PPL Wetlands Hike: What A Difference A Week Makes

PPL Wetlands Hike: What A Difference A Week Makes

cloud obscured sun on snow covered lake
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The snow stopped late Saturday here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  It left  a  accumulation of about three inches of  powdery, fine snow . Sunday brought more frigid arctic  weather with a morning low of 4 degrees. I decided to return to the PPL wetlands in Salem Township. I arrived to find a much different  world than my visit a week ago.snow covered pond

The woodlands were now a Winter wonderland. All of the ponds and canals were frozen and covered in snow.

I was surprised to find I wasn’t the first visitor on this frigid morning.  There was a set of footprints in the newly fallen snow and even more surprising was a set of bicycle tracks. Some folks were up early. I didn’t see who since I did not see a single person  on the 2 1/2 hours I hiked in the wetlands and river lands.

The skies were clear when I left my house but clouds moved in, obscuring the sun,  making for a dim , cold world of grays and whites.

As I began my hike I saw and a few woodpeckers and flickers tapping on the frozen trees trying to find insects that burrowed into the bark for the winter. 

There was little color in the wetlands the wetlands this weeks, The ferns and plants that sprouted during the warm  spell were now covered in snow. The only color was  the bright red winter berries.red winter berries

I saw no  birds on the first mile or so of my hike. It was eerily quiet. The only sounds were squeaking noises I made as I walked on the frigid snow. The first sound of life I heard was the friendly song of the black-capped chickadees. black capped chickadee in tree

It seems the birds that remain in our area in winter, even from different species.  travel together as they search the lifeless woodlands for food. I soon saw a few nuthatches,nuthatch on tree trunk

and a flock of dark eyed juncos

and I think this is one of the many swamp sparrows accompanying the chickadees in their search for food. sparrow in branches

Of course the many reptiles and amphibians that live in the wetlands are burrowed deeply in the ground or mud at the bottom of the ponds and canals. The only mammals I saw were a few chipmunks and squirrels. Unlike during the warmer months, when they would bravely peer from tree covered branches, they quickly scurried to their nests high in the tree tops or underground burrows. . And I believe this is the reason why. red tailed hawk in flight

Once again I saw a few red tailed hawks soaring overhead looking for a squirrel, chipmunk or other small mammal who was not cautious in the snow and leafless woodlands. red tailed hawk in flight

I walked to now frozen Lake Took-A-While and knew that the geese, herons and ducks would have now flown to open waters further south. cooling towers Lake Took-A-While PPL Wetlands

It was extremely cold and windy  so I decided to walk back  near the river trail.  On my return hike  I was able to some more color on  the this cold gray day. This cardinal was fluttering along the canals. I also saw the mockingbird in the same area but it avoided my attempts to get a photograph.cardinal in tree branches

There were also some more woodpeckers in the trees including this red bellied one, red bellied woodpecker on tree branch

And a few tufted titmice tagging along   another flock of black-capped chickadees. 

I walked back to the wetlands and took  trail along the Susquehanna River. Last week the river was ice free but there was already ice forming on the slow moving waters.

As I was watching the ice flow down the river, I spotted a pair of common mergansers  in the cold waters.  As I tried to get closer for a better photograph, they flew off and so did a flock of about 30 of them. These two were in the  rear of the large flock. 

I was glad to make it back to my car which I quickly started and turned up the heat. It was nice to walk in the pretty winter scenery of the wetlands on the last day of the year. . I did get to see some wildlife. But I will readily admit, Winter is not my favorite season. Especially on such a frigid day. But even with the forecast of below zero temperatures, you know I will be back next weekend. I love  the outdoors of Northeastern Pennsylvania even in the coldest weather. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetland hike. December 31 2017, Happy New Year!!! 

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.      Henry David Thoreau

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