Birding is Better in Mount Gretna

A Bird Walk with the Mount Gretna Birding Club

The Valley is full of wildlife and outdoor adventure that make for a welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I got a chance to escape that hustle and bustle recently on a walk with some dedicated birders in Mount Gretna. So join me for a walk with the Mount Gretna Birding Club… well, a virtual walk through this blog that is! 

At Visit Lebanon Valley, we are always looking for new places and events within the county that we can share about. And while that might just be our excuse to go out for lunch, we also look forward to learning new things and finding new ways to promote Lebanon County. So, when we happened upon a listing for a “bird walk” on Mount Gretna’s community calendar, our interest was piqued.

It may not be exciting to some, but as someone who owns a bustling bird (well, mostly squirrel) feeder, I was intrigued by the idea of birding among the beautiful landscape of Mount Gretna. So, with permission from Visit Lebanon Valley President Jennifer Kuzo, I dusted off my binoculars and headed out to Mount Gretna for the weekly Friday morning bird walk.

Each Friday, the Mount Gretna Bird Club gathers in the Chautauqua parking lot at 9am and heads out on a two-hour bird walk. I arrived a few minutes early, but it wasn’t until around 9:15am that we headed to the first birding spot, as we spent a little while chatting. “This is a very social birding group,” I was told by one of the group members.

Once we had all given our introductions and members of the group had caught up with each other, we carpooled out to the first birding location: a small out cove on the south side of Mount Gretna Lake. On the lake we saw a belted kingfisher and wood ducks (as in the living bird species, not the kind on your uncle’s living room shelf). From there, we hopped back in the cars and drove to some nearby state game lands for more birding, this time along a beautiful wooded trail.

The second location provided much more action and was highlighted with a scarlet tanager spotting. A rare sighting on their weekly bird walks, the scarlet tanager brought many oohs, ahhs, and quite a few uh, where?’s from yours truly. Once I did finally spot the bird though, I had to agree it was quite stunning. If you have never seen one, I highly recommend a scarlet tanager Google search, not surprisingly, you will find they sport fiery red plumage.

In addition to the scarlet tanager, we also saw cardinals, towhees, and cowbirds, and heard many others. I am proud to admit I knew (almost!) all of the 26 bird species we saw, though I still learned a ton about bird calls and songs, as well as other facts about the plants and insects we saw. Did you know that some birds’ brains actually change in volume as they adapt to the changing seasons? It was amazing to be alongside people who could identify all different species —whether that’s bird, plant, or bug—with something as simple as a song or call. At the same time, I was glad there were other members of the group who, like me, sometimes needed clarification on what exactly we were looking at or where we were supposed to be looking (just like with the picture of the frog here!).

Around 11:15 a.m., we made our way to the cars and drove back to the Chautauqua parking lot. The group then dispersed, some heading out to lunch together at Porch & Pantry—or Colebrook Crossings, it was still up for debate—and others back to work, life, and hopefully air conditioning… it was hot!

It was a lot of fun identifying birds and learning new things about the world around us, but if I’m being honest, my favorite part of the bird walk was not what we saw but rather the friendship and conversation that was shared amongst the group itself. I learned about their grandkids and the things they experienced as a civil engineer, I sat in the backseat of their car that still has manual roll-up windows, and when I told them my name they asked if I was from the town of Upper Darby… and then asked how many times I had heard that joke (a lot!). And while we each differed in unique ways—and definitely in our knowledge about birds— I truly enjoyed my time spent with the Mount Gretna Bird Club and it made for a great start to my Friday morning.

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