My brother and I spent several hours on Friday paddling Raccoon Creek State park's lake. The park is in southern Beaver County near the West Virginia stateline and in addition to the lake, has lots of good hiking. Interestingly, it's not actually Raccoon creek that feeds the lake, but Traverse creek, although Raccoon creek flows through other parts of the park and is the largest stream in the area.
Everywhere I go I keep seeing Green Herons, and they're a very interesting bird to me. The color of their plumage is especially pretty and I was pleased to get a couple of good pictures of this one wading along the shore of a flooded island.
I can't say I remember ever seeing an Eastern Pondhawk before but this one landed on my hand while I was snapping a few photos of some wildflowers. Since it landed on my camera hand, the photo credit for this pic actually goes to my brother for clicking the shutter. Known as a voracious predator, this female (males are blue) was feeding on the remaining portion of the another bug (that bug's wings and part of its body are also visible).
Milkweed is still blooming right now and I found this specimen at the boat dock. The flowers are the very interesting to me, the structure of the petals seems to recess and it includes wire-like structures. The foliage is the sole food source for Monarch butterflies and a specific compound in the leaves that are called "cardiac glycosides" are what make the butterflies toxic to predators.
We saw a lot of Spotted and Pale Touch Me Nots although I only got pictures of the Spotteds. Touch Me Nots are called that because their seed pods, that look like a small green bean, burst open at the slightest touch, spreading their seeds. It's actually pretty cool.
For a small lake, there were a lot of Great Blue Herons around, even more than I would have guessed. But I guess that is a testament to the health of the lake and its ecosystem.
The lake is fed on its west end by Traverse creek, and you can paddle a good way up the stream before a shallow section of rapids and fallen trees block your path. Compared to the lake, the water in the stream was noticeably cooler and was a milky brown from all the rain lately.
This Northern Water Snake was sunning on a half submerged log just off the lake shore. We got pretty close while I was taking the pictures, but it never did leave the log, which was good because I would have had a hard time getting my camera stowed and my paddle in the water to get away from it.