Bird watching is a pastime you either love or hate.

For some, it's a lifelong passion — with folks continuously searching for their next big sighting. For others, though, it's a bit too passive. It's hours of boredom filled with minutes, or even seconds, of excitement.

Fortunately, there's a "birding" opportunity in our backyard that changes that perspective. It offers an endless show of birds enough to even keep the kids excited.

When it comes to bird watching on the Conejohela Flats, patience is not a necessity. Over the next few months, the unique spot will be a busy rest stop for the birds traveling one of the nation's busiest flyways.

If you're not familiar, the Conejohela Flats is the name for the chain of islands and the nearby shallow waters along the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River's Lake Clarke, also known as Long Level. It is one of the most important stopovers for migrating birds in the state.

Before the Susquehanna's waters were backed up by a handful of dams, the 9,000 or so acres that comprise the area looked much different. It was marshy, with thick forests and even some rapids and waterfalls.

Today, most of the old valley is at the bottom of the popular lake, with boaters zig-zagging from shore to shore. But that does not keep the ibis, cranes, plovers or the sandpipers from making the area their temporary home. The prime habitat draws birds to the flats season after season.


We are getting close to the peak of Mother Nature's annual show. In the next couple of months, the activity will continue to increase, with new species arriving each week.

There are several ways to watch the action. The easiest way is in a canoe or kayak. The closest launch to the activity is on the Lancaster side of the lake, using the ramp on Blue Rock Road.

The islands will be right in front of you when you launch. But for the best action, turn southwest and head toward Avocet Point. There are also plenty of birding options along the shore near the boat ramp.

If you want to stay in York County, the best way to get to the show is by launching a small boat or kayak from the ramps at Long Level. Be cautious if you make the journey by boat, though. The area surrounding the islands is very shallow.

The Conejohela Flats offer a rare treat for the region's birders and nature fans. It's far from your typical bird watching. It's an opportunity to see a seemingly endless show of some of the continent's most diverse birds as they make a difficult journey.

Get on a boat and go see what it's all about.

You won't be disappointed.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at