A Return To The Bleakness Of Winter At The Susquehanna Wetlands

A Return To The Bleakness Of Winter At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands (24 of 30)
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Last  Sunday morning it had been three weeks since I last visited the Susquehanna Wetlands in Luzerne County on Christmas morning. And one of those weeks was spent in the lush and green tropical rainforest of Costa Rica. It was cold and cloudy when I arrived early in the morning.  The stark  contrast  between the rainforest,  so full of life, color  and sounds,  and the quite bleakness of the woodlands in the wetlands had me in a reflective mood. I realized it’s not the cold, dark, ice and snow that make me dislike Winter here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, it’s the lack of life. The trees  along the access road (the gate is closed for the Winter)  were bare and the only color was there gray and brown trunks and branches.

I  heard only one Carolina wren singing in the distance. There were  no sounds of insects or frogs or song birds. The silence, after my walks in the rain forest in Costa Rica, was eerie, but reflective. So different, also, from the warmer months when the spring peeper frogs, the cicadas, and song birds fill the wetlands with happy  chorus of the sounds nature. Some folks may like the cold, dark and quiet of Winter but I am not a fan anymore. However, I try and make the best of it and will still take my hike looking for the critters that also must survive in the bleakness of Winter.

I didn’t see any of them as I made my way to the banks of the ancient Susquehanna River. The river was high from the recent rains and melting snows. I understand Northeastern Pennsylvania got about 8 inches of snow while I was away, and it all melted in a heavy and warm rain storm.

I left the river and walked into the wetlands. I now heard a familiar, but unusual sound, for January. The sound of wood ducks  whistling as the flew away  from me on the other side of a pond. The wetlands are usually covered with ice in January and these birds would have flown south long ago.

I also saw a great blue heron in the reeds, also remaining in the wetlands and taking advantage of the ice free waters.

I continued my hike,

and I was hoping that I would see the river otters in the ice free canals and ponds but I didn’t, and I didn’t see the muskrats that have been on this pond either.

It was still quiet in the wetlands. The were no sparrows, woodpeckers and wrens that I usually see and hear here.  The silence was broken when I  heard mallard ducks and Canada geese on the Water Fowl Pond. However, this path,

and a second path to the pond were flooded from the heavy rains preventing me from getting there.

I continued walking through the silent wetlands,

there were no flocks of cedar waxwings or goldfinches feeding on the green briar,

and winterberry berries along the trail.

As I was leaving the wetlands I heard, and then saw a small flock of tufted titmice,

and the this white breasted nuthatch feeding on a fungus or lichen on a dead tree branch.

Then I saw this small ruby crowned kinglet fluttering from branch to branch in the trees along the trail.

It rarely  stays still and it took 15 minutes of watching this bird to get these photos. I love it’s red cap,

and a short time later I also waited to get this photos of one of it’s cousins, a golden crowned kinglet.

I soon heard more bird calls and soon saw a flock of goldfinches feeding nearby,

and a few downy woodpeckers too.

As is often the case in the Winter month birds of different species gather together to feed. This provides safety form predators like hawks and eagles. I also saw a few American tree sparrows in this area,

and then heard a loud rapping  high in a treetop. I looked up and saw this beautiful pileated woodpecker perched on a tree trunk,

and watched as it searched for grubs and insects under the tree bark.  I love seeing these birds the largest of the seven species of woodpeckers in Pennsylvania.  It was nice to see and hear all of these bird activity on this cold January morning.

It would soon get colder, and windier as I walked into the river lands area of the nature preserve.

A cold front was passing through and the winds picked up and temperatures dropped as I walked along Lake Took-A-While.

There was no wildlife on  the lake or in the trees along it’s shores.

I walked to the end of the trail and started back. The wind gust became stronger,

and it started to snow as I was returning to the wetlands.

The snow squall passed quickly leaving only a dusting of snow on the trail.

In the wetlands I found the pileated woodpecker was on the same tree,

using it’s large bill to carve out a hole in the tree in search of as meal. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos  of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds January 14 2024.

As I  finished my cold, snowy and windy five mile hike I wished I was still in the rainforests of Costa Rica but I wasn’t so I was happy to get out, even in the blustery weather, and see and share some of the beauty of nature that remains, even in the middle of January.  Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos from  my hike in the wetlands and river lands. Susquehanna Wetlands  January 14 2024.


How changed is the landscape…
This spot, where in Summer I oft loved to linger,
Ah! what is it now? a bleak desolate scene!
Like Beauty when blasted by Death’s icy finger,
A sorrowful ruin to what it has been…
The dry leaves are scattered beneath the naked bush…
Where chaunted the linnet and warbled the thrush…
How sad is the change! It awakens reflection,
And tells me nought earthly can ever long last,
While a tear gently starts at the fond recollection
Of pleasures departed and moments gone past.
~Henry Heavisides 


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