A Pleasant Summer Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands And A Rare Sighting Of Some Virginia Rails.

A Pleasant Summer Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands And A Rare Sighting Of Some Virginia Rails.

Susquehanna Wetlands (4 of 50)
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The skies cleared  Saturday morning after some nighttime thunderstorms here In Northeastern Pennsylvania. As I often do,  I decided to drive to the Susquehanna Wetlands  about 20 miles from my home in Luzerne County and hike in the wetlands and river lands. I love looking for wildlife here and never know what I will see. I arrived early, around 7 a.m. and stopped at the Water Fowl Pond before entering  the wetlands.

The past few weeks I saw nothing on the pond. This week, however, I was rewarded with the sight of a family of wood ducks swimming on the pond. There are at least five wood ducks families  nesting in the wetlands. I know where they are, but they almost always fly, or swim,  away before I can get  a photo. It was a  good way to start my  hike. 

I drove to the wetlands parking lot, and, as is my usual routine, first hiked down to the Susquehanna River. The early morning sun and clouds made for a pretty scene.

Once again I saw about  a dozen eastern cottontail rabbits in the grassy picnic area next to the parking lot. I hadn’t seen any for moths so I’m not sure what caused this increase in the rabbit population. I am sure the bald eagles and other raptors living in the wetlands will soon bring it under control.  Poor rabbits, but this is nature.

I walked into the wetlands and under the towering trees oak, red maple and sycamore trees  and the  lush green canopy of leaves they create.

The many flowers of Spring are gone now,  there were almost none blooming in the shade of the trees, but this is the season of the grasses and sedges. And  I saw a lot  including  Gray’s sedge,

swallow sedge,

and straw colored  sedge along the trail.  All of these are native to our area  and provide food and shelter to many species of wildlife.

The only flower I saw in bloom were some pretty, invasive  yellow loosestrife flowers.

There wasn’t a lot of insect activity along the trail, however, I did see this colorful  male American redstart singing in the tree tops.

I followed the Beaver Trail  along the ponds and canals

to the  Water Fowl Pond.

It was quiet here  too, I only saw a few cedar waxwings near the shore of the pond.

I left the Water Fowl Pond and hiked toward the river lands area of this private nature preserve.

Along the way I saw a second wood  duck family in a canal along the trail. The young ducklings quickly swam into the reeds but mommy duck swam around letting me get some photos.

I also saw some of the usual resident birds, an American robin,

a song sparrow,

a white-breasted nuthatch and

an eastern wood pee wee.

I decided to take the trail back down to the river, and , as I walked past a marsh,

I heard a strange bird call. My Merlin app told me it was a Virginia rail, a new bird for me. I have since learned they are not common here in our area.  As I walked toward the calls the  they moved in the marsh, I waited and listened and then this beautiful birds ran across the trail. A second bird was now calling in the distance.

I think they had a nest and this one I think it was the female, tried to draw me away form the nesting area, It was a beautiful experience.

I continued on my hike into the wetlands as the strong July sun warmed the temperatures into the 80’s.   It was still cool under the shade of the tall trees.

Here, I saw this yellow throated vireo feeding on a large moth, , and

a northern flicker.

I left the wetlands and walked down along the  access road to a facility associated with the nearby power plant.

There is a marsh on the right side of the road,

where I often see birds and where I have seen wood ducks in previous years. I didn’t see any yet this year, until Saturday.  There was a family swimming on a pond and   did not fly off.  Once again I was able to get some more photos. They are beautiful birds.

Here, along the road, and   away from the shade of the trees in the wetlands there were many Summer wildflowers blooming  including, common mullein,

Queen Anne’s lace or wild  carrot and

Chinese St John’s,  wort all invasive plants.

Only these daisy fleabane ,

and these goldenrod flowers were  native.  The appearance of the goldenrod flowers is the first sign that Summer is reaching it’s peak, and that shorter and cooler days are coming. Although this common plant is considered a weed by many it is a valuable food source for many insects, which,  provide much need food for the migrating birds leaving our area in the late Summer.

I  followed the access road back and entered the river lands and hiked along scenic Lake Took-A- While.

Here I saw a few other folks fishing along the lake or walking on the trail, I also saw a few furry residents of the river lands including  eastern chipmunks,

and gray squirrels.

I continued my hike along the lake, noticing some more wildflowers and some butterflies they attracted, including bull thistles   with, I believe, is  a Aphrodite fritillary  butterfly, and

catnip mint  with a spicebush swallowtail butterfly. Both these flowers are invasive.

Native common milkweed ,

and  white meadowsweet flowers also bloomed along the trail.

I was surprised, again, to find a family of wood ducks on the canal along the trail here in the river lands. I have not seen them here in this more open and busy  location before. It was a good day for wood ducks.

And, near the other end of the lake I found the large flock of Canada geese.

The goslings have grown and are now as large as their parents. It’s hard to tell them apart, but when you approach you know who the parents are by their loud hissing as they rush to defend their offspring.

I also saw a downy woodpecker,

and Carolina wren and a

a red-eyed vireo  singing loudly along the trail.

I usual turn back at the end of the lake, however, even though it was hot and humid I decided to walk out another mile in the Great Warrior Trail. I hoped to see the indigo buntings I had seen here in the past, but there was little bird activity on the trail.

I began my hike back to the wetlands  under the strong July sun. It was near noon and little bird activity along the lake or in the wetlands. I did hear the first whirling calls of the annual  cicadas, another sign Summer was nearing it’s peak.

I was surprised again when, in the wetlands, I heard the cries of the Virginia rail. I approached the same area I saw the rails before, and saw this one run across the trail, making me think their was a nest in the area.

This is very uncommon in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the Virginia rail and other birds I saw on my hike in the wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands birds July 6 2024.

After seeing the Virginia rail I finished my 7 mile  hike. Once again a hike in the wetlands and river lands had rewarded me, not only with the  usual beautiful flora and fauna of Summer, but a new and uncommon species of wildlife. I love my hikes in the wetlands and I love Summer. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from  my hike in the wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands  July 6 2024.

The summertime is the heaven of the year. ~James Henry Potts 

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