Cedar Waxwings And A Sign Of Spring At The PPl Wetlands

It was nice to return to Northeastern Pennsylvania after my visit to Puerto Rico. I have always said you don’t have to travel far to find the beauty of nature. I did see many wonderful things in Puerto Rico. There was beautiful scenery and I saw many exotic birds  on my trip.   But there is also so much beauty here too, even in Winter.  And I went looking for, and found some, of this beauty at the PP Wetlands yesterday. Trees and mountains along Susquehanna River

It was a mostly sunny and seasonably cold morning. The temperatures were in the low 20’s.  We had some warm weather while I was gone and there was no snow on the ground.  I immediately noticed how swollen the Susquehanna River had become. trees along river

The heavy rains and melting snow had it reaching the tops of it’s banks. As I walked in the wetlands and found most of the canals and ponds were still frozen.  Even though they were now lifeless, they still had a unique beauty to them. ice covered pond in wetlands

I heard a few birds in the distance, woodpeckers, crows and black-capped chickadees, However I did not see a single bird or other critter until almost a mile into my walk. I saw  these two red squirrels scurrying through the underbrush. pair of red squirrels

I continued my walk to the river lands section of the preserve and frozen Lake Took-A-While.frozen lake Took-A-While

I still wasn’t seeing any  wildlife. I knew the water birds would be gone because  the lake was frozen.I was surprised  there were none  of the  usual winter birds commonly seen here. bridge and lake under cloudy sky

This changed when I walked to the river trail. I first noticed a few woodpeckers in the trees. woodpecker on tree branch

I soon walked into a flock of one of my favorite birds, the cedar waxwing. cedar waxwings in tree

These birds are very social and can be found in large flocks, especially in winter.cedar waxwing in tree

They feed mainly on fruits and can be seen fluttering among the tree tops in small flocks in the summer. This flock was larger than the ones I have seen in the summer. There were about thirty birds in it and they were searching for the few remaining berries on the trees. cedar waxwings in branches

And as I have often  observed before there were now other birds in the same area. I noticed  that different species of birds tend to  travel together, probably for safety, in the cold of Winter. I saw a few tufted tit mice, 

and nuthatches in the same vicinity as the cedar waxwings. I watched the birds for a while enjoying the fluttering of the cedar waxwings in the trees over my head. nuthatch in tree

After observing this group of birds I only saw a cardinal and a few sparrows on my return walk. It was still a pleasure seeing the waxwings. On my return walk I  looked for, and found this, a first sign of Spring. A skunk cabbage sprouting up in wetlands! skunk cabbage sprouting cedar waxwing on branch

It is now mid February, and we may still get some frigid weather and snow here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but the sun is higher in the sky, and the worst of Winter is over. Spring will arrive soon and Nature will put on it’s greatest show of the year. And I will be sure to be outdoors and watch it arrive. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike including some more of the beautiful cedar waxwings. PPL Wetlands hike February 17 2018. 

tree lined frozen pond

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.     Vincent Van Gogh

 

 

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Puerto Rico Day Two: So Much To See In Enchanting Old San Juan

After my tour of the historic Castillo San Cristobal,  I  again wandered off to explore the streets of old San Juan. I first made my way through  the now familiar Plaza Colon and it’s towering statue of Christopher Columbus. trees and Christopher statue Plaza Colon

I decided to walk up one of the most famous streets in  old town San Juan, El Fortaleza.Colorful cobble stoned street

Like all the streets in old town it was paved with blue cobblestones. These pretty stones were brought from Spain and used as ballast on the ships. Once in San Juan they were removed from the ship and were replaced  with gold for the journey back to Spain. The residents used the discarded  cobblestones to pave the streets. 

shops on cobblestone street

The  street is now lined with many small shops and upscale stores, selling all kinds of souvenirs, clothing, electronics,  luxury goods and any other thing that can be sold  to tourists from the cruise ships,gist shop old San Juan

and restaurants and outdoor cafes of all types  ranging from  five star gourmet  to local eateries. outdoor cafe old San Juan

I followed the busy narrow street and found myself once again at the Governor’s mansion near the old front  gate to the city. There is no motor vehicle traffic allowed on the street near the mansion.  cobblestone street leading to Governor's mansion

Next to the mansion I saw what I thought was  a church. I love to visit churches, temples and mosques on my travels and tried to enter. The door was locked.Hospital and shrine House of Health operated by Servants of Mary nuns

A friendly caretaker approached,  told me the chapel was closed, but  he would see if the nuns would allow me to visit. Shortly a young nun appeared and waved me inside.photograph of Blessed Mary in hospital

I remember very little Spanish from my high school days.  The  nun spoke no English.  She was  kind and friendly and we communicated through gestures. She lead me to a beautiful  chapel and she left me alone to  take photographs. shrine and chapel House of Health Servants of Mary

