Milder Temperatures And Mallard Ducks On The Weissport Canal Trail

Milder Temperatures And Mallard Ducks On The Weissport Canal Trail

Weisspoert canal birds (1 of 36)
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After a sudden, but brief,  two day frigid arctic cold wave, milder temperatures returned to Northeastern Pennsylvania on Sunday. It was 24 degrees at my home in Hazle Township Luzerne County , 22 degrees warmer than the frigid 2 degrees a day earlier. I decided to drive south to the Weissport Canal in Carbon County. On a similar sudden arctic freeze a few years ago I saw wood ducks on open water on the canal. I hoped to see some wood ducks and other water fowl on my Sunday hike. . I thought some would flee  the suddenly frozen ponds and lakes and head to the usually open waters on the canal in Weissport.  I saw an unfortunate ruddy duck stranded  at the Susquehanna Wetlands on Saturday.  Check out my my last blog post for more on the ruddy duck.

There were ducks on the Weissport Canal when I arrived, dozens of them. But they were mallard ducks, mallard ducks that have become somewhat domesticated by the town folks.  I was the first one there that morning and the large flock immediately flew toward me, thinking I was a local, and  looking for food. 

I carefully searched the flock for wood ducks or other water fowl but there were only mallard ducks. 

It was partly sunny,  and now a above freezing, when I began my hike north on the trail along the old Lehigh Canal. The trail is part of the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Trail. This 165 mile historic trail begins in Wilke-Barre and ends in Bristol. It explores the industrial and cultural history and the nature and  environment of the area. I have included more history in prior blog posts which can be found using the search tool in my blog archives.

The trail follows  the old Lehigh Canal that was built in the 1830’s  to transport coal to the cities of New York and Philadelphia. The old lock of the canal and still be seen. 

On the other side of the trail is the swift flowing Lehigh River.

It’s a very scenic trail, with  many large oak and other  hardwood trees,

and occasionally pine trees growing along the river or canal. 

In the warmer months the canal is lined with a lot of folks fishing in the waters stocked with trout. 

Most of the waters on the canal were covered in ice.

The ice formed quickly, 

in only two days,  since the artic air arrived on Friday. 

 Before the temperatures plummeted on Friday, there was almost no ice on  the rivers, streams, lakes and ponds here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. This is very unusual.  On Sunday  the ridge along the canal were lined with some newly formed icicles. 

Most years the formations are much larger. 

The many rhododendrons  growing along the trail also showed how they were affected by the artic cold. The leaves of the rhododendrons curl   when the temperatures drop below freezing. And the colder the temperature the tighter the curl. In the shade the leaves were tightly curled,

but, in the milder air  where the sun was shining they already were uncurling and expanding back to their normal shape. 

There were a few areas of open water  but I saw no water fowl on the canal or the river. The only other wildlife I saw on the beginning of my hike was the northern cardinal. 

But there were signs of some wildlife. It appears there are beavers in the canals, These trees were gnawed by beavers since my last hike out here last Spring. 

At the two mile marker on the trail I came to the “Bridge to Nowhere” and it’s  reflective message for hikers on the trail. 

It was built by a local church, I am not sure when, but it has been here for the last ten years since I first hiked on the trail. 

There is a little rest area here but it is now in a state of disrepair. 

I continued my hike and at the 2 1/2 mile mark came  to an observation tower that overlooked the Lehigh River. 

I climbed the stairs,  and took in the views of the river. 

On my return hike I meet s few bikers and hikers enjoying the milder Sunday morning sunshine. I also saw a few  birds on the river, these Canada geese , on the far shore of the river 

and these four common mergansers swimming on the cold waters of the river. 

I watched as the mergansers seemed engaged in an animated conversation

as the swam upstream against the swift current of the river. 

The sunshine continued to warm the temperatures and I heard some birds on the ridges above the canal and on the other side of the river including some American crows, black capped chickadees, and tufted titmice. I was only able to photograph this red- bellied woodpecker, 

and downy woodpecker. 

I thought there would be more of our Winter resident birds on my hike. There is plenty of food sources including poison ivy berries, 

staghorn sumac berries 

and green briar berries. 

I continued my hike as the clouds cover increased , and, 

besides a lot more humans out for a Sunday morning hike I  only saw, and heard a few more birds, a couple of Carolina wrens. One sang a loud song on the ridge above the trail and this one,

landed in a tree near the trail and began to sing a different song. I love these small birds and their beautiful songs.  Near the end of my hike I noticed large patched of garlic mustard. This hardy invasive weed is actually edible and I gathered some  and enjoyed some wild Winter greens with my dinner. 

I finished my hike back at the parking lot where I found the large flock of mallard ducks swimming in the open water. It appeared that the ducks were now feed. They did not fly toward  me looking for food. 

I watched the ducks splash and quack in the cold waters 

before  ending my hike. . Here is a link to a gallery of photos in my blog website  with more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Weissport Canal birds February 6 2023. 

I was disappointed not seeing any wood ducks or other more exotic water fowl but, as always,  I enjoyed another great hike in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to another gallery with photos from my hike. Weissport Canal February 6 2023. 

“When I see a bird that walks like a duck, and swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.”
– James Whitcomb Riley

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