I got a call from an excited birder who was looking at a Redwing at Peace Valley Nature Park on February 5, 2005. Ten minutes later, I was in my car. Forty-five minutes later, I was looking through a scope at the bird as it fed with American Robins. An hour later, I was watching frenzied birders, including the well-known, highly experienced, and heavily traveled, slip, slide, and occasionally fall on an ice- and snow-covered path in the field.
The Redwing will probably stay at the top of the list of rarities found at Peace Valley for a long time, and it’s in good company. The 1,500-acre park has consistently produced unusual and rare sightings through the years. I missed Bohemian Waxwings in Churchill, Manitoba, in 1991, but four years later I finally saw one — in the holly trees outside the nature center. I’ve also added numerous gull, tern, and shorebirds not normally found on inland Pennsylvania lakes (including Purple Sandpiper) to both my state and life lists by making the 25-minute drive from my home.
Peace Valley is alluring even for seasoned birders because it’s an oasis of green in a heavily populated region, thus attracting and concentrating lots of birds. You just never know what might be found in the diverse habitat, which includes the man-made 350-acre Lake Galena, fields, and mature deciduous and pine woods. — Arlene Koch
Grassy fields, wetlands, 350-acre lake, and deciduous and pine woods.
Primarily flat. 14 miles of trails, some wheelchair-accessible, particularly a paved bike path that encircles the lake. Pull-off parking areas enable birding from cars.
277 species. In winter, Snow Geese, many ducks, and both Great and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls. All three scoters have been seen. White-crowned, White-throated, Fox, Tree, Swamp, and Savannah Sparrows in the fields, Long-eared and screech-owls often in evergreen trees. All eastern warblers in spring and fall. Breeders: Acadian, Willow, and Great-crested Flycatchers, five swallow species, Eastern Bluebird, Carolina and Black-capped Chickadees, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Scarlet Tanager, and occasionally Blue Grosbeak. Mississippi Kite, Swainson’s Hawk, Hudsonian Godwit, Red Phalarope, and other rarities.
When to go
Spring and fall migration seasons are best, but winter is good too.
Restrooms, bird-sightings book, hot water for tea or coffee, displays, and gift shop (open 9-5, Tuesday-Sunday) in visitors center. Two bird blinds, a raised platform, and a boardwalk. Bird walks on Saturday mornings, nature walks on Sunday afternoons.
County park. Admission and parking free. Trails open dawn to dusk. Access is by car.
Dress for the weather, especially in winter. Bug spray and/or tick protection is a must in summer. Bring a scope.