No Rain But Lots Of Purple Martins, Heat And Humidity At Leaser Lake In Lehigh County.

No Rain But Lots Of Purple Martins, Heat And Humidity At Leaser Lake In Lehigh County.

Leaser Lake - (3 of 48)
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I returned to Leaser Lake in Lehigh County last Sunday. I wanted  to see the purple martins that reside  there during our Summers. I have become more interested in birding,  and especially migratory birds, the past few years, and,  these amazing swallows  travel from the Amazon  Basin in South America to nest here in the Spring. There are two  purple martin nesting towers at Leaser Lake and they attract  hundreds of these  long distance migrants every Spring.

I arrived early at Leaser Lake, around 7 a.m. There were severe weather warnings for late in the morning so I wanted to get my hiking in before they arrived.  I parked at the West Shore Boat Access parking lot. This was the first time I began my hike from this parking lot. I usually start on the North  Shore Boat Access parking lot to begin my five mile hike around the lake.  It was warm and muggy with overcast skies.  The Blue Mountain or Kittatinny  Ridge  to the north was shrouded in clouds. Before following the Loop Trail around the lake I first walked over to the purple martin nesting tower  near the crest of the dam. Here I found a few purple martins perched on the tower but not very active at this early hour. I believe it was because we had some rain the previous evening and the insects were waiting for their wings to dry. The purple martins feed exclusively on flying insects.   They  actually drink water while in flight, skimming over the waters of the lake to take a drink. I left the nesting tower and followed the Loop Trail north along the lake. There were already quite a few people fishing in small boats  on the 540 acre lake and along its shores. The lake  is owned and maintained by the the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and Lehigh County. It opened in 1971. The trail followed one of  the arms of the lake that narrowed and became  a marsh/wetland. Native pickerelweed flowers bloomed on the shore of the lake. I hoped to see some water fowl here but there were none. I did see a family of eastern kingbirds, in and around the wetlands. There are meadows and grassy  fields on the other side of the trail and in the trees here i saw a few gray catbirds, and this yellow warbler singing in the hazy sunshine since the clouds began to break up. There were a lot of wildflowers blooming along the trail.  There were large patches of common milkweed. along the trail. The flowers were still wet from the rain so there weren’t a lot of insects visiting the plants. These native plants attract many insects and are the only plants which endangered  monarch butterflies feed. Native swamp milkweed , and Indian hemp also was blooming along the trail. There were also St John’s wort and Queen Ann’s lace flowers, both invasive, blooming along the trail. Many of the invasive morrow’s honeysuckle shrubs were covered in red berries. I walked to the other side of the marsh/wetland, past some beautiful willow trees, here I saw some more eastern kingbirds, and a lot of noisy red -winged blackbirds, this is a male, and this a female. A few field sparrows were also singing along the trail and this female orchard oriole. The trail followed  the shore of the lake and then  continued into a mature woodland where one of the feeder streams entered the lake. I usually see pileated, downy and hairy woodpeckers in these woodlands but there were none on my hike this morning. I did hear a few eastern wood pee wees  and hermit thrushes but wasn’t able to see them to get a photo. There were no wildflowers growing under the shade of the oak, maple and hemlock trees but there were a lot of ferns including Christmas ferns and New York ferns. The trail took me around another arm of the lake. I walked to the shore and saw this green heron perched in a tree. The trail left the mature woodlands at Ontelaunee Road which I followed to the North Boat Launch Access. The skies were clear now and the strong late June sun warmed the humid air. Although it was now hot and humid there were a lot of boats on the water, and a lot of people fishing and picnicking along the lake shore. I also saw a few gray squirrels scurrying along the trail. and a few chipping sparrows.  There was another  nesting tower here for the purple martins and I watched the birds as the returned from from their successful hunts for insects, mostly dragonflies. They were still feeding their young in the nests.  Providing homes for these birds is not new, Native Americans hung gourds to encourage them to nest near their Summer camps.    I wasn’t sure if they young had fledged yet and I now know they hadn’t. I spent a few minutes watching the purple martins, this is the colorful male, and this the  brownish  female. The trail continued on the other side of the parking lot, entering another mature woodlands with some wetlands.  The trail was  cleared and better marked than on my last visit.

