Birding in the Susquehanna River Valley

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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


Bald Eagle State Forest

Bald Eagle State Forest covers194,000 acres in Snyder, Union, Centre, Mifflin and Clinton counties. The forest spreads across the high, sharp ridges of central Pennsylvania and features pristine mountain streams and tracts of old growth forest. Bald Eagle offers unparalleled beauty and endless recreational opportunities such as an extensive network of trails, awesome scenic vistas, and picturesque drives.
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R. B. Winter State Park
Within Bald Eagle State Forest, R. B. Winter’s hemlock stands, extensive hardwood forests, and Halfway Lake 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. The Environmental Learning Center features an observation window looking out on a microphone-equipped feeding station. The center also offers environmental education programs and guided nature and birding walks. 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. You'll find a wide variety of habitats throughout the park.












Tall Timbers NT


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 Natural Area, 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 of White Pine, Pitch Pine and Eastern Hemlock. Tall Timbers is a second-growth, mixed forest of Oak, White Pine, Hard Pine and Eastern Hemlock.



A wide diversity of species stop here during migration, with 176 species recorded here. Birds you may see include a wide variety of Warblers as the old-growth conifer forest provides them with perfect breeding habitat. This is also a natural nesting site in Pennsylvania for Chimney Swift and a good spot to watch for unusual breeding species such as Winter Wrens. Directions: 5 miles west of Troxelville, between Swift Run and Bull Hollow Roads.

 

 



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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. A 1.9-mile walking path at Faylor Lake also provides opportunities to birdwatch.

 

 



 

Milton State Park
Milton State Park is located on an island between Milton and West Milton and is accesible from the river bridge. The rich soil of the floodplain supports a diversity of dense vegetation providing cover for birds and wildlife. The southern part of the island is undeveloped with well-maintained trails through forestland of silver maple, river birch, and sycamore. Explore 3.5 miles of trails and excellent birdwatching terrain for migrating songbirds and waterfowl within the riverine habitats of the island.

 



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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 showcase varied habitats and forest stages from scrub forest to mature hardwood forest, meadowland and unique geologic formations. The area abounds with wildlife. A walk on Shikellamy's nature paths 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.

 

 



Allenwood Game Lands
State Game Lands No. 252, at the northernmost part of Union County, is managed for wildlife. There are many ponds, marshes and swampy areas, brushy cover, and second-growth forests within the Game Lands provide opportunities to see migrating warblers, thrushes, and waterfowl. This is also a good place see Ruffed Grouse. It is exciting to hear the drumming Ruffed Grouse. Male grouse perform this unique mating ritual 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. To reach SGL 252, drive west of Allenwood on Rt. 44. After about 5 miles you will cross the creek. Make aright turn here and drive to the “T” intersection. Turn right into the game lands. About a mile ahead there is parking and the trailhead. Be sure to check the ponds for nesting waterfowl in season and listen for singing Warblers in late spring.




BVRT

Buffalo Valley Rail Trail
The Buffalo Valley Rail Trail is a 9.5-mile-long finished scenic trail that runs 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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The Linn Conservancy also maintains the Koons Trail in Mifflinburg at the historic Hassenplug Covered Bridge. The Koons Trail is a mile-long loop path along Buffalo Creek both west and east of the bridge. It is a lovely location for spring wildflowers and birding with a wildflower meadow and a wetland outlook. 



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

This preserve, near Washingtonville is wonderful location with many good birding sites and is arguably the best place in the Susquehanna River Valley for waterfowl watching especially in the power plant cooling water ponds, known as the Ash Ponds and the 165-acre Lake Chillisquaque. Extensive deciduous forests, pine stands, old fields, and brushy cover provide great birdwatching. Nesting bald eagles can be found near the lakeshore of Goose Cove. There are observation points over the lake and the pleasant 3.9-mile Chillisaugi Trail encircling it. The .7-mile Ridgefield Point Trail is a loop trail extension to the Chillisaugi Trail. Amazing birdwatching and photography is found on over 9 miles of trails in varying lengths which include the Alder Swamp Trail, a Braile Trail, Goose Woods Trail, Hummingbird Trail, Oak Woods Trail, West Branch Trail, Wildlife Management Trail and the Laura Smith Trail of History and pollinator garden.
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.




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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 natural beauty with twelve miles of trails and stunning views of the Susquehanna River from atop the mountain. The land provides habitat for wildlife –deer, bear, fox and many species of smaller animals and 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.

 

 



Birding at Local Aviaries

For a totally unique birding experience visit Parakeet Landing at Clyde Peeling's Reptiland  or the Free-Flight Aviary at T & D's Wild Animal Refuge to see feathered friends up close and personal.

Surround yourself with colorful parakeets in Reptiland's walk-through aviary! Beautiful budgies fly about (and may land on you) in this exciting and immersive experience. Enjoy the company of feathered friends and purchase a seed stick for only $3!



 

Visit over 500 beautiful birds (including approximately 30 species) in the free-flight aviary at T & D’s Cats of the World Wild Animal Refuge!

Aviary: $5.00, ages 3 and over - CASH ONLY
**The Aviary will be open IF we have enough volunteers.**