Fog, Clouds, A Few Birds And Signs Of Spring On the Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails
I awoke Saturday morning to find a thick fog had formed at my home in Hazle Township in Luzerne County. I was planning to hike somewhere south of my home, either Lesser Lake or French Creek State Park. But I didn’t want to drive through the mountains in the fog so I decided to hike close to home at the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. I did not expect to see much wildlife in the fog and just wanted get my usual five mile hike on the trail. However, as is always the case, you never know what to expect when you enter the woodlands and I was surprised to see quite a few birds active on my hike.
The fog was still thick when I arrived at the east entrance to the 6 mile trail near the village of Hazlebrook. I was surprised to hear and see a large flock of red crowned kinglets in the treetops.
They were too high to photograph in the thick fog. I also heard a blue headed warbler singing in the trees tops but again wasn’t able to see or photograph this migratory bird. And there were more, I walked down to an old strip mine that filled with water near the trail.
Here I saw this American robin on an old birch tree branch shrouded in the fog.
Then a pair of brown headed cowbirds landed in a tree. Both the robins and cowbirds are very short range migratory birds, some staying in our area in the Winter near rivers and streams. Others migrate to the southern United States.
An eastern phoebe, landed in a branch near the waters edge. It also is a migratory bird, spending it’s Winters in the southern United States and Mexico.
As I was watching these birds I heard a loud splash on the waters of the strip mine. It sounded like a beaver splashing it’s tail. I thought to myself it couldn’t be, there wouldn’t be beaver in a strip mine. Well, I soon saw this furry head appear. it was a beaver, and it splashed it’s tail again before swimming away. I had already seen far more wildlife activity then I expected.
And the fog exposed something else I didn’t expect to see on my walk, hundreds, maybe thousands, of spider webs!
They were everywhere. The fog droplets clung to the webs making them visible all along the trail . Most where the cottonlike webs I often see on the ground. There were a few larger ones spun higher in the branches of trees. I had never seen this many in the Summer moths. I never knew that this many spiders were active early in the Spring. I didn’t see any spiders to I can’t tell you what kind there were but there were a lot of them out there.
I continued my hike through the fog,
seeing a few song sparrows, chipping sparrows,
and field sparrows singing along the trail. There were quite a few field and chipping sparrows active along the trail on my five mile hike. Unlike the song sparrows both of these birds are migratory spending their Winters in the southern United States. It was good to see them back.
As I continued my hike through the woodlands and didn’t see many other birds.
until the trail came to the strip mine reclamation area of the trail.
Here I saw more of the sparrows and then ,heard, and saw this brown thrasher singing in the treetops. The brown thrasher is a also a short distance migrant. only flying to the southern United States in the Winter and returning to the Northeast to breed in the Spring.
It is a beautiful bird and I love it’s song in our woodlands in the warm month.
The trail continues over a bridge,
which crosses, the active railroad right of way that is almost 200 years old. M great grandparents, and almost all of the immigrants who worked in the anthracite coal mines, traveled on this railroad when the arrived from Europe. ( There is more history about the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trail in my oast blogs, you can research them in my blog archives using the search tool. ).
The trail, for a short distance, now passes through old strip mine areas where you can see the strip mine pits and banks created when this area was strip mined for almost a century. There are many deep underground mines in this area too.
After passing through the strip mine area the trail passes through some older woodlands before following an access road to an old beryllium manufacturing plant. (Again, there is more information on this subject in my blog archives)
The trail then continues through the pine and heath barrens,
Here I saw and heard another bird that migrates to our area. I remember hearing and seeing them as a child while picking “huckleberries” near my home in the Green Ridge area of Hazle Township, the eastern towhee.
They also are short distance migrants and spend the Winter in the southern United States. There unique calls bring back many wonderful Summer memories. I wouldn’t see any other different birds on my hike. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Rails to Trails hike birds April 16 2023.
I decided to turn back after I had hiked 2 1/2 miles. on the trail The fog had lifted on my return walk although didn’t see many new birds,
I did notice some other signs of Spring along the trail. The blackberry canes were sprouting their first leaves,
the blueberries were producing their first small flowers,
and there were service berry flowers in the trees in the woodlands along the trail.
sweetfern were all sprouting their first leaves.
I found some trailing arbutus flowers on the trail. I don’t see many of small, delicate flowers anymore,
but I do see a lot of these, common dandelions, many consider them a weed but they are still a welcome sight in the Spring,
I heard the sparrows and brown thrasher singing as I walked back along the trail. Despite the fog and clouds it turned out to be a much nicer hike than I had expected. I am becoming convinced the new trees growing in the mine reclamation along the trail is going to be a great place to observe the birds migrating through our area in the Spring. I am looking forward to hearing, seeing and photographing them on many hikes in the future, and, of course. sharing them on my blog and social media. Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my hike. Rails to Trails April 16 2023.
“Who believe in misty ways.
Everything is lovely,
In a misty morning glaze.
I like misty water,
I like fog and haze.” – Raymond Douglas Davies