Wildflowers, Herons And A Cool Spider: Another Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands And River Lands

Wildflowers, Herons And A Cool Spider: Another Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands And River Lands

Susquehanna Wetlands birds (5 of 51)
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It was Saturday, and,  it is almost a ritual now,   I decided to hike in the Susquehanna Wetlands and River Lands in Salem Township, Luzerne County. It has been  ten years since I first hiked in this private nature preserve. The woodlands near my home in Hazle Township, where  I hiked  since I was a child,  were lost to residential and industrial development.  I cried  when  I saw  roads cut through the woodlands  on Stoney Mountain.  I had to find new places to hike. And I found a few but  my favorite has become these  wetlands and river lands along the Susquehanna River about 15 miles from my home. . There is such a diversity of life here.  I love walking the trails  looking for the many wonders  of nature, both flora and fauna, that are so common here. 

It was foggy when I arrived early Saturday morning. As usual I walked to the Susquehanna River  to look for water fowl and check the water level. Well, on Saturday all I saw was fog.  However, I was still able to notice the  river was the lowest I have seen it in my ten years of hiking here. We need rain. 

Walking back to the trails in the wetlands I met a couple of fellow nature  photographers. It was their first visit. We had a nice chat and they walked into the wetlands. I deviated from my usual routine and started my hike along the river. 

This  trail follows the path of the Great Warrior Trail  used by Native Americans long before European settlors appeared in these woodlands. I often wonder if some of these ancient oaks growing on the trail and along the river could have been alive when Native Americans roamed these woods. 

I had hoped to find some mushrooms under these old trees. There wasn’t a one. The woodlands are very dry form the lack of rain. There were  not many wild flowers on this trail either but a lot ferns, old skunk cabbages, mandrakes or may apples.  The only wildflower I saw under the shade of the ancient trees were these richweed flowers, a member of the mint family. I had never noticed them before. 

I walked to the branch overhanging the river  were I have seen bald eagles and belted kingfishers.  There were no birds on the branch  this week but I heard  wood ducks, mallards and kingfishers.  I couldn’t  see them because of the thick fog. 

I  walked back to the trail along the old canal and ponds in the wetlands,

where I saw this green heron perched on a log. 

I was able to watch it for a while as it flew  from the log to a  higher tree branch . 

Notice the cool spider web on the tree branch behind the green heron. 

It finally flew to a higher tree branch and I left it and continued my hike in the wetlands.

 I  saw this flock of wood ducks on  the canal, but they quickly flew away as I approached. 

The fog started to burn off and some blue skies appeared as I continued on my walk. 

There were  more wildflowers blooming along the  ponds and canals including broadleaf arrowhead flowers, 


and ironweed flowers, 

many species of goldenrod flowers, 

and both orange, 

and yellow jewel weed or touch me not flowers.

I also saw a few spider webs in the wetlands.  One had this beautiful spider on it. I knew this was an orb weaver spider,

and my new iPhone app ,Insect Identification tells me it is a female banded garden spider. Spiders are cool. 

I walked over to the Water Fowl pond and here  I saw some wood ducks that quickly flew away leaving this pied-billed  grebe  that was diving in the pond.

It was the first one I saw since the Spring.  A few more wood ducks and a great blue heron flew over the pond as I was leaving and continuing my walk through the wetlands and towards the river lands. 

Along the way I saw a few more birds.  I  believe they  became more active in  late Summer sun warmed the morning air. There were a few song sparrows on the lower  branches of the trees and shrubs along the trail. 

This eastern phoebe and,

this juvenile robin were perched on higher branches, 

and in the tops of some dead trees I saw a few red-eyed vireos, 

this yellow throated vireo, 

a red bellied woodpecker and 

this mourning dove perched on the highest branch. 

There was  also some more insect activity, this , my insect ID app tells me is a common eastern bumblebee and 

this a western bumblebee., an invasive species from  Europe. 

I walked along the trail between the old Susquehanna canal and some ponds and  saw a few more wood ducks, 

and this great blue heron perched on a log .

It wasn’t happy I disturbed it’s morning  search for a frog or fish for breakfast and  it flew off as I  approached. 

I walked back to the river, which was now visible because the fog had lifted. I  still didn’t see any wildlife on the river. 

I continued my hike  into the river lands area of the preserve,

and along scenic  Lake Took-A-While. 

There were only a few fishermen along the lake and no water birds, in fact I saw no birds on my walk in the river lands. I did hear a couple of belted kingfishers and a red-tailed hawk in the distance. There was not many insects activity either , just a few dragonflies, this is a widow skimmer,

and a few butterflies including this orange sulphur butterfly. 

There were a few more late summer wildflowers blooming along the trail including patches of cutleaf  coneflower, 

and, surprisingly, some Japanese honeysuckle. This is one of the few invasive plants I don’t mind seeing  in the wetlands. ( not too much anyway) . I love the fragrance of these flowers And they do attract a lot of insects. They bloom in  Spring and this is a second bloom  of the season for these flowers.  

There were more berries and seeds on the flowers that bloomed earlier in the Summer and Spring including these seeds produced by another invasive plant, the tropical milkweed, 

silky dogwood berries, 

roundleaf greenbrier berries,

and these northern spicebush berries which were growing in the wetlands. 

I ended my hike in the river lands, 

and headed back  into the wetlands.

The late August sun  warmed the air and the temperatures rose into the 80’s. There wasn’t much wildlife activity in the now mid-day heat. However as  I  was near the end of my hike  I saw another green heron ( or maybe it was the same one)perched on a log. I also noticed it had just caught  what I  think was a small catfish. 

It didn’t eat  it’s prey right away but, 

hopped from branch to branch, hoping, I think, I would leave it eat in peace. It finally had enough of me and flew off. 

Near the trail back to the parking lot I saw a few more wood ducks.  Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the critters and flowers I saw on mu hike in the wetlands and river lands. Susquehanna Wetlands wildlife and flowers August 27 2022. 

Although I didn’t see any bald eagles, bear or bobcats,  I had another enjoyable  hike in the wet lands and river lands and I am glad I can share some of the beauty of nature I saw on my hike. Here is a link to a gallery with more photos from my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands August 27 2022. 

August is ripening grain in the fields blowing hot and sunny, the scent of tree-ripened peaches, of hot buttered sweet corn on the cob. Vivid dahlias fling huge tousled blossoms through gardens and joe-pye-weed dusts the meadow purple. Jean Hersey

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