My First Visit To The John James Audubon Center. It Won’t Be My Last

My First Visit To The John James Audubon Center. It Won’t Be My Last

John Jmaes Audubon Center (26 of 40)
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During  my recent stay in King of Prussia I was planning to hike in the Valley Forge National Park. However, in researching  hiking trails near the hotel  I learned of the John James Audubon Center. It was located only a few miles from my hotel.  Of course, I had  heard  about this famous illustrator of birds and naturalist.  And I knew he visited Rockport near my home in  Northeastern Pennsylvania to explore the Lehigh River in 1829. I did not know he lived near Valley Forge or  that the house he resided in still exists.  He lived here from 1803 until 1806. I also  learned that the Audubon Society maintains his home and also operates a birding and nature sanctuary on the site of his old estate. There are over 5 miles of hiking trails near  the Center. So, I awoke early Wednesday morning, and, after a cup of coffee, I drove to the small town of Audubon to hike and learn more about the Center.

It was a cold morning. Temperatures were in the 20’s. I wasn’t dressed for the freezing temperatures . I  was cold when I left my Jeep  just after sunrise. I was the only car parked at the Center.

As usual, when I visit a new area, I was a little disorientated and was not sure where to start my hike.  There were a lot of trails so I had a few options. I first walked to the Visitor Center, which , of course was closed, and then followed a  grassy trail through a mixed field  lined  with ancient oak trees.

The  remaining leaves on the oak trees shone in the early morning sun.

There was a thick frost on the ground. There was almost no bird activity on this cold November morning.  I did see this whitetail deer   who seemed curious as I walked past in the cold morning air.

The trail took me to  a housing a residential area, and  I followed a cleared path along the road along the homes.

I came to a blind  used for bird watching but there  were no birds active early  on this frigid morning.

Here I had a few options,  as there was an  intersection of a  couple of trails. I followed one that took me through a  older woodlands.  It led  to a ridge overlooking the Perkiomen Creek. I later learned the Perkiomen Creek is a major tributary of the Schuylkill River and that Audubon would hike along  the creek, exploring the woodlands, and enjoying the beauty of nature.

The trail did not appear to change much since he roamed these woods.  It was  now covered with fallen leaves and made for a nice, tranquil scene as the rising sun shone  over the ridgetop.

After a short distance the trail took me to the Audubon Loop Trail, a paved hiking and biking trail that looped around the Center. Along the trail I saw the ruins of  an old smokestack. I learned it was associated with the Mill Grove estate which operated a mill  and copper and lead mines. The estate was purchased by Audubon’s father in 1789.

I continued on the Audubon Loop Trail which led me down a steep incline. There were woodlands on one side of the trail and the backyards of some residences on the other. I saw a few women walking their dogs up the steep hill in the cold morning air.

The trail crossed a small stream and came to an open field. Here I found a red fox staring at me. Unfortunately, I had the wrong settings on my camera, and while I  fumbled with my frozen fingers, the fox was sprinting away. It was still nice to see this beautiful creature so close to a large city.

I walked back up the steep hill, and when I reached the top, the morning sun was warming the woodlands.  And a small flock of white throated sparrows were now fluttering  near the ground along the trail.

I left the paved  Audubon Loop Trail and followed another  leaf covered trail back into the woodlands and down to the banks of the Perkiomen Creek. It crossed an old bridge that once  must have spanned an old creek.

The trail followed the creek then climbed back up the ridge,

and here I encountered another white tailed deer, this time a large buck, who stopped to watch me ,

and actually started to approach me before it ran off into the woodlands. I think the deer in the Center are familiar with humans hiking on the trails.

The trail took me back up to the wider trail where I began my hike. I now saw a few birds, including a hairy woodpecker,

a few Carolina wrens, who were singing their cheerful songs in the weak November morning sun, and

this starling. I am not a fan of these invasive birds but  it did look pretty in the morning sunlight.

I walked back to the Visitor Center, walking past some bee hives maintained by the Center  along the way

and also saw some more whitetail deer crossing the trail.

I followed a road down to the home  of John James Audubon. It is a beautiful stone home. It was built in 1769, and was occupied by a young Audubon when he arrived here from his home in France in 1803.  He married a local women and resided here until 1806.

I imagined him and his bride sitting on this porch overlooking the woodlands and Perkiomen Creek below. 

I walked back down to the Perkiomen Creek,

and saw these hooded mergansers swimming peacefully on the creek,.

until I approached and they quickly flew upstream.

I walked along the scenic Perkiomen Creek until I came to an access  road water to  treatment plant along the creek.  I followed the access road back up to the Audubon home and  Visitor Center. There were many shrubs and and last season’s dried wildflowers growing along the road.

There was also an osage orange tree. I always enjoy seeing the brain-like fruit these trees produce. It is a strong wood and Native American would us it to make their bows.

There was still some  frost in the shaded areas along the trail,

but the sun  had warmed most  of the  woods  along the roads. It looked like a great area to see birds and I did.    I saw a dozens  of American robins,

dark eyed juncos,

and a few common grackles looked for a morning meal.

As I walked on a trail behind the Visitor Center I noticed this white-tailed hawk perched on a tree branch over the trail. 

I was surprised when it didn’t fly off when I approached,

and more surprised when it not only allowed me to take some photos.

but remained on the branch as I walked to the other side.

It seemed to be observing me as I  took photos and didn’t mind my presence at all, in fact, it seemed like it enjoyed my company. I watched this beautiful raptor for about 15 minutes, hoping it would fly off, and allow me to get some photos. It was content to sit in the sun so said my farewell and  continued on my hike. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website  with some more photos of my encounter with the  friendly red-tailed hawk. John James Audubon Center hawk November 15 2023.

I had walked almost five miles.   had to check out of my hotel so I began my way back to my Jeep.  I wish I could have stayed and continue to explore  many hiking trails around the Center. I walked back to the Visitor Center seeing one more bird on my way, this tiny golden crowned kinglet. I wondered if it, and the other birds I saw on my hike were the  descendants of the birds Audubon watched and sketched while he lived here. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the birds and wildlife I saw on my hike . John James Audubon Center  wildlife  November 15 2023.

I stopped in the Visitor Center to get some information on the Center and the hiking trails before walking to my Jeep. It was a cold November day, the trees were bare but it was still a great and informative hike. It has given me a desire to learn more about Audubon and his legacy. I  hope to return soon, and often. I  know this place will be magical in the Spring. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from  my hike . John James Audubon Center  wildlife  November 15 2023.

“A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children.”
― John James Audubon

“As I grew up I was fervently desirous of becoming acquainted with Nature.”
― John James Audubon

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