My First Spring Hike in the Penrose Swamp Barrens In Carbon County.

My First Spring Hike in the Penrose Swamp Barrens In Carbon County.

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My growing passion to find and photograph the many migrating birds that visit Northeastern Pennsylvania in the Spring took me to the Penrose Swamp Barrens in Carbon County early Sunday morning.  The more I learn about the migration and breeding habits of the migratory birds that visit our area the more I want to find, photograph them on my weekly nature hikes. And of course share the photos on my blog. 

On Sunday I decided to hike in the newly established Penrose Swamp Barrens  Preserve, now a part of the Weiser State Forest. I have  provided more information on this 2700 acre pristine wetland and woodland,  acquired by the Wildlife Conservancy last year,  in a past blog post.  It can be found using the search tool for my blog.  I thought this area, with the  Black Creek flowing through the mountain ridge and the surrounding  wetlands might  be a great area to see some migrating birds. 

And it was. As soon as I left my Jeep at the Buck Mountain Road access I heard  the distinctive song of the eastern towhee,

and I saw a few black throated blue warblers feeding in the thickets of rhododendrons growing along the  trail.  The eastern towhee is a short distance migrant  wintering in the southern United States and the black-throated blue warbler winters in the Caribbean Islands and Central America . Both will breed in Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

And there were more migratory birds singing in the tree tops of  the oak and hemlock trees on the 1/4 mile trail into the Penrose swamp barrens preserve. . 

This chestnut-sided warbler and 

this scarlet tanager were singing high in the tree tops. Both of  these birds are long distance migrants  the chestnut sided warbler  living in  forest of the Caribbean Islands and  Central and South America. The scarlet tanagers also travel from northern South America. Both breed in  Northeastern Pennsylvania so I hope they are staying in the Penrose swamp barrens. 

And I saw this black and white warbler in the trees closer to the ground along the trail. These active warblers also winter in Central and South America and breed here in our forests.

The trail leads to a utility pole line right of way and heads north through a mixed  hardwood /hemlock wetlands. 

Along the trail there are many vernal ponds where I saw this solitary sandpiper. I was surprised to see one this late in the Spring. It is a long distance migrant  passing through our area  from it’s winter home in South America, as far away as Argentina, on it’s way to it’s breeding ground in Canada.. 

A few American crows flew overhead, cawing loudly as they did. These birds reside here through our winters. 

It was a cool morning so there were no frogs or turtles active in the wetlands, I did see a few invasive satin moths  along the trail,

and thousands of tadpoles in the vernal ponds and pools, I think this are American toad tadpoles 

There were some wildflowers blooming along the trail including many marsh blue violets,

and a few  arrowleaf violets, 

and sweet white violets. 

Milkweed shoots were growing in the wetlands, and

the high bush blueberry were flowering. It was a beautiful sunny May morning.

I walked about a 1/2 mile  along the pole line through the newly acquired state forest lands,

and left the pole line where it crossed the old Buck Mountain Railroad right of way. 

The wood railroad ties form this  150 year old railroad were still in place along the trail.

This trail passed through another wetland, with a swamp on one side and a large pond on the other. I have seen nesting Canada geese here in the past but not this year. 

I did see this Nashville warbler singing in the trees along the trail. These  pretty warblers winter in Mexico. and  breed  in our area and further north.

There were also a few ovenbirds, another migrant from Mexico and Central America near the pond. 

The trail continued through a dense woodland of rhododendrons and hemlock trees. I had a few close encounters with black bears here on previous hikes. 

After about a mile the trail ended at an active railroad track along  Black or Hazle Creek. Hazle Creek Junction, as it was know, is where the Buck Mountain , the Beaver Meadows and the Lehigh Valley railroads met and was an active intersection over a century ago. 

I hiked north on the railroad track right of way. Pine and hemlock trees grew along the railroad tracks. 

I  saw this veery hopping on the ground near the tracks. This small thrush is one of the longest distance migrants wintering in the forests of  central and southern Brazil. 

It seemed unafraid of me and was actually curious as I was taking it’s photo. 

After watching the veery  I hiked to the Penrose Reservoir. The waters of the reservoir reflected the deep blue sky. I have seen beavers, otters and muskrats  and many water fowl in this reservoir but there was no wildlife on this sunny Sunday morning. 

I walked to the wetlands on other end of the reservoir,

and into the woodlands  where the Penrose Creek flows into the reservoir. These woodlands are mostly pitch pines. 

Here I heard and saw this blue-headed vireo, a first time sighting for me. 

I watched this beautifully colored bird as it fluttered in the pine trees looking for insects,

and watched it catch and feed on one. These birds migrate from the southern United States and Mexico and breed here in Pennsylvania and  further north. 

I also heard, and saw,  a relative of the veery I saw earlier, this hermit thrush. It was singing it’s lovely song on a branch along the trail . 

I had now  hiked out about 2 1/2 miles so I began my hike back. I loved seeing the migrating birds but I was hoping to see a bear,  a snake or some more interesting critters but I wouldn’t. 

I did see this pretty warbler near the ponds on the old Buck Mountain railroad right of way , a black throated green warbler. 

These  birds also migrate from  Mexico,  the Caribbean , Central and South America, 

The strong May sun had warmed the cool morning air and I was hoping to see some turtles, frog or snake on my hike back. I did see a huge snapping turtles in one of the wetlands and a large bull frog but they both submerged into the murky waters of the wetlands before I could get a photo.   As I walked on the utility pole line, 

I also saw a few turkey vultures fly overhead

this duskywing butterfly 

and a few more solitary sandpipers, this one with it’s head submerged in one of the vernal pools along the trail.   Here is a link to a gallery where I share more photos of the beautiful birds I saw on my hike. Penrose Swam Barrens   birds  May 13 2023. 

As I was finishing my five mile hike I saw a very large bull frog sitting on a log in the wetlands along the entrance trail. It also jumped into the water before I could get a photo.  I think I would see a lot more frogs snakes and turtles on a a late afternoon hike in the Penrose swamp barrens  and hope to find out  later this Spring and Summer.   I plan to continue to explore this wonderful addition to our state forests.  Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike . Penrose  Swamp Barrens May 13 2023. 

“I suspect that it was simply that I had admired the earth, and the universe. The more I say and think that I admire it, and love it, the more it gives me what I admire, or strange coincidences that leave me in more awe than I was before.”
― Michael Whone,

This is my first post