Press Release: 2003 Bake Oven Knob Area Feeder Watch Needs Volunteers

24 January 2003

The Wildlife Information Center will conduct its sixth annual Bake Oven Knob Area Feeder Watch on the weekend of February 14-16, 2002.  Thirty-seven volunteers participated in the fifth annual survey last February and sighted over 1500 birds of 38 different species.

The Feeder Watch is one of the long-term research projects of the Wildlife Center, a wildlife conservation organization based in Lehigh Gap.  Since birds are excellent indicators of environmental quality, a long-term study like the Feeder Watch may provide valuable data about environmental quality in the study area.  It is important to have a large number of volunteers to gather enough data for the survey to be more accurate.  All 2002 participants will automatically be sent a packet for the 2003 survey, but additional feeder watchers are always welcome.

The objective of the Feeder Watch is to sample the numbers and species of birds visiting back-yard feeders on a particular winter day at as many feeders as possible in the Bake Oven Knob area.  The results will be published by the Wildlife Center and distributed to local news media.

The Feeder Watch survey is conducted by volunteers who live within approximately a 10 mile radius of Bake Oven Knob.  Anyone in that geographic area with one or more bird feeders of any type in their yard, and who can identify the individual species of birds that visit the feeders, is invited to participate in the 2003 Feeder Watch.  Volunteers are asked to spend a few hours throughout the day on February 14, 15, or 16 observing their feeders and recording any visitors. 

Last year, the Dark-eyed Junco was the most widespread and abundant species in the survey. The species was seen at 34 of the 37 feeders watch sites, with 337 individuals counted. The 2002 count produced the most species ever, but lower than average numbers of birds, most likely because of the mild weather.

Wildlife Center director Dan Kunkle noted that “The Bake Oven Knob Area Feeder Watch is an opportunity for back-yard bird watchers to make a contribution to a scientific study.” 

Volunteers will receive a Feeder Watch data sheet and instructions. To volunteer, call the Wildlife Center at 610-760-8889 or send an email to [email protected] with your name, address, and phone number and note that you are volunteering for the Feeder Watch program.

Press Release: 2003 Bake Oven Knob Area Winter Bird Survey

18 January 2003

A team of three birders from the Wildlife Information Center set out at 8:00 a.m  on January 18 with the mercury at 6 degrees and clear skies to conduct the 6th annual Bake Oven Knob Winter Bird Survey. The survey is one of the Wildlife Center’s long term research projects which monitors the health of the environment in our region, using birds as indicators of that health. It also monitors long term trends in winter bird populations in the area. The survey area is roughly a rectangle around Bake Oven Knob from Route 248 to 309.

The survey started slowly with the frigid temperatures possibly keeping the birds near food sources and sheltered, sunny areas. But things picked up as the temperature inched up and the final tally of individual birds ended up at 765 birds, the second highest ever in the six years of surveys. However, the species total, 29, was the lowest since 1998.

The research team of Jeff Hopkins, Bob Hoopes, and Dan Kunkle, found three fewer species than last year’s highest ever 32 species, and found exactly 100 fewer birds than last year’s record total. Still, the total was well above the average of the previous five years. The counters found the largest numbers of birds concentrated around feeders and farms.

A highlight of the survey was a new species, never before recorded in this survey — the Black Duck, with two of them spotted by Hoopes on Lizard Creek in East Penn Township. Other highlights included the highest ever totals for Red-tailed Hawks, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Blue jays, Tufted Titmouse, and American Tree Sparrows.

One farm field in Heidelberg Township that contained corn stubble was a hot spot with Flickers, Downy Woodpeckers, Tree Sparrows, and Juncos fe

eding in the field. With the concerns about the long-term effects of West Nile Virus on crows, jays, and raptors, it was good news to see so many Red-tailed Hawks and Blue Jays. Crows were also recorded in good numbers.

Following are the 2003 Survey results:

Canada Goose                                55White-breasted Nuthatch             3
Mallard                                           20Carolina Wren                               4
Black Duck                                       2Northern Mockingbird                 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk                      1Eastern Bluebird                         19
Red-tailed Hawk                           10Golden-crowned Kinglet             1
Gull species                                      2European Starling                     102
Rock Dove                                      61Northern Cardinal                       21
Mourning Dove                               6American Tree Sparrow             41
Northern Flicker                              4Song Sparrow                                 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker             10White-throated Sparrow              5
Downy Woodpecker                     10Dark-eyed Junco                          63
Blue Jay                                           39House Finch                                 32
American Crow                              86American Goldfinch                   11
Black-capped Chickadee              35House Sparrow                            74
Tufted Titmouse                            40 

Press Release: DCNR Awards $250,000 Grant to Wildlife Center for Lehigh Gap Project

23 December 2002
The Wildlife Information Center, Inc. received word from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on Saturday, December 21, that it will be receiving a grant in the amount of $250,000 from the Department’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program. The money will be used for land acquisition as part of the Center’s Lehigh Gap Project.

