It Was Cold But It’s Still Nice To Hike In The PPL Wetlands Again

It Was Cold But It’s Still Nice To Hike In The PPL Wetlands Again

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It was nice to  hike in the PPL Wetlands again on Sunday. It is hard to believe it has been six weeks since I have been to my  favorite hiking spot located in Salem Township Luzerne County. The heavy snow pack and a trip to Florida kept me from enjoying my weekly hike in this wonderful nature preserve.  It was a cold 23 degrees when I arrived under partly sunny skies. I was surprised, and delighted, to find almost no snow on the trails. Near my home in Hazle Township there is at least  six to eight inches of snow still remaining on the ground from the heavy February snow storms. 

Not in Salem Township,  I believe the lower elevation and proximity to the warm waters of Susquehanna River combined to decrease the snow fall accumulations.  Although there wasn’t any snow, there was still plenty of ice on the canals and ponds in the wetlands. 

However, Spring is near and the ice and cold didn’t stop the wildlife activity. Soon after I began my hike, and approached the trail along the old canal, I saw three bad eagles fly from a tree almost directly  over my head. There were two adults and a juvenile. As I tried to aim my camera at the eagles two osprey flew from atop a tree on the other side of the canal. I missed taking photos of all five birds. And, one of the reasons I may have missed is I  have a new camera.   I am still getting used to it. It is a Sonny dx10 iv and is a lot slower focusing than my Canon D5 mark iv with a 28 to 300 mm zoom lens. However it is much lighter too, and a lot less stress on my old neck, shoulders and back. It does take beautiful photos. This was a red-winged black bird I  saw on the trail shortly after I saw the eagles and ospreys. 

I was surprised to see this noisy warm weather resident return with the cold temperatures and ice on the waters in the wetlands. But, I realized  the bird migration is based on the sun and length of days. They know when it is the right time to head north. And they arrive on time every year. 

The trees and vegetation also are affected by the sunlight and length of days but snow and cold temperatures can  delay their  awakening in the Spring. Such is the case this year. There were more green plants six weeks ago in January then there were on my  hike in the PPL Wetlands on Sunday.  The only green I saw on my hike hike were few pine trees, a small holly tree and some patches of rare clubmoss or princess pine. 

And, in the few areas of open water algae was being to grow in the strengthening March sunlight. Not even the hardy skunk cabbages  were visible yet. But, it won’t be long until they do appear, . 

Other than these trees and plants my walk in the wetlands looked more like January than March.

There were, however, still  some signs of Spring.  I saw this mockingbird in the wetlands area of the preserve. There is a mockingbird that lives in the riverlands in the Winter but I have never seen one in this area before. I assumed it has migrated back north as did the red-winged blackbirds. 

I was hoping to see the muskrats and beavers as I walked past their nests and lodges.  They weren’t out and there did not appear to be any new beaver activity along the tail. I think they are safely snuggling in their  homes waiting for warmer weather. 

I did see  a couple of usual cold weather residents some song sparrows and this woodpecker. I am guessing it is a hairy and not a downy by the size of it’s bill. A hairy woodpecker has a larger bill. But I am not certain.

Walking down to the Susquehanna River I saw some common mergansers and a kingfisher but they flew off before i could get a photo. The river is still high, I am sure from the slow melting of the heavy snow pack in the northern watersheds. 

As I walked to the riverlands section of the preserve I did find some snow on the trail. . It was not fun walking on even this little snow and ice.  It starts to  melts during the day and freezes over at night, creating very icy conditions. I almost took a spill on this small patch of snow. It is why I detest the white stuff,   as I grow older, my bones and muscles sprain and break a lot easier than they used too. 

After crossing the snowy section of the trail I saw  some white-breasted nuthatches,

climbing on the trunks of trees looking for insects.

And a few titmice fluttering in the branches. 

My hopes of seeing the bald eagles  and ospreys near Lake Took-A-While in the riverlands were dashed when I found most of the lake was still frozen solid. The eagles and ospreys often perch in the trees along the lake looking for fish in the waters below. 

A small flock of robins on the ground and in the trees reminded me Spring is approaching and the lake won’t be frozen much longer, I hope.   Some robins do stay near the river all Winter but seeing them here was still a good sign,.

Walking further along the trailThere was some open water on the lake  but no ducks, geese or great blue herons were to be seen. Most of the lake was frozen. 

I walked to the  far end of the lake trail and decided to head back when I found some snow and ice on the Riverwalk trail. There are usually cardinals, white-throated sparrows and song sparrows on this trail but I didn’t want to walk on the ice and snow to try and find them . 

It was a nice walk back under the warm March sun. 

The only wildlife I saw was a downy or hairy  woodpecker feeding in the  reeds,

along the lake. 

And some black -capped chickadees feeding in the trees.  

I was hoping to see the eagles, ospreys, muskrats or beavers in the wetlands on my walk back.  But I didn’t see any type of critters stirring  on my return. It was still nice to once again hike in the wetlands, and, I am looking forward to next weekend. The are calling for temperatures in the 60’s this week and hopefully the canals, ponds and lake will thaw and the water birds will return. We shall see. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike in the PPL Wetlands on Sunday. PPL Wetlands hike  March 7 2021

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens


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