Winter Settles In At The Susquehanna Wetlands.
Winter in Northeastern Pennsylvania can be cold and harsh. And, even though we are having another winter with above average temperatures, it is still gets col here. I saw plenty of evidence of this when I returned to hike in the Susquehanna Wetlands in Salem Township in Luzerne County on Friday afternoon.
It was mostly cloudy, windy and a seasonably cold 33 degrees when I arrived at the wetlands . It warmed up a bit this past week after the frigid temperatures of last weekend. However, there was still some snow and ice on the trails in the wetlands.
Most of the ponds and canals are now completely frozen over.
There were only a few areas of open water now, and I didn’t see any of the beavers, river otters or more common muskrats as I walked through the wetlands.
In fact, I saw no birds in this area of the wetlands except this American crow perched high on this tree top.
There were some breaks in the clouds as I continued my hike and I welcomed the patches of blue sky and the ensuing periods of sunshine.
I walked down to the banks of the Susquehanna River and found that there was now ice building up along the river’s edge,
and patches of ice floating on the river. Some years the river freezes solid in January.
As I walked along the river I heard the sound of ducks flying off the river below me. I was frustrated as I watched the large flock of common mergansers flying away right below me. Tree branches prevented me from focusing my camera on the birds and so this was the only photo I was able to take of these male as it flew away. .
I walked back up to the wetlands observing the newly fallen oak leaves resting on the snow,
and the many tracks left by the critters living in the wetlands. These are, I think gray squirrel tracks.
I saw a small flock of white-throated sparrows and
a red bellied woodpecker. There was, however, little bird activity on this winter afternoon,
As always I continued my hike into the river lands section of the nature preserve.
The skies were clearing and there was more sunshine as I walked along the now frozen waters of Lake Took-A-While.
There would be no ducks, geese or blue herons on its now frozen surface. The opportunity to see and share wildlife decreases considerably when the waters in the wetlands and river lands freeze over in winter.
However I was surprised, and delighted, to see this tiny hyperactive bird in the same tree and nearby shrubs as last week. I watched it flutter from branch to branch and was able to capture a few images of this cute,
and elusive, ruby-crowned kinglet again. They are petite and pretty birds.
I continued my walk along the frozen lake,
Even in the cold of January I found some signs of life. The green leaves of the hardy garlic mustard plants were still growing along the southern side of the path along the canal.
The only other color I saw were the bright red common winterberries.
As usual I walked to the end of the lake and began my return hike to the wetlands.
Along the way I saw very little wildlife activity, just a few more American crows flying overhead,
More clouds moved in as I walked back into the wetlands,
Here I saw one more critter braving the cold, a muskrat feeding on the duck weed still growing in one of the only open water areas in the wetlands. The forecast was for more frigid weather over the weekend and I am pretty sure there will be no open waters on my next visit to the wetlands. My opportunity to observe wildlife will diminish as the frigid weather continues but it won’t stop me from hiking in this nature preserve I have come to know so well and have grown to love. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog website with some more photographs from my hike. Susquehanna Wetlands January 14 2022.
Winter’s trees are gray soldiers that long to travel home; marching back to springtime, the kindest field to roam. Angie Weiland -Crosby