Another Walk In The Rain, This Time At Lake Ontelaunee In Berks County
There was more rain in the forecast here in Northeastern Pennsylvania last Sunday. I got drenched on my hike on Saturday the Susquehanna at Wetlands. On Sunday I thought I’d try and avoid the rain by driving south to Lake Ontelaunee in Berks County. I checked the local radar and it looked like the rain was ending there soon. I also wanted to check the woodlands along the lake for wild edible mushrooms which I like to find and eat. I remember seeing old puff ball mushrooms when I visited in the Spring and hoped to find some on this visit.
It was muggy and overcast when I arrived and parked at the lot near Knidts Corner Road on the south west side of Lake Ontelaunee . I have hiked here a few times the past few years and you can learn more about the history of the lake in my older posts in my archives. On my earlier hikes I always saw some ducks, eagles, ospreys and other water fowl and also hoped to see some of these birds on this hike.
I was totally disappointed and didn’t meet either of my objectives, no mushrooms and no water fowl. The woods were soaked from the recent heavy rains. I found the ground was covered with a thick carpet of vegetation that I learned was the invasive and destructive Japanese stiltgrass. It was everywhere and crowded out native grasses and plants. I immediately realized there would be no mushrooms that I was familiar with that could grow in this thick stuff.
Well, I now thought, that since the woodlands near the entrance were mainly old black walnut, maybe this obnoxious weed only grew and spread under these trees. So I trudged through this thick, wet grass and down to the lake . My sneakers were soaked. Instead of clearing the cloud cover thickened.
I did hear some bird in the tree tops but they were hard to see and photograph under the dim, overcast sky. I did see a few of the seemingly more gregarious catbirds. They don’t seem to mind human company and go about their chattering when we approach.
I also saw this wren, I believe it is a house wren singing near the lake.
I was surprised, and disappointed, in not seeing any ducks on the lake or along the shore. I real thought I’d see some of this years ducklings. But, not a one.
I slogged my way through the wet Japanese stiltgrass growing everywhere. However there were still a few wildflowers growing along the trails including some swamp milkweed,
wood sage or American germander,
these pretty blue forget-me-nots and
these flowers I have never seen common buttonbush. It seems they are native to Pennsylvania and grow around lakes and near swamps.
I also saw, and tasted, for the first time some wineberries. I never saw these berries before and they were growing everywhere along the trial near the lake. These are not native but came from the Far East. At least they are pretty and edible but still I’d rather out native fruits and berries thriving in out woodlands.
They tasted like a very tart raspberry.
I walked under a stand of Norway spruce and fir trees and hoped the pine falling pine needles would have discouraged the growth of the stiltgrass, they didn’t and it was growing everywhere.
In the few areas it wasn’t I did see some more wildflowers, including. some oxeye daisies,
Continuing my hike along the shores of Lake Ontelaunee, I came upon a family of northern rough-winged swallows.
I only know this because a birding friend identified them for me. I have never seen these birds before either.
I wasn’t seeing a lot of wildlife on my hike, and the light was poor for photography, but I was enjoying me exploration of the shores of Lake . That was, until it started to rain. A rain storm moved in and I had to walk for about a half hour in a torrential downpour. I am glad I brought along plastic bags to cover my camera and phone but I was drenched .
The rain subsided, and I continued on my hike and I saw this pretty goldfinch feeding on a thistle.
I walked to the far end of the peninsula that protruded into the lake. Here I had hoped to find some mushrooms growing under a grove of oak trees I saw in the Spring. No, no mushrooms, just more invasive Japanese stiltgrass. It was everywhere.
I walked past this large old cherry tree. It is one of the largest i had ever seen. I wish I would have been here when the fruit were ripe. I am sure there would have been dozens of birds enjoying the fruit.
I walked to the shores and looked across Lake Ontelaunee . It looked like more rain was on the way. And it was. So I started my return hike just as it started raining again. I was soaked again. I walked back in the rain and it ended as i neared a grove of white pine trees. This was my one last hope to find some bolete mushrooms. they usually grow under these pine trees. Not a chance, once again the ground was covered with the invasive stiltgrass.
When the rain stopped again I roamed the woods near the parking lot hoping to see some wildlife or mushrooms. I did see a few birds, mainly catbirds, robins,
and this Carolina wren singing in a tree.
A few cardinals also were in tree tops above the trail.
But I didn’t see one mushrooms on my five mile hike. It wasn’t my favorite hike of the Summer, that’s for sure, but I did see some birds and found a couple new plants and flowers I hadn’t seen before. And it was nice walking in the woodlands around Lake Ontelaunee even in the rain. Here is a link to some more photos from hike. Lake Ontelaunee July 11 2021.
A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods. Rachel Carson
Sadly, I’ve seen Japanese stiltgrass in most state parks. We even have some on our property!
I had no idea wineberry wasn’t just wild raspberries! We have one bush in our wooded area on our property. I pick them and give them to our chickens. They love them, along with all the other wild berries on our property. Thanks for the education:)
Thanks for your comment Angela and sorry for the late response my comments weren’t working. I hate the stiltgrass I found some on my property this year and it spread so fast,