As I was leaving I encountered the young nun who was now accompanied by a middle age nun. I tried to explain to them that I was taught by Bernadine Sisters as a child. My attempt was not successful.  Statue in House of health

A third older nun now appeared.  I again  tried to explain to them my schooling by Bernadine nuns. Finally the young nun got the caretaker, who spoke English and we had a wonderful conversation with the help of our translator. We laughed about the nuns who thought me  and how they  hit us with a ruler when we were bad. One nun laughed and pointed to the oldest one. She shook her head, no, not her. We all laughed.  We also talked about the the 1960’s  television show, the Flying Nun. They, of course, all heard about it. Three Servants Of Mary sisters

Now I was their friend and the oldest gave me a tour of the facility which was a convent and hospital for the old and poor. She took me to a balcony with spectacular views of San Juan bay, and the Governor’s Mansion. It was truly a blessed experience which I will always cherish.  I learned the building was built in 1524. The nuns cared for the sick here for over 125 years. Here is a link to some more photographs of my wonderful encounter with the sisters and their mission. . Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan Convent February 9 2018.

I next  walked to  the Puerta de San Juan or the main  gate   and up atop the old city wall. The views were again spectacular. view of San Juan bay from city wall

I saw  more sculptures, old houses and some beautiful flowering gardens. sculpture old San Juan

I made my was back to the park in front of  “El Morro” when I decided to begin my return journey. park and view of "el Morro"

I meandered through the pretty streets,calamari and rice revisiting many of sites I saw the day before. I wish I had time to visit the many museums in the city. I did stop for a nice, and reasonably priced snack, calamari and rice, with all the lemonade you could drink a restaurant located in one of the museums. 

I returned to my hotel mid  afternoon and spent some time editing photographs and exploring the many art filled rooms at the Inn. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike through old San Juan. Puerto Rico  Day Two: San Juan afternoon hike.

I wanted to see the  sunset and decided the best place would be  the high ground of “El Morro”  It was a beautiful evening in Puerto Rico. Huge billowing cumulus clouds floated on the ever present trade winds. 

I walked along the old city wall and came to a beautiful cemetery situated above the Atlantic Ocean. 

I spent a few minutes taking in the serene scene.  And I was delighted to watch a rainbow appear over the ocean. Here is a link to a video I uploaded to YouTube. Cemetery video.

I walked up to an old battery wall near the fortress and joined a group of local residents and tourists also waiting for the sunset. Unfortunately clouds moved and we only caught a brief glimpse just before it set. It was still a  great place to be. 

I  walked back along Fortaleza Street  enjoying the sounds of tourists and residents at the many cafes, bars and restaurants.  I ate dinner at a quaint  French restaurant, Trois Cent Onze,  recommended by a friend. The food was excellent. I finished my meal and returned to the streets which, despite a passing showers were still alive with the sounds of folks enjoying the warm tropical evening. 

It was an uphill walk to my hotel but I soon heard the crashing of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the rocky shore. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk. Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan evening walk. February 8 2018.

I also listened to the music rising up from San Sebastian street from a balcony in my room.  I was tired  and soon  fell asleep listening to the sounds of music and partying that lasted until sunrise. Here is a link to a video of the sounds of San Sebastian Street from my room.

“Fall in love
with the energy
of the mornings

trace your fingers 
along the lull
of the afternoons

take the spirit 
of the evenings
in your arms
kiss it deeply 

and then
make love
to the tranquility
of the nights.” 
― Sanober Khan

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Fly Eagles Fly! And They Did, Here In Northeastern Pennsylvania And Minnesota.

As some of you may know, from my past blog posts, I am a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles football fan. It was an  exciting weekend for Eagles Fans.  The Eagles won  their first Super Bowl on Sunday!!!!  On Saturday, before the game,  I decided to drive to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and see if I could see a live bald eagle for good luck and  in anticipation of the big game.Lehigh Gap Nature Center

I chose this area of the Lehigh River since I had seen  a bald eagle on my hike along the Lehigh Canal in Weissport last week. And my brother Mike often sees them here when he drives home from work. stone building at lehigh gap

I have been to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center before. It is where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Lehigh River. I have hiked up atop the Blue Mountain on the trail  from here. This time I decided to hike north on the D & L trail. It was partly sunny and a frigid  15 degrees when I began my hike.D & L trail at Lehigh gap

 I had only walked a few hundred yards when I saw a large bird in the distance flying toward me. Could it be? Yes it was!  I was delighted to discover that it was a bald eagle!bald eagle in flight

