Find warblers, tanagers, thrushes, grouse, and other birds within a stone’s throw of Fallingwater.
By Jerry Uhlman | Published: 6/24/2011
Nestled in the Laurel Highlands, the Bear Run Nature Reserve has roughly 20 miles of trails that meander alongside several creeks and through hemlock groves. Its scenic panoramas overlook the Youghiogheny River. The main trailhead is only a stone’s throw from architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater, a spacious home built over Bear Run in 1936.
Of the dozen trails through the reserve, it’s easy to plan both short and longer loops. I usually spend most of my time along Bear Run and Laurel Run trails, especially near the campsites at creek crossings, where birding is particularly good.
The hillsides are covered with dense thickets of mountain laurel, where I’m apt to spot several species foraging, such as Hooded and Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Parula, and secretive Yellow-breasted Chat. Veery, Wood, and Hermit Thrushes are fairly common, and, if I’m lucky, I sometimes spy a Swainson’s Thrush.
Bear Run is a special place to visit and is full of surprises. I once roused several Wild Turkeys roosting in trees and flushed a Ruffed Grouse near the trailhead. — Jerry Uhlman
Jerry Uhlman writes a birding column for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He also wrote about Dutch Gap Conservation Area, Chester, Virginia, Hotspot Near You No. 66, Creston Valley WMA, Creston, British Columbia, No. 111, Garden Canyon, Fort Huachuca, Arizona, No. 136, and Shenandoah River State Park, Bentonville, Virginia, No. 142.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Forest of conifers and deciduous trees. Thick vegetation lines the reserve’s streams.
Mountainous, with uneven and rocky ground. Most trails have short uphill climbs.
Blue-headed and Yellow-throated Vireos, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Yellow-breasted Chat, Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Scarlet Tanager, Hermit and Wood Thrushes, Kentucky, Hooded, Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, Chestnut-sided, and Black-throated Green Warblers, Downy, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpeckers, Northern Flicker, Belted Kingfisher, Broad-winged Hawk, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Song Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Cedar Waxwing, Winter Wren, Wild Turkey, Ruffed Grouse.
When to go
Summer and early fall best. Birds are most active until mid-morning while foraging among stream vegetation and forest canopy.
Well-marked trail system. Map and brochure available at parking lot trailhead and at www.paconserve.org/92. No facilities in mountainous terrain, so carry snacks and water.
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy reserve. Open year-round, free of charge. Parking lot is located on east side of Rt. 381. The entrance to Fallingwater is a half-mile south of the parking lot and requires a fee. Primitive campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Campsites, located at creek crossings, are often the most productive hotspots. Sturdy hiking boots and a hiking pole will be helpful for walking up and down steep trails.
For more info
Ohiopyle State Park
The popular 20,000-acre park lies to the west and south of Bear Run. The village of Ohiopyle is at the center of the park. Osprey, mergansers, Belted Kingfisher, and Bald Eagle.
Ferncliff Peninsula Natural Area
Occupies a horseshoe bend in the Youghiogheny River, directly across the river from Ohiopyle. Spotted Sandpiper, several warblers.