Chasing Eagles and Muskrats On A Frigid Winter Day in Susquehanna Wetlands
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,
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
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!
I love my daily walks, even in these frigid temperatures. I’m 63 and it’s catching up to me but I hope to keep going thanks