In a letter dated December 20, 2002, DCNR Secretary John Oliver informed the Center of the grant on behalf of Governor Mark Schweiker. Mr. Oliver stated that “One of this administration’s highest priorities is building community conservation partnerships with local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to protect critical natural areas and open space.”

The Wildlife Center’s Executive Director Dan Kunkle was quick to praise the many partners who helped make the Lehigh Gap Project such a strong candidate for funding from DCNR. State Representatives Keith McCall and Julie Harhart and State Senator James Rhoades all enthusiastically embraced the project and offered their support. East Penn and Washington Townships both gave strong endorsements to the project, as did the Carbon County Commissioners and the Lehigh County Executive office. Bill Mineo, Trail Manager for the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor was a key player in developing the project. In addition, The Nature Conservancy PA, the Wildlands Conservancy, PA Audubon, the Kittatinny Coalition, and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary all endorsed the project, which will protect a significant portion of the Kittatinny Ridge, or Blue Mountain.

Kunkle thanked all these partners, plus the staff at DCNR for their confidence in the Wildlife Center and their vision in seeing that this is an extremely beneficial project for the local area and the entire region. The 750+ acres of land that is being acquired for the project lies at the junction of two national trails on the Kittatinny, stretching from Lehigh Gap to the Turnpike Tunnel in Lehigh and Carbon Counties. The D&L Trail borders the land at the base of the mountain next to the Lehigh River, and the Appalachian Trail follows the crest of the mountain. The Wildlife Center’s land will connect these two trails for more than two miles, and the Center’s new office and education building, the Osprey House, is in Lehigh Gap where the two trails intersect.

The Wildlife Center plans restoration work in 2003 on nearly two miles of railroad bed on the property that will become the backbone of its future trail system. They hope to open at least one trail for the public in the coming year. The Center plans to develop an extensive trail system and expand its education program in the future, and believes the new nature preserve will become an important resource for local people, as well as an ecotourism draw that will help boost the local economy. 

The grant agreement is being processed by DCNR, and will detail the grant procedures. The grant must be matched by an equal amount raised by the Wildlife Center. Kunkle said the Center already received notification of its first corporate grant from PPL — $20,000 that will be used as matching funds in the acquisition. The Century Fund and the Holt Family Foundation have also provided small grants that will count toward the match, along with funds that the Center has raised for its Land Fund over the past ten years. He expects other businesses and foundations will be more interested in helping with the project now that the “seal of approval” from DCNR has been bestowed on the project.

Additional Information:  DCNR Press Release

Press Release: Lehigh Gap Restoration Project News: 

8 December 2002

Wildlife Center Inks Deal for Final Land Parcel

The Wildlife Center has announced two major events in its Lehigh Gap Restoration Project. The Center signed an agreement of sale on the final piece of land for its wildlife refuge on the Kittatinny Ridge (Blue Mountain) at Lehigh Gap. In addition, Center Board members and other volunteers moved the Center on Saturday (December 7) from its rented office on Main Street in Slatington to its new office in Lehigh Gap.

On December 4, Center Executive Director Dan Kunkle signed a legally binding agreement of sale on the third and final parcel of land on the Kittatinny Ridge (Blue Mountain) at Lehigh Gap. This parcel includes nearly 450 acres of land and is some of the land most in need of restoration. Kunkle said, “This agreement secures the third and final piece of more than 750 acres we have sought to acquire on the mountain at Lehigh Gap This brings to a close the first chapter in what we expect to be a continuing saga.”

With this agreement, the Center now has tentative ownership of all the land from the Turnpike tunnel to Lehigh Gap on the north side of the Kittatinny and in Lehigh Gap. It includes forested slopes, wetlands and ponds, riparian (riverside) habitat, degraded lands, talus slopes, and the popular feature named Devil’s Pulpit. The Center also owns the wood-sided house along the river in Lehigh Gap. The house, dubbed the Osprey House by Center officials, will house the library and offices, and serve as the education center for the organization. Center officials hope to be ready to open some trails to the public in 2003.

WIC Moves into New Office

Wildlife Center volunteers moved the contents of the Center’s office, library, and education center into the Osprey House on Saturday. The new Center office will be up and running on Monday, December 9. To visit the Center, please call for an appointment first. In addition, please call for directions (610-760-8889), or access them at  Please follow these directions – you must access the Center office from Paint Mill Road, not directly from Route 873.