He or she flew directly over me and was looking down at me as he or she flew overhead.  I thought she or he nodded her head, telling me the Eagles will do just fine. I am always thrilled to see our National symbol in the wild. Even more so the day before my Eagles played in the Super Bowl.  These majestic birds  came so close to extinction a few decades ago.  I knew it was  good sign for me and my Philadelphia Eagles.  And sure enough it was. The Philadelphia Eagles flew just as high, beating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Here is a link to some more photographs of the eagle. Bald Eagle February 3 2018.bald eagle in flight

I continued my walked along the river and noticed the huge blocks of ice that were scattered along the river banks.  Many were six inches to a foot thick. ice along Lehigh river

The river was mainly ice free now and was flowing rapidly from some rain and warmer weather we had last week. lehigh river

As I walked along, I startled many flocks of juncos who were feeding on the grasses and plants that grew along the trail.junco on ground

There were also quite a few cardinals in the trees along the trail and river. male cardinal in tree

The trail  turned to the northwest after about a mile or so and I walked into the shade.  It felt a lot colder without the sunshine.

The river was still in the sunshine  and I saw a few Canada geese

and a flock of common mergansers wading on it’s deep blue waters. 

I walked out to the Three Ponds Trail,  about two miles out from the nature center. The trail winds around some wetlands and three large ponds. The ponds are now frozen and lifeless but I would think there would be a lot of wildlife activity in the warmer months. 

I climbed up to the Prairie Grass. This trail is high above the D & L trail and the Lehigh river. 

It consists of native grasses which have grown on the soil that was contaminated by a zinc plants that operated nearby during the last century. I remember the barren hillsides when I would travel to Philadelphia as a child. The plant was closed and, with the help of conservationists, the hillsides are now making a comeback.

The trail were steep and ice covered in spots making for some difficult walking. The views, however were worth the effort. View of Lehigh River

In addition to the magnificent views of  river, mountains and towns below, I also saw this house in the distance atop Marshall’s Hill in Palmerton. It is remodeled now but I remember when it was run down and dilapidated. It looked like the house from the Adam’s Family. It was built by a retired Civil War general, Elisha Marshall, and was said to be haunted. 

The trail eventually began a steep, and ice covered, descent. I was surprised not to see or hear a single bird on the trail. I am sure there would be many migratory song birds up here in the Spring. 

The Prairie Grass Trail crossed another nice hiking trail the Lehigh-New England trail. I crossed this trail and walked down to the D & L trail but I plan to return and explore these paths again. Lehigh New England trail

I returned to the Nature Center seeing this beautiful blue bird along the way. Here is a link to some more birds I saw on my hike. Lehigh Gap Birdsblue bird on tree

I enjoyed my hike in the Lehigh Gap and will be  back to explore the many trails in warmer weather. I left  feeling good having seen an eagle. I knew it was a good omen. And it was. My Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions. Fly Eagles Fly!!!! Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh Gap Nature Center hike February 3 2018. Buildings at Lehigh Gap Nature Center

“Farewell,” they cried, “Wherever you fare till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!” That is the polite thing to say among eagles.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

bald eagle in flight

 

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Fog And High Water On The Lehigh Canal In Weissport

After a night of heavy rain, a thick fog moved into parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania  on Sunday morning. I decided to check out the Lehigh River and hike the D & L trail  along old Lehigh Canal near Weissport. ice and fog on lehigh Canal

The fog was lifting  as I drove over the Broad Mountain but still remained along some of the ice covered portions  of the canal in Weissport. fog along Lehigh canal

The Lehigh River was now completely ice free and flowing rapidly, swollen with waters from the heavy rains and melting snow. Lehigh river near Weissport

I  would often see some ducks on the river during the first half mile of my walk along the canal but not on Sunday. I think the waters were moving to fast for the ducks. But I did see a few mallards on the canal, where the ice had melted.mallard ducks on canal

I also saw quite a few cardinals fluttering about in the trees between the river and canal.male cardinal on tree branch

And, always one of my favorite sightings, a mockingbird across the canal. mockingbird on ground

The walk along the canal was much different from the previous weeks when it was covered in snow and ice. The snow had all melted and much of the ice on the canal was gone too. The fog made it appear more like a day in the Fall than the end of January. fog on ice on Lehigh canal

As usual  in the winter I noticed a lot of bird nests in the bare tree branches that would have been almost invisible when the trees  are covered in leaves in the Spring and Summer. bird nest in tree

There is no where near the diversity of plants and flowers and the many colors they add to the landscape in the warmer months. But, if you look closely you can still find beauty in the dreary winter landscape.raindrop on red berrry

Even a blackberry bramble,raindrops on blackberry bramble

or briar berry has it’s own beauty.raindrops on briar berries

I continued my walk along the canal and walked past the Bridge To Nowhere and  to the observation deck  about 2.25 miles  out on the trail.observation deck along Lehigh river

