Bitterly Cold Arctic Air Arrives For Christmas. A Couple Of Frigid Walks in the Wetlands

Bitterly Cold Arctic Air Arrives For Christmas. A Couple Of Frigid Walks in the Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands (15 of 28)
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Frigid arctic air arrived here  in Northeastern Pennsylvania  on Christmas Eve.   It was -4 degrees  on Saturday morning with a steady 25 mph wind with higher gusts at my home in Hazle Township in Luzerne County. There were wind-chills warnings but  I had  to see how the frigid air affected  Susquehanna Wetlands and the critters that live there.   The temperature at the wetlands was a mild 1 degree when I arrived in Salem Township. . The winds were still howling over 20 mph and it was not a pleasant day for a hike. 

The strong winds had brought down a lot of trees branches on, and along,  the trail. As I walked down to the river I saw a Coopers hawk feeding on a mouse or a chipmunk. However, because of the arctic cold I couldn’t focus my camera  quick enough to get a photo. The hawk would be one of the few critters I would see on my 4 mile hike.

There was a small flock of white-throated sparrows feeding on some poison ivy berries  near the river. They looked frozen, like I was.  They would be the only song birds I would hear or so on hike. 

I walked into the wetlands and found the waters in the ponds, 

and canals frozen solid. 

The ice was beautiful, but  it was  hard to take photos in the frigid  air and strong winds. My fingers froze in minutes when I took my gloves off to take this photo.

I walked to  the Water Fowl pond which was frozen solid. 

I slowly made my way through the wetlands, battling the raging winds  and walked toward the river lands. It was really more of a struggle than a hike. 

When I got to Lake Took-A-While  I felt the full fury of the arctic wind.  They howled across the open lake.  I immediately made the decision e to return to the wetlands where the trees provided some shelter from the furious winds.  

On the way back I saw a great blue heron huddled in a mass of feathers trying to stay warm in the wind and cold. It would have made a great photo but, again, the cold prevented me from adjusting my camera and the heron heard me and flew off toward the river. 

It was a long, cold walk back to my Jeep. I really was exhausted walking in the wind and frigid temperatures.  It was a challenge but I always said, if you walk on the coldest and hottest days of the year, everything in between is easy. And to celebrate my hike, I had to make this snow angel . Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photos from my hike in the arctic conditions.  Susquehanna Wetlands December 24 2022. 

Arctic temperatures remained in our area on Christmas Day , I hiked near my home in Hazle Township.  On Monday the temperatures warmed a bit and I decided to return to the wetlands. It was a mild  9 degrees when I arrived. I walked  to the Susquehanna  River and found that there were now huge chunks of ice floating in the river. 

I was surprised how quickly a few days of frigid temperatures can create so much ice on the river. 

As I walked into the wetlands I noticed I was the only set of footprints. I thought I was the only one fool enough to hike in these arctic temperatures when I came across another set of footprints in the snow. Someone else was either brave or dumb enough to challenge polar weather conditions. 

All of the water in the wetlands was now completely frozen solid. The low December sun did little to warm the frigid air but made for some  nice photographic conditions. 

There were not many colors in the wetlands, other than the gray, browns and whites of Winter, just a few red common winterberries ,

some frozen Christmas ferns,

intermediate ferns and

some hardy garlic mustard. I picked some of this edible plant and was proud to have foraged some greens in frigid December. They were delicious. 

There were no birds active  as I began my walk. I was surprised when I saw this American robin perched in a tree along the trail. Some robins remain in the wetlands in the Winter but usually leave when the waters freeze. 

I also saw  this winter wren with it feathers fluffed out to keep it warm,

and I saw the great blue heron again. It better start heading  to more warmer climes or it won’t survive our  Winter. 

I walked down to the ice covered river, then

into the river lands. It was still very windy  but not as bad as Saturday. The temperatures warmed up to the mid teens. It felt sultry compared to my hike on Saturday. 

As the temperatures warmed the birds became more active. I saw some song sparrows ,

and dark-eyed juncos scampering on the frozen ground looking for seeds. 

Thus blue jay was in a tree tops,

as was this tufted titmouse. 

and this eastern bluebird. 

I  also saw a lot of black-capped chickadees as a continued my hike. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds December 26 2022. 

I walked back to the wetlands and finished my cold five mile hike. I was frozen but it was still a lot less challenging than my Christmas Eve hike. 

The weather is supposed to warm up for the New Year. I am already looking forward to seeing what the warmer weather will bring to the wetlands Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike Susquehanna Wetlands December 26 2022. 

The cold cut like a many bladed knife.Israel Zangwill


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