An unusually bright and sunny day greeted me in late September in Lancaster county. The sky was so blue and the white so white that it almost hurts my eyes. I’m not used to this here in Pennsylvania. As it was a Sunday, the buggy traffic was out in force, and the field horses were grazing in the fields.
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…”
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.
Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon and Lancaster Counties is great spot for bird watching or just enjoying a great day out. On my recent trip, I saw nearly 30 species of birds. I also passed dozens of horse drawn buggies on the way there and back. In one parking lot, I came across the following interesting sight:
I made two recent trips to Dixon Meadow Preserve in Montgomery County to see a sora (seen) and a yellow crowned night heron (not seen), This Preserve provides some great bird habitat in the suburbs, especially in connection with the adjacent Erdenheim Farm. With its 14 acres rand boardwalk measuring nearly two-thirds of a mile, the Preserve is a haven for birders, walkers and those who simply enjoy the area’s natural beauty
Purchased by the McCausland family in 2009, Erdenheim farm is home to prize winning Cheviot Sheep, Black Angus cattle, and elegant Morgan Horses. Situated on close to 450 acres, Erdenheim Farm remains one of the last sanctuaries of pastoral life within the greater Philadelphia area.
A trip to the Octoraro Lake area for some birding did not produce what I had hoped for on the bird front. I saw some ducks and great blue herons and managed to take some of the worst bird photos I have ever attempted. I did better with photos of the surrounding countryside.
Finally, a shot from northwestern Chester Country, because I like it and don’t have another post to put it in.
Disclaimer: There are no pictures of horned larks in this post
The grapevine (okay, Ebird) continued to carry news of horned larks, Lapland longspurs, and snow buntings in farmers’ fields in northwestern Chester County near Honeybrook. As mentioned in my previous post, I had visited this area over the Winter in connection with a trip to try to find a snowy owl that had briefly been seen nearby. On the first try, I had no luck. This time around I spotted horned larks in small flocks, which is a new species for my life list. This is a very picturesque area with lovely farms that merited more photos.
This young farmer was fertilizing his fields for Spring.
Here’s a better look.
Cattle feeding and soaking up the sun.
Two Amish schoolhouses are close to each other in this area.
Some looks at the farms and fields.
The plastic tubes are there to protect the young trees as they grow along this riparian boundary. The tubes will biodegrade over time.
This Winter I traveled to northwestern Chester County in search of a snowy owl and some horned larks. I didn’t find either. However, I did find some pretty farms, interesting buildings and charismatic farm animals along the way.
Here are some shots from southern Clinton County. Most were taken on my drive from the Lock Haven area to Logan Mills this past fall.
This next stop, made before my drive south, was bittersweet. I visited the Woolrich factory store at its original location several times when I was younger. This store is just not the same, although I am glad to see there is still a presence in the town of Woolrich. The business was bought out my an Italian company which had been a minority investor. They still manufacure items under the Woolrich brand, but it is now made in Italy since local maufacturing has been shut down. The new stuff is very nice but is expensive, as the present owners are trying to position Woolrich as a luxury brand. Woolrich made good quality products at fair prices, but a luxury brand it was not. The new direction doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the heritage of the brand. While I was at the store, I managed to buy one of the last made in the USA pieces.
On my way home from Swatara and Memorial Lake State Parks, I decided to swing through Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Middle Creek is not a place I visit much in Autumn, but it is well worth a stop. Middle Creek is administered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission for game propogation and wildlife conservation, but it feels park-like. With opportunities for hiking, picnicing, boating and fantastic birding and wildlife watching, it makes for a great day out.