Bees, Butterflies And Birds In The Penrose Swamp Barrens In Carbon County

Bees, Butterflies And Birds In The Penrose Swamp Barrens In Carbon County

Penrose Swamp Barrens (16 of 45)
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I returned to the Penrose Swamp Barrens Preserve  in Carbon County on Saturday. This 2700 acre tract of wilderness is now a part of the Weiser State Forest.  On my hike the previous week I had some issues  regarding the ingress to this recently acquired nature preserve. As usual, I parked at a gate on the Buck Mountain Road  in Lehigh Township.  Beyond  the gate  was a  1/4 access  road that led  to an electric utility line. right of way.  There were no “No Trespassing ” signs. There was  purple paint along the road and  on along one side of utility pole line right of way.  There  no signs. I assumed it was okay to hike on this road since I had seen other cars parked here , and there was a  State Game Commission sign near the gate.   I returned to my Jeep after my five mile hike and  there was a  note on my car telling me I was a  trespassing .  I was surprised.  I own land and obey posted property signs. 

I made a number of inquires with the local State Police, Game Commission and the Land Trust that originally acquired the property. They directed me to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry. A person contacted me and  advised me that the utility right of way might be private and that a long narrow strip of land  a mile north of the gate was the only east side access to the  preserve. He said there is no trail there yet but there are plans to create one in the future. 

So, on Saturday I  found the narrow strip of land and  entered the Penrose Swamp Barrens  by following, what I believe  was once the old Buck Mountain Railroad right of way. This  narrow strip of land is clearly marked on the maps as part of the preserve. Unfortunately, there is not a road  or  even a trail here. I followed an overgrown  path and  had to struggle  through tall grass, stinging nettles and blackberry brambles. 

I made my way through the thick vegetation and  eventually came to a clearer trail along what was clearly the old railroad right of way ,

but it soon was overgrown with knee high invasive Japanese stilt grass.  I am sure it is a good  place to encounter some ticks,  but, luckily, I didn’t  get any on my struggle through the thick grass. 

There were a lot of deer in this clear cut area. I saw over a dozen running through the thick brush but could only photograph these two. 

Thee was not much bird activity, it is getting late in the season and many of the song birds have already strted their migration south. I only saw a few gray catbirds,

and this female indigo bunting. 

It was about  3/4 of a mile hike when I finally came to with  electric utility line  right of way that I had previously used to access the Penrose Preserve. It was not  n easy hike.  I was glad I was on a wider trail which made it easier walking. 

On  the utility right of way I found large areas of  invasive spotted knapweed flowers. These  invasive plants are pretty, and attract bees and butterflies, but they are harmful to the local native plants and flowers. 

I saw dozens of common eastern bumble bees, and 

silver-spotted skipper , 

Horace’s duskywing , 

and Dun skipper butterflies. 

There were also many native spiarea  or steeplebush growing along the utility right of way. 

I followed the Buck Mountain Railroad right of way into the deeper  pine and hemlock woods of the preserve. 

The trail was still flooded but I was able to get around this large puddle,

between a wetland and  this pond along the trail. 

It was  quiet   in these deep woods. I didn’t hear the songs of the oven birds or red-eyed vireos that echoed in the treetops earlier in the Spring and Summer.  

There were  not many wild flowers blooming  on this part of the trail either, but there were plenty of mushrooms.  I saw hundreds of slippery jack and painted suillus . mushrooms. These bolete mushrooms grow under hemlock and pine trees. 

I also saw this edible king bolete, 

a cleft amanita , 

a couple plateful of pyramids amanita and, 

this golden reishi mushroom. 

I continued my hike through the thick groves of rhododendrons and,

and came to the active railroad right of way at Hazle Creek Junction. As I noted in prior blogs this  was once an important intersection of the Beaver Meadows, the Hazleton and the Buck Mountain railroads. This railroad  right of way has been active since the 1840’s. 

I walked along the right of way,

seeing this sign saying no ATV’s leading me to believe  it was okay to walk along the tracks.  

There were many large hemlock trees along the railroad tracks

and here I heard and saw some song birds including a blue headed vireo and

a black throated green warbler and, 

a red eyed vireo. I think the migratory song birds are leaving their nesting areas in the deeper woods and starting to begin the migration south. 

I hiked out to the old Penrose Reservoir. I had seen beavers, otters, muskrats, bitterns and king fishers here on past hikes, but, fortunately I saw none of these critters on my hike on Saturday. 

I did see a lot of dragonflies along the shores of the lake, including this widow skimmer, 

and this slaty skimmer. 

I was, after many attempts, finally able to get this slaty skimmers in flight. 

I left the reservoir and followed a path long the Penrose Creek. 

Here I found  many Hartford ferns and

cranberries growing in the swampy soil neat the creek. 

I heard  the beautiful song of this hermit thrush echoing in the woodlands,

which were now mostly pitch pine, 

and some large  white pine trees. 

I had hiked about 2 1/2 miles  which is my usual half way point so I started my return hike. 

It was close to mid-day now and there was a lot more insect activity in a patch of bull thistles  along the railroad tracks,

There were dozens of great spangled fritillary butterflies  feeding on the pretty purple flowers of the bull  thistle.  This was   a younger one, 

but some were older as evidenced by the worn wings on this one

A bumblebee and silver spotted skipper shared this thistle  flower. 

As I walked on the railroad track I came across this interesting insect, a steel-blue cricket-hunter wasp, a first or me. 

I left the railroad right of way and hiked back on the old Buck Mountain Railroad right of way, 

Once again I had to hike though the brambles and nettles but it was worth it, I saw a lot of birds this time, including this female common yellow throat,

an eastern phoebe, 

a female rose-breasted grosbeak and,

this pretty indigo bunting,

one of my favorites.  I 

I enjoyed the bunting  singing and  flying through the blackberry brambles.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the critters I saw on my five mile hike. Penrose Swamp Barrens.  critters August 5 2023. 

When I finished my hike I immediately checked for ticks, having walked through the thick vegetation of  the access trail. Thankfully, I found none.  For now, this is the only access to the eastern side of the preserve.

  It is a little difficult hiking on this path but it was well worth the effort. There is so much natural beauty in this, one of our newest State Forest lands.  Hopefully, soon, there will be a better access trail, to allow folks to enjoy this wonderful place. Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my five mile hike. Penrose Swamp Barrens August 5 2023

Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge; it’s common sense.President Ronald Reagan

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