Wednesday, January 11

Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education Bird Count and Hiking

Last weekend I attended my first Bird Count at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.  We joined a group in progress, in charge of one quadrant of the nature space, we had to keep our eyes peeled for any flickering in the trees or shrubs and our expert birder helped us identify and keep track of what and how many we found. There was a surprising variety of species for the middle of Winter in Philadelphia, but he said this was the southern migration location for many Northern birds.

Birding guide helps our group spot species in the meadow

My sister in her new owl hat
 After walking a small loop of trail we spotted, two kinds or vultures, red tailed hawk, tufted titmouse, carolina chickadee, several sparrows, a variety of woodpeckers, geese, jays, cardinals, dark eyed juncos, morning doves (there were many more but we got there late).
Tallying up all the birds from all the groups

All the groups return to the Center's library to share what they found, competitive birders in the group gloated over the rarer species and higher bird counts, and we were all amazed at the vast variety of bird life to be found.  Birders shared best locations to find certain species and compared the tally to past years counts. 
Bird case with owls
 The event was free and coffee, juice and snacks were provided. Afterward we stopped in the gift shop and looked over the stuffed bird toys for my sister and the tree id books for me.
A great find in the gift shop

The Bird Blind with pictures and viewports for adults and kids

The Schuylkill Center with rainwater cisterns on the right

Solar array in the parking lot
 I returned to the Center later in the week to walk some more of the extensive trails, spending about an hour and a half hiking the Ravine loop and taking pictures of the birds and winter landscape. There is a lot of ground to cover and interesting eco art installations by international artists all around the grounds.
Carolina Chickadee at one of the many feeding stations

Creek waterfall on the Ravine Loop Trail

Vulture above the treeline

The trail can be a bit steep at places

Eco art space: Kids bird blind? Fun design

Beech roots intertwining

Springhouse pond, a good place to spot frogs

The Springhouse: spooky

Bird and Native Plant Shelter

Plants, birds, construction of the shelter

Interactive Exhibits inside the Center

Striped Sparrow munching at one of the bird blind's many feeders
 Returning to the main road on foot (I traveled to the center on the 9 bus from Center City) I took the Grey Fox trail through the woods, startling a pack of deer, and ended up in a stand of pine trees that looked more like I had wandered into an Eastern European forest.
Pine plantation on the Grey Fox Trail, where I saw the deer

Under the canopy of the pines, good place for hide and seek, or a nap

Urban Girls Produce Farm, one of several farms near the entrance

Back to the main road: Hagy's Mill Rd. at Port Royal
 For those who venture here on foot, the short cut through the farm is less dangerous in this area with no sidewalks and steep inclines or dense foliage along the road, with cars whipping around curves without thought to bikes or pedestrians. The 9 bus to Andorra drops you off at Ridge Ave. and Port Royal and you walk about 2 blocks uphill to the path to the farm.  At the farm take a right around farm one, down and up the windy path to farm two, then follow the trails straight ahead to the Center's main entrance or to the left to meet up with Grey Fox loop. Here's the google map

They have events every weekend for families and adult offerings like the upcoming book discussion with Alex Mulcahy from GRID magazine, and they are open every day from 8:30-4:30 pm.

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