No Bears In The State Game Lands, But Found Some Other Interesting Critters
So far this Spring I have seen a lot of critters on my hikes here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. But no bears. I usually run into a few bears in the Spring as they awaken from hibernation and begin foraging for food. So on Sunday, I decided to hike in State Game Lands 119 in Dennison Township, Luzerne County an area know for its bears. I have had many encounters with them there.
I drove the rutted dirt road from the town of Penn Lake and arrived at the game lands at around 7 a.m. The skies were overcast with seasonably cool temperatures in the low 50’s. I soon realized that the higher elevation meant that the arrival of Spring was delayed about two weeks up here. There were few buds or new leaves on the trees in the mainly oak forest. One of the sign of Spring I noticed were the new leaves of the fly poison plants sprouting in the woods along the trail. This interesting plant was mixed with sugar and used as fly poison by the early settlers in our Commonwealth.
As I walked along the main road into the game lands I could hear the songs of many birds in the surrounding woodlands. However, they were not coming anywhere near the trails and I could not get a photograph of a single bird for the first half mile of my walk. The clouds soon cleared and the morning sun felt good as I continued my hike.
I left the main road and followed an old railroad right of way that made its way through a wetland and down to the Black Diamond section of the D & L trail. Here I continued to hear the bird song in the woods and was able to finally photograph this catbird.
Unlike the lower , and warmer PPL wetlands in Salem Township there was very little new growth in these wetlands on the mountain. The high bush blueberries were just putting forth the first hint of buds.
There are many of these high bush blueberries or, as we call them, “swampers” along the trail in the wetlands. And I have had a quite few encounters with bears in this area over the past few years. Last year I saw a mommy bear and her cubs here and came much to close to a large male bear. This year no bears. Darn!. But a lot of water, the trail was flooded from the recent heavy rains.
this American redstart.
The old railroad right of way ran into the Black Diamond trail near the tunnel where the Little Nescopeck Creek flows under the trail. I followed it upward for about a 1/2 mile and came to scenic Moosehead Lake.
Near the lake, on the other side of the trail, is a small area of wetlands. Usually I will see a great blue heron or an osprey here. Not on Sunday, but there were a few birds in the woodlands near the wetlands including a blue -gray gnatcatcher,
These birds were very common in the woodlands near my home when I was growing up. Although not as plentiful now they are still common and can be seen either rummaging in the dead leaves on the ground or perched on a branch singing it song as loud as it can. Beautiful birds they are.
It was not moving and may have been exhausted from having climbed up from the lake to the trail. But just because they don’t like to move doesn’t mean they can’t and I have come close too losing a finger on my first encounters of these unusual animals many years ago. I am much more respectful of them now.
Just past the lake another old railroad rather of way intersected with the Black Diamond trail and I decided to hike this trail back up to my Jeep. In the woods near the lake I saw this pretty oven bird on a tree branch It would be the last bird I would photograph on my hike. Here is a link to a gallery on my website with more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. State Game Lands Hike birds May 3 2020.
I had hope to see some birds on the lake or the adjoining wetlands. The last time I hiked here I saw both woo ducks and kingfishers in the area. Not this time. I did see an osprey but to far to get a photograph.
I crushed a leaf between my fingers and no foul smell It wasn’t skunk cabbage! Thanks to my PictureThis plant identification app I discovered it was a native plant, and poisonous named false hellebore. I had never seen it growing in our woodlands before. I learned it is said that some Native American chiefs were selected only if they survived eating this poisonous plant. Interesting I had no intentions of trying it.
After finding this new plant I hiked to the rutted road to the game lands and finished my seven mile hike. I was disappointed that I saw no bears on the hike but still enjoyed the many birds, plants and the snapping turtle on my hike. Hopefully I get some bear photographs on my next hike in these woods. This is a link to some more photographs from my hike. State Game Lands 119 May 3 2020,
“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy, walk and be healthy. “The best of all ways to lengthen our days” is not, as Mr. Thomas Moore has it, “to steal a few hours from night, my love;” but, with leave be it spoken, to walk steadily and with a purpose. The wandering man knows of certain ancients, far gone in years, who have staved off infirmities and dissolution by earnest walking,–hale fellows close upon eighty and ninety, but brisk as boys.”
– Charles Dickens