Winter Returns To The PPL Wetlands And Riverlands

Winter Returns To The PPL Wetlands And Riverlands

PPL Wetlands (5 of 48)
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The mild weather we’ve had this Winter continued this past  week, until a cold front moved though our area on Friday . I awoke Saturday morning with a temperature of 18 degrees and a strong northwesterly wind at my home here in Hazle Township. Skies were mostly clear. There was a dusting to a half inch of new snow on the ground. Once again I decided to hike in the PPL Wetlands and Riverlands in Salem Township,  enjoy the solitude and try and observe some wildlife. 

Arriving  at the wetlands area of the nature preserve I found the temperature a little warmer.  It was at 25 degrees with  mostly cloudy skies. I was thankful there was no snow cover on the trails. There was now a lot of ice on the ponds and canals. 

I knew the appearance of this ice  meant there would be no duck, geese or blue herons in the wetlands. They require open water in order to feed. 

There were, however, some cardinals. woodpeckers and sparrows active in the wetlands but none came close enough to allow me to capture any good photos in the poor light. 

Last week I may have misidentified some muskrats as beavers. I have trouble telling them apart when they are in the water or from a distance.(I attached a link here that helps with the identification of a beaver or a muskrat) I was also  mistaken with my identification of a muskrat lodge which I identified as a beaver lodge. I didn’t even know muskrats made lodges. My brother Mike explained a muskrat lodge is smaller and made of cattails and other small flexible plants. I believe this is a muskrat lodge.

A beaver lodge is bigger and has branches and small logs protruding from it. I believe this is a beaver lodge. 

Well, I didn’t see any beavers or muskrats today but their was plenty of evidence that the beavers and muskrats are still here. There were some fresh gnaw marks on a couple trees. 

And there were these  branches that were striped of  their bark. . The beavers fell the trees then eat the inner bark off of the branches. Muskrats also could have doe this.

As I was leaving the wetlands and walking over to the riverlands I noticed a pair of sparrow on a low branch near the ice on a pond. They were hopping on the ice I wondered if they were  young sparrows who had never experienced ice before. I think the were tree sparrows because it appears they had a bi-colored beak, But I am not not very good with identifying sparrows. 

In the riverlands, I found that Lake Took-A-While was only partially frozen. 

This gave hope of possibly seeing some ducks, geese, a blue heron or even a kingfisher. I searched the waters of the lake and the far shore but didn’t see anything. 

It was overcast  now and I continued my hike past the lake and followed the riverside trail for about a 1/4 mile. Here I usually see woodpeckers, cardinals and other birds in the thickets along the trail. And I did again, there were a few cardinals fluttering in the trees,

and this woodpecker, I think it was a downy because of its smaller size, but like sparrows I have a difficult time telling them apart. 

Whatever kind it was, was on a small branch near the ground and was pecking away, trying to find sleeping insects under the bark. 

On  my return hike  I again  did not see much wildlife. 

 Just a few more tree sparrows, a this  song sparrow

and a golden-crowned kinglet. 

Much of the plants that had started to grow during the warm spell, such as the  invasive Dames Rocket  were now frozen.

The only green plant I saw were  evergreen and Christmas tree ferns growing along the riverside trail. 

The  dead remains of last summers plants could be seen along the ponds, 

and lake.

A dreary month January is, and I am not a big fan of the cold weather anymore, but once again,  I had a pleasant hike enjoying the peace and quite of the wetlands and riverlands.Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike in the PPL Wetlands and Riverlands. PPL Wetlands hike January 23 2021.

“The ice was here, the ice was there,
The ice was all around:
It cracked and growled, and roared and howled,
Like noises in a swound!”
― Samuel Taylor Coleridge



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