It   was still rocky in some areas , and crossed a wetland but it was much easier to follow and cross now.

 After a 1/4 mile the trail left the woodlands and took me  up a steep ridge.

It then then continued above another arm of the lake through some second growth pine and hardwood trees. Large fields of milkweed grew along the trail.

Here I heard and saw a few American robins,

  and Carolina wrens  singing  in the trees. 

The trail then passed through some fields.  On one side of the trail the fields were park of the park, however, their were some fields planted with soybeans on the other side of the trail.

Here I saw many red-winged blackbirds, and indigo buntings. This is a female with some insects she gathered, probably for her young ones in a nearby nest.

The colorful males were perched in trees,  apparently watching the females  catching breakfast.

I also saw some northern cardinals and

eastern phoebes while walking through the fields.

The skies were mostly clear now and the Blue Mountain could be seen to the north of the lake. It was hot and humid with temperatures nearing 90 degrees, perfect conditions for the severe weather in the forecast. I was walking at a fast pace since I wanted to be near my Jeep in case the storms arrived. 

So I quickly followed the trail which took me back to the lake, where I again saw many people fishing from small  boats. Others were just kayaking and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Near the lake I again found fields of milkweed. This time the sun, heat and humidity had brought out the insect. There were many bees, wasps and other insects visiting the milkweed and pickerel weed flowers along the trail and shores of the lake. This is, I believe,  a silver spotted skipper  butterfly

and this a northern crescent butterfly.

There were also many dragonflies darting along the trail near the lake, occasionally resting on a leaf or twig and letting me get a photo. This, I believe is an immature widow skimmer,

and this an adult widow skimmer. I could have spent hours watching and photographing the insects. However, it was hot and humid and I want to avoid the potential storms so I continued on my hike,

which took me to the Eastern Boat Access parking lot, with beautiful views of the lake, and the monument to Frederick Leaser, the farmer after which the lake was named and who helped transport the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to Allentown during the Revolutionary War. I provided more info on this famous farmer in previous blogs which can be searched using the search tool in my blog page.

I left the parking lot and followed the Lake Loop Trail up another ridge and came back  to the crest  of the dam and The West Boat Access parking lot. The purple martins were still active in the nesting tower but it was  hot and humid and I didn’t want to stand around and take photos. I hope to get back soon, when the chicks are fledged.

I had walked five mile, and although there were some clouds it didn’t look like the storms were near. I decided to walk a few more miles so I followed the loop trail,

back along  the arm of the lake with the wetlands.

I saw many of the birds I had photographed earlier and also this brown thrasher,

and a flock of Canada geese taking a stroll in the heat on the trail along the lake. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the birds and other critters I saw on my hike. Leaser Lake critters June 30 2024.

I walked out about another  mile and had now hiked 7 miles in the heat and humidity. I walked back to my Jeep, seeing a few turtle who didn’t mind the heat. I love the hot weather but it took a lot out of me on this hike.  The storms never came, not on the drive home, and they missed my home in Luzerne County completely.  I was disappointed I love thunderstorms, except when I’m out hiking.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from  on my 7  mile  hike. Leaser Lake critters June 30 2024.

I had hoped top take more photos of the purple  martins on this visit,  but the clouds, heat and humidity weren’t the best conditions to photograph these swift flying birds. I hope to return again, after the young ones leave the nest but before they leave for South America.

Life is the blossoming of flowers in the spring, the ripening of fruit in the fall, the rhythm of the earth and of nature. Life is the cry of cicadas signaling the end of summer, migratory birds winging south in a transparent autumn sky, fish frolicking in a stream. Life is the joy beautiful music installs in us, the thrilling. sight of a mountain peak reddened by the rising sun, the myriad combinations and permutations of visible and invisible phenomena. Life is all things.  Daisaku Ikeda


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