Morgan Run is a state owned environmental area that is open to a number of uses, including fishing, hiking and horse riding. Our interest is the birding and it is excellent for that too. Perhaps what strikes the eye first is the variety of habitats.
Morgan Run is first and foremost a riparian habitat. However, if one enters from the Ben Rose Lane access, this would not be evident. The first thing you see from the parking lot is a wide expanse of old farm fields surrounded by mature forests. There is only one way to proceed from here, so take the winding old farm road right down through the middle of it.
Walking along this old field, the first things you will notice are the bird boxes. While bluebird populations seem to be in some decline right now, there has been a healthy population using these boxes for several years. Tree swallows also take a few of them and, of course, house wrens take the rest.
Next, during breeding season, you will let your ears do your survey for you as the song of grasshopper sparrows join the bluebirds and wrens. Off in the distance, there will be towhees along the edge and from the woods you will hear a variety of
thrush and vireo as well as warblers. If you arrive here at dusk in April, another distinct song will be evident. This is one of the more reliable areas in Carroll County for woodcock and you should hear more than one peenting and doing aerial flights. Where do they peent? Watch your step. I have often found them using the road you are walking on.
Eventually you come to a cut through a hedgerow into yet another old-field area. The first thing you will notice is that the field is in a more advanced stage of succession. It hasn’t been mowed recently and small trees and shrubs are starting to dominate. The next thing you will notice is that the birdsongs around you have changed accordingly. Prairie and blue-winged warblers abound and can be seen if you are patient with them. Brown thrashers are also about and some of the nicest prizes are the yellow abound and can be seen if you are patient with them. Brown thrashers are also about and some of the nicest prizes are the yellow-breasted chats. I think their numbers are increasing here.
Eventually you will head down into some taller brush and trees past the remains of an old farm that has been abandoned for at least thirty years. Check the old metal barn for phoebes. There is always one around somewhere. When you get to the old corncrib, move to your right and check down the bank. In May, this has always been a good place to look for migrants. You can look right into the tops of the trees at eye level for them. Black-throated blues and greens, as well as chestnut-sided warblers seem to occur every year.
You will proceed down the hill toward the stream and the ruins of an old bridge that was removed at least ten years ago. You are now at Morgan Run proper. The predominance of sycamores should tell you that you have reached the riparian ecosystem. From this point the trail can take you either upstream or down. In areas where the trail approaches the stream, you may see fishermen working the water, usually with fly rods. This is managed for artificial lures only and all fish must be returned.
The bird life here is remarkable. Belted kingfishers will be working the stream with the fly rodders and can be heard chattering about. Redstarts are common and can be heard competing with the red-eyed vireos. Listen carefully to the vireos. Did you hear a hoarse “three-eight”? The yellow-throated vireo also seems to like the sycamores. Wood thrush and veery both occur here. Also, stay alert for somebody telling you to “hurry, hurry, hurry”. Kentuckies aren’t plentiful, but they are still here. If you get a hooded warbler, make note of it. I haven’t had one here for several years. The deer tend to take out too much of the understory. Also check out the pond after you cross a small feeder stream downstream to the right. Wood ducks have surprised me more than once and orchard orioles seem to like this spot too.
Other delights include the wild turkeys released here during the nineteen-eighties and still thriving. I found a great horned owl nest upstream from the old bridge a couple years ago and red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks always nest somewhere here.
In addition to the impressive breeding bird list, there are good numbers of wintering birds and plenty of migrants. I saw my first Wilson’s Warbler here.
If you arrive early, be sure to wear waterproof footwear. Even the road is very grassy and this year the trails never did get mowed. You will be following trails kept open mainly by horse traffic. There is also access from Klees Mill Road and a small fishermen parking lot there. You will be following their trail along the stream from there.
Enjoy. This area is fine at any time of the year and often provides some surprises. Stay alert and good birding.