Not A Lot Of Wildlife, But Still A Nice Hike In Locust Lake State Park

Not A Lot Of Wildlife, But Still A Nice Hike In Locust Lake State Park

Locust Lake (43 of 49)
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It was a sunny and cool August morning last Saturday here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Temperatures were in the low 50’s. Too cool for a hot weather lover like me.  But still a nice hiking weather so  I decided to return  and hike in Locust Lake State Park in Schuylkill County.  On my visit last month I saw and heard almost a dozen wood thrushes on my five mile hike, I love their melodic song.  There were warblers and other birds in the woodlands in the park and I also heard, but wasn’t able to see a yellow-billed cuckoo bird. They are beautiful birds with a unique song and not often seen in our area.  And I have seen bald eagles here before. So I thought this would be a good place to hike and  see and photograph some wildlife. But, as is often the case in the natural world, the wildlife didn’t cooperate. 

 The late August sun shone brilliantly in the  clear blue skies over Locust Lake when I arrived. The lake reflected the blue skies and looked so different from the cloudy  skies  and dark colored lake on my last  visit. 

After viewing the lake I  walked along the road that led to the camp sites on the north side of the lake. You have to walk to get to the trails in the park if you are not camping. The road  is at the bottom of a ridge with large oak trees  maple and other hardwood trees.

The oaks were already  dropping a lot of acorns in the woods below  and  along  the road . It seems like just yesterday the first oak leaves appeared on the trees. Summer passes so quickly. 

I was disappointed to find the woodlands along the road were quiet.  I didn’t hear  the song of the wood thrushes,  In fact,  didn’t hear  any birds in the woods. It is about a 1/2 mile   to the first campsites., some situated up along the ridge and others closer to the lake. 

And, like last time there were a lot of campers enjoying the park. The smell of the morning campfire  filled the woods along the lake. It is a wonderful  smell to me. The voices of the campers also echoed in the woodlands. It, again, reminded me I need to get more camping into my life. 

It looked like every site was occupied  except maybe this one. I think it  was the only vacant campsite in the park.

I left the access road and walked down to the beach along the lake. No one was swimming  in the cool morning air and no bald eagles soared over the lake.    

I then walked past some more camp sites and came to the trail I followed on my last hike. I took a photo of this map at the trailhead but I didn’t read it. I should have,  as you will see, but instead just continued on the trail,

along the Locust Creek. 

There was still no bird song or activity along the trail. My plans to see wildlife  were not materializing. 

The first critters  I saw were this eastern newt crawling along the trail, 

and this eastern chipmunk sitting on a branch above the trail. 

There were no wildflowers blooming along the trail either but there were some  mushrooms, including a few Peck’s milky mushrooms growing along the banks of the creek, 

a firm russula,

and I believe some species of amanita. I thought there would be more mushrooms growing in the woods along the creek after all of the rain we had this month. 

I walked across a bridge over the Locust Creek and   continued on the trail I hiked on my last visit to the park. 

The trail climbed up a ridge, at first following along a small stream.  This is were I heard the yellow-billed cuckoo on my last hike. I didn’t here it or any other bird on this hike. 

Last hike I turned back down the trail here. This week I continued on the trail which became rocky and overgrown with tree roots  in spots.  I lost a few time because of trees that feel across the trail. I eventually got back on the trail as it continued  to climb up the ridge. It was a fairly steep upward hike. 

I didn’t look at the trail map so I wasn’t sure where it would lead me, but I continued to follow it until it reached the top of the ridge.  Here it changed direction and followed the ridge top. 

The trail improved  along the ridge.  It  was wider and easier hiking. There was more sunshine here  near the top of the ridge , were I was no longer under the tall oak, yellow birch maple and hemlock trees  that grew at a lower elevation  on the ridge. 

And, on  the ridge top I finally saw a few birds an oven bird, and

this pair of eastern towhees, a male and female. I  heard a few eastern wood pee wees, a northern flicker and some American robins but I didn’t get any photos. 

The trail continued on the ridgetop and then started to descend back down the ridge. .

As I  followed the trail down the ridge I again found myself under the thick canopy of leave. It was nice walking under the tall trees with  rays of the brilliant August sun filtering to the path below. 

There were many patches  eastern hay scented ferns that grew along the trail. Soon there sweet smell will fill the cool  Autumn air in the woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Many of the bracken ferns were already fading into their fall colors. 

The trail continued down the ridge and passed through some large glacial rocks.

Here I heard some northern flickers, eastern wood pee wees and  a red bellied woodpecker in the woods below the rocks but I didn’t see them. 

The trail continued   down the steep ridge,

and I now realized I was nearing the Locust Creek again. I was happy to know this because I wasn’t sure where the trail would take me and I was going to trund back after  2 1/2 miles. I now knew it would lead me back to the trailhead. 

As I neared the creek, I found more mushrooms growing in the wetter conditions along the trail including a pretty spotted cort,

a rosy russula, 

an orange spindled coral and,

an interesting Hare’s ear fungus. Again, I want to note I am no expert and rely on my iPhone apps and sometimes my field guides for identification and they could be wrong. Please correct me if I am wrong. 

The trail continued along the Locust Creek ad it was a pleasant hike along the bubbling creek with the sunshine filtering through the trees. It was an enjoyable walk, the only thing missing was the singing of birds. Again there was no bird activity in the woodlands. 

The path along the creek  took me back to the trailhead.  Here  I followed the access  road  back to the visitor parking lot. It took me along the lake on one side,

and many more campsite on the other. I again enjoyed the smell of the campfires, and encountered dozens of folks young and old. Many walked alone, others with friends and families, others with there dogs. There were folks running and on bicycles, including many children. It was nice seeing so many people enjoying the beauty of nature. 

I walked past this  meeting area with a projection screen. I imagined the  peaceful nights here when folks would gather and enjoy an  informative program or movie as the crickets and katydids sang and the aroma of smoke from the campfires  filled the air.

I walked on the road back to the crest of the dam that created Locust Lake,

here I followed a trail below the road in the hopes of seeing some  birds or other wildlife.  The trail had many wildflowers growing along it including  knapweed lowers oxeye daisies, and

yarrow flowers, 

and prairie fleabane wildflowers. 

I didn’t see any birds but there were a lot of bees and butterflies visiting the  wildflowers including dozens of orange sulphur, 

a few eastern tiger swallowtail,

and white cabbage butterflies.  I didn’t see any more birds or wildlife on my hike. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the critters I saw on my hike. Locust Lake  State Park  critters August 19 2023. 

There is now stairs leading down to a small pond  at the spillover from the dam and there  a few folks were fishing  on this beautiful August morning.  I walked  up the stairs and back to the parking lot, finishing up my five mile hike. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike. Locust Lake State Park  August 19 2023. 

I was a little disappointed not seeing more wildlife on my hike. I love to share photos  of the critters I see on my hikes here on my blog. It was still a great hike and I enjoyed the scenery of the lakes and woodlands, the peace and quiet of the trail and the sights, sounds and smell of the campground. I love hiking and exploring in  the many parks, preserves and stare forest here in  Northeastern  Pennsylvania. Locust Lake State park is one of them. I left the park knowing the next day will bring another opportunity to see some wildlife as long as I am out hiking and I keep my eyes peeled.   


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