Record Cold Temperatures Didn’t Bother The Birds At The PPL Wetlands And Riverlands.

Record Cold Temperatures Didn’t Bother The Birds At The PPL Wetlands And Riverlands.

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I awoke  to a record breaking 25 degree temperature and an inch of snow in my backyard here in Northeastern Pennsylvania  on Saturday morning. Certainly not May weather.  But it is Spring, the skies were clear and it was sunny.I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I decided to drive to The PPL Wetlands and Riverlands in Salem Township to see how the wildlife  made out in the cold..

I wore Winter clothing  for my hike but when I arrived I found no snow on the ground.  It is about a 1200 feet  lower elevation difference from my home. The temperature was still a frigid 30  degrees.  However, the cold didn’t prevent the bright May sun from illuminating the newly sprouted leaves creating a green wonderland of color. 

I arrived early, around 7 a.m. an hour after sunrise, and the morning sun created a magical world despite the cold temperature.  

My first stop was to check on the bald eagles nest. The developing leaves are obstructing my view, probably to the eagles delight, but I was able to see the two eaglets peeking out from the large nest in the morning sunshine.

After leaving the nest area I walked into the wetlands and was greeted by a chorus of bird songs. I was surprised at how active they were on this frigid morning. 

They noisiest were, as usually, the red-winkled blackbirds. Both the males, 

and the females give  have a number of different calls ranging from cheerful to scolding but they are all loud and continuous. They were especially loud on this cold morning. 

The catbirds also have a range of calls and they also chatter almost non-stop  throughout the wetlands and riverlands. . There were a lot more on this visit to the wetlands than I had seen last week. 

I also heard a number of song birds and was able to photograph this yellow warbler. 

The song of the birds, the  bright sunshine,  new green leaves and wildflowers kept me from feeling the cold Winter-like temperatures. 

However, some of the plants, including the skunk cabbage, did mind the deep freeze of the previous night.  I was surprised the leaves wilted from the cold  since they are one of the first plants to appear  in late Winter. 

Others like the jack-in-the-pulpit,

the sensitive ferns,

and the appropriately named Christmas ferns, didn’t seem to mind the cold. 

It seemed that, with almost every step, I uncovered  another beautiful plant. new leaf or flower, such as these delicate and pretty early azalea or honeysuckle blossoms, 

or these wild violets. 

Even the poison ivy leaves, remember leaves of three let it be, looked pretty in the May sunlight. 

And the birds, the birds were everywhere. In one of the ponds I spotted three sandpipers wading near the shore. I think they are solitary sandpipers.

There was a green heron perched on a stump waiting for a meal. 

And I saw a few common yellow throats scampering along the canals. 

I also saw this easy to identify sparrow for the first time. I think it has to be a white-crowned sparrow. 

As I left the wetlands and walked into the riverlands I saw a few blue-gray gnatcatchers,

this pretty Baltimore oriole

and this spectacular scarlet tanager, one of my Spring favorites. At first I thought it was a cardinal high in a treetop and almost walked past it. 

This week, unlike my last few visits, there was not a soul at Lake Too-A-While. Not a single fishermen. No one walking along the trails. And, although I was seeing so many birds, wildflowers and new growth it was cold and windy. Temperatures were still in the 30’s I am sure.

But I continued to see so much bird activity. On the lake I saw a few cormorants,

a couple of Canada geese families.

I even was able to capture this kingfisher as it rested on a tree branch. 

An osprey flew overhead and 

there were both barn swallows

and tree swallows swooping over the lake in search of insects. 

I walked beyond the lake and onto  the  Warrior Trail.  Here I saw a few flocks of the brilliantly  colored  indigo buntings passing through our area. I am hoping a few decide to make our area home this year. 

I walked out to the small pond and private grove along the Susquehanna River.  It is about 3 1/2 miles from where i began my hike. The sky clouded up making it feel much colder for my hike back. And I was walking into a strong wind.  The birds noticed the absence of the sun too, it seemed, I saw much less bird activity on my hike back. 

I did see this great blue heron along the lake, 

and was able to photographs its beautiful wingspan as it flew away on my approach. 

The clouds grew thicker as I walked and soon snow flurries began to fall from the dark clouds. Yep snow in May. 

I walked back into the wetlands and saw a few phoebes perched in a tree as snow flakes fell around them. Here is a link to a gallery on my website with more photographs of the many birds I saw on my hike. PPL Wetlands birds May 9  2020.

Nearing my car I saw these flowers along the trail. Honeysuckle blossoms. Soon they will be opening and filling the woodlands with their heavenly aroma. I just hope that the temperatures are more Spring-like when they do. I didn’t mind my frigid hike but it would have been much more pleasant wearing shorts with temperatures in the 70’s. Crossing my fingers for next weekend. But even if there is a foot of snow I’ll  be out hiking, with my eyes peeled hoping to see, and share the beauty of nature. And here is a link to some more photographs from my hike in the wetlands and riverlands. PPL Wetland May 9 2020.

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word   Cat Stevens 

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