Monday, April 20, 2015

Major Changes To Winslow Hill Viewing Areas Part 2

In the last post I discussed the changes coming to the Dewy Road area.  Today we will deal a bit more with that before dealing with some information about the new PGC viewing area located on the Maynard Woodring Farm and now often referred to  as "The Woodring"

First off- it seems I created some confusion with  the photo below, which has the placard for designated routes for horse and bicycle riders super-imposed over a scene of elk grazing in the Saddle in what will now be a restricted zone from approximately the beginning of June until the end of September.  Since a silhouette of a person on foot is not included in this sign, some have taken this to indicate that hiking, photography,etc. will still be allowed as usual, but that is not the case. 

The key point is that the Saddle will be a restricted area and as such will likely  be plainly marked with the same type of  signs that are found at the Gilbert Farm Viewing Area and are seen attached to the fence in the photo below. I would expect these signs to be placed along both sides of each designated trail in the Saddle.  The downside to this is that it further detracts from the natural look of the area. It is possible they will add a silhouette of a person walking  to the placard shown above, but it may simply go with separate signage stating that all must remain in the designated routes where they pass through a restricted area.  If an area is not designated and posted as a restricted area, then it may be accessed on foot, while horse and bicycle riders must remain on designated routes anywhere on State Game Lands, which is what the sign above is primarily intended to address.

Restricted Area Signs-Porcupine Run/Winslow Hill Viewing Area-Gilbert Farm
I also have a bit of information on the new PGC Viewing Area at the Woodring Farm along Winslow Hill Road.   At present it seems that the meadow directly across Winslow Hill Road from the Woodring house is to be a restricted area.

New Restricted Area
Woodring House

It is not clear if the meadow directly to the right of the house and shown in the photo below, will be a restricted area or not, but I would expect it to be one.

This Meadow Will Likely Be A Restricted Area
A viewing platform is to be built at a scenic overlook on the property, with access by a hiking trail. I have been told that at this point the entire property will not be restricted to the extent the Saddle will be, but that can change at any time.

Woodring Overlook

It is hoped that this viewing area will draw some of the pressure from the Winslow Hill-Porcupine Run Viewing Areas and it should help to a certain extent, but with steadily increasing elk related tourism it seems likely that there will also be more restrictions as time passes.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Major Changes Coming To Winslow Hill Viewing Areas

Major changes are coming to the Porcupine Run-Winslow Hill Viewing Areas, with construction of a new parking lot and the relocation of a portion of Dewey Road scheduled to begin on April 27, 2015. The project has been scaled back somewhat from what was originally planned and restrooms will not be built at this time.  The primary purpose of this is to improve traffic safety  as the current entrance to Dewey Road is located on a sharp curve with limited visibility to the south. Also the parking lot along Winslow Hill Road has unregulated access to the road over a significant distance, which increases the chance of collisions..

Winslow Hill Road- Dewey Road Entrance To Left
Parking Lot Along Winslow Hill Road
The new parking lot is to be just in front of the old one.  The upper portion of Dewey Rd will intersect with Winslow Hill Rd somewhere near or past the end of the old parking lot shown in the photo above. To access the new parking lot one will travel a short distance on Dewey Rd to the entrance.  Provisions will be made to gate the parking lot and close it to the public when desired. There are currently no plans to close Dewey Rd at any time as it is a public Township Road, which provides access to multiple landowners as well as the large area of State Game Lands 311 at the end of Dewey Rd.

As important, or perhaps more important to many is the decision to add the area known as "The Saddle" to The Restricted Area beginning June 1, 2015.  This effectively means that from that date The Saddle is to be posted with restricted area signs the same as the areas along Dewey Road and users will be required to follow the designated routes, which will be the same or much the same as the trails that were established for horse and bicycle riders.  This is effective until the last Saturday in September or the first day of archery  deer season.  I am not completely clear on this point, but it  should be posted plainly on the restricted area signs.

All Users Will Be Required To Stay On Designated Routes During Restricted Period
 Officials point to increased visitation to the area and pressure on the resource as reason for the changes.
In 1998 there was an estimated  72,000 visitors to  Pennsylvania Elk Country, while in 2014 it was reported that over 400, 000 people passed through Elk Country Visitor Center. In light of increased traffic and congestion on Winslow Hill and the drastic increase of use of the Dewey Road--Saddle Area in particular, The Pennsylvania Game Commission began placing more emphasis on controlling secondary users such as horse and bicycle riders last year, when designated routes for horse and bicycle riders  were plainly marked  and an extensive public relations campaign was implemented to make the public aware of the regulations.

Actually State Game Lands regulations have required for many years that horses and bicycles be used only on designated routes unless one is actively engaged in legal hunting or trapping.  It is also illegal to ride  a non-motorized vehicle, conveyance or animal from the last Saturday in September until the third Saturday in January, and prior to one hour after close of lawful hunting hours for spring turkey season from the second Saturday in April through the last Saturday in May, inclusive, except on Sundays or while lawfully engaged in hunting, trapping or fishing.

Most are aware of the recent attempt on the part of certain members of the PGC board of commissioners to ban all secondary users from the SGLs during the period of time that horses and bicycles are banned, but I have been told that at this point it doesn't seem likely  this will happen and that  nature enthusiasts will be permitted to walk anywhere in The Saddle from the end of the restricted period until the next June, but one would do well to remember that anything can change at any time.

