Eagle-Watching in Glendale Lake, Prince Gallitzin State Park, Cambria County
A Glendale Lake Snapshot
Facilities: Park Office, restrooms, camping, cabins, organized group tenting, picnic tables/pavilions, public swimming.
Driving Directions: From U.S. Route 219 at Carrolltown, turn onto State Route 4015. At Patton, take U.S. Route 36 East to Glendale Lake Road.
Viewing Directions: Access points and observation lookouts provide a view of the lake. Eagles may be spotted from any of these vantage points.
Property Hours: Day use and over-night accommodations.
Best Eagle Viewing Season: Year-round.
Activities at the site: Hunting, fishing, boating (up to 20 hp), sail-boating, birding, hiking, biking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
Other Wildlife: Osprey, waterfowl, songbirds, white-tailed deer, black bear, beaver.
Where to go, what to look for
The open waters of Glendale Lake at Prince Gallitzin State Park attract migrating bald eagles in late winter as they pass through Pennsylvania on their way north. Wintering eagles dwell here, too. Eagles have not nested in the park, but regularly spend time throughout the seasons. A mature eagle, with its striking white head and tail, stands out in winter against the mid-tone grays and browns of the deciduous forest surrounding the lake. An eagle, even a sub-adult, which lacks the white head and tail plumage, is rather conspicuous when perched on a bare limb. Its size and distinctive upright posture, curved bill, and formidable yellow talons are unmistakable characteristics of this large bird of prey. Bald eagles sometimes favor a particular tree limb overlooking an active fishing hole. An eagle may use the same perch throughout a season.
In spring, summer and fall, mature and immature eagles fish at Glendale Lake. The state's bald eagle population has increased to the point that there are unmated adults that visit various good aquatic habitats in Pennsylvania without nesting. Some southern eagles will visit this area after they have completed nesting and disperse to the north. A bald eagle could be spotted from just about any open point around the lake, including the park office along Marina Road. Park staff and visitors routinely see eagles from the office view of the lake. The Killbuck Launch Area, accessible from Long Road, offers a good vantage point as well. Muskrat Beach, on the wooded peninsula, and the Pickerel Pond Area, on the opposite shore, provide a north and south view of the main lake. Both Mckee's Run and Beaverdam boat access, at the north end of the lake, also provide a broad view of the lake. Beaverdam boat access provides an added view of the more remote Slate Lick branch of Glendale Lake. The Slate Lick section is accessible only by boat or hiking the Old Glendale Road Trail, which runs parallel to the northeast shore.
Prince Gallitzin State Park is a high-use recreation area during summer. However, the 1,635 acre, odd-shaped lake holds numerous out-of-the way inlets where wildlife abounds. State Game Land 108, which includes three separate tracts, borders the park and provides additional recreational opportunities.
Canada geese and mallards are widespread around the lake. Wood ducks, great blue herons and belted kingfishers are common at its wooded edges and shallow coves. During waterfowl migrations, especially in March and April, a variety of water birds stop to rest and feed. Early arrivals include tundra swans, hooded mergansers, American wigeon, American black ducks, northern pintails, green-winged teal, canvasback, and horned and pied-billed grebes. They are followed by bufflehead, ruddy ducks, lesser scaup, blue-winged teal, red-breasted mergansers, double-crested cormorants, American coots and common loons. Some birds make only a brief stop to refuel and rest before continuing their northbound migration; others stop through April.
Ring-billed and Bonaparte's gulls are a common site on the lake in April and early May. Migrating shorebirds, like solitary sandpipers and greater yellowlegs, also stop by the lake edge and wetlands.
Fewer waterfowl stop on their way south in autumn, but it is possible to see common goldeneye, American coots, pied-billed grebes, ruddy ducks, bufflehead, hooded mergansers, lesser scaup, ring-necked ducks and American black ducks during fall migration.
Twelve miles of trails create a circuit of short, fairly easy hiking trails. The trails wind through the forest land surrounding the lake. Most trails on the west side of Glendale Lake are accessible from Point Trailhead near the Crooked Run Campground and also the Beaver Valley Marina area.
Point Trail, a moderately rugged route, follows the lake shore and then climbs through a mix of hardwoods and hemlock trees. Along this trail, it is possible to see or hear common yellowthroats, cedar waxwings, wood thrush, ovenbirds, American redstarts, yellow-rumped warblers, and black-throated green warblers. This trail also is a good place to listen for the elusive, but loud, pileated woodpecker. Many of the same birds also are found along Crooked Run Trail.
Footprint Trail ascends a small hill overlooking the lake. From this vantage point, osprey and eagles may be spotted over the lake.
Deer Trail passes through a section of State Game Land 108. A wildlife food plot along this trail breaks up the forest habitat and adds opportunity to see eastern bluebirds, gray catbirds, tree swallows, northern cardinals, yellow warblers and eastern tow-hees.
A large wooded peninsula splits the main lake and the Slate Lick branch. Peninsula Trail traverses a mature oak forest with very little undergrowth. The eastern wood-pewee, black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, brown creeper, scarlet tanager and red-bellied woodpecker also inhabit this open woodland. In the scrubby area, willow flycatchers announce themselves with their "fitz-bew" song. Eastern kingbirds proudly defend their turf along the field edges and tree rows. In some of the lakeside marshy areas, they are plenty of red-winged blackbirds, some swamp sparrows, and an occasional Virginia rail or Wilson's snipe. The declining rusty blackbird also sometimes stop by in migration.
For additional information, contact:
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Prince Gallitzin State Park, 966 Marina Road, Patton, PA 16668. Telephone: 814-674-1000.
Pennsylvania Game Commission, Southwest Region, 4820 Route 711, Bolivar, PA 15923. Telephone: 724-238-9523.
By Kathy Korber and Doug Gross