PPL Eagle Viewing Trips

Bald eagle overlooking the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers. Photo by Sarah Hall.

Bald eagle overlooking the Lackawaxen and Delaware Rivers. Photo by Sarah Hall.

Our PPL eagle viewing bus trips are today and we saw lots of activity on the morning ride along the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers. We started our day inside with a short presentation by Katie Lester on bald eagles and what PPL does to help protect and conserve them and their habitat.

Once on the bus it wasn’t long before we spotted our first eagle perched over open, unfrozen water. Large numbers of eagles migrate to this area each year for a number of reasons, one being the release of warmer water from PPL’s Lake Wallenpaupack hydroelectric plant. As the water exits the power plant, it flows into the nearby Lackawaxen River. We were a little worried at first as we traveled along the frozen Lackawaxen just outside of Hawley, but as soon as we passed the power plant the water was freely flowing and we saw our first eagle soon thereafter.

The morning group viewing an eagle from the bus.

The morning group viewing an eagle from the bus.

We made our way along the Lackawaxen until it meets the Delaware River where we stopped at the boat launch to get a closer look at an eagle perched in a popular tree overlooking where the rivers meet. Another reason that there has been a resurgence of eagle populations in the Upper Delaware River region is due to the conservation efforts of the “perfect partnership” between the Eagle Institute and the Delaware Highlands Conservancy. Each week from Jan. to March, volunteers monitor eagles at this particular boat launch in Lackawaxen, PA, as well as other locations in the region. Our group got a closer look through the viewing scopes that the volunteers had set up for visitors. It was a beautiful sight!

Bald eagle perched along the Delaware River. Photo by Sarah Hall.

Bald eagle perched along the Delaware River. Photo by Sarah Hall.

In all, we saw 19 confirmed eagles this morning, 11 adult and 8 immature. We saw an additional 13 on the way back, but we can only count these as extra “sightings” because they could be the same eagles we saw on the way there.  Our afternoon trip is out now, and I can’t wait to hear how many they saw!

Are you seeing any eagles out there? Share your photos and experiences with us on our new PPL Preserves facebook page!

-Sarah Hall, Lake Wallenpaupack Preserve

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

Project FeederWatch

FeederWatch count site outside the library of the PPL Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center.

We know it becomes a little more difficult to get outside and enjoy nature when the temperature starts to drop around this time of year. So this winter you can enjoy nature in the warmth of the PPL Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center! Right outside our library windows we have set up a Project FeederWatch count site where we will periodically count the birds we see from November through early April. We will then send our counts to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for Project FeederWatch.

Black-capped Chickadee


The data collected helps scientists track broad scale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance (Project FeederWatch). Citizen science is a great way for people to learn about nature, conservation, science, and in this case birds, by participating in real scientific studies. Anyone who has an interest in birds can participate, as this study is conducted by people of all skill levels and backgrounds, from children in a classroom to individuals and retirees at home. PPL senior naturalist Jon Beam has been a FeederWatch counter at Montour Preserve for about 12 years. You can learn more about setting up your own FeederWatch count site here.


White-breasted Nuthatch on a nearby tree waiting for me to finish filling the feeders!

It was rather easy to attract a nice variety of birds to our new feeders right from the start. The feeders are in a great wooded location, but I’m sure if you give them seed, they will come! I didn’t even get a chance to finish filling them all up before I had a black-capped chickadee at one feeder and a white-breasted nuthatch surveying the area from a nearby tree. It didn’t take long for it to call in its friends either, because within ten minutes there were three nuthatches swooping in and out from the trees. In the first 3 days I have also recorded 6 dark-eyed juncos, 3 blue birds, 5 tufted titmice, a female cardinal, and a red-bellied woodpecker. I’m looking forward to a great count season!

For directions to the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center, click here.

-Sarah Hall, PPL Wallenpaupack

Tufted Titmouse.

Fish Elevators at Holtwood

Fish elevators draw international attention at Holtwood plant as Chinese delegation visits to see latest fish protection technology. 

A delegation representing various Chinese fisheries bureaus toured PPL’s Holtwood hydroelectric plant on Thursday (9/13) to see firsthand how the facility protects and enhances migratory fish in the lower Susquehanna River.
Coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the visit is taking the delegation on tours of fish hatcheries and industrial facilities in the United States to learn about fish protection. The Holtwood tour gave the group a good look at the latest advancements in fish lift technology.

Representatives of Chinese fisheries bureaus and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently toured PPL’s Holtwood hydroelectric plant to learn more about its fish lift technology.

“They were impressed with our fish lift technology and how our government agencies and industry work together to protect fish habitats,” said Chris Porse, site supervisor at Holtwood. “China has fish ladders but not the elevators like we have here.”

Holtwood’s fish lift helps shad and other migratory fish get past the 55-foot-high Holtwood Dam, safely carrying them over the dam and channeling them into the river, where they continue their upstream migration to spawning areas in the Susquehanna River watershed. The system is capable of lifting tens of thousands of shad over the dam each season.

“We also gave our guests a presentation about the $440 million Holtwood expansion and a tour of the facility and grounds,” Porse said.

Slated for completion next year, the project includes the construction of a second powerhouse and the addition of two units that will generate an additional 125 megawatts of electricity, more than doubling the plant’s existing generating capacity of 108 megawatts.

Butterflies Abound!


Chrysalis found by 6-year-old girl on her birthday at the PPL Lake Wally Butterfly Garden

Ed Wesley’s program on Saturday, September 8 was fantastic! We had 31 eager participants despite the weather forecast of rain and high winds. Milkweed seeds were given out for people to plant in their gardens at home. With milkweed growing, monarch butterflies will be attracted to the location. Milkweed is the other plant that monarchs like to lay their eggs. The young caterpillar eats the milkweed leaves once it emerges from the egg.

Children helped Ed with tag butterflies that will be released on a nice day. The predicted 60 MPH winds would make for a rough start to the long migration to Mexico. A little round tag is stuck to a particular spot on the butterfly’s wing. There is a ton of microscopic information on this tag, used for identifying where the butterfly has come from.

Down at the PPL Butterfly Garden, the audience became the biologists as they searched for butterfly eggs and chrysalises. One little girl, stayed longer than all the rest, found many eggs and even an chrysalis hanging from a blade of grass (as seen above). Ed was so impressed with her enthusiasm, he sent her home with a chrysalis to care for as the caterpillar changes into a beautiful monarch butterfly.

-Jenna Wayne, PPL

If you would like to raise your own caterpillars with a school or scout group, kits are available at many online nature websites. For more information about PPL programs, visit our “Calendar of Events” at pplpreserves.com.

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