A Late Winter Hike Around Lake Chillisquaque In The Montour Preserve

A Late Winter Hike Around Lake Chillisquaque In The Montour Preserve

Montour Preserve (30 of 48)
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I made my third visit to the Montour Preserve and Lake Chillisquaque  in Montour County last Sunday . I first visited this 600 acre private preserve with my young nephew Mikey and niece Brooke about 15 years ago. We were looking for fossils at the fossils pit. I returned again in December to help with the National Christmas Bird Count. I decided to visit the Montour Preserve again hoping to see some migrating water fowl on Lake  Chillisquaque.

It was partly cloudy, windy and a seasonably cool 35 degrees when I arrived at the Visitor Center around 8:30 a.m. I left my Jeep and  walked toward the Preserve Road passing an old farm  home near the Visitor Center.

 I continued my hike on  Sportsman Road which took me through some wetlands and thick brush along  both sides of the road.

I heard the songs of Carolina wrens and red-winged blackbirds. I also saw a few song sparrows,

and this northern flicker in the wetlands.

The skies began to clear as the  road took me above Lake Chillisquaque, giving me a nice view of the scenic lake. The 160 acre  lake was created by the PPL Electric Company in the 1960’s  as a back up source of water for the nearby coal fired electric power plant.  The surrounding farm fields and woodlands became part of the Montour Preserve that opened in 1972.

I left the road and followed a path down to the Chillisquaque  Trail along the lake shore.  I had hoped to see some migrating ducks, geese or herons on the waters of the lake but there were none to be seen.

I was a little disappointed as I walked along the shore, and past the Heron Cove  pavilion.

It was a scenic hike.  There were large oak, sycamore and red maple trees along the shore of the lake.  It would be a nice place to spend a mild Spring or Summer day.

The trail took me to a side trail, the Blue Bird trail. I started to hike this trail but it was flooded and muddy,

so I returned to the Chillisquaque  Trail.

The trail took me along the lake over a bridge that crossed a small stream. There were some wetlands along the trail but there were no water fowl or other birds active  in this area of the preserve.

The Montour Preserve is further north and at a higher elevation than my usual hiking area in the Susquehanna Wetlands so the temperatures are cooler. There were still signs of the approaching Spring, including plenty of green garlic mustard leaves,

Dames rocket and

wild garlic or onion grass growing along the muddy trail.

After crossing the bridge the trail continued up a ridge through an older hardwood woodland of oak and maple trees.

Here I saw a few cardinals singing in the treetops, this is a female,

and this a more colorful male.

I heard the distinctive calls of a pileated woodpecker but wasn’t able to see it, but I did see this hairy woodpecker in the tree branches.

The Chillisquaque  Trail split near a grove of hemlock and white pine trees and I followed the Ridgefield  Point loop that took me back down to the shores of the lake.

Of course when walking under pine trees one finds a lot of pine cones on the ground,

and a few gray squirrels too.

The trail approached the lake,

and I hoped to see more water fowl here but again there were none. And on my last visit I saw a few bald eagles flying over the lake but there were none on Sunday.

I did see a flock of eastern phoebes in the tree tops along the lake. These small migratory fly catchers are returning to our area from their Winter homes in the southern United States and Mexico.

There were also some white-throated sparrows,

a few tufted titmice,

and black-capped chickadees in the trees near the lake shore.

The loop trail took me back up through some more pine and hemlock trees and again approaching the lake.

Here I saw a small flock of tundra swans on the lake,

this magnificent birds are just passing through on their way to the arctic tundra to breed.

The Ridgefield Point Trail looped back to the Chillisquaque  Trail and continued up a ridge where there was timbering in the past and new growth hardwood forest.

Here I saw some crows perched on treetops.

I was surprised there was not more bird or other wildlife activity  on this stretch of the trail.

The trail  continued and crossed the Middle Branch of the Chillisquaque  Creek, the creek that was dammed to create   Lake  Chillisquaque .

After crossing the creek the trail continued with woodlands on one side and some fields on the other side of the trail.

I only saw a few more birds on the remainder of my hike,

a red tailed hawk that flew overhead, and

a few eastern bluebirds in the fields along the trail. Here  is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike around  Lake Chillisquaque.     Montour Preserve birds March 17 2024.

The trail took me back to the parking lot and the dam that created the lake. I saw a beautiful mink and red squirrel on the trail but I wasn’t able to get any photos.

It was a nice hike especially as I approached the scenic lake.

I began to see more hikers and runners on the trail as the sun warmed the late March cool morning air. I arrived back a the parking lot around noon. Here  is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my  5 1/2 mile hike around  Lake Chillisquaque.     Montour Preserve March 17 2024.

I was a little disappointed I didn’t see more wildlife, especially water fowl and bald eagles but it was a pleasant hike. I hope to return soon.

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