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.

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.

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 at 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.