Summer at Middle Creek

I don’t make it to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lancaster and Lebanon counties all that often during the Summer. Here are a few shots from around the property.

A lovely tiger swallowtail decided to hang out.
Geese can be found at Middle Creek almost any time of year.
The corn is looking good.
Farming is done at Middle Creek. The fields provide habitat and food for some species.
Pennsylvania farm country in a nutshell.
I never really noticed the hills around this area as much as on this trip.
Much to do here other than wildlife viewing.
A glamorous egret interloper with the geese.
Purple wildflowers along this pond.
Lots of wildflowers everywhere ….

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Our annual Poconos girls’ weekend occurred in July this year. On short notice, my friend was able to find a great weekly rental at Lake Naomi. I also take this time to do some exploring around the Poconos. I set out to view some lake communities I hadn’t visited before. I will leave the rest of the weekend to your imagination.

The most photogenic was the Emerald Lakes area.
Boats lined up near a swimming beach.
A nice private dock in need of a boat.
This looks like a great family day out.
A deer came out to say hello.
The clubhouse beach at Stillwater Lake has seen better days. The waterfowl have taken over.
Something different: Checking out the shooting range at State Game Lands 127.

That’s a Lot of Concrete (and a bonus park)

Looming over the town of Nicholson, Pennsylvania is the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct, a railroad bridge completed in 1915. It is a concrete deck arch bridge on the Nicholson Cutoff rail segment of the Norfolk Southern Railway Sunbury Line that spans Tunkhannock Creek. Measuring 2,375 feet (724 m) long and 240 feet (73.15 m) tall when measured from the creek bed (300 feet (91.44 m) from bedrock), it was the largest concrete structure in the world when completed in 1915 and still merited “the title of largest concrete bridge in America, if not the world” 50 years later. Built by the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, the bridge is owned today by Norfolk Southern Railway and is still used daily for regular through freight service. Apparently almost half of the bulk of this behemoth is underground, in the form of bridge pillars up to 138 feet (142 m) below ground.

The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 11, 1977. In 1975, the American Society of Civil Engineers or ASCE designated the bridge as a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. ASCE recognized the bridge as “not only a great feat of construction skill” but also a “bold and successful departure from contemporary, conventional concepts of railroad location in that it carried a mainline transversely to the regional drainage pattern, effectively reducing the distance and grade impediments…”

The bridge towers over the town of Nicholson.
A view further upstream.
The cows don’t seem to notice the vast structure.

I also swung by Lackawanna State Park on my way back from the bridge. The 1,445-acre park is ten miles north of Scranton. The focus is the 198-acre Lackawanna Lake, which is surrounded by picnic areas and multi-use trails winding through forest. Boating, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming are popular recreation activities here.

I’ve always wanted a canoe mooring on a lake.
At least these geese don’t mind the weather.
Another rainy late spring day ….
Great spot for a picnic and a boat trip.

Once More Into Delaware

April and May are prime times for birding at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. The weather was beautiful on a recent trip. Here are a few photos of what I saw.

This egret had the Beaver Pond to itself.
Two avocets at cross purposes.
Looking like a school master with errant pupils – great and snowy egrets.
A relaxing bask in Finnis Pool.
A beautiful redbud in bloom.
Finally, the worst picture of the cutest pied billed grebe ever.

The Season Begins

The onset of Spring turns my mind to birds. This is usually the best time of year to look for birds due to the opportunity to see migrating rarities in bright breeding dress. I frequently stop by Marsh Creek State Park when in the area. This is a good spot for bird watching, but I don’t seem to have much luck here. It probably doesn’t help that I am not a morning person and am, therefore, often looking for birds after 11 am. I did see some distant Common Mergansers on the lake, but had to settle for non-bird photos.

Land cruisin’
No entry
I always think I am going to find something here but never do ….

I also stopped by Struble Lake that day. This was more promising this time around. I saw a Savannah Sparrow and a lot of Snow Geese. There was still a fair amount of ice on the lake in early March.

Snow geese and friends

So This Isn’t Pennsylvania

This past May I took a trip to one of my favorite bird watching spots at Bombay Hook NWR near Smyrna, Delaware. It had been while since I was last there, but it is well worth the trip. Just look out for the insects in late Spring and early Summer. The refuge has a great auto tour route which is a nice feature for the disabled (or the just plain lazy). There are also plenty of opportunities to take short walks to see the varied habitats here.

I was excited as I approached this bird. It looked pink from a distance. Turns out it was just a snow goose stained reddish brown from iron compounds in the soil.

There were some shore birds present in late May.
A family of snowy egrets.
One of the many nest boxes used by tree swallows.
This Canada goose has a secret.
A great egret trying to hide from me.
Those babies were well hidden in the grass.

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.