I sat atop the deck and took in the beautiful scenery and listened to rushing  waters of the fast moving Lehigh River. Lehigh River from observation deck

A lone runner on the trail was the only person I saw during this quiet time at  this scenic spot on the trail. lehigh river from observation deck

I wish I could had stayed out all day but I had to begin my hike back to the parking lot. Along the way I saw a flock of Canada geese huddled on the shore of the swift moving waters of the river. Canada geese in lehigh river

I also heard a few black-capped chickadees in the treetops and a flock of these birds I couldn’t  identify. They were looking for insects in the tree bark and were finding them. bird with insect in beak

I didn’t see any on my hike, but there was plenty evidence of the many woodpeckers along the canal.holes in tree trunk made be woodpeckers

My day was complete when I saw the tail feathers of a bald eagle I must have startled as it flew away from me along the canal. I only caught a glimpse of this majestic bird but I always love seeing them on my hikes. I continued on my return hike, now meeting many hikers, bikers and runners enjoying this foggy day in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am enjoying my hikes out along this old canal and can’t wait to see it in the Spring. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh  canal hike January 28 2019.lehigh canal trail

“Sometimes you can’t see the road ahead but as you keep going, it gets clearer. Stay the course as the fog of life dissipates.” 
― Sanjo Jendayi

 

 

 

 

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Pinchot State Forest: A Hike To Crystal Lake

It was a mild January day here in Northeastern Pennsylvania yesterday. I decided to explore the Pinchot State Forest and Crystal Lake. Located about 25 miles northeast of my home, I noticed the  lake on the maps when I  hiked in the nearby  State game lands in Dennison Township.Parking area D & L trail near Crystal Lake

It looked like there would be some wetlands around the lake and I hoped to see some wildlife on my hike. I arrived at a parking area along the the D & L Trail just outside of Glen Summit.  I met a fellow who was taking his dog for a walk on the road leading to the reservoir. He was ahead of me and would scare any wildlife  so I decided to walk up the  the Big Wapwallopen Creek to the lake. Big Wapwallopen Creek

I knew of the “Big Wap” from my high school days when my friends would fish this creek were it entered the Susquehanna River near Berwick. I had no idea it’s headwaters were up here. Big Wapwallopen creek

As I set out on my hike  I saw a group of woodpeckers fluttering in the trees above me. I believe they were hairy woodpeckers although it is hard to distinguish them from the very similar downy woodpecker. hairy woodpeckers in tree branches

I know  the lack of spots on the outer tail feathers and larger size of the  bill are the identifying features but it is still hard for me to tell the difference. hairy woodpecker with extended wings

It was a little rough walking up along the creek but it was worth seeing some of the ancient  hemlock and yellow  birch trees growing alongs the banks of the stream. 

I also came upon some old ruins which must have been associated with an  aqueduct that supplied the city of Wilkes-Barre with water many years ago. old ruins along creek

I continued my upward climb   along the creek until it got too steep and covered in thick brush.  I left the creek and followed a  path along a new waterline. It led me to the treatment facility of the local water company. I followed the road up to a large dam and  completely frozen Crystal Lake. It is situated atop what I think is Penobscot Mountain. ice covered Crystal lake

I am sure there would be plenty of birds and  waterfowl in the warmer months but I didn’t see  a living thing on the frozen waters. 

I followed a  trail that began near  the lake and proceeded south and east. I saw  a few   golden-crowned kinglets feeding in some thick woods at the start of the trail ,

and a nuthatch too.

I soon came upon some wetlands but there was no birds or other wildlife to be found on the frozen waters. 

The trail entered a large expanse of scrub oaks. I have hiked many hours  in the  scrub oak forest atop the mountains where I live.

These  forest are usually home to deer, small animals and, in the summer,  many species of birds. On this walk I didn’t see or hear any sound of wildlife for almost a mile. It was only when I neared  a few pitch pine trees towering over the scrub oaks that I heard a few blue jays and black-capped chickadees in the distance. 

The harsh weather conditions on top of the mountains in Northeastern Pennsylvania create these forest. And these same conditions make it a difficult place to live in the winter. ice covered trail

I walked out  about another mile before I decided to return. The sun was warming it up now but I still did not see a single bird in the scrub oak forest. I did see a few teaberries growing along the trail.tea berry

Once I neared the lake I again saw a few nuthatches, black-capped chickadee and this tufted titmouse. tufted titmouse on branch

I walked the road back to the parking area  and a flock of golden-crowned kinglets fluttered alongside me as I descended the mountain top. 

I was soon at my car, reading a guide and map of the Pinchot State Forest that I picked up at the parking area. I know I will be exploring the many large tracts of land that make up this forest in the near future. And I hope to find much more wildlife on my next visit to Crystal lake. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike to Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake hike photographs January 27 2018.

