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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A Frigid Walk Through Downtown Philadelphia.

I was sound asleep five minutes after returning to my hotel room  while  in  Philadelphia for the Eagles football  game last Saturday. It was a long but exciting day. I was  still up early the next morning and  decided to take a quick walk through the streets of the City of Brotherly love before my brother and I headed back home. view from Broad Street Philadelphia

I left  the DoubleTree hotel located at the corner of Broad (16th)  and Locust Streets in the morning twilight  around 7 a.m. There was almost no traffic on the usually congested Broad Street. And only a few people, mainly homeless folks,  shivering  in the frigid arctic air. Broad street Philadelphia

I have walked the streets of downtown Philadelphia for about 25 years now, usually while staying overnight while attending   a legal seminar or a Philadelphia Phillies or Eagles  game. I love Philly,Broad street Philadelphia

I walked north on Broad Street, toward City Hall. I still remember when the statue of William Penn once dominated the skyline of Philadelphia. Zoning ordinances prohibited any building from  being taller than William Penn’s hat atop his statue. Clock tower city hall Philadelphia

I still remember  when the laws were changed and construction began on One Liberty Place in the 1980’s. The skyline of Philadelphia has changed considerably since then and many building now tower above our founder Mr. Penn. Lamp post City Hall Philadelphia

I walked past City Hall, once the tallest building in the world and made my way to the area of the Convention Center. This large building was  built, and  I began attending seminars here, in 1993. City Hall Philadelphia

I usually stayed at the Marriott Hotel adjacent to the Convention Center and would stay for a few  nights allowing me time to explore my favorite city. Marriott hotel philadelphia

I  spent many hours roaming the aisles and shops of the famous Reading Terminal.Reading Terminal sign Philadelphia

I  ate many breakfasts at the Downtown Dinner. Before this dinner opened  28 years ago  I would eat breakfast  at a another dinner  located on a site where the Convention Center now sits. dinner sign Philadelphia

I continued my walk in the frigid morning air and found a number of homeless folks trying, as best they could, to survive in the harsh Winter weather. I reflected on how blessed, even with the recent tragedies I experienced,  my life has been.homeless person sleeping on frigid street

I next walked to one of my favorite Philadelphia neighborhoods, the colorful and usually busy Chinatown. Arch in Chinatown Philadelphia

I have spent many hours exploring the exotic shops and eating in the many wonderful restaurants in crowded area along Arch and Race Streets. There was little activity on this cold Sunday morning.Chinese restaurant sign

And I was getting cold too, so I decided to cut my walk short and head back to the hotel. I normally would walk to either the Delaware or Schuylkill Rivers and the many historic sights in between. Not on Sunday, I made my way back as the rays of the rising  sun were shining  on William Penn.  I was soon warming up in my hotel room. William Penn atop City Hall Philadelphia

The streets of Philadelphia had awakened and there  was much more people out and about on Broad Street. Traffic was bustling and we could  hear the noise of cars, fire engines and ambulances even on the 23rd floor of our hotel. We soon packed and were on our way to have breakfast with my nephew Brandon at Bob’s Dinner in the Manayunk section of the city.tour bus

Once again we made a good choice and soon enjoyed a hearty breakfast and more good conversation. After breakfast we said goodbye to Brandon and  were on our way back home to  Northeastern Pennsylvania.  We were only gone for a day but it was one good day. And know I will be back soon, hopefully for an Eagle’s Broad Street parade. GO Eagles!!!! Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk.  Morning walk January 14 2018. 

reflection in mirror

“I never walked through the streets of any city with as much satisfaction as those of Philadelphia. The neatness and cleanliness of all animate and inanimate things, houses, pavements, and citizens, is not to be surpassed.” 
— Frances Wright

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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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A New Year Hike On The Lehigh Canal Trail

It  was a clear and frigid  start to the New Year here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It was one degree below zero when I went out for my morning walk.  The clear skies meant there would be sunshine and I decided to  check out the ice on the Lehigh River at Weissport.

I began my hike on the old Lehigh Canal trail. I  have a number of posts about the history of the canal in the archives of my blog. The canal was frozen solid and the local residents shoveled off the snow for ice skating the previous night. . I imagined the scene of folks skating on the canal for the almost  175 years of it’s existence..

