A Couple Of December Hikes in the PPL Wetlands

A Couple Of December Hikes in the PPL Wetlands

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I haven’t had a lot of time to post here on my blog these past few weeks but I’m finally catching up on some of my hikes. So here are some photographs and thoughts from a couple of December hikes I took in the PPL Wetlands in Salem Township, Luzerne County, one of my favorite places to hike and explore. 

November was one of the mildest on record here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It got colder in December but the temperatures were still slightly above normal. The ponds and canals in the wetlands were mainly ice free on my hikes. . Some years they are frozen solid. 

It was partly sunny with temperatures in the low 30’s when I began my first walk in the wetlands the first weekend in December. . It is so much quieter this time of year. . The trees were bare and their leaves strewn on the ground, having lost all of their splendid Fall colors. 

There was little wildlife in the wetlands. The mammal, amphibians, reptiles and insects  were now in hibernation and many of the song birds  had flown south for the Winter. However, I did see a  a few of the birds that remained on my hike including a red-bellied woodpecker,

and a couple of downy or hairy woodpeckers, I have a difficult time  telling them about. 

I also saw a beautiful pileated woodpecker, one of my favorites. It flew off before I could take a photograph. There were are a few of these brilliant but elusive birds in the wetlands as evidenced by these marking found on many of the trees along the trail. 

There were also a few white-throated sparrows,

and nuthatches fluttering in the trees and bushes along the trail.

Cumulus clouds floated in the deep blue December skies as I hikes into the river lands section of this nature preserve. 

Here, in the river lands,  I found that Lake Took-A-While was ice free.  There was a large flock of Canada geese  on the cold waters of the lake. I also heard the chattering of a pair of kingfisher in the distance. Soon, when the lake freezes these birds will have to leave our area for warmer waters further south. 

Another bird that delayed it southern migration was perched in a tree, this American robin was taking advantage of the sunshine and  mild December weather. 

I ended my hike ended at near the Warrior Trail  and I began my 2 mile hike back to the wetlands under the cumulus clouds, blue sky and December sunshine. Unfortunately I didn’t see  much wildlife on my return hike, but such is Winter in these parts, most of Nature is asleep. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my first hike in the wetlands. PPL Wetlands December 6 2020.

I returned to the wetlands a week later for another hike. This time when I arrived a cold fog had formed over the nearby Susquehanna River. 

Temperatures were again seasonable, in the lower 30’s. 

The ponds were still ice free. and on this hike,  there was a lot more bird activity. Once again I saw a small flock of white-throated sparrow,

cardinals,

black-capped chickadees and

a few woodpeckers. 

On this hike I also saw a few, I believe, song sparrows, in the thick brush along one of the ponds. 

 

Although most of the plants and trees lost their leaves, some, such as the oaks, the blackberry brambles and 

greenbrier had some leaves clinging to their vines. 

Once again I followed the trail through the wetlands to the river section of the preserve. And once again I heard some kingfishers chattering  near the lake. However, the Canada geese were not on the lake this time but a few did fly overhead. I believe they had moved to the waters of the nearby river.  

Like the week before I hiked out to the Warrior Trail when I decided to return.  Clouds moved in as I retraced my steps back to the wetlands. 

This time I saw a few more birds including the tiny but pretty golden kinglet and

this pretty bird, which I believe is a juvenile goldfinch

and this Carolina wren. It was nice to see so many birds  active in the wetlands in December. There was no were near as many as I encounter in the Spring and Summer months but more than on most cold Winter days. 

I was disappointed that  I didn’t see any mammals on this hike. Usually there are a few squirrels, chipmunks. muskrats, beavers  or deer in the wetlands. However I did see some evidence that at least the beavers were still there, and busy gnawing on trees. 

Once again the PPL Wetlands and River lands provided me with a wonderful hike where I was able to enjoy and share the beauty of nature.  Here is a link to some more photographs from my second December hike in the wetlands. PPL Wetlands hike December 13 2020. 

“Always maintain a kind of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
-Thoreau

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