Sunshine And Another Sign Of Spring At The PPL Wetlands

Sunshine And Another Sign Of Spring At The PPL Wetlands

PPL Wetlands (19 of 48)
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Although we had a few cold days with temperatures plunging into the low teens this past week, our  unusually mild Winter continued.  This morning the skies were clear and I decided to return to the PPL Wetlands in Salem Township, Luzerne County.

It was 28 degrees when I arrived  around 9 a.m. I wasn’t sure how much ice would be on the ponds and canals and I soon discovered they were covered in a thin layer of ice. The Canada geese did too. I found this pair standing on the ice and looking frustrated. They almost appeared to be waiting for it to melt.

As I observed in previous blog posts, a large flock of geese remained in the wetlands all Winter because of the mild weather. Many of the geese had paired up and established nesting territories much earlier than usual.  I wondered what they would do if the waters froze. I think most flew to the nearby Susquehanna River. And it looks like some, like this pair,  returned  and decided to wait for the ice to melt.  They really did look frustrated. 

In addition to the honking of the geese I heard a sound that has been absent from the wetlands since last Fall. The noisy nasal son of the red-winged blackbird.  I searched for the source and did confirm that these birds are back. Well a few of them. The return in large migratory flocks every Spring. I usually see them in March so they too, are early this year. 

Overhead I heard the cawing of crows. Looking up I saw some crows attacking what I thought was a hawk. 

Crows are not friends of  hawks and I often see them attack  a hawk on my walks. However while cropping and editing my photographs, I realized it wasn’t a hawk being attacked but a juvenile bald eagle!  I have even more respect of crows now. I  always knew they were one of the more intelligent birds but they are pretty brave too. 

After seeing the crow and eagle confrontation I continued my hike toward the riverlands section of the nature preserve. 

Along the way I  saw a few cardinals, black-capped chickadees  and sparrows in the trees. 

However, I didn’t see or hear another red-winged blackbird the entire walk. A large hawk, I believe it was a red-tailed hawk, flew overhead in the clear blue skies.

I walked to Lake Took-A-While and found it to also have a thin layer of ice on its surface, just enough to prevent the water birds from swimming its waters. 

Although the geese, ducks and mergansers were gone I did observe a pileated woodpecker fly overhead. At first I thought it was a kingfisher then I heard its unmistakable cry. 

I decided to hike past the lake and follow the river trail. Here I found many cardinals. both  male. and female singing loudly in anticipation of the coming spring mating season. 

And, a few golden crowned kinglets.  It took some time to get a photograph of this elusive little bird that rarely remained in one place very long. 

There were also northern flickers,

downy and hairy woodpeckers

and titmice  fluttering on this woodland trail.

The trail led to the Susquehanna River, where I stopped and sat and enjoyed the peaceful scene of the ice-free waters flowing past on their journey to the Chesapeake Bay, and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. 

It was now late morning and the strengthening February sun was warming up the cold air. Temperatures were now near forty degrees. The result  of the sunshine could be seen on the green leaves of the invasive  Dame’s rocket flower. 

On my return hike I was surprised that I did not see or hear many birds. It was quiet in the wetlands. I was particularly surprised not to see more of the red-winged blackbirds since they usually return in large flocks. It was still a pleasant in the warm sunshine. It always is a pleasant experience hiking in the PPl Wetlands and Riverlands. And the coming few weeks should bring back more of the wildlife that left in the fall.  Here is a link to a gallery with more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetlands February 22 2020. 

Late February days; and now, at last, Might you have thought that winter’s woe was past; So fair the sky was and so soft the air.  William Morris


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