Mountain Laurel, Sundews And An Oven Bird, A June Hike Close To Home.

Mountain Laurel, Sundews And An Oven Bird, A June Hike Close To Home.

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Last Sunday I had to get my usual seven mile  hike in early.   I was looking forward to  attending  the Baptism of my great nephew baby Charlie at 10:30 a.m..  So I decided to stay close to home and  hike on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. hike

It was overcast and cool with a light drizzle when I started my hike at the trail head on Broad Street. The trail follows the path of  an abandoned railroad right of way. It  is a wonderful place to get some exercise and  to discover and enjoy the beauty of nature.  I have posted a number of blogs  about the trail and you can find them in the archives on  the home page of my website. rails to trails hike

As  I began my hike I immediately noticed, and enjoyed, the deep green of the recently sprouted  leaves on the trees, shrubs and other vegetation along the trail. 

The white and pinkish  flowers of the mountain laurel, our State flower, were  blooming along the trail and added to the Spring beauty of the woodlands. . I love these flowers that are found throughout the mountains of  Pennsylvania. 

There were so much new vegetation and growth  along the trail including cinnamon ferns, and

milkweed shoots. The milkweed flowers will attract monarch butterflies in a few weeks. 

After about a mile the trail crosses a highway and continues along the Dreck Creek watershed.  The wide well maintained trail is surrounded by a mixed maple, oak and pine woodlands. 

The woods were filled with the songs of birds, I was able to identify eastern towhees, American redstarts and song sparrows, There were more I couldn’t identify, and I was only able to catch a fleeting glimpse of a few of them, and no photographs. At this section of the trail I also found eastern hay-scented ferns and 

bracken ferns growing along the trail. 

And a few fleabane wildflowers. 

The trail gradually approaches the Dreck Creek reservoir. The reservoir is a major source of water for the City of Hazleton and surrounding areas.

Near the reservoir  there is a small picnic area and pet watering station. 

I continued my hike past the reservoir were I was able to get my first photo of  the day , when this northern flicker  landed on the trail ahead of me. flicker seen on hike

The trail intersected a PPL electric pole line right of way that  I have  hiked many times before. Walking in a southerly direction it will take you to the active railroad right of way and the Pennrose reservoir. I am long overdue to take this hike again. 

A short distance past the pole line, near three mile marker,mile marker on hike

the trail now  makes a northerly turn and loops back in a westerly direction. In high school my friends and I would build fires and drink beer out there. It was a beautiful place to hang out, and  workers from the water company often drove past and never bothered us. Good days they were. 

I walked out for about another 1/2 mile and ended my hike at the rare heath barrens along the trail. These barrens were created by fires set by Native Americans to encourage berry growth and attract game animals which were hunted for food. 

They consist mainly of sheep laurel,

fens and scrub oak trees. 

After observing the heath barrens I began my 3 1/2 mile return hike. It was pretty much uneventful. I continued to hear and see birds fluttering in the surrounding trees but was unable to get a clear photograph of any of them. I was disappointed but enjoyed the peace and quite of the woods. 

As I neared the one mile marker I finally saw a few birds  that got close to the trail. First a couple of oven birds landed in a tree.


This pretty bird sang as it fluttered in the branches above my head, allowing me to get a few photos. 

Across the trail from where I  was watching the oven birds this eastern towhee started to sing on a tree branch. This is the male. These birds are usually seen rummaging in the undergrowth of a forest. After watching these birds I finished up my hike. Here is a link to some more photographs of the oven bird and eastern towhee. Rails To Trails birds June 13 2021.

Near the parking area I saw some daises  and,

I looked for,  and found,  some of the endangered sundew plants that grow in a wetland along the trail. 

These carnivorous plants have sticky hairs on their leaves. When an insect lands on the leaves they are trapped and the leaves close up and the plant digest the insect. Gruesome,  but this is nature. 

As always I enjoyed my hike on the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. It is a treasure for our area and I encourage folks to hike here, or on any Rails to Trails that are near your home. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike. Rails to Trails June 13 2021.

Americans are seeking trail opportunities as never before. No longer are trails only for the ‘rugged individualists’ pursuing a solitary trek through breathtaking wilderness … users include young people and senior citizens, families, individuals and organized groups, people with disabilities and the physically fit. –AMERICAN TRAILS, Trails for All Americans report, 1990

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