I proceeded north, into a steady wind, on the snow covered trail. The skies were deep blue and the sun reflected off the powdery snow making the landscape look like a scene from  Dr. Zhivago  

 The Lehigh River sparkled under the blue skies and was already becoming covered in ice,

I was surprised to see quite a few birds on this frigid day, including a number of sparrows darting among the bush growing along the canal.

And a few cardinals adding some color to the white and blue scenery.

There were only a few fellow adventurers out on this cold morning including one gentleman on his bicycle. But there were also , surprisingly, a number of water fowl near the canals and on the river. The first I saw  was this male mallard  duck that flew overhead.

I think he was part of this group of what I think were female mallard ducks swimming in the cold currents of the Lehigh River. However, my bird identification skills are not the best and they may be black ducks. 

They were accompanied by this common goldeneye duck.

This was the first time I have seen one of these ducks on my many  hikes here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. common golden eye duck on river

I continued my walk in the frigid air but enjoyed the wintery scenery provided by the snow, the blue sky and the surrounding mountains. 

I usually hike, at least, to the railroad bridge over the Lehigh River. On New Year’s Day I only hiked out to the “bridge to nowhere” about two miles from the start of the trail 

This rest area, provided by a local church, is a nice stop to reflect on life, even more so on New Year’s Day and after the recent tragic loss of my sister and her husband.  Despite the cold, I sat and did some thinking about the contradiction between the beauty and cruelty of life. 

It was a more pleasant walk back, I now had my back to the wind. 

I saw a few more sparrows, sparrow in brush

and woodpeckers in the trees along the trail. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. Lehigh Canal birds January 1 2018. woodpecker on tree branch

I was very cold by the time I had returned to the parking lot but I was glad I ventured out on this frigid morning. Despite the frigid weather spending a few hours outside was a good start to the New Year.  I hope I can continue my adventures ans sharing them here on my blog for another year. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh Canal January 1 2018.    

“There is always an adventure waiting in the woods.” 
― Katelyn S. Bolds

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PPL Wetlands Hike: What A Difference A Week Makes

The snow stopped late Saturday here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  It left  a  accumulation of about three inches of  powdery, fine snow . Sunday brought more frigid arctic  weather with a morning low of 4 degrees. I decided to return to the PPL wetlands in Salem Township. I arrived to find a much different  world than my visit a week ago.snow covered pond

The woodlands were now a Winter wonderland. All of the ponds and canals were frozen and covered in snow.

I was surprised to find I wasn’t the first visitor on this frigid morning.  There was a set of footprints in the newly fallen snow and even more surprising was a set of bicycle tracks. Some folks were up early. I didn’t see who since I did not see a single person  on the 2 1/2 hours I hiked in the wetlands and river lands.

The skies were clear when I left my house but clouds moved in, obscuring the sun,  making for a dim , cold world of grays and whites.

As I began my hike I saw and a few woodpeckers and flickers tapping on the frozen trees trying to find insects that burrowed into the bark for the winter. 

There was little color in the wetlands the wetlands this weeks, The ferns and plants that sprouted during the warm  spell were now covered in snow. The only color was  the bright red winter berries.red winter berries

I saw no  birds on the first mile or so of my hike. It was eerily quiet. The only sounds were squeaking noises I made as I walked on the frigid snow. The first sound of life I heard was the friendly song of the black-capped chickadees. black capped chickadee in tree

It seems the birds that remain in our area in winter, even from different species.  travel together as they search the lifeless woodlands for food. I soon saw a few nuthatches,nuthatch on tree trunk

and a flock of dark eyed juncos

and I think this is one of the many swamp sparrows accompanying the chickadees in their search for food. sparrow in branches

Of course the many reptiles and amphibians that live in the wetlands are burrowed deeply in the ground or mud at the bottom of the ponds and canals. The only mammals I saw were a few chipmunks and squirrels. Unlike during the warmer months, when they would bravely peer from tree covered branches, they quickly scurried to their nests high in the tree tops or underground burrows. . And I believe this is the reason why. red tailed hawk in flight

Once again I saw a few red tailed hawks soaring overhead looking for a squirrel, chipmunk or other small mammal who was not cautious in the snow and leafless woodlands. red tailed hawk in flight

I walked to now frozen Lake Took-A-While and knew that the geese, herons and ducks would have now flown to open waters further south. cooling towers Lake Took-A-While PPL Wetlands

It was extremely cold and windy  so I decided to walk back  near the river trail.  On my return hike  I was able to some more color on  the this cold gray day. This cardinal was fluttering along the canals. I also saw the mockingbird in the same area but it avoided my attempts to get a photograph.cardinal in tree branches

There were also some more woodpeckers in the trees including this red bellied one, red bellied woodpecker on tree branch

And a few tufted titmice tagging along   another flock of black-capped chickadees. 

