In Color Birding founder Jason Hall’s insider’s guide to bird watching in Valley Forge National Park
by Jason Hall, guest contributor
Late August and September are great months for bird watching in Valley Forge Park. Here are some tips on making the most of your birding excursion. Want more information before you go? Check out Valley Forge Park Alliance’s checklist of bird species in the area. And, if you love birding, grab your binoculars and join In COlor Birding’s summer bird outing in Valley Forge Park on Sept. 3 from 7 am – 10 am.
Diverse Environments: Valley Forge park offers a diverse set of surroundings to explore. If you are interested in grassland species like Eastern meadowlark and American kestrel, check the cut fields on either side of Northern Outer Line Drive. If you want to look for Eastern towhees singing their signature “Drink Your Tea!” song, explore the pine forest to the west of the lower visitors lot. If you love wildflowers being dotted by American goldfinch, indigo buntings, and ruby-throated hummingbirds, head over to the Knox Quarters parking lot and take the Knox Trail across the bridge to the wildflower field next to Valley Creek.
Be Welcoming: Valley Forge attracts folks who like to participate in all kinds of amazing activities. That means that it also attracts folks from different backgrounds from all over the country. Just as this space is built to house and support a variety of bird species, it is also built to support a variety of humans. Be sure to always be kind, welcoming, and open so we may ensure this space continues to create positive memories for every visitor. (Photo by Jason Hall.)
Share your Joy: As you traverse the various spots in the park, you may be approached by other visitors who are curious about what you are doing. They may wonder what you are looking at through your binoculars as you stand at Waterman Monument (maybe a northers harrier over the Grand Parade!) or what you seem to be taking a picture of through your camera (possibly an Eastern screech owl along the Baptist Trace Road Trail). Whatever it is, be sure to stop and share your knowledge. First impressions are important and it is always a treat to open others to the joy of birding.
Living History: As you explore the park, keep history in context. A number of historically amazing people inhabited this space during the winter of 1777-78. It is not unlikely that people like Hannah Till and Margaret Thomas heard Eastern whip-poor wills and great horned owls at dusk and dawn. It’s also likely that George Washington himself gazed upon a soaring red-tailed hawk or bald eagle as he oversaw troops training on the Grand Parade.
A Trail Less Traveled: Many folks do not realize that there are hidden gems within the park. For example, the forests along West Inner Line Drive have recently included a sighting of a cerulean warbler, a secretive sky blue/white/black warbler that is quite a rare sighting in the park. As you drive up the hill from Route 23, notice the large trees and your ability to look into the canopy with ease as you get to the top of the hills. These trees are home to wood warblers as they stop over on their migration back to the Caribbean, Latin America and South America. Be sure to listen for our largest woodpecker, the pileated woodpecker, as it’s loud “cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk-cuk” echoes through the forest.
Jason Hall is the founder of In Color Birding, a Philadelphia-based non-profit launched in 2021 with the goal of making birding a positive experience for BIPOC people and their allies. For more about Valley Forget National Park, please visit Valley Forge Park Alliance.
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