An Unseasonably Mild October Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands With A Lot Of Fallen Leaves And Birds

An Unseasonably Mild October Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands With A Lot Of Fallen Leaves And Birds

Susquehanna Wetlands 28 2023 (1 of 32)
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I returned to one of my favorite hiking  trails on Saturday.  The Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township Luzerne County. I try an visit this private nature preserve every week, but it was  three weeks since my last visit.  I was in   Panama.  One of the reasons for my trip  was too see some of the   many  migratory birds that reside here during our Summer as they migrated south, some to the jungles of South America.  (You can read about my travels in my blog) . I wasn’t expecting to see a lot wildlife or bird activity this late in October. I was only hoping  to still seeing  some of the Fall colors I missed while I was away. And  there was always the hope of seeing a bald eagle or river otter while walking in the wetlands and adjacent river lands. 

It was an unseasonably mild morning with temperatures in the mid 60’s when I arrived early Saturday morning.  The skies were partly cloudy. Most of the trees had lost their leaves since my last visit. Their bare intricate branches were once again visible. Only the oaks still had  most of their now red, brown and yellow leaves.  I was glad they still provided some remaining color in the woodlands. 

After walking down to the banks of the Susquehanna River I walked into the wetlands. The trail was now covered in fallen leaves. I  still love shuffling through the fallen leaves like I did when I was a young child. 

There were no wildflowers blooming in the wetlands. The only color, besides the leaves on the oak and highbush blueberry bushes were the common red winterberries. 

At first it was quiet as I walked through the wetlands, the only sounds were the leaving fluttering from the trees and  the leaves being crushed beneath my feet. Then I heard the unmistakable cries of  a red-winged black bird. There were a number of them, all males perched  in the tree tops. These birds breed in the wetlands but don’t remain here in the Winter. They migrate from the wetlands, but not far, gathering in large flocks in farms fields  in the colder months. Their return in the Spring is amazing. I have seen flocks with thousands of birds returning in March.  

I also saw the first of dozens of yellow-rumped warblers.  I was also surprised to still see these birds in the wetlands. They are usually the last of the warblers to leave but this was late even for them. 

I would see them all along my five mile hike, many feeding on  poison ivy berries. 

I also saw a lot of American goldfinches feeding on these berries. They were now in their drab, brown  Winter feathers. Although some are migrating south from breeding  grounds further north many remain here for our Winter. 

There were no great blue herons or wood ducks on the waters in  the wetlands. This was the first time since March I didn’t see these birds  on my hike. I walked to the Water Fowl Pond, hoping to see some of these birds here. There weren’t any. 

But, as usual, there were a lot of sparrows and other small birds foraging for seeds along the shores of the pond, I saw a few song sparrows and

swamp sparrows

I also saw some eastern bluebirds, 

I always love to see these colorful birds. 

A white-breasted nuthatch and

a hairy woodpecker searched for insects on the tree branches near the pond.  All of these birds will remain here for our long, cold Winter. 

There were more goldfinches and yellow rumped warblers and I saw some pine siskins. I haven’t seen this birds in the wetlands before. In fact, the only time I have seen then was in New Hope around this time of year. They are also short distance migrants leaving the northern forest and traveling to  the southern and central United States in search of seeds in the Winter.

I saw a few more birds I only see the in Spring and Fall,  rusty blackbirds. This species  breeds in the boreal forests of Canada and migrates to the southern and eastern United States in the Winter. Their numbers have declined considerably over the last few decades so I was glad to see a few of them as they traveled through our area. 

After  searching the tree tops for the birds I looked back at the Water Fowl pond and saw this pied billed grebe swimming on the pond. I would see another one later on my hike swimming on Lake Took-A-While. This bird also leaves our area in the Winter and also is leaving late this year. 

I left the pond and walked through the leaf covered  wetlands. 

Leaves still clung to the oak trees, and 

common green briar vines.

The aroma of the withering eastern hay-scented ferns filled the Fall air. It  is one of my favorite smells in our woodlands but sadly we only experience it in the Fall 

I saw a lot more of the birds I had seen earlier and also some common Winter residents including a male, 

and female northern cardinal,

a red-bellied woodpecker.

I also saw a ruby crowned kinglet, these birds are not seen here in our Summer. They breed in the far north and are either spending the Winter here or migrating further south.  

I walked into the river lands area of the preserve, 

and clouds moved in as I walked along Lake Took-A-While. It felt like a Fall day except for the mild temperature which was now in the 70’s very unusual for this time of year. 

There were still some late wildflowers blooming near the lake, these New England asters and 

a few white -panicle asters. 

I saw a few American robins along the lake, 

this great blue heron and

a mallard duck.  These birds may remain here until the lake and river freeze over.

I walked to the far end of the lake and, as usual started my return hike 

On the way I saw many of the same birds on my hike out and also a few new critters, a mammal , this gray squirrel,

and a few reptiles,  a painted turtle,

and a garter snake. I was surprised to see both of this critters this late in October. 

I would see one more bird, a white throated sparrow. These sparrows breed further north and  migrate here for the Winter. I enjoy seeing them on cold snowy Winter days. Here is a link to a gallery  on my blog webpage with more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds October 28 2023.

I finished my five mile hike, happy to see so many of the birds and other critters that live and pass through the wet lands. I saw many beautiful and exotic birds and animals in Panama but I always feel a special bond with the critters I see here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Sadly, the dark and cold days will soon arrive and the birds and other animals will be a lot less active. But, it won’t be long until the spring peepers awaken in the wetlands  and tell us Spring is here. Here is a link to another gallery with photos from my five mile hike in the wetlands and river lands. Susquehanna Wetlands October 28 2023.

“Anyone who thinks fallen leaves are dead has never watched them dancing on a windy day.”- Shira Tamir