A Hike In The Unexpected And Magical Christmas Eve Snow In the Susquehanna Wetlands
At this stage of my life there are only two days in the year I welcome snow, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. So I was surprised and delighted when I awoke early on Christmas Eve to find my back yard in Hazle Township, Luzerne County covered with over an inch of newly fallen snow . In my childhood and young adult days I loved the cold and snow. I welcomed the winter weather and hiked, ice skated sled and skied in it. However, like many folks, when I grew older I became less found of it. And now, as many of you who follow me on social media or regularly read my blog know, I detest the cold and snow, except on Christmas Eve and Christmas!
It was still dark when I woke up and saw the snow in my back yard. I had planned to try and beat the Christmas rush and get my grocery shopping done early at the Weis Market in Berwick. The roads were not too bad and I was at the grocery store when it opened. I quickly did my shopping and then drove the five miles to the nearby Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township.
I found another winter wonderland when I arrived. For a lot of reasons this year I wasn’t really feeling the Christmas Spirit. This beautiful, serene scene helped. The newly fallen white snow covered the drab brown and grays that now dominate the winter woodlands in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Everything was white and clean. It was beautiful and magical, especially on Christmas Eve. My usual dislike of the white stuff melted and I enjoyed walking on the cold and slippery frozen water. I felt I was a child again.
Si I next I walked into the wetlands and the snow covered trails. A new snow always muffles sounds. It has been quiet on my last few hikes here and now was even more quiet. The calls of few birds I heard, crows and black-capped chickadees, were hushed and magical.
As I approached the canals and ponds in the wetlands I saw a juvenile bald eagle fly off as I approached. And I heard a loud splash in the waters of the canal. I think it was one of the river otters. I was disappointed having missed opportunities to photographs these beautiful creatures. However, my luck would soon change.
The path to the water fowl pond, which has been flooded and impassible, was also frozen and I now was able to walk to the pond. This has always been a good place to observe some wildlife. And it was again on Friday. Here I saw my first birds of the morning, a hairy woodpecker,
It was enjoying the remaining duck weed on the pond, and, I was convinced it knew I was watching it. It seemed unconcerned as I approached and watched me with it’s eyes. We were obviously aware of each other and it seemed not to mind my presence. It was the magical snow and the Christmas spirit. Eventually I think we both tired of watching each other and it swam off as I walked away.
At this time some more Christmas Eve magic occurred. I heard some fluttering overhead and saw a juvenile bald eagle attempting to land on a tree branch. It failed. It continued to flutter and tried again. It failed again. I couldn’t get a photo because of the thick branches. It then disappeared but I thought it landed in another trees. The branches again were thick. I walked over and around the tree. At first I didn’t see it. Then I spotted it. And like the muskrat, it saw me too. Look at the eyes. They followed me as I walked below taking photos from different angles. Like the muskrat it seemed to enjoy my presence.
And my wildlife observations continued. I saw a kingfisher, a great blue heron a red-tailed hawk and many other birds as I continued my walk. Unfortunately I couldn’t photograph any until this white-throated sparrow,
It was a beautiful bird, and like the other critters I saw on my hike, seemed not to mind one bit that we were watching it.
and a brown creeper scurrying on the trunk of a tree. Again look at the eyes of these birds, it’s like they are looking at me. I convinced myself they knew it was Christmas Eve and they welcomed in their woodland home covered in new snow. I was really enjoying my hike but I knew I had to end it and walk back to prepare for our traditional Polish Holy Supper hosted by my nephew Charles and his wife Casey.
The heron flew, and the muskrat swam away, as I walked past. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the critters I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands critters December 24 2021.
As I finished my five mile hike, I reflected on the many snowy Christmas’s I experienced as a child, and the joy they brought me. I really enjoyed the snow, and the many friendly critters I saw on my hike. It did help me get back some of my Christmas spirit I had lost. I hope that next year is a better Christmas for me and that that will be the next time I see snow. I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and I wish all of you a very Happy New Year, Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my Christmas Eve hike in the newly fallen snow. Susquehanna Wetlands December 24 2021.