Wildlife Watching at Gifford Pinchot State Park
The diverse habitats of Gifford Pinchot State Park support a variety of wildlife through all seasons.
The basis for the many habitats is diabase rock that underlies most of the park and was created when molten rock intruded the sandstone and melted it into a new kind of rock. Many of the diabase rocks have unique cracks that formed as the rocks slowly cooled.
Winter is the best time to see the plentiful boulders and rock outcroppings because the trees have no leaves and the undergrowth is gone.
For detailed information about the geology of diabase boulders, DCNR's Bureau of Topographic and Geologic Survey created:
Trail of Geology 10 - Gifford Pinchot State Park (PDF)
Winter is also a good time to see woodpeckers and evidence of their presence. Gifford Pinchot has at least seven species of woodpeckers.
Spring and fall is the time of bird migrations. Gifford Pinchot State Park is an area of forest surrounded by many farm fields and is a rest stop for many migrating forest birds. Warblers, vireos, and thrushes stop to rest and eat before flying on to their breeding or winter homes.
Pinchot Lake and its shoreline wetlands are a beacon that lures many species of waterfowl. Mergansers, snow geese, mallards, loons, and many other ducks can be seen swimming, diving, and dabbling for vegetation and small fish.
Spring is the time for wildflowers. Fields and forests get a carpet of bluebells, spring beauties and many other short-lived flowers. Before the redbud's leaves grow, the tree bursts into pink to lavender flowers. In Pinchot Lake, male largemouth bass make nests and aggressively defend their territory and fry (baby fish).
Summer is the time of lush green vegetation and growing young animals. In fields, watch for spotted fawns and for frantic bluebirds searching for food to feed their hungry chicks. Butterflies reach their peak numbers and can be seen floating from flower to flower in the fields and wetlands, while dragonflies and damselflies can be seen along the lake shoreline.
In the fall, the deciduous trees lose their chlorophyll and their leaves reveal beautiful reds, oranges, and yellows. While the other trees lose their leaves, the eastern red cedar keeps its green needles throughout the year. Look for this oval-shaped tree growing in old fields.
Many of the old farm fields are “reverting” to forest and red cedar is usually the first tree to grow in the fields and will improve the soil for other trees.