River Otters, Bald Eagles And Wood Ducks On A Blustery November Day In The Susquehanna Wetlands.
River otters, bald eagles and wood ducks were the last things I expected to see when I decided to visit the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township Luzerne County on Saturday. But saw them I did! It was a cold and blustery morning with a temperature of 28 degrees when I arrived around 8:30 a.m. I wasn’t expecting to see much wildlife because of the cold and windy weather. Even the Winter resident birds find shelter and are not usually active on these blustery days.
As is my routine, after arriving at the wetlands I walked down to check out the Susquehanna River. It was receding but still pretty high. I also noticed the skid marks from my slip and fall in the mud two weeks ago could still be seen on the path that led down to the river. I am much more cautious approaching the river after my tumble.
I walked into the wetlands and noticed the naked trees and how their bare branches stood out against the dark, gray skies. It is such a different world now.
Their once lush green leaves now litter the floor of the woodlands along the trail. Brown and gray are now the dominant colors in the wetlands, and will be until the greens of Spring appear.
However there were still some colors in the wetlands, there were bright red common winterberries along the trails,
and blackberry brambles still had some reddish color.
As did these bright red leaves of an invasive burning bush.
Some yellow colors could also be seen, mostly from the many roundleaf greenbrier vines growing along the trail,
but also from the few Norway maple trees I saw on my hike. All of these colors will soon fade to brown.
Some green will remain throughout the Winter, the rare club moss, the pine trees and these intermediate ferns,
and Christmas ferns will provide some green colors all Winter long. However, dreary browns and grays will be the colors I will most see on my Winter walks in the wetlands.
As I walked in the wetlands I was surprised to see, swimming on one of the canals, a wood duck. I haven’t seen one since early October. It flew off before I could get a photo.
I thought for sure they had already left the wetlands. It wouldn’t be the last wood duck I’d see on my hike. A few minutes later I saw another surprise, a bald eagle flying in this blustery weather. It was high overhead, sometimes soaring above the lower clouds. This was the best photo I could get of the eagle. It appears to be a juvenile.
My third surprise came when I walked over to the water fowl pond. Here I saw four more wood ducks fly over,
and on a nearby pond, I saw some movement on the far end. I thought they were the wood ducks, or possibly mallard ducks. However, when I took a photo with my 600mm zoom lens I realized they were river otters!
I am pretty sure it was the family of river otters I saw last month. I couldn’t see them except through my camera lens. It was overcast and my Sonny RX 10 iv mirrorless isn’t very good in the low light so these were the best photos I could get. You can see they were feeding on fish in the pond.
I saw a lot of splashing and I am guessing they juveniles were playing like the last time I saw them. However, the eventually decided to swim onto the shore. I wish I could have got closer and took better photos. They are such beautiful creatures. I am glad they are still in the wetlands. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos of the river otters. Susquehanna Wetlands river otters. November 27 2021.
After standing and photographing the otters my fingers and toes were cold. Another reason I am not a fan of the Winter anymore. I was glad to hike briskly through the wetlands ,
There were very little bird or other wildlife activity on this cold morning. I did hear, and see this male cardinal in some of the low trees along the river.
And my eyes were immediately attracted to this pretty flower, a New England aster,
I continued my hike into the river lands. Before I got to Lake Took-A-While, I saw the flock of white-throated sparrows that are usually in this area in the Winter.
Like the black-capped chickadees, they are friendly birds and not camera shy.
I walked along the lake and I didn’t see the great blue herons or kingfishers on Saturday.
There were about 30 Canada geese on the lake. I am not sure if they are the ones who nested here in the Summer or a new flock resting on their migration south.
They will head south as the lake will soon freeze over, hopefully, not for a few more weeks.
I finished my hike at the end of the trail on the far side of the lake and began my walk back under the dreary November skies.
Along the way the only critters I saw were a few black-capped chickadees.
These birds are even less shy than the white-throated sparrows and often land on nearby branches as I walk by. There distinctive chatter is sometimes the ony sound I hear on my cold winter walks.
The rest of my walk back to my Jeep was dreary and uneventful. No more critters stirred. I was cold when I finished my hike, and I didn’t see the diversity of flora and fauna I see in the warmer months, but to see wood ducks, a bald eagle, and especially river otters in November was more than enough of a treat for me. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands November 27 2021.
Healthy otters tell us we have a healthy countryside.J. C. Tregarthen