Birds, Bugs And Blooms: A Late September Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands
It’s hard to believe it is the last week in September already. Spring and Summer passed so quickly. So , appropriately, I hiked in the Susquehanna Wetlands on the last weekend in September. It was here I spent so much time this Spring and Summer. It seems like only yesterday the skunk cabbage was pushing up through the snow and mud, the spring peepers where awakening and the robins and geese were returning to the wetlands.
It was seasonably cool and sunny when I arrived at the wetlands early Sunday morning. I met a photographer, and nature loving friend, who, like me is an amateur, but she takes amazing photographs of the beauty she finds in nature. The cool air created a light fog on the Susquehanna River. The river was still high from the recent rains. After observing the river, and looking for an eagle, osprey or some water fowl, ( we saw none) we headed into the wetlands.
A hint of the coming display of Fall colors could be seen on the trail. The bracken ferns had already turned brown and many shriveled up. The hay-scented ferns were also turning yellow. Some of the leave on the red maple trees and Virginia creeper vines were also a brilliant red. A prelude to the coming show.
I was surprised to still see some wood ducks swimming on one of the ponds in the wetlands.
Most of my sightings the past few weeks were female or young ducks but on Sunday we saw a few brightly colored males, including this one that flew by my camera as I was photographing the females.
Most of the song birds and other Summer resident birds have already begun their migration south. We were fortunate to see some of these birds migrating through the wetlands. I know this since I did not see any of these birds all summer. This female yellow-rumped warbler was enjoying some poison ivy seeds.
We also saw a chestnut-sided warbler, which I was unable to photograph, but my friend was able to get some beautiful photos, and this pretty black-throated green warbler.
Some other birds we saw in the wetlands included this white-breasted nuthatch that scampered down a tree searching for insects,
this northern flicker perched high in a treetop and
a few friendly black-capped chickadees fluttering overhead in the tree branches searching for seeds.
We continued our hike through the wetlands toward the river lands. The weakening late September sun filtered through the trees and shone on the still deep green duckweed covered ponds and canals. We both were hoping to see the family of river otters that I watched and photographed two weeks ago. We didn’t see them nor did we see any of the beavers and muskrats that live in the wetlands.
We did see a few chipmunks and squirrels although I wasn’t able to get any photos of them. They were feeding on the many acorns that were falling from the oak trees or, on the large crop of black walnuts. Most have fallen to the ground, however a few remained on the branches of the trees.
Once the fall to the ground the squirrels and chipmunks quickly find and eat them or hide them for use in the Winter.
There were still many late Summer and Fall flowers blooming along the trails including a few varieties of wild asters such as these purplestem asters,
New England asters. I never realized there were this many different types of asters until I got my plant identification app for my iPhone.
Continuing our walk along the canals in the wetlands we came across a great blue heron and
a green heron. I love seeing these birds and always hope to get lucky and seeing them capture their prey. We weren’t so lucky on Sunday but it was still nice seeing these birds.
Near where we saw these birds were the bright red berries of the common winterberry bush.
There were also some pretty blue tearthumb berries,
and pretty but poisonous nightshade berries nearby. All of these berries will provide food for the birds and wildlife over the cold Winter months.
We continued walking toward the river lands section of the nature preserve and saw some goldfinches and
a hairy woodpecker before we left the wetlands.
Some cumulus clouds floated above as we entered the river lands. The view of Lake Took-A-While was beautiful.
There were no water fowl on the lake. We heard, and saw a few kingfishers on the other side of the lake. The late September sun warmed the cool morning air and some insects became active. We saw a few late season dragonflies,
this orange sulphur butterfly,
a wooly bear caterpillar, which according to legend can predict the severity and snowfall in the coming Winter by the length of it’s colored bands.
A few yellow jacket. A lot of mosquitoes,
and these ants feeding on what I think are some sort of wooly aphids
We also encountered another cool critter, a Chinese preying mantis. This invasive preying mantis is not as beneficial as our native Carolina preying mantis and actually eats a lot of beneficial native insects and has been known to capture small hummingbirds.
Although it is a beautiful looking insect,
many nature conservancy groups recommend they be destroyed as well as their eggs. Unfortunate but this is what happens when man alters the balance of nature. Here is a link to a video of the preying mantis I uploaded to my YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/e2PO979TVZY
After observing the preying mantis we continued our hike back to the wetlands. It was pretty uneventful as far as observing any more wildlife. The only other critter I photographed was this turkey vulture flying overhead. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands September 26 2021.
As we entered the wetlands we were again hoping to see the river otters. They weren’t around but it was a pleasant walk back as the late September sun filtered through the canopy of trees.
Soon the leaves will change color , creating Nature’s last spectacular display of color until Spring. Hopefully, the cold will hold off for a few weeks, or months. Here is a link to a gallery with more photos from my September hike in the wetlands and river lands. Susquehanna Wetlands September 26 2021.
“It must be September,
July sun has disappeared”