Recent pictures of the Short-eared owls from Hopewell Area Recreation Complex
(photos courtesy Michelle Wittig - Feb. 2021)
#10 Hopewell Area Recreation Complex
Property Manager: Hopewell Township (717) 993-2027
GPS address: 4295 Plank Road, Stewartstown, PA 17363
Hours: Open Dawn until Dusk
Parking: There are two parking areas on Plank Road across the road from each other. One has easy access to trails through the meadow the other is near the ball fields and portable toilet.
Restrooms: A portable toilet is available near the ball field and playground parking.
Safety Reminders: Please stay on trails and obey all posted signage.
Best Birding: All seasons, dawn until dusk. Early and late in the day is typically best.
Site Description: This area managed by Hopewell Township is the site of the old York County Sanitary Landfill. In 2006 York County Solid Waste Authority set aside 200 acres for recreational purposes here. The resulting fields, meadow, and wildlife habitat are the best location (open for public use) for viewing grassland birds in York County.
One can begin birding the property by parking near the observation platform that overlooks the meadow habitat. Late fall through early spring raptor viewing from this spot is often quite good. Any time of year a walk through the meadow is good for different grassland specialties. A one mile loop through the meadow to the opposite viewing platform gives you a chance to hear or kick up some of the wintering or summering meadowlarks and sparrows. Summer time specialties at the far platform have included Dickcissel (almost annually but still rare) and Blue Grosbeak.
Short-eared Owl is recorded here annually each winter. The owl is certainly not a common find here, but when meadow conditions are right the species is often found here over the winter months along with the more common Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Bald Eagle. The raptors will often hunt from the venting pipes that stick up out of the meadow.
Try to be aware if other birders are staked out to see the Short-eared Owl. This occurs usually the last 30 minutes before dusk as that is when the owl is most active. Certainly dog walkers won’t mind hiking through, but they can also help by moving birds as they walk through. As a birder your best chances of seeing the owl are likely if you view from the platform near the parking area. Allow the bird to hunt the area while you scan the meadow from the high ground.
Uncommon birds in migration can often be found in the transitional areas near the edges or by the patch of woods across the road near the playing fields. These birds (spring/fall) include Lincoln’s Sparrow, Nashville Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Snipe, Cuckoo species, and in more open areas American Pipit and in grassy areas Bobolink. Red-headed Woodpecker is typically found near the edges. Hopewell can be surprisingly good for woodpecker species in these small stands along the edge. Migrant flyovers have included Tundra Swan and Snow Goose as well as other waterfowl species. This is a great location. Mowing of the field at certain times of the year can damage the habitat at critical times, so local birders have worked with management to keep the habitat healthy for birds. Property managers recognize that this is a great location for birding, and for York County Birders this an asset. This location is not to be missed. It is certainly a top 5 location in York County for birding.