Bluebirds in a Winter Wonderland

DSCN1363We woke up to a winter wonderland yesterday and the first thing I did when I got to the Environmental Learning Center was grab the camera and head outside. We only got a dusting of snow overnight but it looked beautiful covering all of the trees around the lake. As I hiked around the preserve I noticed the birds were out and singing in full force. The snow had covered up food on the ground and they were looking for their seeds elsewhere, for the most part at our Project Feeder Watch set up just outside the learning center.

BluebirdAs I made my way down to the lake to photograph the snow covered shore, I noticed what I had been waiting for all winter, bluebirds amongst a snow covered staghorn sumac. They had found their breakfast, and there was plenty of it. During one of the first snows of the season sometime in November I spent a good amount of time standing in the frigid cold just trying to get at least one shot of a bluebird picking at red berries in a bush in front of the learning center. With my hands frozen, I unfortunately came away with photographs of just the pretty red berries covered in snow, and no birds. It has been a goal of mine since that day to get a shot of those bluebirds in the snow.

DSCN1370So as I tried to conceal my excitement to keep still and quiet while bringing up the camera for a shot at these bluebirds, I began to notice just how many there were. I took a few good shots, but of course I had to get closer. Here’s where the snow became my enemy because the crunch of it under my feet started to scare them away.

RSCN1398At that point I went from photographer back to naturalist and started to count. There had actually been at least 25 bluebirds in this stand of staghorn sumac. I know we have a good population of bluebirds here because I usually see 3 or 4 everyday, even in the winter. Now I know their favorite spot and I will certainly be checking back for more! They have plenty of places to stay due to our conservation efforts in providing a large number of bluebird boxes at the preserve, most of which were built by a student at Lackawanna College and then decorated by children at our annual Pike-Wayne Earth Day festival.

RSCN1399We are gearing up for the Paupack Plunge on Saturday and the winter wonderland had us wondering what we were thinking when we signed up to be freezin’ for a reason! You should join us in the fun and help support a great cause!

 

-Sarah Hall, PPL Lake Wallenpaupack

Calling all bird lovers

Osprey and chick at the PPL Lake Wallenpaupack Preserve.

Osprey and chick at the PPL Lake Wallenpaupack Preserve.

Did you know that PPL’s environmental preserves have been directly involved in efforts to raise awareness of birds and their habitat, and to restore peregrine falcons, bald eagles, ospreys and other bird species to Pennsylvania? Through a “Bird Town” alliance with the Audubon Society, PPL works to raise awareness of birds and their habitats through education, awareness and training activities.

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Here is a chance for all bird lovers to become engaged.  The National Audubon Society is seeking participants for The Great Backyard Bird Count,   an annual four-day event from Feb. 15-18 that engages bird watchers in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are.

Anyone interested in volunteering to take part in this event can grab their binoculars and sign up here: http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/howto.html.  Volunteers provide important information on the status and trends of our bird populations.

To learn more about PPL’s commitment to birds of prey throughout Pennsylvania, we invite you to read and follow our blog.

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

Montour Travel Bug Update

Montour TB USERThe last time we updated you on the Montour Travel Bug it had journeyed 7, 631 miles in the last 4 years and was making its way around Austria. Now almost five years later it is still in Austria, but has since been taken to several different beautiful locations. This particular travel bug has now logged over 8,100 miles since its release in March of 2007 at PPL’s Montour Environmental Preserve, and for the last 152 miles it has had one particularly good travel guide.
Montour TB Austria1

Geocaching.com user CarinjaMagdalena noted that the PPL keychain flashlight was still lighting up when picked up from a cache in lower Austria. Since then Birgit Rothböck (CarinjaMagdalena) has logged all of the beautiful places this TB has visited. Some of the pictures can be seen here, but for more pictures and a full log of the TB visit our geocaching.com page here. If you’re interested in finding our other cache locations you can also visit our PPL Preserves geocaching page here.
Montour TB Austria2Montour TB Austria3Montour TB Austria4Montour TB Austria5

 




 
Montour TB Austria6

 

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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