Last week the Pennsylvania Game Commission released a list of the state's 100 best birding locations. In Luzerne County, Harveys Lake, Ricketts Glen State Park and the Susquehanna River near Exeter all made the list.
Most of the places on the list are defined by habitat types that attract birds, whether they are migration routes along the Susquehanna River or nesting areas in the central part of the state.
Pete Sussenbach, land management supervisor for the PGC's northeast region, said habitat is the common bond linking the three Luzerne County sites.
Harveys Lake is a large body of water that draws in numbers of waterfowl, including unique species such as canvasbacks and ringnecks, Ricketts Glen is a large, expansive tract of woods that sees neo-tropical migrants pass through as they head south, and the river is used by many species as a migratory route, he said.
Many of the spots on the list are tied to ridgetops and the river, which are natural migration routes.
Carol Sorber, an employee at Wild Birds Unlimited in Dallas, resides at Harveys Lake and wasn't surprised to see the location make the list. Aside from the large numbers of waterfowl that visit the lake, Sorber has seen bald eagles, songbirds such as the common redpoll and pine sisken, along with downy, hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers.
I get a lot of birds at my feeders, as do quite a few of our customers who live around the lake, she said. A lot of species simply need that large body of water.
The list is part of an improvement project the Game Commission made to its website to help promote wild bird conservation and birding.
The new section offers advice on where to go statewide to see birds, when the best times of day are to go and what you can expect to see. Information about bird behavior and what seeds to put in your feeders to attract the wild birds is also available.
There is also information on how anyone can take part in important projects conducted annually to help biologists keep tabs on bird numbers.
There's always a need for more participants in the Great Backyard Bird Count, Pennsylvania Annual Migratory Count and even the Christmas Bird Count, explained Doug Gross, supervisor of the agency Endangered and Nongame Birds Section. Visit these pages and learn firsthand how you can get involved, work with other birders and make a difference in bird conservation.
There are 285 species of wild birds that are regular denizens of the state; another 129 species are less frequent visitors.
Sussenbach said the top 100 listing includes places that are already well-known to birders, but serves as a great resource for those looking to get into the hobby.
It gives a novice birder a place to start, Sussenbach said.
He said there could be additional bird hotspots in the Northeast in the near future as the agency continues to conduct habitat improvement projects. Current projects encompass several thousand acres in the region annually, Sussenbach said.
Our early successional habitat projects increase the opportunity for forage and increase nesting activity, he said. Timber sales, conversions to native grasses and prescribed burns help all wildlife, including birds, and that will benefit birders and anyone else with an interest.
To access the new Birding and Bird Conservation Section of the agency website – www.pgc.state.pa.us – place your cursor over Wildlife in the top navigation and select Birding/Bird Conservation in the dropdown menu. The new section can be accessed from the Wildlife Page.