Half Way To Spring: Sunshine, Squirrels And Skunk Cabbage At The Susquehanna Wetlands.

Half Way To Spring: Sunshine, Squirrels And Skunk Cabbage At The Susquehanna Wetlands.

Susquehanna Wetlands (10 of 43)
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The  weather forecast called for clear skies and sunshine  this past  weekend. Clear skies and sunshine  on both Saturday and Sunday.   This was exciting news for us folks here in Northeastern Pennsylvania since we haven’t had a sunny weekend since  last August.  So I was a little disappointed when I awoke to mostly cloudy skies  at my home in Hazle Township in Luzerne County on Saturday morning.  Some patches of blue  appeared in the skies as I drove to the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township,  about  11 miles as the crow flies.

The skies were partly cloudy with some of the promised sunshine when I arrived at the wetlands.  I parked near the access gate since the parking lot is closed for the Winter . It was around 32 degrees when I began walking on the access road around 8:30 a.m. Near the gate I again encountered a small flock of hairy woodpeckers.

The birds eat a variety of  insects but, in the Winter, search trees trunks and branches  for the larvae of wood-boring beetles and bark beetles and moth pupae in their cocoons. There are a lot of dead trees in this area and I am sure a lot of beetles infestation. I heard a few black-capped chickadees and a Carolina wren singing in the thick  dried vegetation along the road.

And I heard the  loud honking of geese the wetlands. It was a mild week and  this meant the ice had melted and there were open waters on the ponds and canals and the Canada geese have returned.  This is unusual and most years the waters are frozen in February. Two of the geese flew over me,  still honking loudly as they did.

I walked to the parking lot and then, as is my usual routine, down to the Susquehanna River. It is  over 300 million years old and one of the oldest rivers on our planet. This North branch flows through  our area from  near Cooperstown in upstate New York and enters the Chesapeake  Bay at  Havre de Grace in Maryland. The river always has me thinking of it’s long history and the Native Americans, early explorers and settlers who would have navigated it over the centuries.

I left the river and walked into the wetlands, following the main Beaver Trail along the  remains of old Susquehanna canal. There were still clouds but the early morning sun was shinning through the breaks in the clouds, bathing the woodlands in a golden light. It was nice to see the sun again.

There was no ice on the canals,

or the ponds in the wetlands, again, very unusual for the first week of February.

I walked through the wetlands hoping to see some birds or other wildlife in the golden morning light. However, the wildlife wasn’t co-operating I saw none of the usual woodpeckers, sparrows, goldfinches and other birds that are common in the Winter months. I only saw  a few song sparrows in the distance. 

I walked to the Water Fowl pond which was also ice free. The Canada geese I heard here earlier must have flown off. There were no birds on the pond or in the surrounding woodlands. I was surprised, and disappointed. The  clouds continued to dissipate  and the brilliant sunshine lit up the wetlands. It was the perfect  conditions to photograph wildlife except the wildlife wasn’t co-operating.  This often happens. Nature is unpredictable. I wasn’t seeing much wildlife but I was still enjoying the solitude and beauty of the wetlands.

Not having any birds to photographs  I took some photos of the remaining winterberries still uneaten by the wildlife and

the withered fronds of the sensitive fern.

Although  most of the wetlands were brown and grey there were still some greens,  including patches of   Christmas ferns,

haircap moss and

ground or princess pine scattered along the trail.

And, I was excited to see these plants pushing out of the cold and wet ground. the skunk cabbage, a sure sign spring approaches.

As I continued my hike in the wetlands I saw this small flock of mallard ducks on a canal,

and I saw this red tailed hawk  take off from a tree in the distance,

and circled above  as it soared higher into the sky.

I left the wetlands and, as I was crossing into the river lands area of the nature preserve I saw this flock of cedar waxwings perched in a tree. They flew off into the wetlands as I approached them,

 As I have the past few visits to the wetlands I hiked on the access road. Here I saw this grey  squirrel,

entering it’s nest located in a hollow in a maple tree,

and then taking a look at me from inside.

I walked into the river lands and along Lake Took-A-While. It was completely ice free.

Most of the clouds were gone and the   waters  of the lake reflected the deep blue skies.

Here I saw another grey squirrel chewing on a black walnut it must have hidden in the fall.

I also saw this downy woodpecker, a smaller cousin of the hairy woodpecker I saw earlier. 

I walked on the trail between the old canal and the lake and, at the far end of the lake I saw a small flock of Canada geese.

It appeared they were already starting to travel in pairs and soon will be mating and nesting. again very unusual this early in the season.

I ended my hike at the  start of the trail at the far end of the lake. I made my way back to the wetlands under the brilliant February sun.

The sun is still low in the sky and much weaker than in the Summer but the sunshine still felt so good. I had hope to see a bald eagle taking advantage of the sunshine and ice free lake and hunt for fish but there was none to be seen on Saturday.

I walked back into the wetlands,

where I saw a small flock of eastern bluebirds and

white throated sparrows feeding together. Both of these birds breed further north and Northeastern Pennsylvania is on the border of their year round range. I seen many eastern bluebirds  in the wetlands in the Summer but the white throated sparrows usually arrive here in the fall.

There was also an American goldfinch perched on a branch along the trail.  This  would be the last birds I would get to photograph on this beautiful sunny day. I had hoped to see and photograph a lot more.  Here is a link to a gallery on my website with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds February 3 2024

However, I did see one more critter, this muskrat swimming in the canal,

and crawling up on a log to feed on some plants or duckweed.

I finished my five mile hike  under the deep blue cloudless skies. Here is a link to a gallery on my website with some more photos from my five mile  hike. Susquehanna Wetlands  February 3 2024.

It was nice walking  through the wetlands in the brilliant February sunshine.  A walk on a sunny day is always wonderful.  And it was even more enjoyable after so many cloudy and dreary days and weekends,  and when we half way to Spring.  a I wasn’t able to photograph a bald eagle, a river otter, a bobcat or some other more exotic critter in the bright sunshine.   However  I was satisfied to see a few of the smaller critters that live in the wetlands in the Winter,  and to share the February sunshine with them.  And,  I was looking forward to another sunny day on Sunday.

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happySunshine in my eyes can make me crySunshine on the water looks so lovelySunshine almost always makes me high ..” John Denver 






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