An Unseasonably Mild October Hike In The Susquehanna Wetlands With A Lot Of Fallen Leaves And Birds
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.
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 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
I also saw some eastern bluebirds,
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 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 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 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