A Close Encounter With A Great Blue Heron At The Susquehanna River Lands.
I enjoy hiking in the Susquehanna Wetlands in Luzerne County because of the abundance of wildlife I often see there. I have seen bald eagles, river otters, cinnamon bears, bobcat’s red foxes and many species of song birds, frogs, insects, snakes and turtles on my hikes here. I always hope to see one of the more exotic critters that live here. Some hikes I do, some I don’t. But I usually find something to share here on my blog. Last Sunday it was a close encounter with a great blue heron.
It was cloudy and a seasonably cold 32 degrees when I arrived at the wetlands early Sunday. The access road to parking lot in the wetlands was closed for the Winter so I parked by the gate and walked in.
There was still no ice or snow in the wetlands. As I observed in my last few blogs, this is very unusual and we are experiencing the warmest February on record here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
As I walked in the wetlands I was surprised to here the unmistakable songs of red-winged blackbirds in the treetops. I have never seen these birds here in February. I am sure there early arrival was due to the unusually warm weather.
I only saw, and heard male bird, perched high on tree branches, on my five mile hike. I enjoyed hearing their noisy calls although I just heard them in the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge on my visit to Philadelphia the day before.
There were a lot of other birds active on this cool and overcast morning. I saw three types of woodpeckers, this male downy woodpecker,
and tufted titmice were fluttering in the trees and
song sparrows were singing closer to the ground.
I walked through the trails in the wetlands,
and heard mallard ducks and Canada geese in the distance. I also saw a pair of wood ducks which quickly flew away as I approached. It is very early to see these ducks in the wetlands.
The woodlands were still brown, gray and mostly lifeless in the wetlands despite the warm weather. It was still Winter. The dried leaves of the bare trees, cattail reeds, milkweed pods, and shriveled bracken ferns
and ribbon grass reminded me of this.
However there was some life, and signs of the approaching Spring too. The intermediate wood ferns,
partridge berry leaves survived the cold and remained green throughout the Winter.
And the skunk cabbage I saw last week continued to grow.
I was surprised again on my hike when I saw catkins of the pussy willows in the wetlands. Again. this is very early, even for this harbingers of Spring. I am hopping all of these signs means a very early Spring this year.
As I was walking toward the Susquehanna River I hear the roar of a boat motor. I knew that I wouldn’t see any bald eagles or water fowl on the river.
I left the wetlands and hiked into the river lands and along the shores of lake Took-A-While.
On the other side of the lake is a canal, and, here I saw this dark-eyed junco perched on a tree branch. I usually see these birds scurrying on the ground,
I continued my walk along the lake,
and didn’t see and other wildlife until I came upon this great blue heron. I believe it was a juvenile. It did not appear to mind my approach. It allowed me to get close,
and then only flew a short distance away from me.
It seemed unconcerned with my presence as it kept flying a only short distance away from me each time I approached.
I believe it was a juvenile returning north for the first time.
Unfortunately, if it doesn’t became more concerned with the other critters in the wetlands and river lands it may soon discover that the bald eagles, foxes and bobcats, also love great blue herons, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have seen the remains of many of these beautiful birds on my walks in the wetlands, victims of these predators.
Well, this is nature. I hope this beautiful creature avoids the predators and lives a long and happy life. Here is a link to a gallery with many more photos of the beautiful great blue heron I encountered on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands great blue heron February 19 2023.
After my encounter with the great blue heron I ended my hike at the far end of the lake and walked back to the wetlands under the cloudy skies.
I saw a few of the same birds I saw earlier on my hike and this white-breasted nuthatch scampering up a tree.
It was still dreary and cold, but, as I have said a number of times, it is very unusual for our area to be ice and snow free in mid-February.
I am not complaining, I am not a fan of the cold, but I hope the wood ducks, red-winged black birds, and the young great blue heron made the right decisions returning north so early. I remember years of single digit temperatures and feet of snow in March. I hope not this year. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike in the river and wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands February 19 2023
“God comes to each of us in the form we can best perceive Him. To you, just now, He was a heron. To someone else, He might come as a flower or even a breeze.” Richard Zimler.