A Hummingbird, A Monarch Butterfly And Lot More Critters At The Susquehanna Wetlands.
The heat was returned to Northeastern Pennsylvania this weekend. After a few chilly mornings temperatures were back in the mid 60’s Saturday morning. As usual, I decided to hike in the Susquehanna Wetlands and River Lands in Salem Township, Luzerne County. I have come to know, and love, almost every inch of the trails in this private nature preserve.
It was mostly cloudy when I left my home in Hazle Township, but, when I arrived at the wetlands a 1/2 hour later, the skies were mostly clear. Only wispy cirrus clouds were in the mostly clear skies.
As usual, I walked down to the Susquehanna River. We had no rain this past week and the waters of the river were even lower then last week. I have never seen the Susquehanna River this low. Even more rocks were visible, protruding from the low, slow flowing waters. I am sure I could walk across the river in certain areas.
There were no water fowl on the river this week so I walked back up the embankment that is usually under water and into the trails in the wetlands. The towering trees in the wetlands provide shade and so the woodlands here are still mostly green despite the dry conditions.
It is not the drought that changed the colors of this bracken fern. It was the longer nights and the shorter days. Many of the song birds have left the wetlands. All of the red-winged blackbirds are gone. Autumn is fast approaching.
The wood ducks remain and I must have seen two dozen of them on my five hike. This small flock was swimming on the duck weed covered waters of one of the canals until they saw me and quickly flew away.
As I walked through the wetlands,
I saw a few chipmunks, squirrels and this cottontail rabbit.
There were a few late Summer wildflower blooming in the wetlands, including broadleaf arrowhead,
woodbine or devil darning needles,
many species of goldenrod. This is Canada goldenrod. All of these late Summer flowers are signs Fall is near.
I walked to the water fowl pond and didn’t see any water fowl. I usually see a lot of song birds here too but it was quiet Saturday morning. I was surprised to see this house wren perched on this branch. I usually see a Carolina wren singing here.
There was one song sparrow nearby too. There are usually many of this common song birds in this area. I think the birds move to different areas of the wetlands as plants bloom and go to seed throughout the Spring and Summer months.
As I walked back to the main trail I saw another large snapping turtle peering out of the murky duck weed covered waters.
It looked like a prehistoric creature.
Walking through the wetlands I saw this juvenile male northern cardinal, with a caterpillar he caught for breakfast,
a family of mallard ducks perched on a log,
and this juvenile muskrat eating a healthy breakfast of nutritious duck weed.
And there were a lot of spider webs along the trails too. Late Summer is when insects are most active. The many small wasps, gnats and flies become the victims of the spiders. And, as the sun warmed the morning air the cicadas became active and filled the wetlands with their serenade. At night the katydids and crickets continue the late summer music of the insect kingdom.
I took my usual walk back down to the Susquehanna River. Once again I saw a belted kingfisher perched on the branch that hung over the river. It quickly flew off.
I left the river, as as I neared the wetlands, I came to the fields and and area where I usual see a lot of birds activity. I did again. I first heard and saw this shy Carolina wren singing in a tree along the trail.
Nearby I saw a few woodpeckers, including this male downy woodpecker
and this juvenile red bellied woodpecker,
As I have observed in previous blog posts, it seems that a lot of different species of birds like to feed together. I also saw this red-eyed vireo,
I left the wetlands, and, before hiking into the river lands I walked down to the Susquehanna River again. There is a large wetland along this road and I usually see some birds here but not a one of Saturday. I did see this lone double-crested cormorant perched on a log in the river. It is the first one I have seen in the wetlands or river lands since the Spring.
I walked into the river lands and did not see any of the water fowl on the lake or any of the raptors, the bald eagles, hawks or ospreys, flying overhead.
But I was excited to see this beautiful insect, a monarch butterfly! It was feeding on some purple loosestrife blooming along Lake Took-A-While. These ones common butterflies are now endangered. I just saw my first monarch caterpillar on my hike in Community Park on Friday. There used to be hundreds of these beautiful butterflies fluttering in our gardens and woodlands. This was only the third one I saw all Summer. It is so sad.
I tried to get a photo with it’s wings extended but it wouldn’t co-operate. Then, when I decided to continue my hike, it left the purple loosestrife flowers, flew around my head, almost landing on my shoulder, and then flew to a milkweed plant and extended it’s wings. It was like it wanted me to take a photos of it’s beautiful wingspan, and to implore me to spread the message to stop destroying our environment, especially the milkweed plants it needs to survive. It will be such a great loss if this beautiful creature that has fluttered through our skies for millions of years goes extinct because of our greed.
I continued my hike along the lake,
and, on the canal, this green heron.
There were a lot more wildflower blooming on the trail in the river lands, including coneflowers,
delicate and pretty jewel weed or touch-me-nots
silky dogwood berries were also seen along the trail, more signs Summer was coming to an end. .
This week I decided to walk a couple extra miles and continued my hike on the Susquehanna Warrior Trail.
I followed this trail for about a mile, turning back at this pond and grove.
On the way back I was excited again, when I saw this ruby throated hummingbird perched on a tree branch. This birds rarely sit still and I was happy to get this t photograph of this tiny bird before it began it’s long journey back to Central America where it spends the Winter. . It is remarkable this little bird can fly that far.
this great blue heron near Lake Took-A- While.
There wasn’t much more bird activity as the temperatures rose into the 80’s . Some of the insects, including the a few cicada killer wasps,
and the dragonflies were darting along the shores of the lake. .
In fact, these two dragonflies were a little too active, as they went about ensuring the next generation of dragonflies.
It was a pleasant walk back along the lake,
and into the wetlands. The wildlife activity was quiet in the mid-day heat. Only a few turtles enjoyed the warm temperatures and sunshine. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the critters I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands critters August 20 2022.
The sound of the cicadas was almost piercing as I finished my hike under the shade of the old oak and sycamore trees in the wetlands.
I love the sun as it filters through the canopy of leaves, illuminating some of them, like this sycamore leaf. I love my walks in the wetlands and river lands especially in the Spring and Summer. And I am glad I can share some of the beauty I find here on my blog Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike in the wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands August 20 2002.
“I love summertime more than anything else in the world. That is the only thing that gets me through the winter, knowing that summer is going to be there.” —Jack McBrayer