The Lovely Cumberland Valley

Nestled between South Mountain and the Blue Mountain ridge line lies the Cumberland Valley, an area known for fertile farms, world famous fly fishing, and an annual classic car show. I explored the farm country in the northern part of the valley.

The farms are nestled into the backdrop of South Mountain.
Love the goats in the small pasture.
Best cow shot of the day.

The Valley is not all about farms, however …

The Williams Grove Speedway.
I don’t know what this house used to be, but it looked like a great renovation job.
The ducks and geese at LeTort Spring Run Park in downtown Carlisle.
A Mallard couple out for a walk.

An Appalachian Trail Town

The town of Boiling Springs in Cumberland County is one of Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Trail towns. It is known for its beautiful scenery and world-famous fly fishing. Founded in 1845, but settled prior to 1737, Boiling Springs is a village that surrounds the Children’s Lake. The town hosts the regional office of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  The Memorial Clock Tower, erected in 1956 and the Boiling Springs (Grist) Mill, on record as early as 1785, are two landmarks in the village.  Boiling Springs was also a site for the underground railroad before the civil war and a tourist destination in the early 1900’s. It is now a location for small shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants, recreation and relaxation and is the home of the Allenberry Resort.

Boiling Springs gets its name from natural artesian well springs located around the town. The well known trout streams in the area are the Yellow Breeches Creek, Mountain Creek, Big Spring Creek, and LeTort Spring Run. The waters are kept cool by the limestone springs which feed them.  Part of the Yellow Breeches Creek is maintained for catch and release, artificial lures only, fishing.

Let’s take a look around town.

A view of Children’s Lake and the Grist Mill.
The Memorial Clock Tower.
An old artillery piece near the Clock Tower.
The park is a great place for some family time.
One of the beautiful homes overlooking the lake.
This Mallard duck family have some prime real estate.
The Grist Mill, close up.
Let’s go fishin’
A view down Front Street.

The Harbingers of Spring

Some people identify the American robin with the coming of Spring. For me, it’s the late winter passing of hordes of snow geese through Pennsylvania that foretells of Spring right around the corner. In late February, hundreds of thousands of snow geese can be present at the same time at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties. I didn’t make it to Middle Creek this year, opting instead to view geese, along with some other rarer species, that had been reported at Woods Edge Park in Lancaster County.

You may remember Woods Edge Park as they place I went to view the black-bellied whistling duck. This time around, a pink-footed goose, Ross’s goose, cackling goose and Virginia rail had been reported at the pond in the park. These are all species I had never seen before. By the time I arrived the next Saturday, large numbers of snow geese were present. I was able to see the Ross’s goose and the cackling goose, but not the pink-footed or the rail. Still, two “lifers” in one day is pretty good.

There was a steady stream of birders through the park that day. None that I spoke to had success spotting the rare pink-footed goose. I did learn how to identify two other species of goose and something new about the snow goose.

This is a Ross’s goose. Note how it looks like a small snow goose with a shorter bill.
Here’s a cackling goose. This one looks like a smaller Canada goose with shorter neck and bill.
Some snow geese – the “blue morph” snow goose is in front. Behind is an adult white snow goose and a juvenile in the rear. I did not realize the blue morph existed.
Are you talking about me?
Lots ‘o geese.
A partial view of the throng.

A nice, short and sweet day out. This location seems pretty productive for birding despite its small size. I will probably be back again at some point.

The Remains of Ardrossan Farms

Adrossan Farms and the Ardrossan Estate were once part of a 800 plus acre estate in Radnor Township, Delaware County. The estate was built by banker Robert Leaming Montgomery and features 50 room Georgian revival mansion designed by architect Horace Trombauer in 1911. Parts of Ardrossan have been subdivided over the years, and now the bulk of the estate is in the process of succumbing to this fate. The play and film The Philadelphia Story was inspired by the stories of the Montgomerys.