“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.” 
― 
Roman Payne

 

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More Snow And Clouds At The PPL Wetlands

Last  Sunday I  again  awoke to find above freezing temperatures here at my home in Hazle Township. It was, for January, a mild  34 degrees. After my usual early morning walk through my neighborhood, I decided to visit the PPL Wetlands and check out  the Susquehanna River. The temperature was now 40 degrees.Susquehanna River

Usually it is a few degrees warmer at the wetlands. But, like the day before at the Lehigh River, I found it was much colder than at my home at a much higher elevation. The temperature was 25 degrees when I arrived. The river was mostly ice free  but there were  still over six inches of snow on the ground.snow covered trail

Contrary to the predictions of mild weather, a wintery walk it would be. bare tree branches

The snow and thick cloud cover made it a dreary white and gray  world.  So different from the many colors found in the wetlands in Spring, Summer and Fall. ice and snow covered pond

The drab colors made even the dead dry leaves still clinging to the beech treesbeech leaves

and oak trees stand out. brown oak leaves

The red winter berries  also provided a little color.

As did the bluish  berries remaining on the briars.briar berries

There were a few flocks of birds fluttering in the higher tree branches. It was hard for me to identify them or get good photographs in the dim white sky. I think they were black-capped chickadees and juncos. I was able to get a photograph of this nuthatch. nuthatch on tree

And this golden crowned kinglet. golden crowned kinglet

I also heard the rapping of the woodpeckers in the treetops and saw, in the distance another pileated woodpecker. Like the previous day I could not get a good photograph and it soon flew off in search of food. pileated woodpecker on tree trunk

There was no one else at usually crowded Lake Took-A While. The lake was also frozen and snow covered. snow covered trail along lake

It was peaceful, but difficult,  walking along the trail in the cold and snow. There were  not the almost endless variety of plants, insects, birds and animals found here in the summer.  However  you could find a different kind beauty if you looked  closely.

The dead remains of last years plants stood out in the whiteness of the snow. dead plant in snow

It won’t be long until we see the first sign of life. Next month the lowly skunk cabbage should be making it’s appearance, adding some green to the white wintery landscape. But for now only the browns of last years growth remain. catkins in snow

It was hard walking in the snow so I again decided to  end my hike after about two miles. On my walk back I saw a few more gold crowned kingletsgolden crowned kinglet on branch

a song sparrow ,song sparrow on branch

and this  red squirrel who bravely crawled out on this limb to take a look at me. red squirrel in tree

I found a few  of these holes dug in the snow. They were  made by the squirrels or  chipmunks digging up the nuts, seeds and acorns they buried last Fall. acorn  in snow

I ended my hike along the now swollen banks of the Susquehanna River. The recent heavy rain washed away most of the ice. I was  hoping to see some water fowl on the open water but none were to be found.  I did hear a flock of geese honking in the distance. Susquehanna River

I was disappointed in not seeing any sunshine  on my hike. And even more disappointed in not seeing more wildlife but it was still a great day to be outdoors in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetlands January 21 2018 dead plant in snow

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.” 
― Sinclair Lewisbird in flight

 

 

 

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Back At The Lehigh Canal: Clouds, Snow And Lots Of Water

It was a much  welcome   35 degrees  at my home in Hazle Township Saturday  morning.  The skies were clearing and temperatures were predicted to rise into the mid 40’s.  I decided to head to the Lehigh Canal near  Weissport for a hike. I wore a light jacket  and baseball hat in anticipation of even warmer temperatures since the canal is about 25 miles south of my home and much lower in elevation. Snow covered tail Lehigh canal

I was surprised when I  arrived at the canal trail to  find it overcast, cold and raw. The temperature was only 25 degrees. It seems the warmer air had not arrived and the  cold settled in the gorge along the Lehigh River. I was not a happy camper as I set out, shivering,  on the snow covered trail. snow covered trail

The canal was still frozen solid near the parking lot in town and it looked like there was  still a lot of ice skating occuring at night. frozen lehigh canal

I thought there would be less snow here in Weissport and was surprised to find at least six inches on the ground, the same amount that fell near my home. I was also surprised to find that there was no ice on the Lehigh River. The river was high and flowing rapidly as a result of the heavy rains we had last week. Lehigh River near Weissport

As I continued my hike I found most of the canal was frozen but there were also large areas of open water. Again, I believe this was a result of the heavy rains. bridge on lehigh canal

I have been returning to this area of the Lehigh since I have been seeing many birds on the river and in the trees along the canal. This morning there was little bird activity for most of my hike. However I did still see some common mergansers on the fast flowing waters of   river, both malesmale common mergansers

and a few female red breasted mergansers. I needed help from some birding friends with this one. . female red breasted merganser

