Birding Octorara Lake

Drew WeberLeave a Comment

Octorara Lake in southern Lancaster County is an excellent spot for birding any time of the year, but the really great birding is the spring and fall migration of shorebirds and passerines, late summer for dispersing egrets and herons as well as the winter for ducks and loons.

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Occasionally, Chester County Water Authority does some work on the dam and lowers the water level which expands the mud flats off of Bluegill Rd.  When this happens, or if it has been exceptionally dry recently, conditions are optimal to see lots of shorebirds.

During spring shorebird migration, the area along Mt. Eden Rd can be productive if the water level is low and the vegetation is still thin. Fall shorebird migration is best observed at Bluegill Rd. At times there can be several hundred birds foraging in the shallow water and along the shore. Often birds will fly in and out from unviewable areas so if no birds are visible when you first arrive, it is worth waiting around.

Bluegill Rd is also probably the best place to check for late summer dispersing herons and egrets. While Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets are the most common, Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets can both be almost expected if you can make several visits. Perhaps the most exciting heron seen here has been a small white egret with dark lores- resembling a Little Egret.

Spring passerine migration is probably best along Mt. Eden Rd and Tick Hill Rd but I have not spent much time at Octorara Lake at this time of the year.

Late fall and winter are the times to check for ducks and geese. I have seen Long-tailed Duck, Cackling Geese and a Ross’ Goose at Octorara. In the surrounding fields there are often huge flocks of blackbirds that can include Brewer’s and Yellow-headed Blackbirds.

The Octorara Lake area is definitely a place to check out year round. There is even a boat launch (for a small fee) and boat rentals along Spruce Grove Rd.