A Quiet And Mild Christmas Morning Hike

A Quiet And Mild Christmas Morning Hike

Susquehanna Wetlands (46 of 51)
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It wasn’t a White Christmas this year here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Last year we had snow and below zero temperatures on Christmas. . Not this year,  it  was an unseasonably mild 40 degrees when I awoke on Christmas morning.  In the past I would always visit my parents and aunts early  on Christmas morning. They are all gone now, so I decided to take a hike on  my favorite hiking trail in the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township Luzerne County early Christmas morning and walk off the calories from my large meal at my nephew’s house the night before.

It was the perfect place for a Christmas morning hike. I  have come to know and love this private nature preserve that I have been visiting for the past 12 years. In the past I would be hiking the trails I grew up on near my home in the Green Ridge section of Hazle Township and reflecting on the end of another year. However, most of these woodlands have been developed for industrial, commercial and residential uses and I had to look else to enjoy the beauty  of nature. So I drove to the wetlands  arrived under partly  sunny skies I  parked at the gate to the wetlands. The access road is closed for the Winter so I had to walk in to the trailhead.

As usual, I first walked down to the banks of the Susquehanna River. I look for the bald eagles that live here but seldom see them. I also like to reflect on the history of this ancient river, and the many different people who traveled on and along it over the centuries.

The only birds I saw  on my walk to the trailhead were a few flocks of white throated sparrows that were foraging in the thick brush along the road.

I walked into the wetlands, where I found the ponds and waters  were now mostly ice free, which is unusual for late December. I hoped I might see a great blue heron or some wood ducks on the open waters,  but I didn’t.

I walked past the canal and ponds were I had seen the river otters, mink and muskrats the past few weeks  but they weren’t around  either.

I soon found out why I may not have seen many birds and other critters. I  met a couple of birders walking back from the Water Fowl Pond trail. And then I saw another couple after them.  We exchanged Christmas greetings and they said they didn’t see much wildlife either. It was nice seeing other folks enjoying the natural beauty of the wetlands on this mild Christmas  morning..

I continued on the the main trail to the Water Fowl Pond and found it was still flooded so I began hiking toward the river lands. I was surprised there wasn’t more bird activity. Maybe they were spending Christmas morning with their families.

I did hear the unmistakable cry of a  pileated woodpecker in the distance. .I love seeing  these woodpeckers, the largest of the seven species in our State.  As  I looked for the woodpecker I received a phone call from an old friend.  I took the call and was having a pleasant conversation when the pileated woodpecker landed on a tree top allowing me to take some photos as I chatted.

I continued my hike, and phone conversation, and encountered a few more humans walking in the wetlands. I ended my pleasant telephone call and walked  back down to  the river, 

 where I saw   a red bellied woodpecker along the trail.

It was nice to see, and feel the occasionally  sun shining  through the high clouds.  . The last few days were dreary and cloudy.

The trees in the wetlands were leafless and the woods brown and gray,

as were many of the withered remains  last seasons lush green growth, such as these withered goldenrod flowers,

this Virginia wild rye grass  

The  only color being some green intermediate wood ferns, Christmas ferns, holly leaves, garlic mustard, holly leaves, princess pine and these common mullein leaves,

and some  remaining bright red  winterberries

, poison  ivy berries and privet  berries

and green briar berries

A winter wren  and

this ruby crowned kinglet were in the trees and  shrubs along the trail.

I walked into the river lands area of the preserve, 

and along lake Took-A-While.

There was no bald eagle perched in a tree this time but I still enjoyed the scenic view of the high clouds over the lake.

I did see this squirrel chewing on a black walnut shell for it’s  Christmas dinner.

There was one male mallard duck on the far side of the lake,

and a belted kingfisher chattered loudly as it flew over the lake.

It was a quiet and reflective Christmas hike as I continued along the lake side trail. It is not often to have these snow free warm conditions on Christmas Day

I walked to the far side of the lake were I found a large flock of Canada geese.

There were over a 100 geese in the flock.

As usual, I turned around here and began my walk back to the  wetlands

I didn’t see any new wildlife on the hike

just the peace, quiet and the beauty of nature.

It was a nice way to spend Christmas morning alone.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from my five mile hike. Susquehanna Wetlands December 25 2023.

 “Christmas will always be as long as we stand heart to heart and hand in hand.” –Dr. Seuss

I truly believe that if we keep telling the Christmas story, singing the Christmas songs, and living the Christmas spirit, we can bring joy and happiness and peace to this world.”  –Norman Vincent Peale

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