Yesterday (November 8) we left Hawk Mountain and meandered southeast through Pennsylvania. It was a lovely sunny day and we were looking for good birding spots. We had not had much luck at Hawk Mountain although the Bed & Breakfast (B&B) where we stayed had a nice feeder that attracted the usual backyard birds.....chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and cardinals. But we love the more common yardbirds too and delighted in seeing them flit back and forth gathering seeds from the feeder. Last night, we had picked up a sandwich at Wannamaker's General Store and brought it back to the B&B for dinner. Our room was relatively small and there wasn't much on television (all six channels) and, of course, we were in a cellphone and internet dead zone, so we went down to the "common room" to eat.
We meet Donna again at breakfast - again a hearty one and got directions to Lake Ontelaunee from Jim, the innkeeper. Donna was headed to Lancaster to see if she could see an Amish wedding. She had heard that there were lots of weddings in November since the Amish waited until after harvest for such social events. Jim warned that there might not be much action at the Lake since he had heard the state was working on the road over the dam. And he was right. We hit our first traffic jam of the trip right there at Lake Ontelaunee on the dam. The lake was nice and there was a good flock of Canada geese near the dam but not many other birds. I am not surprised since the noise from the roadwork might have discouraged any migrating birds from stopping there. Jerry did spot a small stubby tailed duck near the geese that might have been a ruddy duck or a grebe but the little guy disappeared into the flock of geese before we could get a good scope on him. So we were soon back on our way south looking for the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
Why is it that sanctuaries and refuges cater so much to hunters? I do understand the part that hunters play in helping to thin the deer herds although a few good wolves could do that too. And I understand that hunters help support the refuges and sanctuaries by buying deer and duck stamps but it seems that every fall when the migrating birds return to the area and it is the best time for birding, the refuges become the domain for hunters and hunters only. The trails are roped off and the roads blocked to facilitate hunters and keep birders and walkers and hikers out. Yes, I know it is best that walkers and hikers stay off the trails when there are people with guns, some of whom are willing to shoot at anything that moves. But wouldn't it be nice if there were limited days during hunting season that were set aside for walkers and hikers? I wouldn't mind having a bit longer hunting season if some days were set aside strictly for birders...say, hunters could hunt on Friday and Saturday but Sundays were set aside strictly for birders and other nature lovers. I am being generous in giving the hunters two days out of three on the weekend considering they get the whole week otherwise for hunting during the season. And it is my experience that most men who hunt do find reasons to take off work so they can hunt during the week during the season. Do not think to remind me that hunting season is only for a couple of weeks because you would be wrong. Deer season with a rifle may only go for a few weeks but then there is bow season and black powder season and there is duck season and raccoon season and beaver season and dove season and quail season and rabbit season and squirrel season. I checked the hunting season calendar at North Carolina Wildlife and there is some kind of hunting season going on all the way from October through March. Now that is a long time for the sanctuary roads to be blocked off and the walking trails to be closed just to keep the walkers and birders from being shot by a hunter. So why do the refuges and parks cater so much to hunters? Hmm. That is probably a blog for another day.