A Dreary, But Still Mild, February Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands And Riverlands

A Dreary, But Still Mild, February Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands And Riverlands

Susquehanna Wetlands cedar waxwings (22 of 27)
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Early February is usually one of the coldest times of the year here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I remember many sub zero days,  snow and ice storms around Valentine’s Day. In my younger days I would hike out to a local reservoir,  and, most years, build a fire in the middle of the reservoir in  early February. The ice was usually the thickest then. Not this year, so far we have had another mild Winter and so I wasn’t surprised when I drove to the Susquehanna Wetlands  early Sunday morning  and found the ponds and canals ice free.

It was cloudy with a mild, for February, 38 degrees when I began my walk at the access gate to the wetlands. The gate was still closed for the Winter, although we weren’t having much of a Winter. I walked on  the access road,  and this morning,  found a lot of birds active in the thick, wilted vegetation along the road.

I heard a few Carolina wrens singing their cheerful song in the distance, and also a small flock of noisy tufted titmice in the trees along the trail,

a flock of white throated sparrows shuffled near the ground in the thick vegetation.

And I heard saw this American robin ,

and northern cardinal perched on trees branches.

I  spent some time, maybe 15 minutes getting a few photos of this elusive bird,

a golden crowned kinglet. This is a male. They rarely sit still and hop from branch to branch so I was pleased to get  some photos of this elusive little bird.

Later, on my hike, I saw one of it’s cousins, a female ruby crowned kinglet, and will share it here of comparison  of the two small birds that stay in our woodlands in the Winter.

I walked to the parking lot, and down to the Susquehanna River. Many year large chunks of ice are floating down the river but not on this mild February morning. 

As usual I continued my hike into the wetlands,

and along the trail that follows the remains of the old Susquehanna Canal.

The overcast skies and grays and browns of the trees and wilted vegetation made for a dreary scene.  But  it was mild, for February,  and there was no snow or ice to be seen. I wasn’t.  complaining.

The only color was some dried red winterberries,

and green briar berries still not eaten by the birds. I heard the honking of Canada geese in the distance but  saw no other wildlife,.

until I came to the swampy area with the large dead trees. Here, as usual I saw a downy woodpecker,

a hairy woodpecker, note the larger bill,

and a red bellied  woodpecker all searching for insects and grubs under the bark of the dead trees. I also heard a pileated woodpecker in the distance.

I tired to hike to the Water Fowl Pond. I heard wood ducks on the pond, very unusual for February, but found,

both trails to the pond were flooded. 

I turned back and headed to the river lands area of the small private nature preserve.

On the way I saw a  small flock of Canada geese  on the canals. Some were already pairing up and will soon be mating and building nests in the wetlands.

I also saw a few song sparrows  in the woods along the trail.

As I was leaving the wetlands I  saw a large flock of cedar waxwings feeding  on some rose hips.

I love watching this elegant birds and took a few photos of them feeding.

Nearby I saw this pair of mallard ducks, like the Canada geese, also pairing up to mate and start nesting as the Spring approaches. This is very early and the I hope the ducks and geese don’t lay their eggs to early and perish in a late Winter artic cold spell.

I continued on my walk and, as I crossed the access road to the river lands I saw another flock of cedar waxwings, living up to their name.

and feeding on some cedar berries. Again I spent some time photographing these beautiful birds.

And, as I entered the river lands I saw more cedar waxwings these feeding on some dried crabapples. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog webpage with some more photos of these beautiful birds. Susquehanna Wetlands cedar waxwings. February 11 2024.

As I walked along the canal near Lake Took-A-While,

I saw this great blue heron perched on a tree branch.

I watched it for 10 minutes and it didn’t move an inch.

I walked along the open waters of the lake. where I saw a few fishermen taking advantage of the ice free waters. I was hoping to see an eagle also taking advantage of the unusual open waters of the lake but they weren’t around.

I did hear a familiar sound, the calls of the noisy red winged blackbirds. It is unusual to see these birds in the wetlands and river lands this early in February. This is a male.

I also saw a few eastern bluebirds

and also saw a small flock of Canada geese fly onto the lake.

I walked halfway to the end of the lake and began my walk back on the dreary Sunday morning.

I left the riverlands and, as I entered the wetlands I saw the  great blue heron again. It   hadn’t moved an inch on the treed branch along the trail.

I walked through the wetlands but it was quiet, until I saw  a few wood ducks on one of the ponds, again a rare site this early in February.  Most years they would be in ice free waters further south during our Winter and not return until early to late March. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog webpage with some more photos of the birds I saw on my five mile hike. . Susquehanna Wetlands birds . February 11 2024.

I finished my  five mile hike in the wetlands. It was dreary and, although above average, still cold. However, I didn’t have to trudge through snow or ice on my hike. And although I didn’t see a majestic bald eagle or a playful river otter I was happy to see the cedar waxwings and other birds that remain in our woodlands in the Winter. Once again the wetlands provide me with both exercise and an appreciation for the beauty of nature. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog webpage with some more photos from my five mile hike. . Susquehanna Wetlands cedar waxwings. February 11 2024.

“The color of springtime is in the flowers, the color of winter is in the imagination.”
– Terri Guillemets





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