Part of the estate was, and still is for now, a working farm with cattle and hay and corn fields. The farm was also was set this section of Radnor Township apart from surrounding suburbia. It made travel along Darby Paoli Road a treat, rather than a chore.

One of the barns on the property.
Still harvesting hay.
“Progress”
Afternoon light on harvested hay.
A woodpile left to dry.
A pair of redtail hawks enjoys the view.
A small shed nestled against the woods.
Very traditional looking farm equipment.
Corn not yet harvested in November.
Cattle call along Darby Paoli Road.
Grazing peacefully.
Sunset glow on the cattle.
This is a beautiful little pond.

What a Black Vulture Infestation Looks Like

Black vultures have been making their way north in recent years and appear to be here to stay in Pennsylvania. Primarily a resident of the American south and parts of the southwest down into South America, they have been slowly extending their range north. Similar to the larger turkey vulture, they have a black, rather than red, head, and distinctive white patches at the tips of their wings.

They are a species of concern because they are more aggressive than the turkey vulture. They eat carrion, but they will also attack young or infirm live animals. They also can be quite destructive, pulling the seals off of car windows, for example. I witnessed this behavior at the Conowingo Dam Fisherman’s Park a few years ago. A hapless SUV parked off by itself was never going to be the same.

Southerners have learned to adapt and live with this bird, so expect we can too. I would hate to see the turkey vulture displaced, as they are now such a common sight, especially in rural areas. A flock of black vultures can also drive the native turkey vulture off carrion. The vultures photographed here were in southern Chester County.

Here’s the gang lined up in a row. Black vultures are gregarious, at least with each other.
Keeping an “eagle” eye out.
This cow looks more quizzical than concerned.
It’s not Santa trying to get down the chimney.

In Search of Laurels

I spent Labor Day weekend in the Laurel Highlands with a stay at the cabins in Laurel Hill State Park. I also set out to visit some of the other state parks in the area, as well as a few other locations. Let’s start off with a look at my home base for the weekend.

Laurel Hill State Park contains a lake with a beach, boating opportunities, hiking trails, fishing, picnicking, camping and all the summer time fun that accompanies those things. It is located in Somerset County and reasonably convenient to the turnpike. The park is near several other state parks and Forbes State Forrest.

Men working for the WPA and CCC began the process of building what was to become Laurel Hill State Park on July 1, 1935 at CCC camps SP-8-PA and SP-16-PA. There is statue in the park commemorating these workers.

CCC worker, Laurel Hill State Park

The lake is beautiful and surrounded by steep hills on one side.

The beach at Laurel Hill State Park.
Looking toward the dam.

There is fishing on Laurel Hill Creek and Jones Mill Run.

View of Laurel Hill Creek from accessible fishing area.
Handicapped access to fishing area on Laurel Hill Creek surrounded by beautiful flowers.
Lovely jewelweed along the path down to the creek.

I also stopped some of the other nearby parks. I had quite a time getting to some of them, mostly due to relying too heavily on google maps. I ended up on some really sketchy forest roads, and I’m not typically one to shy away from a forest road. If I had double checked google’s routes versus a map, I would have done much better. At least I a saw a turkey.

Laurel Summit State Park is a small park with picnicking and acts as a trail head for the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail and other trails. It is best accessed via Linn Run State Park. This route provides paved roads for most of the trip up the mountain to the park.

Picnic pavilion, Laurel Summit State Park.

Laurel Ridge State Park has multiple sections along the ridge of Laurel Mountain. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trails passes through its sections. It is otherwise mostly undeveloped except for backpacking shelters and one picnic pavilion. The best access points are directly on Route 30 or 31 if you want to say you’ve been there and aren’t hiking or wildlife watching.

Sign for Laurel Ridge State Park. This may be the only way you know you’re there.

Finally, I attempted to visit Laurel Mountain State Park, which houses a ski area. I was there many years ago and hoped to drive in and take a look. Unfortunately, the gates were closed in the off season.