I also saw this duck fly overhead but could not identify it.duck in flight

And I think this pretty bird is a hermit thrush.hermit thrush on branch

And I also saw a few juncos and black-capped chickadees as I continued my walk but it was hard to photograph them in the cloudy and gray skies. junco in flight

I trudged my way through the snow and, as I walked further out on the trail it was less traveled making it even harder to walk. snow covered trail Lehigh canal

As I trudged along I heard a pileated woodpecker in the trees. I was unable to get close to it and this was the best photograph I could get. I love seeing these large woodpeckers on my hikes. pileated woodpecker

I walked out to the Bridge To Nowhere and decided, because of the cold  conditions, and me not being dressed for it, to head back. Bridge to Nowhere Lehigh canal

After about a quarter mile on my return journey, I noticed that the air almost instantly got warmer. It even smelled different. There was now a steady breeze from the south. The warm front finally made it’s way down to the river gorge. old lock on Lehigh canal

I  considered continuing my hike but I was tired from walking through the snow and decided to return to the parking lot. As I did I could hear some of the icicles  already falling to the ground as the temperatures rose into the mid 40’s. 

I didn’t see many birds on the walk back but there were a few squirrels scurrying about in the melting snow.   It was a somber walk with lot of whites and grays because of the snow and  the overcast skies but still was an enjoyable one. It should be even warmer today and I am hoping to see some sun. But regardless I will be out and about somewhere in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and I will have my eyes peeled, there is so much to see even on the worst of days.  Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh Canal hike January 20 2018. 

Of winter’s lifeless world each tree
Now seems a perfect part;
Yet each one holds summer’s secret
Deep down within its heart.
~Charles G. Stater

 

 

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Fly Eagles Fly! Football, Family And Philly

 

In addition to my love of the outdoors, travel, reading and a lot of other things I  am also an avid Philadelphia Eagles football fan. Have been since I started watching them with my  dad when I was about  six years old. Philadelphia Eagles flag

Well the Eagles made it to the playoffs this year , and my baby brother Mike, also an avid fan,  and I decided to travel  to my favorite city, Philadelphia, to watch the game last weekend. William Penn statute atop City Hall Philadelphia

It was a cold and snowy start here in Northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday.  The roads were icy and snow covered when we departed. However, we left the snow behind once we drove through the tunnel  under the Blue Mountain.   But we couldn’t escape the cold. It  was sunny and  windy with temperatures in the upper 20’s when we arrived at the DoubleTree  Hotel in downtown  Philadelphia. I love this city. view of Philadelphia skyline from hotel room

We checked into our hotel and, after settling into our room, decided to have lunch in the downtown. My nephew Charles recommended a Mexican restaurant a few blocks from our hotel, El Vez.

We walked the bustling streets of the city and found this popular restaurant. It was a good suggestion as we enjoyed our meal and the company of many Eagles fans getting ready for the big game. We shared an interesting, and delicious crab and cactus taco and I had the sea bass tacos as my main course. Awesome. The food was excellent as was the atmosphere of the restaurant. crab and cactus salsa

After lunch I took a quick walk in the cold brisk Philadelphia sunshine to Rittenhouse Square,  one of my favorite parks in the beautiful City of Brotherly Love.Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia

My love for  this city  began with a visit to the zoo when I was around five years old. It has continued all of my life. I have spent many days walking it’s streets. Still, there is just so much to see and I find something new on every trip to this historic city. . Broad Street and City Hall Philadelphia

Rittenhouse Square did not have the crowds of people who gather here in the warmer months but there was still some folks out and about  on a frigid day in January.  I enjoy watching folks go about there everyday affairs in big cities. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk in Philadelphia.  Walk to Rittenhouse Square. Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia

After a short rest at our hotel my brother and I boarded the express trains in the Philadelphia subway for the ten minute trip to South Philadelphia, the home of the Philadelphia  Eagles. subway Philadelphia

The train cars were packed with excited Eagles fans and there were numerous Eagles chants roaring from the fans on the short trip to the Philadelphia Sports Complex. 

We arrived at the subway stop near the stadium and mingled with  the thousands of fans tailgating in the frigid air or making their way to the Lincoln Financial Field or the “Linc” in the January sunshine. Lincoln Financial Field

The excitement of the Eagles fans was everywhere along the ways.  Philadelphia has the greatest fans in the world,  my humble opinion anyway. 

