In Search Of Mountain Laurel On The Last Weekend Of Spring.

In Search Of Mountain Laurel On The Last Weekend Of Spring.

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The Pennsylvania state flower, the mountain laurel, is now in full bloom here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I spent many June days walking on the ridges of Stoney  Mountain , near my home, , which was  transformed into a lovely, magical garden by these beautiful flowers. 

Unfortunately these ridges are now  the location of  a residential community and an industrial park so I had to find a new area  where I could enjoy these flowers in bloom. They were so common on Stoney Mountain that I assumed they could be found everywhere here in my area. . So this weekend I went out to find them. 

Yesterday was Saturday and that meant rain  here in Northeastern Pennsylvania for most of this Spring, and showers were again in the forecast. I decided to hike  the out railroad tracks  near Hazle Brook under  the cloudy skies.  As I began my walk I realized one good thing about the rain, it has kept the woodlands  lush and  green.

I made my way through abandoned strip mines to the railroad tracks and followed them south toward the Penrose reservoir and Weatherly. 

The rain overnight was still heavy on the leaves and plants,

and also the spider webs. I was surprised at how many of these were strung on the branches and trees along the tracks. 

I saw a few robins, swallows, cedar waxwings and catbirds as I walked. I also saw a number of these birds perched high in the tree tops singing there hearts out.  I thought they looked like eastern towhees but I believed they only fluttered in the brush  close to the ground. I learned that the males do leave the safety of the brush during mating season and perch atop trees to attract a mate. 

And I saw this fellow, I think some type of flycatcher, loudly singing atop a tree.

I watched him flutter from tree to tree, also, I assume trying to attract a mate. These birds that  eat insects arrive later in the Spring and so nest later too. The robins, one of the first birds to arrive already have broods of young ones ready to leave the nest. 

I continued down the tracks and came to realize the woods are at too low an elevation and too thick for the mountain laurel to grow.  The woods were mainly second growth oak, hemlock and pine . There were a few mountain laurel in  bloom, the photos  I posted above , but I come to realize I wasn’t going to find a lot on this hike. 

I continued on the tracks for a few miles when I saw this buck slowly edge out of the woods

He stopped in his tracks when he saw me and his tail immediately shot straight up as a sign of alarm. He did stand his ground for a bit as I approached, a doe would have fled, but he eventually decided I was not his friend and ran into the woods. 

I walked out about three miles when I decided to turn back.  I heard a lot of birds in the tree tops along the tracks but it is hard to see them in the now thick foliage and the overcast skies. I also saw a few  dragonflies as I walked. These are such delicate and beautiful creatures. 

There were plenty of high bush blueberries along the paths in the abandoned mine area and the bushes have plenty of green berries on them. it should be a good crop this year. 

I made my way back to my car , and was thankful the rain held off. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to find, and share, a lot of mountain laurel but I was sure I would find some on Sunday. Here is a link to  some more photographs from my hike.

“My time in the woods is time spent with a tutor on how to live.”
Chris Matakas