2023-06-11 Middle Creek – PA

Indigo Bunting - Passerina cyanea
I said goodbye to my friends in Wernersville Pennsylvania, and began my trip south to explore the Appalachians. Only a half hour away, I stopped at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and toured their 6000 acre reserve.

Brown Thrasher - Toxostoma rufum

Ovenbird - Seiurus aurocapilla

2023-06-11 Sunday

After a week enjoying the hospitality of my long-time friends Jeff and Kathy in Wernersville PA, This morning I’m on the road again. I used some of my time in Wernersville to get my blog backlog whittled down. I published two blogs during my stay here, but the two stories pertaining to my visit here are not yet complete. 

I have a rough idea of the road ahead. There is a wildlife reserve a half hour’s drive from my starting point in Wernersville that I will be stopping by this morning (Middle Creek). After that, I will explore the full length of the Appalachian Mountains. Though my plans to visit Nova Scotia fell through, the road ahead holds considerable potential for adventure.

The smoke from those Nova Scotia fires has been plaguing the Atlantic coast. Even here in Pennsylvania, air quality has been poor, though not as severe as places like NYC. A couple of rain events have helped clear the air, but as the fires continue to burn, the problem persists. These fires have been burning for two weeks, and are still out of control. Fires in the Canadian west are not unusual, but their east coast provinces are not accustomed to such severe fires. Past fires have mostly been restricted to rural and under populated regions. Yet there are currently several fires burning, and this year hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed. Yet the 24-hour fake news channels see fit to politicize the situation, because of all the smoke in New England.

2023-06-12 Monday

My visit to Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area was all I hoped for. Once I found the auto tour road, my expectations were elevated. Without the road winding through the nearly 6000 acres, the experience would not have been very memorable. 

I found a one-way road a mile and a half south of the town of Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania. Without a map, I followed the narrow paved One-Way road and let it dictate the day’s journey. The first leg of this road (conveniently called Middle Creek Wildlife Drive) cut through a large grove of tall broadleaf trees. At the first glimpse of bird movement, I pulled to the roadside and studied the sights and sounds. I could hear a singing Ovenbird from deep within the grove, but in classic Ovenbird fashion, it stayed out of sight. Blue Jays and Catbirds peaked through the nearby branches to satisfy their curiosity about me. 

2023-06-11 Sunday

When I emerged from the forested roadside, the road climbed over a grassy hill lined with several dozen bird houses. Most of the tenets were Tree Swallows, but I saw one pair of Eastern Bluebirds in the neighborhood. Near the crest of the low hill, I saw the unmistakable form of a bright male Bobolink as it flew away. I parked, hoping it would return, but it was not to be. So I contented myself with the swallows hovering over the nearby fields.

I continued my drive and found a fork in the road. To the left was a “Two-Way” road, and to the right, a continuation of the “One-Way” I was following. I followed the Two-Way for about a mile until I reached a dead-end turnaround. I stopped there to look for avian treasure. Yellow Warblers were my reward. Then I back-tracked and continued my exploration of the One-Way road I started out on.

After several miles through mixed grass and trees, the road carried me south to the deep forested slopes of the Furnace Hills. I passed several parking areas tucked away between the road and Middle Creek Lake. Some led to picnic areas and trail heads, and some led to boat ramps. Because I could hear thrushes and ovenbirds calling from nearby, I set up my camera gear and lingered for a while. Surprisingly, it was the Ovenbird who cooperated nicely, giving me some of its time to pose for me. Wood Thrushes flitted through the distant understory. And a Pileated Woodpecker drummed and called loudly from the canopy up-slope, but refused to provide even a brief glimpse. A small Empidonax-type flycatcher passed nearby, but it never stopped long enough for me to see it well. Acadian Flycatchers dwell in this region, as do Eastern Wood Pewees. My bird might have been either. While under a 100 foot canopy, most of the light from even the brightest day is filtered out, obscuring bird identities. 

When I finished my exploration of the reserve, I had captured images of Blue Jays, Brown Thrashers, Common Yellowthroats, Gray Catbirds, Great Crested Flycatchers, Indigo Buntings, Northern Mockingbirds, Ovenbirds, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, Tree Swallows, and Yellow Warblers.

I continued my journey south looking forward to more adventures. I passed through Maryland and stopped at a rest area a few miles south of the Virginia border. While there, I learned of a state park called Sky Meadows. The next morning, I headed out on the road again, looking forward to my next adventurous episode.

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