Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Meadow Grounds Lake: Good-bye Old Friend

When I was but a young lad there was talk of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission constructing a lake near McConnellsburg in a small mountain valley known as the Meadow Grounds.  I vaguely remember visiting there with my parents during the construction however I don't recall much detail. 

Soon after my parents bought me my first boat, a little 12' aluminum Jon boat, we hauled the boat to the lake.  As I rowed my mother about someone snapped a photo that has remained in our family collection ever since.  This photo was probably taken in the around 1968-69 time frame.
Not long after getting my drivers license I began hauling this boat to the lake to fish and have continued to utilize the lake up until now.  It is hard to believe that it has been over forty years since I first boated out upon its smooth waters.
With winter beginning to wane I have been anticipating the waterfowl migration and the Meadow Grounds, only 15 miles from my home has become my go-to spot to boat for waterfowl photography.

Not only have I learned much about fishing this lake, but I have learned a lot about the various species of waterfowl that stop in on their northward journey.  Flocks of the tame little Bonaparte's Gulls can be counted on each spring as well as the occasional ring-billed.

Most Buffleheads are very boat shy but on occasion I have encountered a flock that is very much at ease with the boat.  This little male was part of a flock that allowed me to approach quite closely.  Buffleheads arrive soon after ice-out and remain until the perch spawn concludes.

Bald Eagles, while not sighted every day at the lake can be sighted frequently.  Throughout the spring and fall I normally see one or more eagles on most days.

Ospreys are frequent visitors to the lake and can be sighted nearly any day throughout the spring, summer, and fall.  From my observations the prolific bluegills make up the majority of the fish that they catch from the lake.

Horned Grebe's also visit the lake and can be seen diving for fish and perch spawn.  As with the Buffleheads they leave soon after the perch spawn wraps up.

This past autumn I spotted my first ever Coot at the Meadow Grounds while it fed among the reed.

Another regular spring visitor is the handsome little Ruddy Duck, easily recognizable by its stiff upright tail.

Herons, like the Green Heron pictured here and Great Blue Herons stalk the shallows.

And Common Loons arrive in early April feeding heavily before continuing on by mid May and again returning in late October for another short stay.

Red-breasted Merganser typically arrive around mid-April and are the last of the migratory waterfowl to move on, usually staying until the end of May or early June.

Pied-billed Grebes can be spotted both spring a fall with the fall birds typically arriving in early September and staying on well into November.  This little grebe allowed me to follow it along from only a few feet away as it dove in the shallows finally to emerge with a tiny bluegill.

Along with the species previously mentioned I have photographed Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Northern Shovelers, Red-head's, Ring-necked Ducks, Widgeon, Lesser Scuap, the resident Wood Ducks, Mallards, Canada Geese, Tundra Swans and a River Otter here.

As for the fish, Bluegill, Perch, both Small-mouth and Large-mouth bass, Northern Pike, Musky and Walleye filled the water.  Many local folks as well as some traveling from considerable distances have fished this beautiful mountain lake.

While at the lake I have met persons from as far west at Michigan, as far south as Florida, and as far east as Germany and seldom was I there that there wasn't others enjoying it as well.  But sadly it will all come to an end soon.

The dam recently was classified by Pennsylvania DEP as a high-hazard dam and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's has announced that starting next week they will drain the lake.  The draw-down will take 2 to 3 months to complete depending upon weather conditions with a fish recovery and transfer planned.  With no funding in place for dam repairs or replacement and the PFBC in a tight financial situation, the lake bed will sit empty until if /when funds become available.

Sadly we will loose the only lake in the county and the wildlife that the lake supports.


PaWingers said...

Great article Coy! I gotta say I also find myself reflecting on certain things and it's spooky when I think it was maybe 40 years ago or more. We're not getting any younger my friend. I also have to comment on the picture of the Green Heron. I'm not real good about abiding to the rule of thirds but when I look at your picture of the Green Heron it reinforces the fact that the rule has some merit. Great pics.

Elaine said...

Even though it is a man-made lake it is a beautiful spot, and a wonderful place for wildlife. What a shame to lose such a well-used recreation spot. Your collection of photos is gorgeous, especially the Green Heron shot and the Pied-billed Grebe.

Montanagirl said...

Love your photos. Such a nice collection of birds. It's too bad about losing the lake. How sad.

Lindsjö taxar said...

Great post with beautiful pictures and your text, very interesting to read....you write good.

Anonymous said...

Gorgeous photos!

Unknown said...

Sad to hear this. In these times we need to have our Government doing everything they can to preserve nature. Certainly the gas windfall money should be of help-but legislature argues about it and lets things like this happen

Arija said...

What a terrible money based tragedy for the wildlife. So sad to see a wonderful place like that just disappear from the landscape, cutting such a large part of your accustomed joy of nature out of your life and many other's as well.