Test Hill-Former State Forest Land  runs along edge of meadow to right
At this point it is not completely clear just where the designated routes will be, but generally speaking they will be much the same if not the exact same as they were  last year.  An important point to remember is there is no longer any State Forest Land in The Saddle (many will recall the white boundary markers that are plainly visible along the edge of the woods on Test Hill once the foliage is gone and not as noticeable along the entire lower edge of The Saddle). This land was acquired from DCNR by the PGC as part of a lands trade and is now part of SGL 311 and as such may be restricted to what extent the PGC may decide.

I hope to discuss this a bit more as well as deal with more changes that are coming in another post  in the near future.
Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Middle Creek-Dramatic Sunrise and Snow Geese

Middle Creek Sunrise: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 24-105mm@105- ISO 200-1/250 -f 8.0
After the snow on Friday, it was partly cloudy on Saturday morning with patchy fog which made for dramatic sunrise photos. Only  a few geese were visible from the main viewing area where Hopeland road passes by the side of the lake.

Foggy Morning Sunrise: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 24-105mm@58mm- ISO 200-1/800 -f 8.0
It turned out there were still enough snow geese present  for excellent photography, but most of them were roosting in the Willow Point area and were not visible from Hopeland Road.  Large numbers of them flew over the tour road at the north end of the lake as they left the lake later in the morning, but it was foggy and there was not much chance for good photos.

That changed in the afternoon when a large number of geese congregated in the fields around the intersection of Chapel Road and the Tour Road.

Snow Geese Along Tour Road: Canon 5D MK III-Canon 24-105mm@105- ISO 200-1/250 -f 8.0
This was an excellent opportunity to work on  capturing the birds in flight and during landing.

Blue-phase Snow Goose: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 600mm f 4 IS L -ISO 640-1/2000 sec.-f  10
 Snow Goose: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 600mm f 4 IS L -ISO 640-1/2000 sec.-f  10

Snow Goose Landing: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 600mm f 4 IS L -ISO 200-1/1600 sec.-f 8

Snow Goose Landing: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 600mm f 4 IS L -ISO 200-1/1600 sec.-f 8
It seems that the Canon 7D MK II works quite well in situations such as this and overall I was very pleased with how the camera performed.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Middle Creek Snow Day

Thursday of last week was a beautiful late winter day, but snow was in the forecast for Friday March 20th, the first day of spring. I decided that if it was snowing heavily in the morning I would not got to Middle Creek, but only an occasional flake was in the air at 5:30 Friday morning so I hit the road for the 45 minute drive from southern York County.  There was a light coating of snow when I arrived and light snowfall continued most of the day.

Tour Road: Canon 70D-Canon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 EF STM@18mm-ISO 200-1/500sec. f 10.0
 It seemed that most of the snow geese and tundra swans on the lake were at Willow Point, which is some distance from the road and I did not walk there so on the whole today was not a good day for filming or photographing these species, but enough wildlife was visible to still make for an interesting day.

In mid-morning I sighted a flock of turkeys between Hopeland Road and the PGC maintenance  buildings. It was a mixed flock of hens and gobblers and several of the mature birds were strutting.  I failed to notice that the 7D MK II was set on ISO 1000 and this and the flat quality of the light resulted in poor detail in the photos from that sighting.

Wild Turkeys: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm IS II L f4.5-5.6 @300mm-ISO 1000-1/2000sec. f 5.0
A short time later I found two pheasants feeding in corn stubble along the tour road.  They were a bit shy and began moving away as soon as I stopped , but I captured a few frames before they moved too deep in the corn to photography them.

Ring-necked Pheasants: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm IS II L  f4.5-5.6 @400mm-ISO -400-1/500sec.f5.0
Two Canada Geese were standing in the meadow by the roadside, a bit further along the tour road.

Canada Geese: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm IS II L  f4.5-5.6 @400mm-ISO -400-1/500sec.f5.0
 Later in the morning I found a small flock of snow geese along Chapel Road.  In fact they were in the field directly in front of the Chapel.  I stopped in the parking lot and sat there with the window lowered and the camera and lens resting on the window-sill.  At one point another vehicle drove past and the flock lifted into the air and then dropped back down to feed.

Snow Geese In Flight: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm IS II L  f4.5-5.6  @176mm-ISO -400-1/1250 sec. f 6.3
Snow Geese : Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm IS II L  f4.5-5.6 @400mm-ISO -400-1/500 sec.f 8.0
Snow Geese Feeding: Canon 7D MK II-Canon 100-400mm IS II L  f4.5-5.6 @400mm-ISO -400-1/1000 sec.f  5.6
Almost any day afield is a good day and while this one was far from exceptional it was still a day well spent. The weather forecast for the remainder of the trip was promising, but the main concern was if substantial numbers of snow geese would still be there. On March 16th the Pennsylvania Game Commission had reported 110,000 snow geese and by the day before the snow numbers were down to 65,000. That was still enough geese for exceptional filming and photography, but the situation can change quickly and it was possible that the best activity was over.  The events of the next few day s would provide the answer.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.