Bear Run Nature Reserve
By Jerry Uhlman
Richmond Audubon Society
South of Pittsburgh, Bear Run Nature Reserve is one of my favorite summer and early fall birding destinations in the Appalachian Mountains. Nestled in the Laurel Highlands, the 4,500-acre preserve has roughly 20 miles of trails that meander alongside several creeks and through hemlock groves, with scenic panoramas overlooking the Youghiogheny River.
The main trailhead is only a stone’s-throw from Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater, a spacious home built over Bear Run in 1936. Of the dozen trails through the preserve, it’s easy to plan both short and longer loops. I usually spend most of my time along Bear Run and Laurel Run trails, especially near the campsites at creek crossings where birding is particularly good.
The hillsides are covered with dense thickets of mountain laurel where I’m apt to spot several species foraging, such as Hooded and Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Parulas, and secretive Yellow-breasted Chats. Veery, Wood, and Hermit Thrushes are fairly common, and, if I’m very lucky, I sometimes spy a Swainson’s Thrush.
Along the creeks, towering rhododendron bushes nearly reach the forest canopy. Not far away, I may find Scarlet Tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the lower branches of deciduous trees.
Bear Run is a special place to visit and is full of surprises.