Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center is closed as part of Penn State’s efforts to maintain public health and safety in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. For questions about cancellations, program changes, or virtual delivery due to the coronavirus pandemic, please contact us at ShaversCreek@psu.edu. For the latest updates and information, visit: virusinfo.psu.edu.

Explore nature every day

Long-tailed duck
Image of Long-tailed Duck by Wolfgang Wander, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

I spent some time outside yesterday.

If you ask any of my friends or family about my connection to nature they would say, “Megan can’t go a day without exploring nature and telling us about it without any prompting!” However, at a time when social distancing and self-quarantining is essential, spending time outside for me is like breathing. Each observation is a breath of energy that gives me good health. Yesterday, one of those moments was my discovery of Long-Tailed Ducks on Lake Perez.

I heard them before I saw them. They are one of the noisier ducks, making a near constant “ow-owooolee” call. What a beautiful sound! I did my best to carefully approach the group of about thirty ducks, but was not as stealthy as I thought. They loudly took to flight. The males white belly, black breast, and long black tails flashed through the sky. Just when I thought I scared them off for good they landed on the water quite close to me. I spent some time observing them and the unique noises they created. I wondered what they were saying and if the other waterfowl on the lake found their noises as amusing as I did.

The Long-Tailed Duck is one of many migrating bird species that uses stop over places like Lake Perez. Bodies of water provide safety to rest and refuel on the journey of many thousands of miles that migrating bird species often take to over-winter and breed.

Although Shaver’s Creek has unfortunately had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trails of Stone Valley Recreation Area are still open, and I highly encourage you to explore the natural world for migrating bird species returning home or just stopping by. This may be in your backyard, the trees outside your office, or on Lake Perez! I also suggest you visit ebird.org/explore to search for areas near you known for migrating birds. You can also search for a “Hot Spot” location, like “Lake Perez,” at ebird.org/hotspots to find updates on what we find on the lake.

Observing the beautifully noisy Long-Tailed Ducks yesterday gave me inspiration and energy. I am a strong believer that everyone should explore nature every day; so please spend some time outside during these unprecedented times. I’m sure you will find something that gives you life like the Long-Tailed Ducks did for me.

Learn more about the Long-Tailed Duck at www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Long-tailed_Duck/overview.