Bird Survey conducted at Bake Oven Knob
The Wildlife Information Center, a small group of volunteers working out of a storefront in Slatington, conducted its first annual Bake Oven Knob Bird Survey in 1997. Over the years, the information center expanded its numbers and moved several miles north to what is currently the 750 acre Lehigh Gap Nature Center (LGNC). The nature center is managed and maintained by volunteer efforts.
A light overnight 1-to-2 inch snowfall and subfreezing temperatures welcomed a group of 14 Lehigh Gap Nature Center volunteers that participated in the 17th annual Bake Oven Knob Area Bird Survey in January.
Three groups of the nature center's volunteers set out in vehicles from the visitor center 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 18 to complete the approximate 40 mile round trip survey.
Two groups traveled the same basic route. The third one traveled in the opposite direction on the somewhat rectangular route around Bake Oven Knob. The groups surveyed the south and north sides of the Blue Mountain, while a fourth hiked along the nature center's trails recording bird sightings.
"It's a research project, but it's also a fun way to spend a winter morning," LGNC Executive Director Dan Kunkle explained.
"The idea is to get a snapshot each year, so we can monitor the bird populations and in turn know what's happening in our environment."
The bird species observed or not observed in a specific area become ecological indicators of what is going on in a specific region
One group began its survey in Walnutport between the Lehigh River and the Lehigh Canal. The canal usually holds a concentration of ducks in an ice-free section of water just below Lock 24. The group left Walnutport heading west through Slatington, Emerald and Best Station, traveling along Church Road, Mountain Road and north over the mountain on Route 309.
Once they crossed the mountain they headed east from Snyder's on Route 895, in and out of several side roads, through Andreas along Lizard Creek Road to West Bowmanstown and finally north to Parryville along the Pohopoco Creek.
The four groups met at 12:15 p.m. at Mama's Pizza in Slatington where they shared lunch and compiled their totals.
The four teams identified 55 different bird species and just over 2,400 individual birds during the approximate four-and-one-half hour survey.
The highest number of species sighted by any single group was used as that high total for each species.
A high of 265 Canada geese and 120 snow geese were observed. Other waterfowl included a mute swan, a wood duck, 20 American black ducks, 179 mallards, three redheaded ducks, a ring-necked duck, 11 buffleheads, 10 hooded mergansers and 11 common mergansers.
Other high species counts included 97 wild turkeys, a turkey vulture, three black vultures, a sharp-shinned hawk, a Cooper's hawk, a northern goshawk, a bald eagle, four red-tailed hawks, four American kestrels, a merlin, a peregrine falcon, 60 ring-billed gulls, three herring gulls, 51 American crows, a fish crow, six common ravens, 18 blue jays, 346 rock pigeons and 122 mourning doves. The woodpecker totals included eight red-bellied, 10 downy and four northern flickers.
The songbirds included a eastern phoebe, 124 horned larks, 15 black-capped chickadees, 18 tufted titmouse, seven white-breasted nuthatches, six Carolina wrens, a golden-crowned kinglet, 10 eastern bluebirds, an American robin, three northern mockingbirds, 507 European starlings, a snow bunting, an eastern towhee, 30 American tree sparrows, three field sparrows, 18 song sparrows, 31 white-throated sparrows, 40 house sparrows, 161 dark-eyed juncos, 20 northern cardinals, 38 house finches and five American goldfinches.