Muncy Heritage Park attracts various birds

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID BROWN
These are two of the four green heron nestlings that fledged from a tree this year in the Muncy Heritage Park.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID BROWN These are two of the four green heron nestlings that fledged from a tree this year in the Muncy Heritage Park.

The Muncy Heritage Park and Nature Trail, just south and west of the Borough of Muncy, is a small, quiet little treasure owned and tended by the Muncy Historical Society. It has become one of my favorite spots to go to do a bit of bird watching.

At 11 acres, it is by no means an expansive birding venue, but the park is packed with a variety of habitats that attract a lot of birds.

A centerpiece of the park is Fisher’s Pond and there is an excellent wooded wetland on private property adjoining the park proper to the north. The park and its walking trails are ringed by trees and brush, along the old canal on that side and along the railroad right-of-way on the opposite side. Various plantings within the park also provide shelter and living space for various bird species.

The historical society developed the park with an eye toward providing public access to the history of that section of the old West Branch Canal and its Lock No. 21. The old canal and its towpath are clearly evident in the park and a reproduction of the fore and aft sections of one of the old canal boats is on display.

Subsequent to the development of the park proper, a section of the nature trail was extended along the canal and towpath through the woods back toward the borough and Pepper Street.

Another addition was a river access trail built to provide access to the West Branch Susquehanna River down by the railroad bridge, which was the site of the infamous crash of the “last raft” in 1938. The river access now is part of the West Branch Water Trail, a canoe and kayak river trail from Cherry Tree in Indiana County to Shikellamy State Park in Sunbury. The little park is fairly brimming with the history of this part of Pennsylvania.

And it’s also brimming with all sorts of birds for most of the year. This time of year, migrating songbirds drop in from time to time on their journey south.

Most of the normal summer resident birds are there, as well as at least four species of woodpecker, and northern flickers and white-breasted nuthatches. Cedar waxwings feast on insect hatches from the river and pond and they occasionally join flocks of American robins and red-winged blackbirds feeding in the treetops on cherries and other fruit.

This season has seen hooded mergansers, wood ducks, green herons, great blue herons and Canada geese on the pond or in the wetland. Song sparrows, northern cardinals, Carolina wrens, common yellowthroats, eastern phoebes, tufted titmice, yellow-rumped warblers and many other species make their living in the trees and brush throughout the park.

Summer low-flow periods bring lots of birds to the river, including bald eagles, green and great blue herons, spectacular all-white great egrets, common mergansers and belted kingfishers. This summer I saw a merlin and a tundra swan from the foot of the access trail.

The Lycoming Audubon Soceity maintains nest boxes for eastern bluebirds and tree swallows in the park proper. With the permission of the adjoining property owner, this past winter we installed nest boxes for wood ducks and hooded mergansers. Cavity nesters such as these species can always use a hand with some extra nesting space.

Muncy Heritage Park is a great place for birds, and folks who enjoy them.

Metzger is vice president of the Lycoming Audubon Society, which is a chapter of the National Audubon Society with responsibility for members in Lycoming and Clinton counties. Information about the society and events can be found at http://lycomingaudubon. blogspot.com.

The public is invited to share local sightings and join discussions at https://www.facebook.com/groups/lycomingAudubon.

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