River Otters And Late Summer Flowers: A Wonderful Wildlife Encounter And September Beauty At The Susquehanna Wetlands

River Otters And Late Summer Flowers: A Wonderful Wildlife Encounter And September Beauty At The Susquehanna Wetlands

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It was a good week in  my search for wild edible mushrooms. I found many edible species during the week,  including the “redtop” (aspen scaber stalk bolete) and “cozie” birch scaber stalk bolete needed for our traditional  Polish mushroom soup we serve at Holy Supper on Christmas Eve. So I decided to take a morning off from my mushroom hunts and visit the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem  Township in Luzerne County on Saturday morning. I have experienced many wonderful wildlife encounters in this nature preserve over the years, including a cinnamon bear, a fox family  playing along the river , snapping turtles mating ,  bald eagles feeding their young  to name a few. Well on Saturday I had another wonderful encounter with a family of river otters in the wetlands. I learned they are cute, curious and playful critters. 

It was a partly cloudy and warm morning when I  arrived. As usual I first walk down to the Susquehanna River hoping to see a bald eagle, osprey or some other water fowl.  I didn’t see any on Saturday.  But I saw the  river was still high from all of the recent rains. 

Walking into the wetlands I observed signs that it was the last weekend of Summer. The bracken ferns had all turned brown and leaves were falling from the trees. 

Some, like the leaves on this Virginia creeper vine, have already turned a brilliant red. 

There were, however, still some late Summer flowers in bloom along the trail in the wetlands. These included the  bright purple ironweed flowers,

the white snakeroot flowers, and,

of course the yellow goldenrod flowers. There were not any insects active when I began my hike but they started to visit the flowers as the late Summer sun warmed the air. 

I soon found out the wood ducks were still in the wetlands. They should be leaving on their migration soon.

As  I noticed last week the wetlands were quiet again. The frogs and insects were silent and many of the song birds have already left our area. 

However, I was pleased when I  heard the happy song of the Carolina wren. It was singing in almost the same tree where I saw it last week.

I also saw a  few green herons but this week I was only able to photograph this one perched in a tree. 

After seeing the green heron I heard some splashing on one of the old canals. Investigating I observed a family of river otters playing in the green, duck weed covered waters. I think the mother was perched on a log. I couldn’t get a  clear photo because of the trees and brush along the canal. It was still an enjoyable experience watching them  trough the branches.  

They soon noticed me, and dived under the water. Much to my surprise  the two youngsters reappeared and stared at me. 

It seemed they were curious, but very cautious. They would look at me, then dive under the water, and reappear in another location. I kept following them trying to get a clear photograph.It was almost like they were taunting me. I was finally able to get some photos before they submerged under the waters.

As I continued my walk I found them again further along the trail. They were on the banks of the canals and quickly scrambled into the water. I knew they must swim very fast to have got that far ahead of me.

This was confirmed, when, after walking a few more hundred yards, I saw them again.

This time one of the young ones was on the log with its’s mother while the other swam in the waters. Once again they dived under the water as I approached. I waited for 15 minutes and walked a bit in both directions hoping to see them again. I didn’t. I am guessing they may have swam ahead and scrambled over to a larger pond on the other side of the canal.  It was a truly enjoyable experience to watch these playful and curious creatures as they went about their carefree existence in their own little natural world.  I often wish I could join them. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photographs of the river otters. Susquehanna Wetlands otters September 18 2021 

After my encounter with the river otters, I continued my hike toward the river lands section of the nature preserve. On my way I saw a few turtle crawling out of the waters as the sun warmed the air, 

and this northern flicker perched in a tree. 

In the river lands, I was lucky to finally get some photos of the pair of kingfishers that live near the lake. 

I hear there chattering every time I visit but they very seldom stay in one place long enough to photograph. On Saturday they decided to take a break on the electric wires over the lake. They aren’t the best photos but at least I was able to capture and share images of this beautiful birds. 

I saw only one great blue heron on my five mile hike. It flew across the lake as I approached. 

There were also some pretty late Summer flowers blooming in the river lands along the lake including these New England asters, 

panicled asters, 

cutleaf coneflowers, 

and evening primroses. 

The air was warming up and some insects became active. There were no dragonflies but a few wasps and bees were visiting the purple loosestrife flowers. 

Some monarch butterflies flew overhead, in the breeze, on their migration south.  I also saw these two colorful butterflies  along the trail, this an orange sulphur butterfly  

and this tiny butterfly, it was no larger than a dime, is an eastern tailed blue butterfly. There are so many pretty colors in nature. 

More evidence of this are some of the berries that are now found on the trails in the river lands such as the bright red berries of the common winterberry  and 

the pretty blue berries of the invasive Asiatic tearthumb vine.

Cumulus clouds formed in the sky as noon approached,

making for spectacular views of Lake-Took-A-While. 

As is my usual routine I walked to the far end of the lake and began my return hike. 

On the way back to the wetlands I saw the phoebe in it’s usual tree near a bridge over a canal, 

and this beautiful female northern cardinal. 

The females are not seen as much as their bright red mates but they are just as beautiful . Here is a link to a gallery in my blog website with more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds. September 18 2021. 

I returned to the wetlands where I saw a few more pretty late Summer flowers,  the blue cardinal flowers, 

and the purplestem asters. 

I was hoping to see the river otter family again but they weren’t around. Wherever they were I am sure they were enjoying the day in the late Summer sun as much as I was.  I did see this critter scurrying on the forest floor, under the tall old oaks trees,

also enjoying the glorious September weather,

a chipmunk having an early afternoon snack. It was a beautiful day, as it always is in the wetlands, but even more so having enjoyed watching the playful river otters,. I hope I see them again soon. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike . Susquehanna Wetlands September 18 2021. 

These little fur balls are very good swimmers and can stay underwater for three to four minutes at a time. Otters are very much like you boys and girls, because they spend most of their time playing.Michael R. Greyson

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