I walked back to the wetlands and took  trail along the Susquehanna River. Last week the river was ice free but there was already ice forming on the slow moving waters.

As I was watching the ice flow down the river, I spotted a pair of common mergansers  in the cold waters.  As I tried to get closer for a better photograph, they flew off and so did a flock of about 30 of them. These two were in the  rear of the large flock. 

I was glad to make it back to my car which I quickly started and turned up the heat. It was nice to walk in the pretty winter scenery of the wetlands on the last day of the year. . I did get to see some wildlife. But I will readily admit, Winter is not my favorite season. Especially on such a frigid day. But even with the forecast of below zero temperatures, you know I will be back next weekend. I love  the outdoors of Northeastern Pennsylvania even in the coldest weather. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetland hike. December 31 2017, Happy New Year!!! 

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.      Henry David Thoreau

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Green Ridge: A Reflective Walk On The Railroad Tracks.

It was a cloudy, but somewhat mild morning, here in the Green Ridge section of Hazle Township in Northeastern Pennsylvania on Sunday.  A “balmy” 29 degrees it was. snow covered path in woods

It warmed up into the mid 30’s when I decided to hike on  the railroad tracks near my house in  Green Ridge. Although next to  West Hazleton, it really was a “patch town” when I grew up here. .   I walked down what is left of the old “black road” and through some very old strip mines we called  “doggie dams”.snow covered "doggie dams" in Green Ridge

I spent many a winter day out here as a child. My friends and I played  hockey in the cold with sticks and cans on the frozen surface of the old strip mines. frozen and snow covered pond

It seems some critter was also playing on the ice. Well probably not playing but looking for some food.   Here is a closer look at the tracks. I am guessing maybe a coyote but not real  sure. Feel free to send a comment if you can identify them.possibly coyote tracks in the snow

The “dams”  are now privately owned and the owners are kind enough to allow me to hike out here. I walked past the  “doggie dams” and through the reclamation area that was once a  playground for the kids living  in  Green Ridge.snow covered path in mine reclamation area

We played in the deep strip mines and the coal silt we called the “black sands”. We looked for fossils, played army, camped  and just explored every part of this vast strip mined area.  They were good days. I have written about my experiences in a few  other blog posts that can be found in the archives.mine reclamation area

As I walked through the new growth of the reclamation area I stopped to watch a large flock of some winter residents in our area, the northern junco or “snow bird”. northern juncos in tree

Large numbers of these birds migrate to our warmer winters from their summer homes in northern Canada.northern junco in flight

I soon made my way to the railroad tracks. So much of the woods and strip mines of my youth have been altered over the years. I find great comfort walking on these tracks which remain a real reminder   of the wonderful memories I had growing up in Green Ridge. snow covered railroad tracks

As I had done so many times in my lifetime, I began walking west on the railroad tracks. The large slate and culm bank know as “flat top” and which my friends called  “killer” is gone.snow covered railroad tracks

But not the memories. I would hike up that large hill every New Years Day and take in the view of the homes in my beloved Green Ridge and the City of Hazleton in the distance. I would reflect on the past year of my life and what the new year would bring.  It was a sad year when “killer” was leveled as part of the reclamation project about 10 years ago. bramble thorn

Some familiar items still remain along the tracks, like this old telegraph booth that once stood here. ruins of old telegraph booth on railroad tracks

I walked west and soon came to the “tower lines”.  So many memories out here. Many a cool summer morning  found us out here picking “huckleberries”. We made our way, throughout  the day, over the ridge, past “Kress’s junkyard”, and finishing at the cold waters of “Shiny Creek”. We stopped for a cool drink and searched for crayfish in the fresh waters. Good days they were. pole lines in woods

The old “tower lines”were recently replaced with new pole lines again removing another treasured part  of my youth. pole lines on ridge

I continued my walk on the railroad tracks , crossing the bridge over the Cranberry Creek, or as we called it the “s–t” creek. It’s waters have not flowed for many year now. snow covered railroad tracks

I have been researching the origins of these tracks and it seems they were laid sometime in the early 1880’s. Here is a link to an article I found.  https://www.newspapers.com/clip/15778476/the_hazleton_sentinel/snow covered railroad tracks

