My First Visit To Fort Washington State Park In Montgomery County
Fort Washington State Park in Montgomery County wasn’t my first choice for a visit this past weekend. I had originally planned to hike at Codorus State Park in York County. It was rated the third best bird watching spot in Pennsylvania by one of the State birding groups. I was looking forward to staying in the historic town of Hanover, near the park. Thomas Jefferson would stay here on his trips to Philadelphia. I hoped to see some of the many birds now migrating through our State. Well, waiting until the day of your visit to book a hotel room is not a good idea. There were no rooms available in any of the local hotels.
Fort Washington State Park was ranked as the fourth best bird watching spot by the same group. It also has a lot of history, and most importantly, there were rooms available near the park. So I made a reservation at the Holiday in Express in Fort Washington and took the 1 1/2 drive from my home in Luzerne County around noon. It was partly sunny with temperatures near 60 degrees when I arrived at the park. Exiting my Jeep at the Hawk Walk Observation Deck parking area, I walked into a different world from the one I left back home. It was a green world. Spring clearly had arrived here in southeastern Pennsylvania, weeks before it will show up at my home in Luzerne County.
I walked down to the observation deck, and looking at the valley, I saw many of the trees covered with fresh new green leaves. It was near these heights that George Washington built a fort in November of 1777. He defended these hilltops from the British for a few weeks before moving his army to Valley Forge. I knew it was a small urban park , around 450 acres, surrounded by highways, homes and golf courses but many birds are scene here during the Spring migration.
Even in the middle of the day the feeders attracted northern cardinals,
white- throated sparrows, and,
a few brown-headed cowbirds. I enjoyed watching the birds at the feeders but I was hoping to see some of the warblers and vireos that migrate through the park in the Spring. So I set off on my hike.
I was unfamiliar with the park and had decided to walk on the Preserve Trail that followed the Wissahickon Creek. I was hoping to see some waterfowl and migratory song birds. I had anticipated more woodlands along the creek but I found the first part of the trail had recently been timbered. You could see, and hear the traffic on busy highway.
The trail was nice, it was paved and well maintained. However it was an urban park and there was noise from the traffic on the nearby Route 73 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There weren’t a lot of large old trees along the creek either. It wasn’t a peaceful and quiet start to my hike. This portion of the trail was owned by Montgomery County and was not part of the State Park. However, I saw a lot of folks walking and running on the trail on my 5 mile hike.
I now saw a few birds in the woodlands along the trail including downy woodpeckers,
song sparrows, and
a few pretty red-bellied woodpeckers. I was still somewhat disappointed I wasn’t seeing more migratory birds.
I got off of the main trail and took a nature trail down to the creek. Here the woodlands were thicker and there were many older trees. It was a lot quieter here with no traffic noise. I still didn’t see a lot of birds,
I was again disappointed then the only waterfowl I saw were these two Canada geese.
The only birds I saw were some very common American robins. One of the reasons for the lack of a lot of bird activity was it was mid day and the temperatures were in the 70’s. Most birds feed in the early morning and late evening hours.
I was finishing my hike and had just about given up seeing any songbirds when I saw this eastern-wood peewee,
feeding with a small flock of black-capped chickadees in an apple tree.
Nearby I saw my first warbler, a very pretty palm warbler. Excited, I took about 50 photo from a distance when it decided to fly to a branch next to the trail,
allowing me to get some close up photos.
I finished my five mile hike by walking up the steep hill to the Hawk Observation Deck, where I stopped to photograph some of the birds at the feeders, including more northern cardinals, white- throated sparrows, mourning doves , blue jays and this female red-winged blackbird, and
this common grackle, showing off it’s colors in the evening sun. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photos of the birds I saw on my hike and at the feeders. . Fort Washington birds April 22 2022.
It was after 5 p.m. when I finished my hike. It wasn’t a rugged woodland hike like in the mountains of Potter County but it was a nice walk along the Wissahickon Creek. It was nice to see nature this close to my favorite city in the world, Philadelphia. I didn’t see the warblers and song birds I had hoped to find but I enjoyed the birds and beautiful wildflowers I found on the trails.
I had a delicious meal at the Dettera Restaurant. I started with the best cream of asparagus soup I had ever eaten and had trout as my main dish, it was delicious.
After dessert I headed back to my hotel to edit photos and plan my morning hike in Fort Washington State park. I love visiting our State parks and the nearby cities and towns, and I love sharing my adventures here on my blog. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog with more photographs from my hike. Fort Washington hike April 22 2022.
If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere. —Laura Ingalls Wilder