Spring Arrives Slowly At Lake Irena And Community Park.

Spring Arrives Slowly At Lake Irena And Community Park.

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It was a sunny day in May, many, many years ago, when  I first visited Lake Irena and the surrounding woods of Community Park in Hazle Township, Luzerne County. I know I  wasn’t in grade school yet when my dad first  took me and my siblings there.  I believe it was in 1963 or 1964, a few years after the park was dedicated. I still remember the old hand water pump and throwing rocks in the water. It seems  like it was only yesterday. 

Well I returned on another  sunny day in early May this year. And returned a few times after that  to walk around Lake Irena and enjoy nature in the  woodlands surrounding the lake.  I always hope to see a bald eagle or an osprey on my visits.  I didn’t see either of these birds  on my recent  walks but I did see a lot of other wildlife.   Soaring in the skies above the lake on my first  afternoon walk in May were a pair of ring-billed  gulls. 

Occasionally they would swoop down on the lake and, at times catch an unsuspecting fish. These gulls will not nest here and were only passing through our area. 

In the shallow waters on the north side of the lake I saw this  solitary sandpiper scurrying about and looking for insects, frogs or small fish.

And I also saw this female lesser scaup swimming on the lake. It was the first time I had seen one of these diving birds on Lake Irena. I guessed the male would be somewhere nearby but I didn’t see it on my walk. They breed in northern Canada and would be just passing through our area. 

I usually walk along the lake and then follow a trail into the surrounding woodlands. Here, on my first hike in early May only a few of the trees  had leaves. Most including these large oaks near the Babe Ruth baseball field were still leafless.  The lake and park are situated on a mountain ridge and the elevation keeps us about two weeks behind the lower valleys in the growing season. 

However some of the birch  trees and 

maple trees had already produced their first leaves, 

providing some color in the woods  along the trail. 

There were some flowers in bloom including wild violets scattered on the trails throughout the park. 

Wild  strawberries, 

highbush blueberries ,

and wild pin cherries  also bloomed.  All of these will provide food for the wildlife, and some humans, next month. 

I finished my three mile hike along the lake and saw a few more critters, an American redstart, 

some painted turtles soaking up the sun 

and this chipmunk. 

A few days later I returned to the lake. Once again the skies were mostly sunny.  On  my three mile walk I found the male lesser  scaup. 

It joined the female and the  pair were swimming, and diving, in the clear blue waters of Lake Irena. 

I also saw a second solitary  sandpipers  at the lake. 

The pair of mallard ducks I had seen before were on the stream that fed the lake and I suspect they had a nest nearby.

During the next week I  returned to the park two more time and both time the skies were mostly sunny, with puffy cumulus clouds floating in the breeze.

The blue skies and clouds reflected on the lake providing some beautiful scenery. The solitary sandpipers were gone on my subsequent visits, but the scaups were still there. 

Here is the male taking a dive under the water to find as they, being diving ducks, do all day. 

This  titmouse was carrying nesting material, I think to a nearby hollow tree.

Slowly the vegetation in the woods around the lake and in the park were coming to life. The skunk cabbages continued to unfurl their leaves. 

The first ferns were also making an appearance.

The trees in the surrounding trail were becoming greener with each passing day.

It was mid May when I took my last hike and even the oaks near the ballfield where sprouting their first leaves. 

The surrounding woodlands were  getting greener everyday. 

I walked  back to the lake and saw this green heron on an old beaver lodge. It was the first heron I saw in the park this year. 

A black and white warbler was scampering up a tree trunk nearby. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs  of the birds I saw on  my visits to Community Park and Lake Irena. Community Park May 1 to 14 2021. 

There were some new wildflowers in bloom too. The pretty pink native fringed polygala was found along the trail in the woods,

and the native white wood anemone I found growing under the large trees near the pavilions in the park.

In addition to the wildlife and wildflowers the park provided beautiful scenic views of Lake Irena.

The strong May sunshine reflecting off the waters of the lake and the cumulus clouds floating in the sky are reason enough to visit this small but lovely park. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike, Community Park walks May 1 to May 14 2021. 


May, more than any other month of the year, wants us to feel most alive. Fennel Hudson



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