A Frigid February Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands
It was a frigid February morning when I awoke Saturday at my home in Hazle Township Luzerne County. And here in Northeastern Pennsylvania frigid February mornings are not uncommon. We had an ice storm on Friday. The trees in my backyard were coated with a thick layer of ice. I was anxious to drive to the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township to see how much ice they got there. The wetlands are located about 25 miles from my home and are at a much lower elevation. So I wasn’t entirely surprised to find only a light coating of ice on the trees in the wetlands.
It was partly cloudy, a frigid 14 degrees with a strong northwesterly wind when I arrived at the wetlands around 8:30 a.m. As usual I walked down to the Susquehanna River to look for wildlife and check the water level. The river was high but I was surprised there wasn’t much ice on it’s waters. The only ice was along the shore.
Leaving the river, I walked into the wetlands and was surprised again when I found only an inch or so of snow on the trails. We still have over six inches of snow in my backyard up on the mountain. I was relieved since this made walking so much easier.
It was quiet again in the wetlands, even more then so on my previous Winter walks. Usually I will see a few song and white-throated sparrows, black capped-chickadees, woodpeckers or nuthatches, and, sometimes a hawk eagle, muskrat or otter. There was nothing stirring on this frigid February morning. It was cold, and I froze my fingers to take these, but I photographed the ice from the freezing rain on some of the plants and berries in the wetlands including this blackberry thorn,
these roundleaf green briar berries and
these common winterberries. There were fewer common winterberries and they have lost most of their brilliant red color from the cold and ice.
The were a few other leaves and seeds remaining from last years growing season such as these black locust seeds,
The only green I saw on my hike was the ground pine or tree clubmoss still growing in the snow.
It was cold walking into the strong northwesterly wind but I continued through the wetlands and was walking back down to the river when I saw a Cooper’s hawk on the ground. By the time I got my frozen hand out of my glove it had flown up on a tree branch. I was glad it didn’t fly off as I approached,
I was able to get a few photos of this small, but beautiful raptor. It may have been one of the reasons I didn’t see any other birds on my walk.
Shortly after the hawk flew off I saw a winter wren and a few song sparrows.
After seeing the hawk and sparrows I walked along the Susquehanna River again. I was hoping to see a bald eagle or at least ducks but there was no wildlife on the river. I headed to the river lands area of the nature preserve. The wildflowers of summer are long gone and only the seed pods of plants like the cutleaf teasel,
and the last of the oak leaves are some of the only diversions from the blanket of snow that covers the wetlands.
As I was walking into the river lands I came across dozens of American robins feeding on the remaining fruit of a crabapple tree.
The robins were greedily devouring the fruit as I watched.
In the river lands I found Lake Took-A-While to be frozen solid.
There wasn’t another person on the trails near the lake.
There were however, dozens of American robins,
and, one of my favorite birds, cedar waxwings, feeding on fruits of the crabapple trees growing along the lake.
I think the waxwings are an eliquiot looking birds.
and the robins were feasting crabapples.
Here is a link to a gallery with more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds February 5 2022.
As usual I walked to the end of the lake and began my hike back to the wetlands.
Clouds moved making for an even more wintery scene on my return hike.
I didn’t see any more birds on my hike back, but I did see this muskrat.
.It feeding on the last of the duck weed in an open area of water on one of the canals.
After watching the muskrat I finished up my five mile hike. Although I dislike the cold, I still enjoyed getting outside and seeing some wildlife feeding in the frigid weather. But I am counting the days until Spring and the return of the warm weather. This is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my frigid February hike in the wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands hike February 5 2022.
February, a form
Pale-vestured, wildly fair,—
One of the North Wind’s daughters,
With icicles in her hair.
I really enjoyed your blog posting, Frank Skokoski!
Thank you for sharing it with us.
Even more so, congratulations on facing this brutal stretch of icy cold in NEPA to bring it to us.
Thanks I enjoy sharing the beauty I find in nature.