Finally, A Bald Eagle Sighting On A Dreary Day At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Finally, A Bald Eagle Sighting On A Dreary Day At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands birds (17 of 50)
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It was another cloudy and dreary late December day here in Northeastern Pennsylvania last Saturday.  And once again I decided to hike in the familiar Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township Luzerne County. I enjoy my hikes here since I know where the wildlife usually  can be found, I just got to be either lucky, or patient, to find  and photograph it. I usually do see something but I am always looking for the elusive critters such as the river otters, mink, wood ducks and bald eagles that live here. I hadn’t seen  bald eagles  I could photograph for a few months.

The access road to the wetlands parking lot was gated for the Winter so I had to walk the 1/4 mile to the trailhead.

The access road is surrounded by many thick  shrubs and vines and I usually see some bird activity  here. I  did on Saturday. As soon as I left my Jeep I heard the cheerful song of a few Carolina wrens. I soon saw a few singing in the branches along the trail.

There were also a lot  of white-throated sparrows fluttering in the thick vegetation. These birds are not seen here to often in the Summer but large numbers migrate here to spend the Winter. I enjoy their  company on my cold and dreary Winter walks.

After walking down to the banks of the Susquehanna River,

I walked into the now quiet and dreary wetlands. It is so different now then in the Summer months when it is lush, green and filled  with the sounds of the frogs, song birds, cicadas and other insects. It is always a reflective walk as another year comes to an end. This year has been the mildest December on record and most of the ponds and canals were ice free. There was no snow in the wetlands which is unusual for late December.

It was even more quiet on my walk on Saturday. I didn’t see the  two muskrats that have been on one of the ponds for the  past two weeks, and the many sparrows, goldfinches, wrens and woodpeckers I see near this pond weren’t active on this cloudy and dreary morning.

The only birds I saw was this northern flicker,

and a red bellied woodpecker.

The two paths to the Water Fowl Pond were still flooded. I was disappointed since I did hear some wood ducks on the ice free areas of the ponds.

After visiting the Water Fowl Pond I turned back and   walked beneath the bare trees toward the river lands area of the nature preserve.

I saw mostly browns and grays along the trail, like these shriveled bracken ferns,

but there were some greens, like these intermediate wood ferns,

some green holly leaves and

surprising this still green thistle plant, due to the mild weather we have had.

As I was leaving the wetlands  I encountered the hermit thrush that, I hope, has decided to spend the Winter in the wetlands. I love the melodic songs and calls of these  birds.

There were also some song sparrows here,

and I saw a muskrat swimming in  the canal that is nearest the river lands. . I hadn’t seen one here all year.

I left the wetlands and entered the river lands,

ands walked on the path between Lake Took-A-While and the old Susquehanna  canal.

There were no ducks or geese on the lake, but I saw, in the distance a bald eagle perched  high in the tree in  he  photo below.

I often see one of the bald eagles perched here,  it is one of their favorite trees.  They have a great view of the lake and surrounding woodlands and fields where they could see a fish, muskrat or a  squirrel and have a quick meal.   But it was a few moths since I last saw one.

I approached the eagle and, at first,  I was glad it didn’t fly off.

However, after getting  some photos I was hoping it would take off so I could get some photos as it did. It didn’t. I waited patiently for a half hour. It just sat there. Finally,  someone was walking toward me on the trail. I thought now it would get spooked and fly off. It didn’t. It continued to sit and survey the lake.

I had waited long enough  and decided to continue my hike. As I did, I looked back,   and it had just flew off the tree. I think it waited for me to leave.

I still got a few photos of the majestic bird in flight but not the takeoff ones I had hoped for. I am always glad to se these majestic birds soaring in the skies of Pennsylvania. There were none when I roamed the woods as a child. Through the great efforts of conservationists and environmentalists they have made a remarkable recovery from near extinction.

I continued on my hike, stopping  to reflect on the  overcast wintery skies and somber wintery scene at  the lake. 

I  heard and saw a noisy belted kingfisher flying across the lake, chattering loudly as it did.

As I approached the far end of the lake I heard the honking of  Canada geese in the nearby picnic grounds.

There were almost a 100 geese in the flock, and they flew off, honking loudly,

as I approached. They will remain  in the area as long as the river, lakes ands ponds remain  ice free.

I began my hike back, seeing a northern mocking bird in a tree along the lake. I think this is the same bird that has been here the past few Winters.

I left the river lands under the cloudy December sky,

and returned to the wetlands.

Here I saw a winter wren,

another red-bellied woodpecker

 a few blue jays

and this downy woodpecker feeding on some poison ivy berries before finishing my five mile hike on the paved access road. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos of the bald eagles and other birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds December 23 2023.

It was not a pleasant hike on this dreary and cold December morning but once again I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the wetlands and river lands, and the critters I saw, especially the bald eagle.  And I also enjoyed the absence of snow and ice on the trails. I am sure one of these weekends I will not be so lucky. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photos  from my five mile  hike. Susquehanna Wetlands  December 23 2023.


It’s a great event to get outside and enjoy nature. I find it very exciting no matter how many times I see bald eagles.  Karen Armstrong

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