Finally, Snow And Ice At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Finally, Snow And Ice At The Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands (24 of 31)
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Anyone who knows me, or follows  my blog or social media,  knows I don’t like the cold,  snow and ice anymore. I used to. I once loved the snow and cold but that was a long time ago.  So I wasn’t real excited about my hike Sunday when I awoke  to a 13 degree temperature with a strong northwesterly wind howling through my trees. I take a two mile hike in my neighborhood,   the Green Ridge section of Hazle Township,  every morning, On weekdays I walk three more miles in the afternoon and on weekends I try and hike another five miles in a park or nature preserve.  It was cold on my morning walk through my neighborhood on Sunday , a lot colder than Saturday,  because of the wind.

After my two mile hike I was, of course, going to drive to the Susquehanna Wetlands and River Lands located about a 40 minute drive from my house in Salem Township. I love hiking in this private nature preserve and have become very familiar with where the birds and many other critters that live here  usually hang out. It’s never a sure thing, but with a lot of time and  patience I usually am able to find and photograph some of the wildlife that lives here, even on the coldest days of Winter.

And this was the coldest day so far. There was about four inches of snow on the ground when I parked my Jeep at the access gate to the wetlands parking lot. The road is closed for the Winter.  It is about a 1/4 hike to the parking lot. I trudged through the snow covered road, not hearing the sound of a single bird.  I usually see,  and hear,  northern cardinals, sparrows, and black-capped chickadees here even in the Winter. Not on this windy and cold Sunday morning. I walked to the parking lot and then down to the bank of the Susquehanna River.  I was surprised  to see ice floating on the river already.

I don’t like the cold but will have to admit I enjoy watching, and hearing, the sloshing of ice on the river. It was a pretty scene and I stood in the cold and wind for a bit enjoying it. The river was still high from the recent rains.

I left the river and trudged through the snow to the trails in the wetland area of the nature preserve.

I was again surprised, and happy , to find a set of footprints. Someone braved the cold on Saturday and hiked through the wetlands. This made for much easier hiking for me since he, or she, a created a path through the snow.

I followed the footprints  to the main trail along the waterways of the long abandoned Susquehanna Canal and found more footprints and a wider path on the trail. It seems there were a few folks hiking in the  cold wetlands on Saturday.

I also found I wasn’t alone as I saw this cold looking deer standing along the trail,

 staring at me as I walked past.

The waters in the canals and ponds were now ice covered. I did not see or hear any Canada geese or wood ducks and they probably flew south to warmer and ice free waters. 

After leaving the Water  Fowl Pond,

I did see a few song sparrows trying to stay warm on this cold, blustery morning.

And this hairy woodpecker  searching for frozen grubs and insects under the bark of dead trees.

The hairy woodpecker is very similar to it’s cousin the downy woodpecker, I saw this one later on my hike and include it here to show the main difference between to two, the hairy woodpecker is larger and has a much larger, protruding bill.

I also saw a few of these woodpeckers later on my hike the very active and noisy red-bellied woodpecker.

I continued on my hike along the now ice covered canals and ponds, towards the river lands area of the preserve. It was cold, and the howling winds made it feel even colder. I was freezing.

There were no other birds active along the trail until I came to a large winterberry shrub, where I saw a  flock eastern bluebirds,

American robins and

cedar waxwings perched in trees,

and occasionally flying down to feed on the winterberries.

It was a perfect setup to photograph these  feeding birds, however,

it was cold and the winds really picked up. I stood and watched the birds for about ten minutes but that was as long as I could stand still in the cold and windy conditions.

I continued my hike to a canal near the end of the wetlands. I had seen a great blue heron here  on a cold day last year so I  decided to look again, and sure enough,  I saw this great blue heron standing in some open water.  I wondered if it was the  same one.

It looked cold. It  saw me and slowly walked away. I think it knew there was not much open water  and so  couldn’t  fly away. It felt  safe  here and was staying near this ice free patch of water.

I left the wetlands, and instead of continuing to trudge through the snow I walked along the access road to the Environmental Center and Utility buildings. It was plowed and easy to walk on. I haven’ t waled here before and didn’t  realize how  many large old oak trees were  along the road.

It was here I saw the downy woodpecker,

the red bellied woodpecker and,

this tufted titmouse.

I walked into the river lands section of the nature preserve,

and found Lake Took-A-White covered in ice and snow. It was very windy here, with the wind howling across the lake. I decided to walk back into the wetlands where there  would be some shelter from the wind from the trees.

The January sun is weak, but it still warmed the woodlands a bit and it was less windy in the wetlands.

I think the birds felt this too and were more active. I saw a large flock of white-throated sparrows scurrying on the ground along the trail, and some looking for fallen seeds on the ice,

there were also some dark eyed juncos,

and this one ruby crowned kinglet along the trail.

The skies cleared and the winds lessened as I walked through the wetlands. It actually wasn’t bad walking under the clear blue skies with the sun shining through the naked trees.

I saw two more birds on my hike, a pair of cedar waxwings perched on a tree near the wetlands parking lot. I love seeing this elegant birds. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds January 21 2024.

I walked the access road back to the parking lot, hearing, but not seeing some northern cardinals along the way. It was a cold, and tiring five mile hike but once again the wetlands provided me with some wildlife sightings I can share here on my blog and social media. I enjoy hiking  and sharing the beauty of nature I find.  It was a nice hike but I will admit, I would much rather be hiking when the woodlands are green and alive. It won’t be long only two months until Spring! Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my cold and windy  my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands January 21 2024.

“O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?” Percy Bysshe Shelly 

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