Late Summer Walks In Community Park , One With A Great Blue Heron

Late Summer Walks In Community Park , One With A Great Blue Heron

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Late August and September are  the peak months  of mushroom season here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  So most my afternoons are usually spent foraging for the many species of edible wild mushrooms I love to find, eat and share with family and friends. But, I was still able take a couple of hikes in the Community Park near my home in Hazle Township in Luzerne County these past few weeks.  

And, as usual I took a lot of photos of plants and animals I saw on my hikes,  which I enjoy sharing here on my blog and on social media. I feel by sharing the beauty of nature I find that surrounds us may help folks realize we must protect what is left of our rapidly diminishing woodlands. I usually walk around Lake Irene first, and  on one of my hikes the lake  was deep blue reflecting the clear blue skies, ,  

on all of the other hikes the skies  were cloudy,  mostly with  pretty puffy cumulus clouds floating over the lake,

and on my last hike they were stormy,

I heard the rumble of thunder on my  last three mile walk and made it back to my car just as a torrential  rain fell in a severe thunderstorm. I enjoy thunderstorms but not in the middle of the woods. 

And as usual, I did see a few critters, wildflowers and critters on my hikes.  The double crested cormorant, which I  saw on previous walks was there  one more time, on my first hike in this blog.  I got a few photos as it was perched on the same log  as my previous sightings. . 

It didn’t seem to mind me taking it’s photo and actually seemed to pose for me. It was the last pose. It was gone when I returned  for my next hike and I haven’t seen it since. They do not nest here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. They breed in Canada and are only passing through on their way to the Southern United States and the   Gulf Coast for the Winter. Smart birds

There weren’t many birds near the lake on my last few hikes but I did see this eastern phoebe and 

this eastern towhee along the lake. 

The towhee was  taking a break on a branch after foraging for and capturing an insect. I wasn’t able to see what kind. 

A   few turkey vultures flew over on the stormy afternoon hike. 

The  many pickerel flowers that bloomed along the shores of the lake earlier in the Summer were mostly faded. There were still some pickerel flowers in bloom on my first hike, but. a few weeks later, 

most of the pickerel flowers had finished blooming, 

leaving only their seed stalks, which I understand are edible. 

There were still  a lot of dragonflies along the lake,  on my first hike, including a female and

male eastern  pondhawk, 

a bluedasher.

and a slatty skimmer. 

I also saw this damselfly, which I believe is a common spread wing. 

This silver-spotted skipper butterfly were ,

and this common eastern bumble were feeding on one of the last  blooming pickerel flowers. 

A  few weeks later most of these  butterflies,  bees and dragonflies were gone .  However there were a few autumn meadow hawk dragonflies still darting above the waters of the lake. 

The water lilies that  bloomed on the lake were also gone, only the lily pads remained,

there were still a few wildflowers blooming along the trail around the lake including prairie fleabane daisies and

the cheerful nodding beggarticks.

I also saw a few frogs along the shores of the lake. I believe this is a green frog although the American bull frog is very similar. 

And I believe this was  a large painted turtle soaking up the sun on a log in the lake. 

I found this freshwater snail shell along the lake, and I am not sure if it is one of our 63  native snail sor invasive one. I think it is an invasive Chinese mystery snail and I am going to report in on the invasive species website Here is the link

I usually walk around the lake twice, encountering many pleasant folks young and old enjoying the scenic lake, 

and also usually a lot of chipmunks and gray squirrels, this one eating a discarded banana peel. 

After walking around the lake I walk on a trail into the surrounding woodlands, near a local Babe Ruth baseball field and the local airport. 

And I usually see some critters here, including a small group  of whitetail deer, this is mommy doe, 

and her fawn. 

On one of my last hikes I was surprised to see a small flock of black throated blue warblers.  I usually see these birds  on my hikes in deeper more remote woodlands.  Like the cormorants, phoebes, and towhees I think they are already migrating south. They are beautiful birds and I love hearing their songs on my Summer hikes.

There were some wildflowers blooming on the trail in the  woodlands,  and  where there are flowers there are usually insect,  and there were on my hikes. This eastern bumblebee was gathering pollen or nectar from a spotted knapweed flower, 

and I saw this  goldenrod soldier beetle

and an orange sulphur butterfly on  narrowleaf hawkweed flowers. 

There were still some Aphrodite fritillary butterflies fluttering along the trail, 

and a  pearl crescent butterfly and

 red spotted admiral butterfly. 

On the leaves of some milkweed plants I saw a  few  caterpillars that feed exclusively on milkweed plants, tussock moth caterpillars, 

and, I was both glad and sad to see  one  monarch butterfly caterpillar. I was glad to see this beautiful caterpillar which will transform into a beautiful monarch butterfly, but sad because  I only saw one my hikes. I once saw  dozens, if not hundreds in late Summer. They are endangered due to loss of habitat both here and in their Winter homes in the Southwest United States and Mexico. 

I also encountered a lot of these  interesting looking critters on my hikes. It is a spined  micrathena or castleback orbweaver spider. 

I walked into quite a few of their webs , face first, on my hikes here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. They like to spin their webs across trails. I don’t like removing the webs, dead insects, and sometimes a lively spider from my face, but it is a good sign,  on my mushroom forages, that no one was in  may spots. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the wildlife I saw on my hikes. Community Park wildlife August/September 2023 

Walking in the woods in late Summer, especially after it rains, I always find mushrooms and other fungi growing on the ground. And I saw  quite a few on my walks in Community Park, but, unfortunately, not a lot of edible ones. I saw a few of these pretty reddish pink russula mushrooms. I am not sure of the exact species, Some are edible but I am not sure so I don’t eat any of them. 

There was pretty eastern cauliflower  mushroom, It is a delicous edible and I ate it. 

this amanita, I think it was a fly agaric 

an old Berkeley polypore.

And this one , one to avoid, a deadly destroying angel.  Inexperienced folks has become sick or even died from harvesting wild mushrooms. So be careful. It is a great  hobby but  it takes a bit of research. If you want to forage for mushrooms the best way is to attend one of the programs many of the State Parks sponsor.

On my last walk in the park, last Thursday,   before the thunder storm arrived, I saw this great blue heron wading in the faded pickerel flowers along the shore of the lake. 

It would fly off, and land a short distance away as I followed it around the lake. 

I was able to get many photos of it in flight,

 as I followed it around the lake,

It finally settled down  near the  bridge where the  creek enters the  lake. Here I was able to watch it for about a half hour as it so silently and slowly stalked it’s prey. 

I was hoping to see it capture a fish, frog or maybe even a snake but it only snatched a few dragonflies while I watched. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photos of the great blue heron. Community Park heron  August/September 2023 

Storm clouds moved in  while I watched the great blue heron and I heard the rumble of distant thunder. There was a severe thunderstorm warning in our area but not until later in the evening.  At first I thought the storm would miss us and continued on my hike. However, the winds picked up and the thunder claps got closer very quickly. I walked quickly to my Jeep making it their just as a torrential rain began to Fall. It was a sever storm but it dropped a lot of rain.  I didn’t mind, mushrooms love rain, and I hoped to be finding a lot in the next few days. I will continue my search for the “shrooms” but, hopefully, still get in a few hikes at Community Park before the leaves change and the cold weather arrives.Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike in Community Park. Community Park hikes August/September 2023.

When summer gathers up her robes of glory, and like a dream of beauty glides away.”  – Sarah Helen Whitman

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