A Hike In The Unexpected And Magical Christmas Eve Snow In the Susquehanna Wetlands

A Hike In The Unexpected And Magical Christmas Eve Snow In the Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands critters (16 of 33)
Previous Post
Next Post

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. 

As usual I walked to the Susquehanna River to look for wildlife and check the water level. There wasn’t a critter stirring not even a mouse. 

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. 

Some of the canals were now partially frozen and covered with snow. 

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, 

and nearby a a smaller downy woodpecker with a much smaller beak. 

There was also a red-bellied woodpecker nearby. I think these and other birds of different feathers flock today in the colder months as a protection from hawks, eagles and other predators. 

I continued my hike in the wetlands, heading toward the river lands  section of the nature preserve. 

Along the way I observed the many seeds and berries that provide food for the wildlife in the wetlands in the cold winter months. There were the pretty bright red winter berries, 

nearby was some green holly,  adding to the magic of the Christmas Eve snow.

There were also  dull purple green briar vine berries, 

the very popular poison ivy berries. birds love them, 

and the seeds of the hazel alders. All of these looked so pretty covered in snow. 

As I was leaving the wetlands I saw a ripple in the water. I immediately hoped it was a river otter. It wasn’t  but it was still a cute hairy water critter, a cute muskrat. 

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. 

I walked back down to the river, here I saw a flock of common mergansers swimming near the far shore. Along the river banks I saw a tufted titmouse, 

and this song sparrow playing in the snow.

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. 

It was still in the branches of  a tall tree but I tried to get some better photos.

Just when I decided these were the best I would get, it decided to fly away. My close contact with the eagle and muskrat, and my seeing so many other birds was convincing me  the snow was magical. 

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, 

and then this winter wren landed along the trail and again, appeared to be watching me watch them. I was really enjoying my hike in he snow. 

I left the wetlands and walked into the river lands and along Lake Took-A-While. 

Here I saw a woman standing on the trail. I soon  discovered, it was this great blue heron that had her attention. 

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. 

The blue heron finally decided to fly off to the other side of the lake. 

  • As I usually do I walked to the end of the trail at the other side of the lake. 

And I continued to see more critters, that seemed to also see me, like this Copper’s hawk,

this one didn’t watch to long. it quickly flew off, probably in search of a Christmas meal. 

I also saw a few black-capped chickadees  feeding on some hazel alders seeds, 

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. 

On the way I saw the great blue heron, and

the muskrat in the exact same spots. 

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. 

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know, Where the tree tops glisten And children listen To hear sleigh bells in the snow. – Irving Berlin

This is my first post


  1. Angela on December 27, 2021 at 9:27 am

    Wow, what a great Christmas Eve hike you had! So many birds and the muskrat….so cool! I have always loved the cold and snow. I hope we get enough snow in south central PA (Hanover) so I can give my snowshoes a workout.
    Happy New Year!

    • fskokoski@gmail.com on January 2, 2022 at 3:14 pm

      It was! I loved the snow but only on Christmas or Christmas Eve. I don’t like it any more too many issues with shoulders neck and back. Walking in the warm weather is what I like to do. Happy New Year!