Knee High by the Fourth of July: Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

I had promised my cousin that we would take a camping trip to Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pennsylvania over the July Fourth holiday. I decided to stick with the plans despite a weather forecast calling for high heat and humidity with the added bonus of regular thunderstorms popping up. I went back and forth between calling this post “The Camping Trip from Hell” and “Silver Linings.” Ultimately, I couldn’t decide if it was good or bad.

I’m more of a fair weather camping kind of girl, I don’t mind a little rain, as long as I can set up when it ‘s not raining and everything has a chance to dry before I pack up. I was frustrated because all my trips last year were affected by rain, despite being out only 1-2 nights each time. I didn’t get my wish for fair weather on this trip. Everything was wet and/or dirty prior to departure. Pennsylvania is getting record rain, and it kind of stinks. At least the corn is high.

The park itself did not disappoint. I went primarily to see if I could get a glimpse of the newly fledged bald eagles that hatched in an oak tree above Lake Marburg this Spring. They are quite the web cam stars. I did not see the fledglings, but I did get my first look at the parents in flight, having only previously seen them in the nest or resting in a nearby tree. The weather prevented much else in the way of activity.

Nonetheless, it was not a complete loss. On the way to Hanover, I stopped briefly at Samuel S. Lewis State Park. It looks like a great place for a picnic and has a nice scenic view of the Susquehanna valley. The website also recommends kite flying and sledding, and it seems really well suited for those activities.

The flag was still trying to fly proudly on the 4th despite the hot and damp weather.
Here’s the view toward the river.

I arrived at Codorus and immediately started to set up camp.

Here is a look at lovely Lake Marburg,

From the band shell area.

On the way home, via Lake Redman, I made a few stops. The first was to photograph this hay field that was harvested just the day before.

Newly harvested hay.

I also took a few pictures of some of the lovely farms of southern York County.

Farm, Yoirk County
Red Barn, York County

In Search of the Black-bellied Whistling Duck

I recently traveled into Lancaster County to check out reports of the presence of the black-bellied whistling duck. This duck species is generally found in the southern United States and rarely comes into Pennsylvania. However, this summer these ducks seem to be making an appearance in the northeast.

The birds were reported as continuing at Woods Edge Park. When I initially arrived, I couldn’t spot them. Thank goodness for the arrival of some more experienced bird watchers with spotting scopes. The birds were soon easily spotted.

Here is a picture of our quarry:

The elusive black=bellied whistling duck, the star of our show.

I also checked out some of the other wildlife. I, of course, missed the photo of the osprey diving for its lunch. There were some heron opportunities.

Great blue heron. I also missed the shot with a fish in its beak.

There were lots of turtles around the pond.

This one is relaxing solo.
Some prefer a Spring break atmosphere for sunbathing.
This one just seems lost. Maybe it is looking for the ducks.

Woods Edge Park is a lovely compact park and makes a great place for a picnic or a spot of bird watching if you’re ever in Lancaster County.

The pond at Woods Edge Park.
The lovely marshy area opposite the pond.

Back to Linvilla Orchards

Fall is one of the most popular times of year at Linvilla Orchards in Delaware County. The charming Halloween and fall decor, hay rides, food and activities are fun for the whole family (and school groups). The fresh produce, pies and apple cider donuts are particularly recommended.

Fantastic pumpkin carving is on display.

 

 

The decorative displays have a story book theme.

 

 

 

 

The colorful displays of pumpkins and gourds are very tempting.

 

 

 

 

Linvilla’s critters are out ready to welcome visitors.

 

 

And because I’m obsessed with Christmas trees …

 

 

 

Calves, calves everywhere …

On a trip to Locust Lake State Park this spring, I cam a across a farm with quite a few new additons to their cattle herd. Here are a few shots plus a bonus pic.

Mother and child.

A frisky calf.

Bonus nuthatch nest from a tree in my campsite at Locust Lake.