January Sunshine At The PPL Wetlands

January Sunshine At The PPL Wetlands

PPL Wetlands (21 of 50)
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Many days this month  were dreary  here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Cloudy, windy and cold they were.  It was nice to see clear blue skies  when I awoke last  Saturday morning. It was a cold 18 degrees here in Hazle Township, Luzerne County.  But I knew that  the clear skies meant there  would be abundant January sunshine and a great day to be outdoors. 

As usual I decided to  hike on this beautiful day in the PPL Wetlands and River lands in Salem Township. The skies were clear and it  was 23 degrees when I arrived at the wetlands. After parking my car I walked down to the Susquehanna River. Its waters had receded considerably since my hike two weeks ago. It was still ice free which is somewhat unusual here in January. 

Leaving the banks of the river I walked into the wetlands and was surprised, and glad, to find no snow on the ground! There was about two inches of annoying snow and ice on the ground at my home  in Hazle Township. Of course, it is about 1,200 feet difference in elevation, but I still thought there would be some snow on my hike.

Most of the ponds and old canals now were covered in ice. So I knew I wouldn’t see any ducks, great blue herons or kingfishers in the wetlands. 

So instead of looking for them I walked into a swampy area hoping to see some birds or small mammals out in the frigid morning air. 

And I did, as usual,  see a few black-capped chickadees feeding on seeds in the swamp.

The fluttered around, ignoring me as I watched them. They are one of the few birds that don’t seem to mind human company. 

There were also a few of the usual white-throated sparrows  . This was the best photo I was able to take. Some days I get lucky and can get close to this birds that like to stay close to the ground. 

High in the treetops I saw two flocks of birds that were flying from tree top to tree top. I couldn’t identify either of the flocks while on my hike or from the photos I took.  Fortunately some birder friends helped me with identifying them. The first was a flock of goldfinches.  This through me off in the identification since I usually find them feeding much closer to the ground.

The second flock were red-winged blackbirds.  I thought these birds usually migrate south for the Winter but my birder friend explained some stay in our area in the winter, mainly because it is near the river. 

I also saw a third bird I couldn’t identify, for the same reason as the red-winged black birds. It was a hermit thrush. Again, I thought this birds also migrate south through our area but was told some do stay during our Winters. And I guess the fact that in  November, December and the first week of January we have experienced above average temperatures. 

But, it was still January, and most of the ponds were frozen solid.

The predominate color in the wetlands were brown, yellow and gray. However, some  common winterberries provided some bright red color along the trail,

as did some areas of  green  rare clubmoss or “princess pine”. This plant remains green all year but is overlooked amidst the  other plants and trees of the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. 

I decided to walk down to the river again. I was hoping to see a great blue heron or maybe even a bald eagle, Instead, I saw a couple of common mergansers swimming on the river. 

It didn’t take long for them to notice me and they quickly flew away. 

As I usually do on my hike, I left the wetlands and walked over into the river land areas of the nature preserve. 

Lake Took-A-While is located here and, on most of my hikes I find a lot of folks fishing in the lake, walking, biking, or jogging . On this cold January morning I didn’t see a soul. In fact, I didn’t see another person during my entire five mile hike. 

However, there were quite a few birds active in the frigid air. On the lake there were some areas of open water and here I saw, across the lake a great blue heron wading in  the cold waters.  As I watched it decided to fly off, possibly to southern, and warmer lands. 

There were a few more woodpecker,

dark-eyed juncos 

and blue birds in the trees and on the ground near the lake.

I didn’t see any other animals on my hike but there was plenty of evidence they were still there, including many tracks in the mud and some on the ice. I’m not sure what critter made this daring walk across some pretty thin ice. 

And the work of the busy beavers can still be seen on the trails. 

It was cold, but I still enjoyed my five mile hike under the clear blue skies and bright sunshine. This is a link to a gallery on my website with some more photographs from my hike in the January sunshine. PPL Wetlands January 9 2021. 

“Withstanding the cold develops vigor for the relaxing days of spring and summer. Besides, in this matter as in many others, it is evident that nature abhors a quitter.”
― Arthur C. Crandall,

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