I hope to do more research and post an article about the history of the Green Ridge railroads tracks.   On Sunday I continued my hike on the tracks as they curved northward around the ridge. Huge glacial boulders can be seen along the ridge. I explored every one of them over the years. snow covered boulders

I came to the location of where Shiny Creek once flowed under the tracks. I spent many days resting here. However, in the mid 1980’s the creek was  diverted and a beautiful wetland destroyed to build a factory. How those permits were issued still puzzles  me. snow covered railroad tracks

I was now near the Valmont Industrial Park. At the first railroad crossing I decided to  take a shortcut through the park since I wanted to be back to watch the  Philadelphia Eagles football team. railroad crossing in industrial park

I would often walk to the “mile high” bridges that span the Black Creek about a half mile further north. On Sunday I walked a short distance through the industrial park. crow in flight

It was here I observed some of the only wildlife I encountered on my hike,  few crows flying overhead,blue jay perched on tree top

and this blue jay singing from high atop a tree top. blue jay perched on tree top

I walked along the right of way of  a pole line as it crossed through a portion of the  Valmont Sanctuary Bog. This valuable wetlands is  now owned, and protected, by the North Branch Land Trust. Rare orchids and other plants thrive here. It is a shame folks still ride their all terrain vehicles or quads through these precious wetlands. Here is a link to some more information about the bog. http://www.nblt.org/lands-we-own/valmont-bog

I now walked on the old right of way of the “third rail” It was an electric trolley line that ran to Wilkes-Barre and built in the 1890’s.  It later became  an active branch of the Lehigh Valley road. I remember watching many a train on these tracks.  The line was abandoned and the tracks removed about twenty years ago. The right of way is now the northern border of my property.trees and trail in snow

I walked the right of way about a quarter of a mile east and came to “Lipper’s Grove”   where we would camp and have cookouts when I was growing up.  I used to sit here for hours enjoying the peace and quiet of these woods. I am so proud and fortunate to now own this land. As I had so many times in the past,  I decided to build a fire on Sunday.campfire in snow

There is nothing as peaceful, comforting and reflective as a wood fire outdoors on a cold day. This year there was no way to avoid thinking about the recent tragedy in my life and how it has affected me. close up of flames in fire

As I watched the blazing fire slowly turn to smouldering ashes I reflected on the loss of my sibling,  and her husband. Such good human beings.  I miss them both. And so many  wonderful memories my sister and I  had of  growing up in Green Ridge that can never be shared together. But sharing them with my family, friends and followers of this blog does provide me with some comfort. burning embers in campfire

I walked the right of way back to West Hazleton.  As I climbed the hill from I came the Babe Ruth field, the Little League field and my alma mata West Hazleton High School. So many memories but that will be for another post. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Green Ridge railroad hike December 17 2017.sun obscured by clouds and fields

“Don’t you wish you could take a single childhood memory and blow it up into a bubble and live inside it forever?” 
― Sarah Addison Allen

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It’s Still Fall; But More Like Winter At the PPL Wetlands.

The sun, here in the Northern Hemisphere, is still four days away from it’s  farthest position south  on the  horizon.  Which, of course, means the beginning of Winter. Here in Northeastern Pennsylvania   11:28 a.m Thursday December 21 to be exact. snow and ice covered pond

The past few years our  weather has been unusually mild in December. This year, however, it has been colder with temperatures plummeting into the single digits this past week and we had  a few inches of snow. Which made for an early  Winter walk at the PPL Wetlands yesterday. snow covered evergreen plant

The waters of the canals and ponds in the wetlands are no longer covered in green  duckweed . They are now completely covered in ice and snow. snow covered pond

Last week, despite the cold, I was able to see a variety of bird species on my hike. But not a single mammal. This time I was greeted by this female white tailed deer just as I began my walk. white tailed deer in weeds

And it was one of the last mammals I saw on my hike. As I walked through my usual paths along the canals and ponds there was not much wildlife activity. snow covered path

I did come across a few downy or hairy woodpeckers feeding on the berries of the poison ivy vines. It is remarkable how a plant that is so harmful and useless to  humans provides food for the wildlife in Winter. downy or hairy woodpecker eating poison ivy berries

I also saw this male cardinal, another year long resident here at the wetlands.male cardinal in tree

As I walked toward the river lands area of the park I did not see any of the usually plentiful chipmunks. And the few squirrels I saw were very secretive and scurried quickly through the trees. I did start to see some of our birds that remain for the winter such as this bluejay,blue jay in tree

and I believe this was a black-capped chickadee. black capped chickadee in flight

I walked into the riverlands and found that Lake Took-A-While  was also  now frozen over  and snow covered. And a source of food for  blue herons, ducks, geese, cormorants and kingfishers that live here in the summer was gone. frozen snow covered lake

Most of these birds had migrated south but I still saw a few flocks of geese flying overhead, probably from the open waters of the nearby Susquehanna River. Canada geese in flight

But this too may soon be frozen,  as I saw ice already forming on the river. 