There was a lot of security  both in the parking lots and at the entrances but fortunately it was not needed. police officer on horse

We entered the stadium and roamed through the crowds, taking in the festive atmosphere. Lincoln Financial Field

As we made our way to our seats once again the reality of the recent loss I have endured  crept into my mind.   I remembered the first time I walked to these seats, It was the night  the stadium opened and I attended the game with my brother-in-law Charles. It was a wonderful experience. Sadly I reflected on those memories realizing he will no longer share them with me. I was again reminded of the emptiness the tragic loss of my sister and her husband has made in my life.  Their loss  will always be with me as I roam this Earth. But I also know they would want me, and the rest of their family, to live and enjoy life. It will not be easy.

I reflected on the past and was thankful to have such good memories.  The excitement of the start of the game soon had me cheering the Eagles with the  70,00 other crazy fans in the stadium. football players on field

It was a close and exciting game but I will admit I was cold. The shouting, applauding and jumping helped a bit but my toes and fingers were still frozen. Lincoln financial Field

We endured the cold and it was worth it. The outcome of the game came down to the final play The Eagles defeated the Atlanta  Falcons by defending our goal line in the final seconds of the game. The stadium erupted when the Falcons failed to score. We endured the cold and it was worth it. We made our way back to the subway and our hotel in the company of crowds of ecstatic Eagles fans. 

After warming up for a few minutes we soon taking a taxi to another restaurant recommended by  my nephew Charlie, Buddakan. We meet his brother, my nephew Brandon, and shared  another  delicious meal and good conversation about family, football and Philly. Statute of Buddha

It was about ten o’clock when we finished eating and my brother Mike and I took a quick walk to Independence  Hall the birthplace of our great Nation. I have been here many times before, at all hours of the day and night, but I still get goosebumps when I stand in this hallowed place. I always reflect on how Jefferson, Franklin and Adams stood in this same spot as the created our Nation. I love this city and it was a perfect way to end a very memorable day. Here is a link to some more photographs from the game. Eagles Game January 13 2018.

Independence Hall lit at night

“Sport is friendship; sport is health, sport is education, sport is life, sport brings the world together.” – Juan Antonio Samaranc

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Another Winter Walk Along The Lehigh River

The arctic weather continued on Sunday here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I awoke in the  morning to find a temperature of -4 degrees at my house.  The wind had subsided and the clear skies meant we would have some sunshine. I knew it would be cold but I wasn’t staying inside.  I decided  to return to  the Lehigh Canal in Weissport to see if the bitter cold had frozen the Lehigh River. frozen canal reflecting blue skies

The canal, on the outskirts of the town of Weissport,  was frozen solid. And again it was cleared of snow to allow ice-skating for the local residents.railroad tracks along Lehigh River

I decided to first walk to the railroad bridge over to the Lehigh River expecting to find the river  to be frozen. To my surprise it wasn’t. There was some ice build up along the river banks but it was flowing just as swiftly as it was last week. Partially frozen Lehigh River

I enjoyed the view of the  Lehigh River which reflected the deep blues skies and was contrasted by the white snow reflecting the sun.Partially frozen Lehigh River

I returned to the Lehigh Canal trail and found the same to be deserted on this frigid morning. The temperature at the trail was zero. snow covered trail on Lehigh Canal

As I continued my walk I once again encountered some of our familiar winter resident birds including a flock of  juncos or “snow birds” andjunco on branch

a few song sparrows hopping about in the dead grass along the banks of the canal.song sparrow on branch

After about a half mile on the trail I smelled the pleasant odor of a campfire. I soon saw a brave fellow ice fishing on the canal and warming himself next to a fire. He told me the fish weren’t biting, having only caught one. ice fisherman on frozen canal

I walked along the canal which ran along the Lehigh River but at varying distance, sometimes  as far as 100 yards, and at other areas right along the river. I enjoyed listening to the roaring of the waters on this cold day. snow covered trail on Lehigh Canal

I didn’t  see the mallard or goldeneye ducks on the river Sunday but I did spot these hardy Canada geese braving the frigid waters. canada geese on Lehigh River

I also saw a bird scampering up a tree trunk. At first I thought it was a nuthatch but they usually scamper down a tree trunk. I took a few photographs with my zoom lens and discovered, later at home, that it was a brown creeper. This was my first sighting of the bird. I enjoy finding and identifying (with much help from my birder friends) new species of birds. brown creeper on tree trunk

I also saw, for the first time,  this  winter resident. It hopped from tree branch to tree branch across the canal making it almost impossible to photograph. I was delighted when it flew across the canal and landed in a tree near me. It is a golden-crowned kinglet. golden crowned kinglet

It stayed nearby feeding on insects burrowed  in the trees branches Here is a link to some more photographs of this pretty little bird. Golden crowned kinglet. golden crowned kinglet in tree branch

