Trout Lilies, Turtles And A Thunderstorm: A Spring Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands.

Trout Lilies, Turtles And A Thunderstorm: A Spring Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands.

Susquehanna Wetlands (47 of 47)
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It has been two weeks since I visited my favorite hiking trails in the Susquehanna Wetlands near my home in Luzerne County . I rarely miss a weekend in the wetlands in the Spring.  I had a good excuse,  I traveled to New York to experience my second solar eclipse last week. I returned to the wetlands  early Sunday morning and was surprised to still see the gate to the parking area closed. It really didn’t matter to me since  I don’t mind hiking the  1/4 mile  to the trail parking  lot.

As on my last hike,  it seems the many birds who I find  along the access road in the Winter have move elsewhere. I only heard a few cardinals in the woodlands along the road. However, there was a lot more green color in the woodlands,  I saw these pretty native  flowers dutchman’s breeches,

the invasive Dame’s rocket and garlic mustard  plants,  shown here, continued to sprout and some of them had flowers already.

And the invasive Japanese knotweed began to sprout. This noxious invasive plant is destroying much of the habitat of our native wildflower. It is edible when young and I often gather some of the young tender shoots and prepare them like asparagus.

Fiddlehead or ostrich ferns, also edible, were now unfurling their fronds along the road.

I walked to the parking lot and down to the Susquehanna River which was up to it’s banks, still swollen from the heavy rains we have had.

Walking back up to the trailhead for the wetlands I looked for the eastern phoebes that always nest neat the  information board. They weren’t there Sunday 

and it was very quiet as  I walked into the wetlands. It was sunny but cool, with temperatures in the low 40’s. It was two worlds as I walked on the trail, near the ground there was a lot of green. The invasive honeysuckle, northern spicebush and other shrubs were putting forth their first leaves,

and the garlic mustard, Dames rocket and skunk cabbage made it seem like the bare, dreary trees overhead were set in a carpet of green.

The trail leads to the ponds remaining from the old Susquehanna Canal. Here the red maple added color to the mostly bleak, leafless trees.

Here I did see and here a lot of bird activity, mainly the male  red winged blackbirds  singing and calling out loudly to establish their territories they will vigorously defend.

There are two trail that lead to the Water Fowl Pond, I took the first, which takes you past another pond where I often see muskrats and I saw on swimming on Sunday

I often see birds here too and I did on Sunday, this song sparrow,

a northern cardinal

a few eastern bluebirds

and this swamp sparrow. This trail to the Water Fowl Pond, while muddy,  was still  passable. However, the few wood duck on the pond flew offand only a small flock of Canada geese remained on the pond.

The other path to this pond was still under water. So I began my hike toward the river lands area of  this nature preserve, about a mile  walk. The large tree  that fell during a recent storm still blocked the path.   

Along the  way I saw a few more signs of Spring, including the serviceberry or shadbush flowers. We called them June berries and enjoyed their fruit  when I was a child.

Cutleaf toothwort flowers also were in bloom

and the May apple or mandrake flowers were sprouting all along the trail. These flowers are all native to our woodlands.

These flowers are not native and are believed to have been brought over as medicinal plants  by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower.

There was some bird activity too. I saw this downy woodpecker,

some white throated sparrows,

and this female northern cardinal along the trail.

I usually take a side trail back down to the Susquehanna River but the trail was still flooded so I continued on to the river lands.

As I did I was treated to the sight of this bald eagle soaring high over Lake Took-A-While.

When I walked into the river lands and along Lake Took-A-While I found there were dozens of folks. with many families, fishing along it’s shore.

I also saw a few double crested cormorants swimming in the lake, flying overhead and perched on a log along the shore.

Across the lake a fisherman pointed out a bald eagle perched in a tree. It looked like it was dozing off.

Near one of the bridges I saw a pair of eastern phoebes that have been nesting here the past few years,

and I saw a lot more male red winged blackbirds along the trail.

The sun had warmed it up when i had reached the end o the lake. Here I found hundreds of one of my favorite Spring flowers in bloom.

the delicate and beautiful trout lilies. They are so fleeting and will be gone when I return next week.

I began my hike back to the wetlands and noticed dark clouds approaching from the northeast. This is unusual since most of our weather arrives from the northwest.

I walked back noticing some more Spring flowers including azure bluets,

blue violets,

and dead nettles.

The warner temperature brought out another sign of Spring, dozens of turtles were now seen along the shore and on logs in the ponds and canals.

The  skies continued to  darken  as I walked back into the wetlands.

I still was stopping to photograph any birds I saw such as this red bellied woodpecker, a year long resident of the wetlands.

and this blue-gray gnatcatcher  who has  just returned after spending the Winter in the south. However, my wildlife observations ended when I heard the rumble of thunder in the distance.  It got louder quickly and I hurried to finish my five mile hike.

I also saw this female bufflehead duck swimming on a canal.  Here is a link to a gallery on my website with more photos of the birds I saw on my hike, there are no ads, I make no profit. I just like to share the beauty I find on my hikes. Susquehanna Wetlands birds April 14 2024.

As I was nearing the end of my hike I stopped to get photos of this muskrat who didn’t seem to mind the approaching storm.

By the time I got to my Jeep, and finished my 5 mile hike. the skies were dark.  And, just as I started to drive home,  the skies opened up. I drove through high winds, torrential rains and hails on my way home. I love thunderstorms but not when I am walking in them so I was glad I finished another great hike in the wetlands before it came. Here is a link to a gallery on my website with more photos from my five mile hike in the wetlands and river lands. . Susquehanna Wetlands  April 14 2024.

“Again the blackbirds sings; the streams Wake, laughing, from their winter dreams, And tremble in the April showers The tassels of the maple flowers.”   John Greenleaf Whittier

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