Phoebes, Spring Peepers And Sunshine, A Springlike Walk On The Last Weekend Of Winter At The Wetlands.

Phoebes, Spring Peepers And Sunshine, A Springlike Walk On The Last Weekend Of Winter At The Wetlands.

Susquehanna Wetlands (19 of 28)
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The Vernal Equinox, known by most folks as Spring,  arrives on Tuesday at 11:06 p.m.  And it felt like Spring when I  visited the Susquehanna  Wetlands in Luzerne County again on Saturday. This is not always the case in mid March . Many a year there is still ice and snow  on the ground here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. But not this year. It has been a mild Winter and the ponds and canals in the wetlands were  free of ice on Saturday.

I parked my Jeep near the Water Fowl ponds at the access road since this entrance  was still gated and closed for the Winter. As I left my Jeep and walked past the pond I saw a small flock of wood ducks swimming on the pond.

I was lucky Saturday. The wood ducks usually see me long before I see them and  fly off as I approach. They are beautiful birds and will be nesting in the  cavities of trees near the wetlands.

I walked along the access road and was surprised and disappointed that there was  almost no bird activity in the woods along the trail.  I am familiar with the wetlands and river lands and know where the various species of wildlife live and visit. However there is never a guarantee that I will see a bird or other critter. This is one of the reason  I love my hikes, the  uncertainty of not knowing what I will see, and the excitement when I see something,

There were no birds  along the  entrance road but there was more green along the trail, in addition to the  garlic  mustard leaves  leaves,

and a lot of  young leaves on the wild multiflora roses along the trail, the first hints of color from  the green explosion  that Spring  will soon bring to the wetlands.

I walked to the parking lot and down to the Susquehanna River. It was lower than last week but still high from the recent rains.

As I was walking into the wetlands I heard, then saw, a pair  of familiar critters, a pair of eastern phoebes had returned to the wetlands.

I am not sure if they are the same birds  that I have seen here for the last five years, or , if they are the offspring of those birds but there is always a nest on the back of the information  sign at the entrance to the wetlands. I know where another pair always nest and I was hoping they, too,  had returned from their  Winter home in the southern United States and Mexico.

I walked over to the old Susquehanna canal and was hoping to see the river otters or, at least some wood ducks. I  didn’t.  The only  critters I saw were a couple of pairs of Canada geese, including this pair nesting on an old muskrat next.

I walked along the trail, noticing another sign of Spring, the  red buds on the red maples trees.

There wasn’t a lot of bird activity in the wetlands  this morning but I did see a few song sparrows, 

American robins and,

eastern bluebirds.

And there a lot of noisy  male red winged blackbirds,

some perched high on the tree tops. They are very territorial and are establishing their  territory for when the females arrive. I haven’t seen a  female red-winged blackbird this year.

The paths to the Water Fowl pond were still flooded,

but I sloshed my way though the cold water. I made it to the shore of the pond but all I got for my trouble was wet feet. There were no ducks or herons on the ponds.

I now headed to the river lands area of the nature preserve. It was about a mile away from the Water Fowl ponds. 

I walked over the fallen tree and,

found the other  trail to the river was still flooded.

The skunk cabbage didn’t mind the flooding,

as they continued to unfurl their much welcome green leaves.

As I approached the river lands I saw this red-bellied woodpecker inspecting a large hole in a tree.

Although it was made by a woodpecker I  don’t think  this one made the hole. It looked old.  It may have been investigating whether it would be a good place to build a nest.

They are beautiful birds.

I also saw a hairy woodpecker,

a tufted titmouse,

and a white breasted nuthatch before I came to the river lands and  Lake Took-A-While.

The clouds had dissipated and the strengthening March sun warmed up the cool morning air.

It sure felt like Spring.  I was hoping to see some bald eagles soaring over the lake or perched in a tree along the shore. There were none on Saturday  There was a flock of double-crested cormorants on the lake.

This birds breed in the interior United States Canada and are just passing through our area.  I love watching  frequently  fly  over the lake.

There was also a flock of common mergansers on the lake. This is a male,

and this a female.

Most of these  birds will  migrate north to Canada to breed although Northeastern Pennsylvania is on the edge of their breeding area and some may nest here. They too like to fly across the lake and I enjoy watching them. This is a male in flight

and this a female in flight.

I walked to the far end of the lake,

and I looked for the eastern phoebes that usually nest near  a bridge over the canal, and sure enough they had returned. It seems  they like to return to previous nests each year.

I began my hike back to the wetlands,

and saw a few more birds on the way including a male cardinal,

 some common grackles

and this Carolina wren singing in a tree along the trail.

A few painted turtles emerged from the murky waters as I walked in the wetlands. And I was excited to hear the chorus of the Spring peepers echoing in the wetlands. This is a sure sign Spring is near.

As I was finishing my five mile hike a red-tailed hawk soared overhead,

and I saw another sign of Spring, my first migratory songbird, a yellow-rumped warbler. This is usually the first warbler to appear in the wetlands in tje Spring returning from it’s Winter home in te southern United States.

The last critter I saw on my hike was this ring billed duck on one of the ponds. Here is a link toa gallery with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands birds March 16 2024.

The sun had warmed the temperatures into the low 50’s as I finished my five mile hike  The Spring peepers and wood frogs were now even louder. It was a great way to end the Winter at the wetlands . I was looking to more sunny days, warmer weather, and  a lot more wildlife on my hikes in the coming weeks. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike in the wetlands and river lands. Susquehanna Wetlands March 16 2024.

“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.”
― Lewis Grizzard


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