There were also a few woodpeckers active in the frigid cold. woodpecker in tree

As well as the always present black-capped chickadees, black-capped chickadee on tree branch

and tufted titmice.tufted titmouse in tree 

I made it out to the “Bridge to nowhere” again, about two miles out. I stopped to rest a bit on this bench provided by a local church. I decided to head back. I was cold but invigorated by the  brilliant sunshine, the deep blues skies and white snow. I was also  enjoying so many birds on this cold Winter morning. I was hungry and wanted to watch some football or I might have hiked until dark. bench on trail

On the way back I was watching a few titmice in a tree when I saw this squirrel cautiously looking at me. There were again very few chipmunks or squirrels active in the cold.  And when they are they are very secretive.gray squirrel in tree

I believe it is because they are one of the few sources of food for this fellow I spotted high in another treetop. It is some type of hawk and I am sure it was looking for a squirrel or chipmunk to make a sudden, and last, move. Such is survival in the harshness of Winter.hawk in tree

On  my return hike I met  a number of folks who were braving the freezing temperatures to enjoy the Winter scenery and January sunshine. I also saw many of the same birds I saw on my hike out and another beautiful Winter resident, the colorful blue bird. blue bird eating winterberry

I was again very cold when I returned to my car. It was a cold well earned and which provided me with the peace and quiet I so love, the beauty of a frozen nature I so appreciate, and the observation of so many birds I so enjoy. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike along the Lehigh. Lehigh River hike January 7 2018 

blue bird on tree branch

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” 
― Robert Lynd

 

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A Frigid Hike At The PPL Wetlands.

We  had frigid  weather  here in Northeastern  Pennsylvania these past two weeks. Temperatures dropped  even lower this morning, accompanied by bitter winds. The wind chill this morning was near -20 degrees. I actually like the challenge of hiking in these  extreme conditions and decided to again visit the PPl Wetlands. ice one Susquehanna River

It was 7 degrees with a steady 15 mile per hour wind when I arrived. Before I started my hike I walked down to check out the Susquehanna River at the parking lot. I found that there was only a thin layer of ice on the river at this location. I thought it would be thicker.bare trees along snow covered trail

I walked back up to the wetland trail and began my hike on the powdery and “squeaky” snow. The cold temperatures create a very dry snow which squeaks as you walk on it. The colder the temperature the more it squeaks. snow covered trail

I walked along the canals which were now frozen solid.  I didn’t see any animals but there were sure plenty of tracks in the snow and on the canals. ice covered pond

There were a few birds out in the frigid temperatures. As I have noticed these past few weeks one of their favorite foods is the berries of the poison ivy vines. I think this is a white throated sparrow enjoying some of the remaining berries.white throated sparrow eating poison ivy berries

Here is another photograph of this, I am sure, very cold bird.white throated sparrow on branch

I also was surprised to see either a downy or hairy woodpecker eating the berries. hairy or downy woodpecker on branch

There is not much color in the wetlands now but even the brown leaves of last years plants have a delicate beauty in the cold. brown leaf

I had only planned to walk two miles because of the extreme cold but I saw a few more birds, I think this is a song sparrow, and decided to continue my walk to see what else I might find. song sparrow on branch

Again, I did not see a single squirrel or chipmunk.When  I heard the shrill cry of a red tailed hawk I  guessed this would be the reason. T I walked out to now frozen Lake Took-A-While. snow covered trail

There were a few sets of footprints in the snow but I didn’t see a single person on my four mile hike. I did see a few more birds. including my friend the mockingbird, mockingbird in flight

this female cardinal hiding in the brush,

a flock of dark eyed juncos, or snow birds,dark eyed junco

and this red bellied woodpecker. red bellied woodpecker on tree

The cold and wind were starting to settle in my fingers and toes so I decided to begin my journey back.

I have been hiking in the cold since I was in grade school and I find a long hike in the extreme cold, provides me with a feeling of accomplishment that I can meet Nature’s greatest challenge. It wasn’t easy walking back into the wind but it was exhilarating.

As I neared the wetlands, I took the trail along the Susquehanna River and found that  there was a lot more ice on the river  in this area.

But there were also area of open water and I found a flock of Canada geese who decided to brave the frigid weather and remain in our area,Canada geese on river

as did these common mergansers.common mergansers on river

I was hoping the river would freeze over this year, but with a forecast for temperatures in the upper 40’s later this week, this does not seem likely. Although, you never know. I remember some pretty cold Februaries. On second thought, I’d rather a warm early Spring and not a frozen river. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetlands hike January 6 2018. 

tufted titmouse on tree branch

We feel cold, but we don’t mind it, because we will not come to harm. And if we wrapped up against the cold, we wouldn’t feel other things, like the bright tingle of the stars, or the music of the Aurora, or best of all the silky feeling of moonlight on our skin. It’s worth being cold for that. ~Philip Pullmanbluish berries on vine

 

 

 

 

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