A Lot Of Birds On A Frosty Morning At The Susquehanna Wetlands

A Lot Of Birds On A Frosty Morning At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands (14 of 25)
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It was a cold and frosty morning when I arrived for my usual weekend hike in the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township, Luzerne County on Saturday.  It was 25 degrees as the sun was rising in partly cloudy skies.  There was frost on the leaves that littered the ground, including some of  my favorite the large leaves of the sycamore trees, 

and oaks. However, the frost wouldn’t last long. The weak rays of the November sun would be strong enough to quickly melt the thin frost on the leaves. 

I walked down to the Susquehanna River and found it’s waters were finally starting to recede after the heavy rains we had the last few months. 

On the trails in the wetlands most of the trees, including the oaks, had lost their leaves. It was a somber and sad feeling walking under the bare and silent trees. 

However the silence was soon broken by the song I knew well, a Carolina wren was singing! I walked on the frosty grass of the trail that led to a swamp.

I have seen and photographed this wren here a few time since September. I believe a pair migrated here from somewhere up north, And once again I was able to sneak up on it, and capture a photo of it singing.

This time it didn’t stay long, as it did in the past, but it was still nice to see it and hear it’s beautiful song on this frosty November morning. 

I walked back to the main trail along the old Susquehanna Canal.. On the way the only color I found were some green leaves still clinging to some of the trees in the wetlands, the native  alder buckhorn ,

and invasive.  autumn olive trees..

There were also clusters of the bright red common winterberries. 

It was quiet and I didn’t hear or see another bird until I walked over to the water fowl pond.  In the warmer months I almost always would see some wood ducks, geese, mallard ducks, green herons and great blue herons here.

I didn’t see any of these birds on  frosty Saturday morning, but, I  watched as a large flock of cedar waxwings  fly in and land on a tree along the pond above were I was standing.  I love these pretty birds.  They were high in the tree tops so I patiently tried to get  some photos of these colorful birds. 

As I was watching the cedar waxwings flutter in the tree tops a small flock of white-throated sparrows appeared in the thick undergrowth along the pond.

You can easily tell why they are called white-throated sparrows from this photograph. 

Soon a small flock of these birds appeared. At the time I wasn’t sure what they were but have since learned that the were  goldfinches in their drab brown winter feathers. 

The cedar waxwings continued to chatter in the tree tops, and more birds showed up below. I think, like the black-capped chickadees, their presence in the tree tops provides warning and safety from hawks and other predators. I believe why there were so many  other birds feeding below. I  stood still and pretended I was a tree and enjoyed the show. as a red -bellied woodpecker

and eastern bluebird arrived in the trees near the pond. 

Soon a northern flicker,

and this white-breasted nuthatch joined the feeding party.  However after  I watched the nuthatch feed on lichen  under the mushrooms growing on an  old birch tree, I looked up,  and the flock of cedar waxwings were gone, They flew off silently while I was distracted. And, when they did the bird feeding frenzy ended too. I waited for about five minutes and not a bird was to be seen along the shores of the pond. I am convinced all of the birds I saw took advantage of the presence of the cedar waxwings  keeping watch in the treetops.

I continued my walk along the old canal under the now leafless trees in the wetlands.

Here I saw a small flock of swamp sparrows. 

I walked back down to the river and followed a new trail along the river banks under some ancient oak trees. There were still some brown leaves on the oaks and they appeared golden in the morning sun. 

As I walked under the trees I saw a few deer who quickly ran into the woods. . Only this one stopped to take a look at me. 

As I was leaving the wetlands I saw  some goldfinches in the treetops. As I stopped to photograph them, I was surprised to hear this winter wren burst into song on a log right behind me. 

It remained in the area, fluttering on the underbrush near the ground.

Also nearby were some brown-headed cowbirds. I was surprised to see these birds here. I have not seen them in the wetlands all summer. I wasn’t able to get a photograph of them, or the kingfisher, crows and red-tailed hawk I heard on my walk.  The frosty morning soon warmed up by  the weak November  sun.  When I walked into the river lands and along Lake Too-A-While temperatures were in the 40’s. 

There were no ducks or geese on the lake but I saw this great blue heron,

along a canal and watched it walk into the woods. 

I walked to the far end of the lake and continued to see many birds on way including a northern cardinal, 

a blue jay 

and some song sparrows. The song sparrows would be the last birds I see on my hike.  I didn’t see any bald eagles, this is always my mission when I visit the wetlands and river lands, but I was very pleased with the many different birds I saw on my walk. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike in the frosty wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands November 20 2021.

On my walk back to the wetlands I saw one more critter, this gray squirrel opening a black walnut on a tree branch.

The many birds  I had seen earlier were gone. They probably all traveled together, under the protection of a flock of cedar waxwings or black-capped chickadees. It seems these birds of different feathers learned how to work together as they try and survive the cold and dark winter months that lay ahead. I hope they all make it to greet their cousins, the smart ones who flew south, when they return in the spring. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my morning hike. Susquehanna Wetlands hike November 20 2021. 

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”

― Robert Lynd

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