The Birds & Blooms of the Indian Creek Gorge

Saturday, May 1, MWA was able to host its yearly Birds and Blooms walk.  To our surprise, around 35 individuals were able to attend the hike!  Like previous years, this walk was led by Lisa Smith and Josh Lawery. Both of these individuals have years of experience in an ecological setting, and both have master’s degrees in their respective fields. During the walk, Josh was quick to identify any bird species by sound and sight, whereas Lisa was extremely knowledgeable about the area’s plant life.  Together, they were able to identify a myriad of species and explain their ideal habitats.

Josh (right) guides participants in an activity to close their eyes and point to the locations they hear birds singing.

Our mile and a half walk started at the Gorge trail head on the Indian Creek Valley Trail.  Silencing the group, Josh was able to begin our event by immediately pinpointing an American Red Start by sound.  He was able to do this by drawing our attention to the unique call it made routinely over the span of a few minutes.  Josh pointed out that most birds in the area repeated their calls and explained that they do this to establish their territory.  As we progressed down the trail, Josh continued to identify birds like the hooded warbler, oven bird, wood thrush, etc. He then talked about how the Gorge is a biodiversity hotspot because it has several different habitats overlapping each other.

Lisa (in the purple long sleeve shirt) introduces participants to background information about the forest type of the Indian Creek Gorge.

Lisa led the second half of the hike.  This year’s hike was scheduled much later in the season than previous years.  This meant we missed Spring’s early blooms, like trillium.  However, there was still a ton for us to see!  Lisa identified several flowering and non-flowering species, like wild geranium, Indian cucumber root, Jack and the pulpit, etc.  She was also extremely knowledgeable on invasive species, like multiflora rose and garlic mustard, and was able to explain the negative impacts invasive species have on our environment.  At the end of our walk, Lisa also touched on ramps, their exponential popularity growth, and how they are often overharvested.  

Both Lisa and Josh were able to identify a multitude of species, as listed in the chart below.  In addition to this, Lisa also was able to recommend a few identification guides that are relevant to our area.  These include: Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, Wildflowers of Pennsylvania by Dr. Haywood and Phyllis Monk, The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, and the app IBird Pro. Overall, the Birds and Blooms walk was a great way to start off the season and we are excited for the rest of our Spring and Summer events!