Sunshine, Ice And Birds At The PPL Wetlands
The cold weather continued in Northeastern Pennsylvania last week . On Saturday, it was windy and a frigid 16 degrees at my home in Hazle Township, Luzerne County. . The skies was clear and so I decided to walk in the sunshine at the PPL Wetlands in Salem Township and see if I could find some of the critters I know live there in the Winter.
When I arrived I immediately noticed that ice now floated on the Susquehanna River. I love watching the ice slowly float downstream, occasionally grinding against the ice forming along the shore. I can remember years the entire river was frozen solid. Here is a link to a video of the ice on the river at the PPL Wetlands I uploaded to my YouTube channel.https://youtu.be/s854O3ADvos.
Heading into the wetlands I found the trails covered with a dusting of snow and a thin layer of ice. This made walking difficult and I had to proceed gingerly over the icy trail. Most of the canals and ponds were now frozen solid, which meant the ducks, great blue herons, geese and kingfishers had to leave the wetlands to find open waters on the river or further south.
I tested the ice and was able to walk across some of the ponds and wetlands. However, as I continued my hike I found two areas of open water, and some beavers, taking advantage of it.
This one had a branch in it’s mouth as I watched them swim in the small areas of open water.
I am not good at distinguishing beavers from muskrats, who also share these wetlands. I know the beavers have wider tails but they are hard to see when they are swimming in the water. I was sure these were beavers when, as I approached, one loudly slapped it’s tail on the water. Only beavers are able to do this.
As I continued my hike under the clear blue skies I saw a pair of pileated woodpeckers in some trees across a swamp. This was the best photo I could get of this beautiful birds.
There was also a northern flicker perched high on a treetop,
and I saw a few song sparrows near the ground in the woods along the trail.
There are very few plants surviving in these frigid temperatures, however, some such as the Christmas and evergreen ferns can be seen along the trails, as well as areas of princess or ground pine, also known as rare clubmoss.
There was not much other color in the now drab wetlands, only the dead, brown remains of last years growth,
and some berries such as these red winterberries,
and purple green briar berries.
Leaving the wetlands and entering the riverlands area of the nature preserve. Lake Took-A=While was now covered in ice,
however, the thickness varied throughout the lake.
Walking along the lake, I saw a pair of red-tailed hawks fly toward me. Their shrill call is often heard on my walks in the wetlands and riverlands
Looking at this photo it is apparent why they are named red tailed hawks.
After observing the hawks flying overhead I saw this mocking birds along the trail.
I believe it is the same bird that has been returning to this area these past few Winters. I never see it in the warmer months. These birds are one of my favorite song birds, especially in Spring.
It was windy and cold, temperatures, under the bright January sun, only reached 25 degrees. I walked to the end of the lake and began my walk back, into the wind. It was a much colder hike back.
On the way I saw this squirrel looking down at me from a tree. I am sure he was trying to keep out of sight of those two red-tailed hawk I saw flying overhead earlier.
There were also quite a few cardinals flying throughout the wetlands and riverlands,
a few white breasted nuthatches,
and a few friendly black-capped chickadees.
The chickadees were feeding on the berries of staghorn sumacs trees growing along the canals along the trail. Here is a link to a gallery of some more of the birds I saw at the PPL Wetlands. PPL Wetlands Birds. January 30 2021.
As I was nearing the end of my five mile hike I walked past the open water were I saw the beavers earlier. I hoped they may still be there but they weren’t. They were probably staying warm in their lodges located nearby. The ice on the water around the lodges was still to thin for me to walk on it, but I am hoping, as this cold spell continues, I may be able to walk out on the ice and investigate the lodges this weekend.
It was frigid five mile hike, but I was glad to once again enjoy these peaceful woodlands and to see so many birds on this cold Winter morning. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike at the PPL Wetlands. PPL Wetlands hike January 30 2021.
“…the winter is kind and leaves red berries on the boughs for hungry sparrows…”