Sunshine And A Lot Of Birds At The PPL Wetlands

Sunshine And A Lot Of Birds At The PPL Wetlands

Susquehanna river at PPl wetlands
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It’s almost April but there is still almost a foot of snow on my deck. Most areas atop the mountain were I live still have a heavy snow cover. The last Nor’easter dropped 9 inches of new snow this last week and hit areas to the south and east of here even harder. Spring is late to arrive  this year.snow on deck 

I had no desire to walk in the snow so I  decided to head to the PPL Wetlands. Located about 20 miles from my house and 1000 feet lower in elevation I  heard that the last storm missed this area. I heard correctly. leafless trees and canals at PPL wetlands

There was no snow anywhere in the wetlands and the ponds and canals were also ice free. It was still  cold, temperatures were in the low 30’s when I arrived. Clear skies provided  abundant sunshine which soon began to warm it up. blue sky and pond

The ice free ponds and canals attracted a lot of water birds. Soon after the start of my walk I saw a few mallard ducks  on one of the ponds. mallard ducks at PPL wetlands

On the far shore I observed a flock of what I think were green winged winged teals in wetlands

I also saw the pair of Canada geese on one of the canals. They immediately took off when they saw me, honking loudly and continuously as they did.pair of Canada geese

They circled overhead a few times, still honking loudly. One landed near me still honking and  trying to attract my attention. I looked for the other and found her, I believe this was the mommy, nearby. I am pretty sure there is a nest in the area  with some eggs that they were protecting. Canada geese in flight

Nearby I saw a large flock of ring necked ducks on one of the canals.ring necked ducks

I continued my walk toward the river land section of the nature preserve seeing a few year long resident birds on the way. First, this red-bellied woodpecker looking for insects high in the tree bellied woodpecker

This woodpecker, I believe it was  a downy woodpecker , was feeding on the remains of a popular winter staple, the poison ivy berries. downy woodpecker feeding on poison ivy berries

This tufted titmouse was also foraging for seeds in the tree tops. tufted titmouse on tree branch

While this brown creeper was scampering up a tree trunk looking for insects,brown creeper on tree branch

probably the same insects this red breasted nuthatch was searching for as it scampered down a nearby tree trunk. red breasted nuthatch on tree branch

There sure was a lot of bird activity in the  wetlands. I also saw a few red tailed hawks and great blue herons. They flew off before I could get a photograph but I would soon catch up to them. I came upon two great blue herons on the shore of Lake Took-A-While. One again flew off but the other stayed,great blue heron

for a few minutes. Great blue heron in flight

There were more ducks on the deep blue waters of the lake. I watched the pair of bufflehead ducks swim nearby. bufflehead ducks on canal in wetlands

This is the male, male bufflehead duck

and this the female. female bufflehead duck

I am  having some trouble identifying these ducks but I think they are American wigeons. I never realized how many different species of ducks visit our area and how unique and beautiful they are. 

Finally I saw a large flock of common mergansers.common merganser on lake

They weren’t to happy with me watching them and quickly flew off to a quieter part of the lake. common merganser in flight

While I was watching, and photographing the ducks I didn’t look up to see the two bald eagles that were sitting in a tree above me.  They quickly flew off as I approached. It looked like there was an adult. bald eagle in flight

And a juvenile. I wish I had looked up since I could have taken some awesome photographs. However, just to see these  magnificent birds in the wild always make for a good day of hiking. juvenile bald eagle in flight

I also got to see a red tailed hawk nearby. You can see, from this photograph, where it gets it’s name. 

I walked to the river trail when I decided to begin my return hike. I saw a few more robins, red winged blackbirds, cardinals and this crow on my return. Here is a link to some more of the many birds I encountered on my hike. PPL Wetland Hike birds  March 24 2018.

The strong March sun was warming it up and that warmth brought about one of my favorite sounds of Spring, the call of the spring peepers. I only heard a few of these tiny frogs but I am sure there will be a lot more making noise  on my next visit. 

There were other signs of Spring too, like the many skunk cabbages growing throughout the wetlands.

I saw this  brave turtle who climbed out of the cold waters to enjoy the March sun. 

The temperature had warmed into the mid 40’s by the time I got back to my car in the wetlands parking lot. I was on my way home but my bird observations weren’t over. 

As I drove along the rural highway I saw large black clouds of birds swirling in the skies over one of last year’s corn fields. 

I thought they were starlings but, upon a closer look at the amazing photographs it looks like the flock included grackles and red winged blackbirds. 

It was kind of creepy to see the sky darken as the birds swarmed overhead and it reminded me of the old Alfred Hitchock movie, The Birds. Just another reminder of how amazing our natural world is. I am looking forward to a lot more walks, hopefully in warmer weather, as Spring advances in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk. PPL Wetland hike March 24 2018. 


Don’t quack like a duck, soar like an eagle. Ken Blanchard