February Sunshine, And Another Bald Eagle Sighing, At The Susquehanna Wetlands

February Sunshine, And Another Bald Eagle Sighing, At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands (15 of 34)
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The skies were clear and the late February sun was shining brilliantly on Sunday morning here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Of course, as usual, I drove to the Susquehanna Wetlands in Luzerne County to take advantage of the sunshine. It was a cold 20 degrees when I arrived at the wetlands around 8:30 a.m.  The cold temperature caused a thin layer of ice to form on the ponds in the wetlands.  Including this one near the entrance road.  As I left my Jeep to walk to the pond a pair of red tailed hawks flew from a tree top before I could get a photo.

I parked near the pond and walked in the 1/2 mile to the parking lot at  trailhead since the access gate was still closed.  I was surprised how quiet it was on my walk.  The hairy and red-bellied woodpeckers I usually see here  weren’t around this week, nor where there any white throated or song sparrows.

I walked to the parking lot,

and walked down to the Susquehanna River. It was still free of  ice.

Near the river I saw a large flock of American robins in the trees along the river,

Although a few robins remain in the wetlands during the Winter I believe this flock was migrating  from their southern winter homes.

I walked into the wetlands and found more thin ice had formed on the ponds and canals. This meant I probably wouldn’t see  the wood ducks, mallard ducks and Canada geese I have been seeing here the past few weeks.

Although there was a frost on the ground, as seen on this sycamore leaf,

there were also some signs of Spring, such as these Dame’s Rocket leaves, and 

 the skunk cabbages sprouting in the cold and partially frozen ground.

As usual I tried to hike to the Water Fowl pond bit found the both paths flooded. There was some open water on the pond and I saw a large flock of wood ducks fly off as I approached. I would see many more wood ducks, on open patches of water on my hike but they all flew off before I could get any photos.

It was quiet in the wetlands. I am not sure why, maybe the presence of the red-tailed hawks I had seen earlier. I walked toward the river lands section of the small private nature preserve,

and past the large maple tree that had fallen across the trail.

I usually talk another trail back down to the river were I sometimes will see a bald eagle or belted kingfisher perched on some branches hanging over the river. I did again on Sunday but  had to cross the flooded trail. The water was over the top of my hiking  so my feet were soaked. I am not sure why there is so much flooding in the wetlands this year.

As I neared the river lands I finally encountered a  flock of different species  of birds feeding along the trail, a flock of American tree sparrows were in some shrubs near the ground,

and there  were  some song sparrows foraging on the ground. .

In the trees above the trails I saw a hairy woodpecker, and;

a downy woodpeckers.

These two woodpeckers are almost identical except the hairy is larger and as a longer protruding bill. the downy woodpecker has a much smaller bill.

A few Carolina wrens were also singing in the trees along the trail.

I continued my hike toward the wetlands walking past the ice that formed on the puddles on the trail. I hope it is one of my last times this Winter when I see ice on hikes in the wetlands.

As I walked into the river lands,

I was delighted to see another juvenile bald eagle fly overhead.

This was my third bald eagle sighting in the last week. I love seeing these birds soaring in the skies on my hikes.

There was a thin layer of ice on some parts of Lake Took-A-While,

but there was also some open water, and here I saw a lot of Canada geese loudly honking, with many of them pairing up  and getting ready to nest and raise their families. It is always another welcome sight in late February and March.

As I walked along the river I noticed the wilted flower stalks and seed pods from the many beautiful flowers I enjoyed on my hikes las Summer, including  native wild hydrangea,

blue vervain,

and cattails,

and invasive wild teasel. 

I only walked about half way along the lake this week, because of the added distance walking to the wetlands parking lot so I began my hike back to the wetlands under the brilliant February sun.

Back in  the wetlands it was quiet at first, there were no birds active on this sunny February morning. I was hoping to see the larger flocks of cedar waxwings I had seen the last few weeks. It would be nice to photograph them in the brilliant sunshine. However I didn’t see any. I think they may have depleted the berries and dried fruits remaining in the wetlands and moved to new feeding areas.

On my return hike, I  noticed some more green in the bright sunshine in the  otherwise wintery drab woodlands, including the evergreen holly leaves,

intermediate wood ferns,

and princess pine moss.

And, I finally saw some birds again, first a few dark-eyed juncos. These birds are usually close to the ground but this flock was high in the tree tops..

I also saw a  male northern cardinal,

and a few American goldfinches,

in the trees along the trail

The American tree sparrows were still in the same area I first saw them, and

a few downy woodpeckers were in the tree tops.

I continued my hike, and as I was nearing my Jeep a saw this red-bellied woodpecker on a tree trunk. Here is a link to a  gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds February 25 2024.

I scared off a few wood ducks as I ended my five mile hike. Although the air was still cold the late February sun felt good and, and, as it continues to  strengthen. it will slowly bring the wetlands back to life. It won’t be long until the Spring peepers welcome me on a morning walk in the wetlands. Here is a link to a  gallery with some more photos from  my  five mile hike in the brilliant February sunshine. . Susquehanna Wetlands  February 25 2024.

The February sunshine steeps your boughs and tints the buds and swells the leaves within.”  ― William Cullen Bryant

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