Bats, Bees, Horned Grebes, Frog Eggs And Other Cool Stuff At Our Local Community Park.
I have always enjoyed walking and exploring the outdoors. I remember my first hikes in the strip mined woodlands with my dad searching for wild mushrooms. I may have been three years old. My dad developed, and continued to encourage my curiosity in, and love for nature. He would also take me and my siblings on hikes in the woods near our home looking for wild mushrooms, chestnuts, wildflowers and other cool stuff. And, occasionally, to the local parks including the newly opened Community Park in Hazle Township. Those exciting childhood romps in Community Park and it’s centerpiece, Lake Irena, seem like yesterday. I loved the amazing natural world I found there.
Well, that was many decades ago. Dad is gone but the curiosity and love for nature, adventure and the outdoors has remained with me. . It is one of many gifts he gave to me. Every hike I take is an adventure to me. I become childlike as I set out to discover, once again, the beauty of nature. I try to find new places to explore. But I also like to hike in areas I know to see what I can find.
And so, many years later, I still hike in that same local Community Park. I have been trying to take a daily afternoon hike there now that the warmer weather has arrived. I love observing nature nature awakening after it’s long Winter sleep. And, even here, after many hikes over the decades, nature reveals new secrets to me . Such was the case this past week.
It was mostly sunny with seasonable temperatures in the mid 50’s on Monday afternoon. There were a lot of folks enjoying the warmer weather and fishing on the shores of Lake Irena. And so were the many painted turtles that live in the lake.
They were enjoying the warm April sunshine sitting on logs and stumps in the lake.
There was a small flock of Canada geese on the lake and it seemed a few were engaged in a heated conversation, probably arguing about politics or religion.
On my Monday hike I saw some of the usual critters, American robins,
a brown creeper creeping up pine trees in search of insects and grubs,
an eastern phoebe entertaining me, the fishermen and other folks with it’s beautiful song,
and a song sparrow hopping on the woodland floor along the trail. These birds were beautiful and I love to see and share photos of them through my blog posts. But I have seen them before. I always hope to see something new on my hikes.
And on Tuesday afternoon I did. It was mostly sunny again and temperatures were now in the mid 60’s when I arrived. I was greeted by this fellow, an eastern gray squirrel as I neared the lake.
I walked around the lake and enjoyed the scenic view of it’s deep blue waters.
I seen dozens of turtles again and the small flock of Canada geese on and around the lake. This goose was caught in an embarrassing position while diving for a snack.
After walking around the lake I followed a trail into the surrounding woodlands where I found some coltsfoot flowers blooming,
and three different types of amphibian eggs,
laid by different species of frogs, toads and
salamanders. I am not sure of who laid what but they are cool. We would gather some of these egg masses and watch them hatch in buckets in our yards. Our moms weren’t happy but it was fun.
While on this trail I saw a couple common, but still beautiful birds, a red-bellied woodpecker,
Leaving the woodlands I approached the lake and saw, what I first thought was a tree swallow. As I got closer I realized it was a bat.
I have not seen a bat flying in the daytime before. I later learned from friends was a brown bat and it is not uncommon to see them flying in the daytime in he Spring.
It was an exciting experience for me as I watched the bat fly over the waters of the lake, using it’s radar to locate flying insects then dive down and capture them.
And this would not be the last new and interesting critter I would see on my hike. After seeing the bat I continued my walk around the lake and saw some water fowl swimming on the other side of the lake. Looking at them through my camera they looked like grebes but not like the pied billed grebe, the only ones I had seen before.
As they swam closer to shore they continually dived beneath the waters of the lake.
I was able to identify them with my Merlin app and learned they were horned grebes. These beautiful birds do not live in our area and were migrating from their winter homes on the southeastern coasts to their breeding grounds in northwestern Canada. It is always a great experience to see some new plant or animal on my hikes and to see the bats and grebes on the same day made for another great outing in the park.. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the birds I saw on my two hikes at the park . Community Park April 11 -14 2022.
I returned to the park on Thursday afternoon. It was even warmer with summerlike temperatures in the mid 70’s, however, it was cloudy with thunderstorms in the forecast.
I walked quickly around the lake as the skies became more threatening. I didn’t see and turtles,
and only this one Canada goose. I am not sure where the rest of the geese were.
Once again I walked into the surrounding woodlands.
Here I found some more signs of Spring. The fuzzy tufts appeared on the pussy willows along the trail. Pussy willow branches are use in the Eastern Orthodox churches in place of Palms on the Sunday before Easter. I would gather some every year for my mom when she was alive.
And visiting the pussy willow tufts was a tri-colored or orange-belted bumblebee.
I don’t think I had seen one before, or just didn’t notice it if i had. it was another new find in the wonderful world of nature that surrounds us.
The skies darkened and I hurried back to finish my three mile hike. I made it back to my Jeep just as the rains began to fall. I enjoyed my hikes in Community Park this week, carrying the tradition my dad thought me, to walk in our woodlands and keep my eyes peeled.
I did and was rewarded with the sightings of the bat, the hooded grebes and the orange-belted bumblebees. a few more of the many yet undiscovered wonders I have yet to see. I will keep looking for them here in my local Community Park, in the woodlands of our beautiful Commonwealth, and God willing all over this beautiful planet we share. Here is a link to a gallery on my website with some more photographs from my hike in Community Park. Community Park April 11-14
We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us. —Albert Einstein