Bald Eagles, A Pileated Woodpecker, And Brilliant December Sunshine At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Bald Eagles, A Pileated Woodpecker, And Brilliant December Sunshine At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands birds (39 of 50)
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It was Saturday, and,  although there are dozens of  places to visit and trails to hike here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, I decided to return to the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township, Luzerne County. I love this small, private park and nature preserve located along the Susquehanna River.  In addition to the beautiful scenery I usually find some wildlife here. And, I always hope to see something exciting, like  a bald eagle, a river otter or even a bear.  On  Saturday  the wetlands didn’t disappoint and once again provided  me with a great hike and a bald eagle sighting.   

The low December sun was brilliant, shining in clear deep blue skies when  I arrived at the wetlands around  9;30  a.m.  Temperatures were in the  mid 20’s.  I was surprised to find the gate to the access road to  wetlands  locked.  I believe it was because of the snow storm expected Sunday. There  is no winter maintenance in the wetlands.  I walked the 1/4 mile on the access road to the parking lot. There was a thick frost and the large trees along the access road glistened in the  December sunshine. 

As usual I walked down to the banks of the Susquehanna River before entering the wetlands.  The river is  slowly rising to it’s normal levels after being very low most of the Summer. 

I walked into the wetlands, under the leafless trees.  I loved the bright sunshine but it could not dispel the somber feeling walking on the paths  in the mostly  lifeless and drab wetlands. 

There were some colors in the wetlands. This small stream, although coated in ice, was a bright green from the duck weed and algae. It made a nice contrast to the brown woodlands floor covered with decaying leaves. 

Also providing some color were the hardy garlic mustard leaves, 

tree-club moss or princess pine that was widespread along the trails, 

some scattered Christmas ferns, and. 

a few intermediate ferns. 

There were also a few common bright red common winterberries along the trails. However, there were a lot less then there were on my last hike, being devoured by the hungry birds and other critters in the wetlands. 

A thin  layer of ice now covered  the canals and ponds in the wetlands. This meant there would be no ducks, geese, herons or other water birds unless there were areas of open, unfrozen water. 

It was quiet in the wetlands. Like last week I didn’t hear or see a bird until I walked into  an area of cattails. It seems the winter wrens like this habitat. 

Once again I heard, and saw a few of the petite and pretty birds scampering in the cattail swamp.  Although they chatter a lot they do not sing like their cousins the Carolina wrens. I did hear a few of these birds singing their wonderful songs but none were near the trails I walked. 

I continued on my hike and as I approached the Water Fowl pond a pileated woodpecker landed on a tree right in front of me. I love these  large and beautiful woodpeckers.

I was able to get a few photos before it scampered to the other side of the tree. I waited for 10 minutes hoping it would reappear and let me get some photos. It did, reappear, but, saw me and immediately flew off to another tree about  50 yards away. 

I slowly approached the tree and watched the woodpecker as it hammered away with it’s large head, looking for insects in the bark of the tree. I watched from a distance, but couldn’t get good photos since the woodpecker remained in the shade. 

I walked to the Water Fowl Pond,

and saw a few more birds, a white breasted nuthatch, 

some song sparrows,

and a few white-throated sparrows. 

I continued my walk through the wetlands.  The deep blue skies reflected the ice and some open water in the ponds and canals.  I didn’t see any more birds, and no squirrels, rabbits or chipmunks either.  I think I learned why when I walked into the river lands area in the nature preserve. 

Walking along Lake Took-A-While,

I saw a bald eagle  flying on the other side of the lake, I watched as it landed in a tree, and surveyed the lake.

It didn’t stay there long. It then flew to another  tree top on my side of the lake about a 100 yards in front of me.

It has not been that many years since I saw my first  bald eagles  soaring through the skies of  Northeastern Pennsylvania. They were endangered and rare not too long ago. There were none in our area  until a maybe 20 years ago. I have now seen dozens of these magnificent birds and I get excited every time I do. 

I approached the eagle perched in the tree,

but it saw me and flew off across the lake. It was another wonderful experience.  Once again the wetlands and river lands  provided me with an opportunity to observe, and share the beauty of nature. 

As usual , I continued my hike to the end of the lake, 

and on my return hike saw a few more birds along the lake including a male northern cardinal 

a downy woodpecker

a tufted titmouse, and

some European starlings. I decided to again photograph these invasive birds, because, they do look pretty in the sunlight. 

I was returning to the wetlands and encountered a fellow hiker and photographer. As we chatted we were treated to the sight of a pair of juvenile eagles, 

soaring overhead.  It was a beautiful sight.   Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the bald eagles and other birds I saw on my hike Susquehanna Wetlands birds December 10 2022. 

After watching the bald eagles fly away, I continued on my way into the wetlands. 

It was near noon, and the  December sun was still low on the southern horizon as I  finished my five mile hike. It  did not do much to warm  up the cold morning air.  But I still enjoyed the  brilliant light it provided. It was another great day to hike in the wetlands, and once again I was able to enjoy another bald eagle sighting. It’s why  I keep coming back. Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my hike.  Susquehanna Wetlands December 10 2022.

A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky.”   – Ta ‘Shunke Witko

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