A Mink On Ice At The Susquehanna Wetlands

A Mink On Ice At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands mink (33 of 43)
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Once again the Susquehanna Wetlands surprised me with an unexpected, but wonderful wildlife sighting this past weekend.   This time it was an American mink  frolicking on the newly formed ice on one of the canals in the wetlands.

The sun was rising in partly skies when I left my home in Hazle Township.

However , I was surprised to find a thick fog blanketing the wetlands in Salem Township, Luzerne County  when I arrived around 8;30 a.m. I was disappointed and pretty sure I wasn’t going to see much wildlife activity or get many photos  in the thick fog.   I  was  wrong.

As usual I walked down to the banks of the Susquehanna River but I couldn’t even see the water in the thick fog.

I walked into the wetlands  and  through the trees shrouded in the heavy mist.

And, my first surprise of the morning was a large flock of cedar waxwings perched high on the branches of a tree along the trails. As I watched a few would occasionally fly down and feed on the winterberries growing near the ground.

While I watched the cedar waxwings I noticed a flock of white-throated sparrows feeding on some poison ivy berries nearby.

Also nearby was a female,

and male cardinal enjoying the poison ivy berries.

My expectations for seeing wildlife were already exceeded but I continued to see more birds on the foggy early December morning. There were a few yellow rumped warblers also feeding on the poison ivy berries. I never expected to see them this late in the year. They usually migrate south by now. We have had a very mild Fall and this could explain them still being here.

I continued on my walk to the  Water Fowl Pond and saw another flock of white-throated sparrows,

a few song sparrows

and a swamp sparrow. Again I was taken by surprise by the amount of the active birds in the wetlands on this very foggy morning. 

A hairy woodpecker,

a red bellied woodpecker,

and a downy woodpecker also added to the gathering of birds in this section of the wetlands.

Last week  waters  flooded  the two paths to the Water Fowl Pond . Not this week, both paths were muddy but passable.

However there were no water fowl on the Water Fowl Pond.  There were no birds near the pond either which is unusual.

I began my walk toward the river lands area of the private nature preserve, about a mile from the parking lot in the wetlands.

On the way I saw something dart across the thin ice that formed on one of the canals during the cold spell we had during the week. I thought it was a river otter.

I was excited to see one of these elusive critters and immediately began to photograph what I first  thought was a river otter.  I later  realized it was an American mink, another elusive and playful  animal.

I am not sure if it is a female or male but I am sure it was aware of me presence.

 It playfully ran on the ice,

and occasional submerging itself under the ice,

 and quickly  re-emerge and continue what can only be described as playful activities.

I watched this playful critter for about five minute when it finally decided to leave the ice

and run up the trail. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with a lot more photos of the playful mink on ice. Susquehanna Wetlands mink December 2 2023.

As the mink ran off, I heard a splash on a pond on the other side of the trail. I thought it might be another mink. I went to investigate and saw another fuzzy critter swimming on the pond,

it  swam to the sure and when it emerged from the water I saw it was a muskrat. I have since learned that  muskrats are a favorite food of minks.

I walked back to the trail and saw the mink on the ice again but this time it submerged into the cold waters and didn’t come back up. So I continued my hike through the still heavy fog in the wetlands.

I saw another flock of cedar waxwings, these feeding on green briar berries.

I also saw this wood duck perched on a log along the foggy  canal.  It may be one of the last ones still in the wetlands. These ducks leave when ice starts to form on the ponds and canals.

And I saw this female house finch  feeding on what looked like some sort of dried leaf

while a few golden crowned kinglets fluttered in the branches above the trail

I walked through the wetlands and into the river lands. The fog was not as thick but still shrouded the lake.

In the trees along Lake Took-A-While I saw a large flock of mostly female red-winged blackbirds,

which first flew higher up on the trees,

and then flew away as I approached.

There were no great blue herons on the lake this week. I heard, but didn’t see the belted kingfishers, and I encountered, I think, the same three mallard ducks I had seen the previous week, the  male and female pair,

and the lone male.

The fog began to clear as I began my hike back to the wetlands.

I saw a lot of the same birds, but, after walking almost four miles in three hours I am usual tired on my return hike and only stop to photograph a new species of birds,

which I did on this Saturday morning  hike. I saw this white breasted nut hatch,

and a brown creeper. The nuthatch,  which are common, are always seen scurrying down the trunks of trees looking for insects, while the brown creeper, which I haven’t seen this year in the wetlands, scurry up trees, also looking for insects.   This is a link to a gallery with some more of the birds I saw on my five mile hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds December 2 2023,

Once again  my decision to hike in the wetlands was a good one. I really didn’t expect to see much of anything, except fog, when I started my hike.  But, as is often the case, when you hike on any given day or in any kind of weather, one can find the unexpected on a  walk in the wetlands, as long as  you keep your eyes peeled.  My  encounter with the friendly mink who loved the ice  proved this once again. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from my foggy hike in the wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands December 2 2023.

We need the tonic of the wilderness, to wade sometimes in the marsh where the bitten and the meadow hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe; to smell the whispering sedge where only some wilder and more solitary fowl builds her nest, and the mink crawls with its belly close to the ground.    Henry David Thoreau


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