I walked back to the wetlands and saw a few more birds on the ways, including a flock of titmice,tufted titmouse on branch

 a red bellied woodpecker,red bellied woodpecker

and this flicker. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my walk. PPL Wetlands birds December 16 2017.flicker on branch

I didn’t find anything interesting or unusual on this hike, as I often do in the Spring and Summer, but it was still nice to get out and see the Winter wonderland of the PPL wetlands and riverlands. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike PPL Wetlands December 16 2017.black-capped chickadee in flight

“Silence can always be broken by the sound

Of footsteps walking over frozen ground
In winter when the melancholy trees
Stand abject and let their branches freeze
” 
― Merrill Mooresnow covered berries

 

 

 

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Winter Arrives Early At The PPL Wetlands

The snow that began Saturday  morning here in Northeastern Pennsylvania  continued to fall slowly all day. I awoke to find  an accumulation of about two inches on the ground Sunday morning.  Winter came early. This is not a lot of snow for us folks in the Pocono Mountains but enough to make walking difficult. I  once  looked forward to walking in the snow but not anymore.  It’s hard on my knees, back and hip and I  was sore from hike in the little snow we had on Saturday. snow covered road

Even though it is harder I will still  hike in the snow and ice. I am not one for staying indoors,  even in sub-zero temperatures.  I will try and make the best of it, and,  sometimes, actually enjoy it.  So early Sunday I  decided to head down to the PPL Wetlands to enjoy the wintery scenery and see if I could see some wildlife.ice covered pond

When I arrived at the wetlands I found the ponds and canals were now covered with  a thin layer of ice. ice covered lake at PPl Wetlands

There were no turtles, ducks or waterfowl on the ice covered waters.snow covered trail

However, unlike my walk at the rails to trails on Saturday there were  a lot of birds still active in the cold and snow. I saw a number of downy or hairy woodpeckers in the leafless trees. looking for insects under the tree bark. hairy or downy woodpecker on tree limb

There were also a few flickers in the tree tops, also searching for insects. flicker on tree branch

I also encountered  a  small flock of goldfinches feeding on some seeds.male goldfinch in winter plumage

I needed help from a birder friend to identify these birds.  I had no idea that they have such different plumage in the winter. This is a male without his brilliant golden summer coat.  male goldfinch in winter plumage

I also observed  a few tufted titmice fluttering in the trees and shrubs in the wetlands.tufted titmouse on a branch

I walked toward the riverland section of the park and saw  a few deer, squirrels and chipmunks that were to quick for  me to capture with my camera. I was able to photograph one of the many nuthatches scampering down a tree trunk.nuthatch on tree trunk

As I neared Lake Took-A-While the skies cleared and the rays of the weak December sun shone on still mainly ice free waters  of the lake. I usually see ducks, geese and cormorants  on the lake but not Sunday.  I thought they had flown south with the arrival of the snow and cold.lake in snow

I soon learned I was wrong, with regard to the Canada geese anyway. I first heard, and then saw this flock of geese flying to the riverlands from the  direction of the Susquehanna river.canada geese in flight

I am guessing they are still in the area, spending the nights of the ice free waters of the river and feeding in the farms and corn fields in the day. canada geese in flight

I decided to return to the wetlands and saw a few flocks of what, in my opinion, I consider are nuisance birds, the invasive European starling. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. PPL Wetlands birds. 

I did not see the abundance of wildlife or the many trees, flowers and berries I see in the warmer seasons but I still enjoyed the wintery scenery on my walk through the wetlands and riverlands and was pleasantly surprised with the many birds still active in this wonderful nature preserve. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetlands hike 

 

“Life and summer are fleeting,’ sang the bird. ‘Snow and dark, and the winter comes. Nothing remains the same.” 
― Elyne Mitchell

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