Sunshine And Blue Skies: The First Day Of Spring At The PPL Wetlands.
Saturday was the first day of Spring here in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun crossed north of the Equator at 5:37 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The weather doesn’t allows cooperate with the arrival of Spring here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Many years we have snow and frigid temperatures. However, the weather doesn’t matter to me now that Spring arrived. The cold may delay the sprouting of the trees, plants and flowers. But the animal kingdom knows it is Spring and the bird migration, the awakening of the the hibernating animals and the onset of mating season occurs despite the weather.
This year the first day of Spring wasn’t too bad weather wise. It was colder than average, with temperatures in the mid 20’s, but the skies were clear and a strengthening March sun was shining when I arrived at my favorite hiking trail at the PPL Wetlands in Luzerne County. I have come to love this nature preserve and what better place to welcome Spring.
Despite the sub-freezing temperature there was very little ice on the ponds and canals in the wetlands. There were no birds or other critters either when I started my walk. I usually see the Winter resident birds, the nuthatches, titmice, cardinals and woodpeckers, when I begin my hike. Not a one on this first day of Spring. I did hear geese honking on the water fowl pond but when I tried to get there I found the ponds had overflown their banks, probably from the snow melt and rain we had on Thursday. A dozen or so wood ducks flew off the ponds as I approached, too quick to get any photos. This was the path to the pond.
Walking on the trail in the wetlands I neared the swampy area with the beaver lodges and muskrat dens are located. I was hoping to see some these critters awake and active. .
Once again I was disappointed, not a one. The only critters I saw on the first mile of my hike was this song sparrow,
I walked down toward the Susquehanna river where I saw a pair of mallard ducks on one of the ponds. I am sure there nest is near and it won’t be long until the ducklings appear.
At the river I scared a pair of kingfishers that were perched on a branch. They noisily flew down river. The river had receded since my hike last week but it was still high from the melting snow and recent rains.
There was little new vegetation growing along the trails. The garlic mustard, Dame’s rocket and skunk cabbage continued to sprout.
And there were clumps of wild garlic or onion grass growing everywhere as I approached the river lands area of the nature preserve. But nothing else was growing yet.
Like the previous week I again walked down to the river. On the way I saw a few red-winged blackbirds perched on the old cattail stalks and small trees in a wetlands along the road.
At the river I saw a pair of wood ducks but they quickly flew off as i approached. I was able to get a photo of this pretty hen.
On my way back I came across the recently deceased muskrat. There was no sign of trauma and my outdoors friends on social media think it was taken and accidently dropped by one of the bald eagles living along the river.
When I arrived at Lake Took-A-While,
I encountered the flock of ring necked ducks I saw last week.
They were in almost the exact same part of the lake.
The large flock of Canada geese were on the other side of the lake.
Geese were leaving the lake and landing clumsily as I walked past.
In the still bare trees along the lake I finally saw some more birds including some robins,
I walked to the far end of the lake , which is about the half way point of my five mile walk. and began my return hike. The waters of the lake reflected the deep blue cloudless skies.
On the lake I saw this lone male mallard duck. Take a good look at the color of its head.
This is the same duck only a few minutes later but his iridescent feathers reflected the sun at a different angle resulting in the different color of his feathers. Pretty cool.
I usually don’t like to photograph the cooling towers of the nuclear power plant but, this is what gives these wetlands their name. The plant and the wetlands were once owned my PPL Electric but they have been sold.
I left the lake and river lands,
and walked back into the wetlands. The strong March sun warmed the cool morning air and I saw a turtle that emerged from the waters to enjoy the sun on a log. Soon he will be joined by hundreds of his kindred. I also heard a lone spring peeper. I think these tiny frogs will be awake on my next hike.
As I neared the parking lot I heard a large rapping sound. I knew it was a pileated woodpecker. I turned around and sure enough saw this beautiful large woodpecker on a tree limb.
It was a considerable distance away but I still enjoyed watching it use its large beak and head to search for insect under the tree bark.
On the ground nearby I found the remains of a great blue heron.
I suspect again the culprits were the bald eagles nesting nearby. I checked out the nest, from a safe distance with my 600 mm zoom lens, and found this eagle peeking out of the branches. I am sure there are eggs or eaglets in the nest. You should never get close or disturb any nesting bird since it causes stress and may affect their ability to care for their young.
I hoped to see more ducks and other critters on this hike but I was satisfied with the ones I saw, and was able to photograph and share. It was another great day to be outdoors in Northeastern PA. Here is a link to a gallery in my blog website with more photographs from my hike on the first day of Spring. PPL Wetlands hike March 20 2021.
‘wake, thou wintry earth,
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness…’