The Wildlife Center is a member-supported, nonprofit, wildlife conservation organization based at Lehigh Gap, PA. Its mission is to protect wildlife and habitat through education, conservation, and research for the benefit of the earth and all its inhabitants. To learn more, contact the Center or visit their website at 

Press Release:
Second Annual Autumn Hawk Fest at Bake Oven Knob

16 September 2002

On Sunday, Oct. 6, the Wildlife Information Center is sponsoring its second annual  Hawk Fest at Bake Oven Knob to celebrate Hawk Watching Week in Pennsylvania. The program will run from 1:00-4:00.  Live birds of prey will be exhibited by the Carbon County Environmental Education Center from 1:30-2:30.  Wildlife Information Center members will exhibit reptiles, amphibians and birds of prey as well .  Hawk talks discussing hawk identification and migration will be given at 2:00 and 3:00 at the South Lookout on top of the mountain.  From this location it should be possible to see a variety of hawks flying along the Kittatinny Ridge as they migrate.  The Wildlife Information Center will be displaying its plan for acquiring land, setting up a wildlife center, and restoring  the mountainside at Lehigh Gap.

The Hawk Fest is free to the public.  Children and adults are welcome.  Bake Oven Knob is located in East Penn township (Carbon County) and Heidelberg Township (Lehigh County) on State Game Land 217.  For directions check the Wildlife Information Center web site: and click on Bake Oven Knob then directions, or call 610-760-8889.  The Wildlife Information Center is a nonprofit, member supported, wildlife conservation organization with it office in Slatington, PA.

Press Release:
News Conference Scheduled by Wildlife Information Center to Announce Major Land Acquisition

 5 September 2002

The Wildlife Center will hold a press conference at its office (624 Main Street, Slatington) on Thursday, September 12, 2002 at 10:00 a.m. to announce a major land acquisition on the Kittatinny Ridge (Blue Mountain) in Lehigh and Carbon Counties. Details of the acquisition and plans for the future of the land will be distributed to members of the media at that time. After the presentation by Center officials, there will be a question and answer session and time for interviews. A photo/video safari will be held immediately following the press conference to give members of the media an opportunity to photograph the site.

Representatives Julie Harhart and Keith McCall have been invited to attend, as well as Senator James Rhoades. They have all endorsed the goals of this project.

Call for directions to the Center. Any news outlet that cannot attend can contact the Center and we will mail or fax information, and can provide digital images for your use.

The Wildlife Center is a member-supported, nonprofit, wildlife conservation organization based in Slatington, PA. Its mission is to protect wildlife and habitat through education, conservation, and research for the benefit of the earth and all its inhabitants. For more information, contact the Center or Dan Kunkle at his home.

Press Release:
Bake Oven Knob Hawk Count Begins 42nd Season

16 August 2002

An Osprey sailed by the South Lookout at Bake Oven Knob on Thursday morning and became the first raptor of the season for the Autumn Hawk Count. This marks the 42nd year of hawk migration research at the prominent lookout on the Kittatinny Ridge in northern Lehigh/southern Carbon Counties. The count is sponsored by the Wildlife Information Center, and staffed by Center volunteers and a graduate student intern.

The Osprey, a large fish-eating hawk that plunges into bodies of water feet-first to capture fish, was followed by a second Osprey. These hawks are sometimes seen carrying fish as they pass the lookouts. At 11:30 EST, an adult Bald Eagle (another fish eater) became the first of these magnificent raptors to pass Bake Oven Knob in 2002. Last year, a record-breaking 175 Bald Eagles were tallied at the Knob.

The first hawk counts were made at Bake Oven Knob in 1957 after Hawk Mountain curator, Maurice Broun, asked Don Heintzelman to visit the site. Annual counts were begun by Heintzelman in 1961, and the Wildlife Center began sponsorship of the count in 1986. Over one-half million raptors have been tallied in the 41 years of the count, including over 13,000 Osprey and 1368 Bald Eagles.

Wildlife Center volunteers will staff the lookout until November 30 and will make short public presentations on weekends. Members of the public are encouraged to visit Bake Oven Knob. Be sure to find a volunteer with a Wildlife Center hat and don’t hesitate to ask questions. A new brochure will be available for public use this year that shows a panoramic photo of the Lehigh Valley as seen from the lookout. The Lebovitz Fund of Allentown provided the Center with a grant to produce the brochure.

Late August and early September are good times to see Bald Eagles and Osprey. Mid-September is Broad-wing Hawk season. Early October brings the best variety and the peak of the Sharp-shinned Hawk migration. Late October brings Golden Eagles and large numbers of Red-tailed Hawks.

Results of the daily count at Bake Oven Knob are available to the public on the internet at For more information on the count or the Wildlife Center, or directions to Bake Oven Knob, log on to or call the Center at 610-760-8889.