Spring Visitors At The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails, I Hope Some Of Them Stay

Spring Visitors At The Greater Hazleton Rails To Trails, I Hope Some Of Them Stay

Rails to Trail birds (26 of 36)
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Rain was in the forecast again last  Saturday here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  It was cloudy with a light drizzle when I decided to hike  on the local Rails to Trails near my home in  Hazle Township, Luzerne County.  I wasn’t expecting  to take photos on my hike because of the rain.  I took my camera along anyways, and   I was glad I did. The drizzle  stopped when I arrived at the  parking lot to the  east access of trail on the Hazle Brook road.  

It was still overcast when I  left my Jeep but  I decided to bring  my camera along on my hike since it looked like the rain may hold off.  I was hoping I would see some of the  many birds now migrating through our area.  As soon as I left my Jeep I saw this critter scampering on the woodland floor. It would be the first of many chipmunks I would see and hear on my five mile hike. 

And,  after walking only a short  distance, I  saw and heard many birds fluttering and singing in the treetops.   This part of the trail was an old second growth mixed hardwood  forest with tall oak, pine and maple trees. I  saw and heard many birds, but, because of the overcast conditions,  I was only able to photograph a few of them that were close to the ground,  including this blue-headed vireo, 

and this oven bird. It amazes me that these birds have traveled  so far to breed here in Pennsylvania and areas to the north. The blue-headed vireo spends the Winter in the  southern United States,  Mexico and Central America. The oven birds travels even further to the Caribbean Islands and South America.  

I continued my hike on the trail.  Most of the oak  trees were  still leafless and bare but  the birch and maple trees were   beginning to get some light green  leaves.  The trail is about 1000 feet higher than the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township  which I visited the previous day.  Almost all of the trees in the wetlands were covered in lush new green leaves. Not on our mountain, our growing season is a few weeks behind the lower elevations at the wetlands.  

There were some Spring flowers, covered with rain drops, growing along the trails including early blue violets, 

primrose-leaf violets

and plantain pussytoes. Low bush blueberries or as we locals call them “huckleberries” and

wild strawberries were also blooming along the trail.

There were  puddles and wetlands on a pole line near the trail where I thought I may see some bird activity. 

I did. I first heard, then saw this bird. It’s song sounds so much like it’s name, an eastern phoebe. These small flycatchers  travel from the southern United States and eastern Mexico to return here to nest  and sing for us in the Spring and Summer. . 

Another migratory bird, with a distinctive call that gives it it’s  name was singing  on a tree branch, a male  eastern towhee. 

A Baltimore oriole was also singing in a tree near the wetlands. These birds are long distance migrants traveling to Mexico, the Caribbean and South America after breeding in our woodlands. They are beautiful birds. 

I saw one more bird at this small wetlands, a black and white warblerThese pretty warblers are also long distance migrants and live in the same areas as the Baltimore orioles in the Winter. 

The trail continued along a small stream, where native trout still swim,  that separates the woodlands to the north west and the reclaimed strip mines to the southeast. There is a lot more information on the Rails to Trail and it’s history in previous blog you can find with the search tool  on my blog website. 

On the woodland side of the trail cinnamon  ferns grew along the stream. 

Dandelions, and

coltsfoot were blooming on the mine reclamation side of the trail. These are  the seeds from the coltsfoot flowers. 

The trail continued  through a culvert under a mine haul road and proceeded through a large  mine reclamation area.  This are was first deep mined and then a large  part of the areas was strip mined.   It was reclaimed about twenty years ago and now  young,   newly planted trees including birch,  honey locust and pine, growing on both sides of the trail. 

I saw a lot of bird activity in the trees, There were many migratory birds  fluttering about, and it was easier to photograph then in the small trees. I saw a few beautiful indigo buntings. These birds also are long distance migrators, spending their Winters, in Central and South America and the  Caribbean. The migrate at night and use the stars for guidance. Once again, I find this amazing. 

I also saw a prairie warbler singing on a  tree branch along the trail. 

These pretty birds  migrate from the Caribbean islands where they spend their Winters. 

A chestnut-sided warbler sang for me, briefly , on a tree branch,

until it decided to fly  away. It, too is a long distance migratory bird wintering in the Caribbean and  northern South America.  

I also saw this brilliant colored bird, one of my favorites, a scarlet tanager.   It  probably migrates the furthest of all the birds I saw on my hike,  wintering as far south as Peru. 

I continued on my hike crossing the  bridge over the active railroad track. 

Here the trail  passes through a small  strip mined area that was not reclaimed.  It then enters some second growth  pine and hardwood woodlands,

before it  continues past one of the large tract of pine barrens along the trail.  This is a link to an informative article on the pine barrens  https://www.standardspeaker.com/archive/creatures-abound-in-barren-land-preserved-along-hazleton-trail/article_ddb0d56c-b391-58ba-8fa6-ef548f1abbd4.html. 

Near the pine barrens I met some friends, as I often do on my hike on the Rails to Trails,  and we had a pleasant conversation before I begin my hike back to my Jeep. The sun broke through the clouds for a while making for some pleasant walking in the May sunshine. 

On the way I saw a lot of the same birds I encountered on my hike out, including this pretty scarlet  tanager. 

I  also saw a few of these  birds that don’t migrate but remain here during out long cold  Winters, field sparrows,

and their  similar looking close relatives the chipping sparrows who do  migrate south for the Winter.  Here is a link to a gallery with more photos of the birds i saw on my hike on the Rails to  Trails.     Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails birds. May 14 2022.

The clouds returned as I crossed the bridge, 

and I walked back through the reclamation area.  It was later in the day and I didn’t see or hear as many of the migrating birds . 

I did see this spicebush  swallowtail butterfly.  These butterfly butterflies feed only on leaves of the laurel family. 

I finished my 5 mile hike as the clouds thickened and threatened rain again. I was glad I was able to get my hike in, with my camera, so I could share some of the beauty I found on this wonderful trail, and such an asset to our area.  If you haven’t yet, take a walk out here, you won’t regret. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike on the rails to trails. Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails May 14 2022. 

“There really is no correct way to hike the trail, and anyone who insists that there is ought not to worry so much about other people’s experiences. Hikers need to hike the trail that’s right for them…”
― Adrienne Hall

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