, two favorite spots for local bird watchers. Faylor Lake is a shallow, 140-acre lake lying in the large valley between Jacks and Shade Mountains in western Snyder County just outside of Beaver Springs. Fed by Middle Creek this lake is home to numerous species of migratory birds, song birds and waterfowl. Directions: From the village of Penn’s Creek turn west on Troxelville Road. Just before you get to Troxelville, turn left at the entrance to Walker Lake. Faylor Lake is not far away between Benfer and Beaver Springs.

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Milton State Park
Located on an island between West Milton and Milton, the Milton State Park can be accessed between the river bridges. The rich soil of the floodplain supports a diversity of dense vegetation. The southern part of the island is undeveloped and covered in a forest of predominantly silver maple, river birch, and sycamore. 3.5 miles of trails explore the riverine habitats of the island and provide excellent birding for migrating songbirds and waterfowl.

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Shikellamy State Park
Located at the confluence of the West and North Branches of the Susquehanna River, Shikellamy State Park encompasses 132 acres that feature a Marina at Lake Augusta and a scenic river overlook. Shikellamy State Park is a wonderful place to watch wildlife, especially migrating birds, water fowl and wading birds. The lovely nature trails on Shikellamy Overlook reveal varied habitat. You’ll discover different forest stages from scrub forest to mature hardwood forest and meadowland as well as unique geologic formations. The area abounds with wildlife. A walk around the park is perfect for watching and listening for songbirds. Directions: Shikellamy Overlook-From US 15, the overlook is reached by following County Line Road east for 2.3 miles to the park entrance road. From US 11, the overlook is reached by traveling west on County Line Road for about 0.25 mile to the park entrance road. Shikellamy Marina - The marina is reached off of PA 147 (Bridge Avenue) on Packers Island.

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Allenwood Game Lands
State Game Lands No. 252, at the northernmost part of Union County, is managed for wildlife. There are many ponds and small impoundments, marshes and swamps, brushy cover, and second-growth forests. The “Allenwood Game Lands” as they are known, can be good for migrating warblers, thrushes, and waterfowl. This is also a good place to hear drumming Ruffed Grouse. Male grouse perform their mating ritual by drumming from late March to late May. Drumming is a series of strong wing strokes. As the wings compress the air, they create a vacuum to produce a thumping noise which starts out slowly, but rapidly increases to a drum roll which can be heard for ¼ mile or more. Drumming attracts the female. To reach SGL 252, drive west of Allenwood on Rt. 44. After about5 miles you will cross the creek and come to a handsome dark brown-stained frame house on the right. Turn right here and drive to the “T” intersection. Turn right into the game lands. About a mile ahead you can park and begin walking the many trails. Be sure to check the ponds for nesting waterfowl in season and listen for singing Golden-winged Warblers from May through June.

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Buffalo Valley Rail Trail
The Buffalo Valley Rail Trail is a 9.5-mile-long finished scenic trail that spans between Lewisburg and Mifflinburg with trailheads, interpretive signage, facilities, and parking areas. The Rail Trail is a protected route of asphalt and gravel which serves all ages and abilities, whether for recreation or transportation. The scenic trail is relatively flat and goes through neighborhoods, beautiful farm land and woodlands. The Judy Anderson Memorial Garden has a lovely picnic area and beautiful flowers and is located at the halfway point on the trail, in Vicksburg. Facebook: Buffalo Valley Rail Trail

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Dale/Engle/Walker Easement
Merrill W. Linn Land & Waterways Conservancy manages this property which includes the Dale’s Ridge Trail on the Dale/Engle/Walker easement located along Buffalo Creek and Strawbridge Road northwest of Lewisburg. A trailhead kiosk contains information about the trail and a descriptive brochure specific to the property. Enjoy scenic ridge-top views of the Buffalo Valley, wildflowers and birding within a variety of habitats along the two-mile trail. The trail passes through numerous habitats, including riparian forest, a pond, a hemlock grove, a white pine grove, second-growth hardwood forest, farm fields, meadows, and mature hardwood forest. This diversity of habitat provides a large bird list for so small an area. Directions: Take Rt. 192 about two miles west of Lewisburg to Strawbridge Road. Turn right. A parking lot at Strawbridge Road and the bridge at Buffalo Creek leads to a trail.

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Shamokin Mountain Trail

The Shamokin Mountain Trail is off Forest House Lane, which is south of Lewisburg on the east side of Stein Lane. Part of the trail is on a property under conservation easement that is managed by the Merrill W. Linn Land & Waterways Conservancy. The other part of the trail is on Pennsylvania State Game land. A brochure is available at the trailhead and the property owners invite you to enjoy the trail. The 1-mile red-blazed path passes through deciduous woods, crosses a power line with a vista to the southwest across Dry Valley and well south along the Susquehanna River Valley. The trail enters a field managed by the State Game Commission then loops back through the woods to the trailhead.

Hess Rec Area

Hess Recreation Area (Wetlands and Observation Area)
The Hess Recreation Area is managed by Montour Area Recreation Commission and is located just outside of Danville. The park features 102 mostly wooded acres, 1.1 miles of Mahoning Creek, 3.9 miles of trails, a covered bridge and a 12′ x 15′ wetland wildlife viewing blind. The park can be accessed behind Perkins Restaurant and the Continental Fire Co.; from PA-54, turn onto Montour Street, then right onto Meadow Lane; follow Meadow Lane to the park entrance road.

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Montour Preserve

The preserve, near Washingtonville in Montour County, is wonderful location with many good birding sites. Among these are the power plant cooling water ponds, known as the Ash Ponds, Lake Chillisquaque, extensive deciduous forests, pine plantations, old fields, and brushy cover. This area is, arguably, the best place in this region for waterfowl. Nesting bald eagles can be found near the lakeshore of Goose Cove. The Montour Area Recreation Commission is responsible for the maintenance and operation of two wildlife observation blinds in the Goose Cove portion of the Montour Preserve’s wildlife refuge. Access to the blinds is allowed by permit only. To request access to these facilities, contact Jon Beam, MARC Assistant Director, at [email protected] or by phone at (570) 772-4021. Directions: To reach the preserve, take Interstate 80 to the Rt. 54 exit at Danville. Follow the signs to Washingtonville and then to Montour Preserve. The Ash Ponds are on the north side of the power plant on Creek Road; the nature center and Lake Chillisquaque are a couple of miles farther north. There are observation points over the lake and a pleasant trail encircling it.

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Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art

The Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art is a bird and wildlife watchers’ dream. The Center offers more than 500 acres of rustic beauty with twelve miles of trails and stunning views of the Susquehanna River from the mountaintop. The land provides habitat for wildlife –deer, bear, fox and many species of smaller animals. It is the perfect habitat for watching birds. Be sure to check out the center’s ongoing research about Pennsylvania’s smallest owl, the Saw Whet Owl. Each autumn the Center’s team of trained researchers and volunteers harmlessly catch, band and release hundreds of these tiny raptors at three banding stations in central Pennsylvania. Their work helps to map the movements of a species so secretive that most avid birders have never glimpsed one –an owl that was, until recently, considered quite rare.