Elevation: What A Difference It Made On Saturday At The Susquehanna Wetlands
The effect elevation has on our weather was made very clear to me on Saturday. I awoke to find my back yard covered with about three inches of snow and ice. I took my usual 2 mile walk through my neighborhood in Hazle Township Luzerne County. The roads and sidewalks were covered in ice and snow. It wasn’t easy walking as I carefully and slowly made my way on the ice and snow. I slipped a few times on my walk. It was not enjoyable. I didn’t mind the seasonably cold 25 degree temperature but I didn’t like walking in that frozen stuff. This is a photo from my hike in Hazle Township Saturday morning.
When I got home I decided to drive to the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township. It is a 24 mile drive but actually only 10 miles as the crow flies, It is also at a much lower elevation. My home is about 1670 feet above sea level. I believe the elevation at the wetlands is around 550 feet above sea level. What a difference the 1100 feet in elevation made. There was no trace of snow or ice when I arrived at the wetlands . I was happy.
The gate to the access road was locked again, so I parked and began my hike in the snowless wetlands. It was cloudy and 30 degrees. I encountered a small flock of white throated sparrows on walk to the parking lot.
After walking down to the Susquehanna River,
I started my usual 5 mile hike in the wetlands and river lands.
The trails were snow free but the were soaked from the rain. The rain also melted some of the ice on the ponds and canals.
It was quiet again in the wetlands. I didn’t see any wildlife at the start of my hike. I walked into the cattail swamp hoping to see the many winter wrens that live there. The clouds began to break up and the wetlands were aglow in the December sun.
The sun is almost at it’s lowest point in the southern sky and cask long shadows.
Although there weren’t any winter wrens in the swamp I heard a few Carolina wrens signing loudly in the distance. I love their cheerful song. And I did see a few American goldfinches
As I made my way to the Water Fowl pond on the rain soaked trails, I found this interesting jelly fungus growing on a log along the trail. It is called witch’s butter and I believe it is is edible although I haven’t tired it.
I also found some old puffball mushrooms. It seems they may have grown just a few days ago., This is late in the season for mushrooms but some will grow if we get a warm spell with rain.
I walked to the Water Fowl pond and found it still had a layer of ice so there were no water birds to be seen.
I found the main trail to the pond flooded so I had to backtrack to get back to the trail to the river lands section of the nature preserve. This was a path last week.
On the way I saw a few more birds, including this white-breasted nuthatch high in a treetop,
this black-capped chickadee in a lower tree branch,
this downy woodpecker
and a few male northern cardinals.
There are no flowers blooming now, just the berries they produced in the Summer , such as these green brier berries,
still wet from the rains the day before.
Most of the fallen leaves are now withered and decaying on ground but some, like this sycamore lea, still kept it’s shape and, when glittering in the sun, provides some color to the drab winter wetlands.
As I neared the river lands I saw this bird scurrying up a tree trunk. It is a brown creeper and is not as common as the other birds I usually see in the wither wetlands.
The skies became cloudy again while walking in the wetlands, making for a very wintery scene,
but the sun reappeared when I made it to the river lands.
Lake Took-A-While was almost completely covered in ice. I was disappointed since there would be no bald eagles perched in a tree looking for fish in the lake, like my fortunate encounter last week.
However, I was surprised to see this great blue heron fishing in some open water on the other side of the lake. I thought they would have all migrated south by now.
I walked along the lake to the far end parking lot. This is my usual hike. The clouds returned as I began my walk back, once again creating a dreary wintery scene.
I did see a few song sparrows,
they looked like they were not enjoying the cold weather..
And I also saw another small flock of white throated sparrows on my return hike. They would be the last birds I would see on my five mile hike. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike in the wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands birds December 17 2022.
I did see some more wildlife, after walking through the wetlands,
I decided to head back down to the river.
I was nearing the parking area I saw this small heard of white tail deer. I don’t see a lot of deer in the wetlands anymore. I used to encounter a lot more when I started hiking here ten years ago. It was nice to see some are still around.
After seeing the deer I finished my hike. I didn’t see anything exciting, like a bald eagle, or a lot of birds or other critters, just the usual winter residents, but it was still a nice hike on a cold December day. And there was no snow or ice on the ground, yet. I am sure there will be soon. I won’t like it, but it won’t stop me from enjoying these wonderful wetlands and sharing the beauty I find. This is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my hike Susquehanna Wetlands December 17 2022.