What A Difference Two Weeks Make. A Couple Of Mild Hikes in the Susquehanna Wetlands

What A Difference Two Weeks Make. A Couple Of Mild Hikes in the Susquehanna Wetlands

Susquehanna Wetlands (27 of 38)
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When I last visited the Susquehanna Wetlands in Luzerne County two weeks ago, it was more of a survival challenge then a pleasure hike.  Temperatures were near zero and an arctic wind howled through the wetlands. The  canals and ponds were frozen and the ice floated on the Susquehanna River. It was not a pleasant hike. I returned to the wetlands this past weekend and there was no snow or ice on the river or ponds.  The temperatures were  in the low 30’s, mild for January in these parts. This time it was an enjoyable early Winter hike . 

It was cloudy when I arrived on Saturday. I began my hike at the gate  on the access road to the parking lot. It was  closed again so I had to walk in. At least this week there was no snow on the road. I walked to the river and also found it to be ice free. We had unusually mild weather this past week and a quick thaw took place. 

I walked into  the wetlands and, as I noted, I found the ponds and canals to also be ice and snow free. Again, this is very unusual for January in Northeastern Pennsylvania. 

Like me , the  birds who remain in the wetlands in the Winter were  enjoying the  warm temperatures. I would see a lot of bird activity on my five mile hike. Walking along the access road I heard, then saw a Carolina wren. I love their cheerful song. 

A tufted titmouse was feeding on poison ivy berries and, 

a white-breasted nuthatch was scampering down a tree trunk looking for wintering insects, berries or seeds. 

There are less berries every time I hike in the wetlands as they are being consumed by the birds and wildlife. Most of the bright red common winterberries are gone, as are most of the poison ivy berries. 

There are still a lot of the purple round leaf green briar  berries but even this berries will be eaten my the end of Winter. 

Once again I found some garlic mustard growing along the trail and I again gathered some of the edible leaves. They are bitter but I enjoy them, especially in the cold of Winter. 

However, one must be careful when foraging for wild foods. I found deadly poison hemlock growing near some of the garlic mustard. 

There were not many other green plants growing in the wetlands, even  with the mild weather we had. I did see tree clubmoss,

and Christmas ferns. 

There were a lot of the remains of the once lush green growth of summer. The  remains of the milkweed pods, 

and goldenrod flowers

the thorns of the black locust and 

the green foxtails grass. 

I even found the remains of some puffball mushrooms, all of these reminding me that soon another Summer will come and go. The circle of the seasons  is continues and seems so much faster as one grows older. 

I continued my hike and walked back to the river. Here I saw a large flock of common mergansers on the far side of the river, but I couldn’t get any good photos in the dim, cloudy conditions. 

On my way to the river lands area of the nature preserve I saw a pileated woodpecker  rapping on a tree. I always enjoy seeing this large, colorful woodpeckers . This on was some distance s, again,  I didn’t get any good photos. 

Walking into the river lands I found  no ice on Lake Took-A-While. I was hoping to see a bald eagle taking advantage of the ice free lake to do some fishing but there were none around. 

There was a lot of  other bird activity, and I saw four species of sparrows, including song sparrows, 

American tree sparrows. 

a beautiful white throated sparrow, 

and, some swamp sparrows. 

The only other critter I saw besides the sparrows was this gray squirrel.  I haven’t seen many squirrels, chipmunks o rabbits since the onset of the cold weather. I believe they stay more hidden now that the leaves have fallen and they are more exposed to predators. 

Dark clouds moved in as I walked back to the wetlands, and a few drops of rain fell. 

In the wetlands I saw one more bird, this great blue heron that decided to remain here for the Winter. 

At least it is able to search for fish now that the river, lakes and ponds are ice free.  It flew away as I approached.  This is a link to a galley on my blog website with some more photos of the birds I saw on my hike in the wetlands. Susquehanna Wetlands birds January 7. 2023. 

I finished up my five mile hike under the mild cloudy skies. It was a much nicer walk then my last visit to the wetlands. This is my kind of Winter weather. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands January 7 2023.

It was a little cooler on Sunday. Temperatures were  in the 20’s at my home in Hazle Township.  The skies were clear and I decided to return to the wetlands, hoping to see a bald eagle fishing in the open waters in the wetlands and river lands. 

After walking back to the river I entered the wetlands and enjoyed the brilliant sunshine and mile January weather. 

Once again, on Sunday morning,  I found a lot of birds active in the wetlands. I saw another small flock of American tree sparrows. I don’t usually see them in the warmer months. They are pretty birds. 

I also saw a lot of the same birds as my hike on Saturday, buy, I also saw a flock of  blue birds feeding on poison ivy berries. 

their pretty blue feathers reflected  the morning sun. 

There were also a lot of friendly black-capped chickadees and 

northern cardinals taking advantage of the sunshine and mild weather. to search for food. They  were in a sycamore tree. 

I walked through the wetlands and into the river lands.  The clear blue skies made for a pleasant walk and the mild temperature, now near 40 degrees, reminded me Spring is not to far off. ( 71 days I do a count on my Facebook page every year. I am not a fan of Winter.)

I was hoping to see a bald eagle near the lake. Once again I was disappointed.

I was only treated with a view of the lake. it’s waters reflecting the deep blue skies. 

No bald eagles, hawks or  ospreys, but I did see  a few American crows flying overhead. 

The brilliant sunshine made for some nice scenery, it was beautiful  January  for a hike. Many years we have inches of ice snow and frigid sub-zero temperatures here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, as we did two weeks ago. Not this year, and the forecast calls for the warm weather to remain all month! 

On my return hike,  I saw a few more birds, including 

I saw a hairy woodpecker,  you can tell in is not one of it’s smaller cousins, the downy woodpecker, by it’s large spike like beak, 

this noisy, red-bellied woodpecker, they always make their presence know with their constant squawking , and

some a lot of  white-throated sparrows. 

I didn’t see any hawks, eagles, bobcat or bears but it was another pleasant walk in the peace and quiet of the wetlands. I hope the weather forecasters are right, and the mild weather stays until  June. Here is a link to another gallery with some more photos from my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands January 8 2023. 

“Hiking is not escapism; it’s realism. The people who choose to spend time outdoors are not running away from anything; we are returning to where we belong.”
― Jennifer Pharr Davis