We held our Haldeman Island Waterfowl Hike on October 13th and it was a great success. 25 of the 29 registrants arrived on time and ready to explore this rarely seen island located at the confluence of the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers. Our group was comprised of birding enthusiasts, curious kayakers, families out enjoying a day in the fresh air and people just interested in learning more about this exclusive island.
The 990 acre (about 1.5 square miles) Haldeman Island was previously quarried by Pennsy Supply and was later sold to the PA State Game Commission in 1990. The quarries on the northern half of the island were filled with water, and small islands were built within the ponds to foster Canada Geese. Unfortunately the Canada Goose program didn’t work out very well but the Bald Eagle program which followed was an enormous success.
We probably saw about 16 different immature bald eagles throughout the morning and once spotted no less than 6 eagles within the view of a single spotting scope. Our hike leader Scott Bills pointed out 4 immature eagles circling overhead and explained how their aerobatic maneuvers and games of tag were a form of play that helped to increase talon dexterity. It was rare to experience a time when eagles were not in view somewhere on the island.
Eagles weren’t the only uncommon birds to be spotted as we toured the fields and ponds of Haldeman Island. We were treated to a rare glimpse of a Peregrine Falcon chasing a small flock of Green Wing Teal ducks about 20 feet overhead. Scot Bills mentioned that the Peregrine Falcon (still an endangered species in Pennsylvania) could have been one of the nesting pair under the Clarks Ferry Bridge that, Duncannon AT Ambassador and DATC Treasurer, Paul Smith reported to the PA Game Commission back in May 2013. Scott was the guy who had the unenviable task of being lowered under the bridge by PennDOT to band the young nesting falcons.
As we walked around the island we spotted plenty of other large birds such as Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons and an occasional Cormorant. Kingfishers, Kestrels and Red-bellied Woodpeckers were also spotted. There were plenty of ducks too but I don’t remember all of their names. Mallards, Green Wing Teals, and Wood Ducks are all that come to mind. I was the first to spot a distant Wood Duck with a scope way out across the water but I’ll admit it had a lot more to do with luck than any actual skill.
And don’t think we just spent the morning wandering around the island waiting to spot birds either. Whenever there was a lull in the birding action, our knowledgeable leader Mr. Bills would take the time to expound upon the local flora, whether they were native or invasive and their importance to our ecosystem. In short, if bugs or animals are eating it; it’s contributing. If nothing is eating it, it might as well be made of plastic or a marble statue because it’s not a link in the food chain. And heaven help you if you have an invasive species such as a butterfly bush! 🙂 Butterfly Bushes feed the butterflies but they don’t feed the butterfly larvae and they push out more beneficial native species. You would be much better off with a local alternative such as Butterfly Milk Weed or New England Aster.
Special thanks to Jim Kohan for letting us use his beautiful pictures.
We hope to see some more new faces the next time we head out to Haldeman Island so be sure to tell your friends about us and visit DuncannonATC.org often for upcoming hikes.