In the April, 2013 issue of The Whooosletter, I wrote about the birding hot spot along Brown Road referred to as the Union Mills Wetlands. Just a short distance away are two other very productive locations. Bill Ellis and I bird these at least three times a year since they are on our CCBC count route.
From the wetlands, continue down Brown Road to Halter Road. Turn left, cross the bridge, and then pull of on the right side of the road. Walk quietly back to the bridge and look up stream. At any time of the year, a belted kingfisher might be seen perched on one of the overhanging branches. In the water, a number of duck species are possible, including mallard, hooded merganser, and wood duck.
In Spring, the trees and shrubs along the stream come alive with birds. In addition to the usual suspects, these might include yellow warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, Gray Catbird, Philadelphia Vireo, and Warbling Vireo. We have found the latter species perched in a tree along the stream in a number of years. This is also a good place to hear or see red-headed woodpeckers.
Once, while Bill and I were standing on the bridge, some local boys in a pickup stopped to check us out. When they heard we were birders, they proceeded to tell us about a bald eagle that frequented the area. They also gave us permission to drive across their property looking for it. From what they said, their property was the large field to the left of the stream. The ground there was pretty soggy, so we decided to pass on that invitation. Who knows whether there was a bald eagle or not? Who knows whether it was even their property! On our next visit to the area, however, I decided to have a look across the large field. I scanned the large trees in the back and sure enough, there was a bald eagle.
Getting back in your vehicle, continue just a short distance to Study (That’s pronounced “Stoody”.) Road. Turn right. You will pass a house on your left and then enter a wooded area. When you come out of the woods, there will be a large open field on your left. Study Pond will appear shortly on your right.
Study Pond has a long history as a hotspot. Birders have reported unusual species for the county there for many years. At first blush, it doesn’t seem like much at all – just another farm pond. The species list here, however, is quite impressive. Naturally, ducks predominate. Those seen include Mallard, Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Gadwall, Black Duck, Redhead, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged teal, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, and Coot.
Shorebirds sometimes feed along the edges of the pond where the water is low. Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, and Snipe have all been recorded. Other aquatic species included Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose, Cackling Goose, Green Heron, and Great Egret.
In summer, the large fields opposite the pond are excellent for sparrows. Grasshopper Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, and Savannah Sparrow may be heard and perhaps seen. The area is usually pretty quiet otherwise. Few vehicles drive down the narrow, unpaved road. However, it is important to not block access.
Most birds can be easily seen from inside the car but gently stepping out is possible without flushing the birds. Do not approach the pond any closer and stay on the road. The area on both sides is private property.
Study Pond and Halter Road Bridge lie in the northern part of the county. To reach them, drive north on Route 97 towards Gettysburg. Turn left on Brown Road and then continue to Halter Road as per the directions given above.