Christmas Bird Count at Lake Wally

There couldn’t have been a more beautiful day to conduct the Christmas Bird Count this year. I think we were up before the birds on the morning of December 15 because as we set out for a long day of birding by hiking the Wallenpaupack Creek Trail early, we didn’t hear or see a thing. It had us a little worried at first, but it was a frigid morning so we knew that as soon as the sun came out over the trees there would be more movement. We were right; as we made our way back to the end of the trail to head to our next location the birds were waking and warming up in the sun. It really fueled us to get moving and count as many birds as we could until sundown.

Canada geese on Lake Wallenpaupack

Canada geese on Lake Wallenpaupack

In partnership with Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society, our primary focus at the public Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center count was to ‘bird’ the shores of Lake Wallenpaupack. Other birders, some volunteers but most members of NEPAS, would focus on filling in the rest of the 15 mile radius around White Mills, PA that would encompass the larger count area.

Our first exciting find was a juvenile Bald Eagle perching in its usual spot right at the end of the Tafton Dike, overlook the lake. If you look at this tree in the early morning or evening, you are likely to see one here as it is a favorite spot for wintering eagles. From there we bounced from place to place but essentially covered several coves from Spinnler Point all the way around the dam on the north side of the lake, following the shoreline to Cove Haven. The highlights of our count were the bald eagle, 44 buffleheads, 4 common goldeneye, 3 hooded merganser, 3 common loons, and one loan horned grebe.

Bob, Joan, and Gary, our CBC participants

Bob, Joan, and Gary, our CBC participants

Participants of the larger count, including us, sighted 2,693 birds throughout the day. In addition to our interesting sightings around the lake, the group also spotted several red shouldered, red tailed, and rough legged hawks, 1 barred owl, 4 green winged teal and two irruptive species that were particularly great finds. Periodic bird irruptions are exciting in that we get to see some species that don’t normally winter in this area. A lack of food or drought in their normal wintering areas can make them ‘irrupt’ to areas where food is more plentiful. In this case, 32 common redpoll and 8 white-winged crossbill were seen.

Overall it was a great day to participate in citizen science and a wonderful opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fresh air before it got really cold and snow began to cover the ground. Keep your eyes out for bald eagles wintering around the lake, and if you have feeders at home you might even see some of those irruptive species!

-Sarah Hall, PPL Lake Wallenpaupack

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