Chasing Eagles and Muskrats On A Frigid Winter Day in Susquehanna Wetlands

Chasing Eagles and Muskrats On A Frigid Winter Day in Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands (16 of 28)
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It was a frigid winter  morning when I awoke Saturday.   The temperature was 12 degrees  at my home in Hazle Township, Luzerne County.  The twilight skies were clear and calm. There  have been far fewer of these frigid winter days the past few years.   The climate is  changing and we have been having much milder winters here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. But it was am old fashioned frigid  winter day on Saturday. I  decided to see how the critters in the Susquehanna Wetlands were dealing with the cold.  So I drove  the 25 miles and returned to  the wetlands in Salem Township. I was just there the  previous afternoon.  

When I arrived at the wetlands  around 7;30 a.m.,  it was clear, calm and cold. The sun had risen, but  it wasn’t  visible in the wetlands.  It  still had to climb above the hills to the south and east .   I began my walk along the now mostly frozen and snow covered canals. It was very quiet in the woodlands in the wetlands, so unlike the Spring and Summer months . I was looking for some open water and hoped to maybe see a mink, muskrat, beaver or otter. 

Most of the ponds and canals were now frozen but I  found some open water on one of the ponds.   Although I didn’t see any of the above critters in the frigid waters I did see some ripples in the water. I think that they were made by  some muskrats who were still active in the cold.  I think the otters moved to the open water of the nearby Susquehanna River. 

While looking  for the muskrats, I saw  two  bald eagles fly  overhead. They quickly flew off into the distance, but I  got a few  photos as they  flew  out of the range of my camera . I would encounter these two  eagles a few more times on  my five mile hike. 

While walking through  the snow covered trails of the wetlands there was little wildlife activity.  I  only saw a tufted titmouse, 

and a gray squirrel braving the cold, both  probably cautiously  searching  for food and avoiding the bald eagles that flew overhead. 

I a walked  down  to the river, but this time I didn’t see the kingfisher I had seen on Friday. There were a few common mergansers but they flew off before I could photograph them.  There was a  cold mist on the river and some thin patches of ice  formed overnight. 

As I returned  from the river, and walked  back into the wetlands, the sun climbed over the hills basking the woodlands in it’s bright rays. Even in January the rays of the sun quickly warmed the frigid winter air. My frozen finger immediately enjoyed the warmth of the the rays of the sun.

As I was leaving the wetlands, 

I saw a few birds in the surrounding woodlands including some white-throated sparrows, 

a red bellied woodpecker and

this brown creeper. It seems the birds in the wetlands were enjoying the bright sunshine too.

After watching the birds, I proceeded on my hike and heard a rustle in the tree tops above me. A beautiful bald eagle flew off of a branch were it was perched right above my head. Soon a second followed.  I wasn’t able to get a photo they  flew away. However, as started walking toward the river I  saw again perched on a tree top . They again quickly flew off but I managed to capture a few photos of one of these majestic but elusive birds.

I left the wetlands and hiked into the river lands area of the nature preserve.

Here I saw more birds enjoying the sunshine while they foraged for food. Another flock of white-throated sparrows were feeding on the red berries of the multiflora rose shrubs growing along the canal. 

Below them was a flock of song sparrows. This one appeared to be ice skating on the canal. 

As I watched I realized the song sparrows were feeding on small seeds that fell onto the frozen waters of the canal. 

I’m not sure what kind of seeds they are,  but the sparrows were sure enjoying them. 

I walked on  the trail along Lake-Took-A-While and found the lake was now completely frozen and covered in snow.

The clear blue skies and bright sunshine created some  beautiful winter scenery. 

As usual I walked to the end of the trail along the lake and began my return hike to the wetlands. 

Along the way I saw some more of the common winterberries which  stood out under the deep blue skies and white newly fallen snow. 

I also saw a small flock of the always friendly black-capped chickadees.

As I watched these small  birds flutter in the branches of a maple tree I was amazed and delighted to see a even smaller ruby-crowned  kinglet land  on a tree  branch just above my head. 

These tiny and pretty birds  never sit still. They are a restless and hyper bird, my equivalent in the bird kingdom.  So  I quickly took advantage of the situation and  capture an image of this elusive bird . Amazingly, the bird stayed close to me, flying from branch to branch and the trunk of the tree. I think  many birds feel safe when feeding with a flock black-capped chickadees, who I think provide warning from hungry  eagles, hawks and other predators. 

After observing the ruby-crowned kinglet also saw a downy woodpecker feeding on some reeds along the lake.

I continued my walk, and, looking in the treetops ahead of me on the trail, I saw a large bird like shadow below the bright January sun.

As I neared the shadow, I realized it was a bald eagle perched in the branches. Just as I was able to get a clear, focused shot of the birds it flew off. Only when I reviewed the photos did I learn it was a juvenile bald eagle. It would be the last eagle or bird I would see on my hike, Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds January 8 2022. 

After seeing the juvenile bald eagle I walked back into the wetlands hoping to see the pair of bald eagles, some other birds or a  muskrat. 

It was quiet . I am not sure why, but it seemed like the birds activity stopped. maybe because the January sunshine made them easy targets for the eagles and hawks. 

I had given up hope on the  muskrats too , when, in a small stream near the parking lot I saw thus cute fellow, feeding on some duckweed in the  open water. I have neve seen a muskrat in this small stream  before. He soon saw me and quickly submerged into the cold waters. 

I was cold and tired when I returned to my Jeep. It takes a lot more effort  walking  in the snow and frigid temperatures, especially  with these old bones and muscles. In  my younger days I could be , and  often was , out all day on these frigid days, usually building a fire However, I was  satisfied with my five mile hike, and my  seeing the eagles, muskrat and other birds.  I have  always love  hiking in the woodlands of  Northeastern Pennsylvania. I love seeing  beauty of nature in all seasons, even my least favorite Winter. And now I enjoy it even more, being able to share it with my friends on my blog and social media. Here is a link to some more photos from my hike in the frigid winter weather at the wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands January 8 2022. 

“Is not January alone pure winter? December belongs to the fall—is a wintery November—February to the spring—it is a snowy March.” Henry David Thoreau 

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1 Comment

  1. Susan Geib Moyer on January 12, 2022 at 9:08 am

    My husband and I were particularly pleased to see your photos of the young eagle, the muskrat and that fat little red-crowned bird. We had never encountered one of those and it’s been a while since our last muskrat sighting. We take long walks in the morning daily too. The last several early walks in the chilling cold left us more tired and hungry afterwards, but otherwise our 78-year-old bones are holding up pretty well. Walks are good for body and soul, as you obviously know. Just be careful on the wetlands ice!

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