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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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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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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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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Christmas Eve At The PPL Wetlands. A December Thaw.

Christmas Eve is not a day for last minute shopping for me. I dislike shopping most days and wasn’t going near a store on Christmas Eve. Instead, I decided, of course,  to spend my day outdoors.  After a cold snap two weeks ago, we had some rain and warmer weather here in  Northeastern Pennsylvania.  I decided to see how it affected  the PPL Wetlands. tree lined pond

I knew the warm weather would have melted the earlier snowfall but I was surprised to find this pond and some of the canals were  completely ice free. tree lined path along canal

I did find some duck weed that is still  struggling  to live for a few more days  under some remaining ice.duck weed under ice

Th e warmer temperatures and  rain even brought some life back to a few  species of ferns,green fern at wetlands

and these plants, green plant growth in wetlands

which I can’t identify, also came back to life. . It is not the lush growth found here in the wetlands in the Summer  but it already had  me thinking of and longing for Spring.sunlit green plant growth

And there certainly wasn’t the abundance of wildlife that is found in the warmer months but I did see a few species of birds including my first sighting of this yellow bellied sap sucker. yellow bellied sap sucker on tree trunk

I often heard jokes about this bird on cartoons and sitcoms when I was  a child and now I can say I finally have seen  one. 

I also encountered this beautiful bird. One that reminds me of my dad, a mockingbird. . It landed on a branch near me and seemed to be watching me. I love their singing and have never seen one in the Winter before. mockingbird on branch

I continued on my hike and found  some ponds still covered in a thin layer of ice.   There were no water fowl in the wetlands on my Christmas Eve hike, not even the usual Canada geese. And with colder weather on the way they may be gone until Spring.ice on pond

In addition to the unusual birds above I did see a few flocks of “snow birds” or dark eyed juncos. They were again enjoying the white berries of the poison ivy vines. junco on branch

There were also a few tufted  titmice fluttering in the bare underbrush.tufted titmouse on branch

And some nuthatches scampering  on the tree trunks. 

All of the birds, and the few squirrels and chipmunks I saw were very cautious and secretive. Probably because of the lack of leaf cover, the smaller number of other wildlife in the cold and the red tailed hawks soaring overhead looking for a Christmas Eve snack. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw at the wetlands. PPL Wetlands birds 12/24/2017red tailed hawk in flight

I was surprised when I got to Lake Took-A-While and found it still had some ice on it’s waters. Another reason that the Canada geese were not to be found. lake and trees

I walked down to the Susquehanna River and found that it was  ice free. Last week there was already ice sheets forming on the waters of the river. 

Not on Christmas Eve.No ice on the river on Sunday.  It was a pleasant and mild December with temperatures in the mid 30’s.  Mild weather was not going to last long.  The forecast for a white Christmas came true. We had a two inch snowfall later that evening. And temperatures plummeted on Christmas Day. It is four degrees  as I finish this post Friday  morning. And colder weather on the way.

I am not sure if I will find any wildlife at the PPL Wetlands this weekend, but I am sure of one thing, there will be a lot more ice on the river, ponds and canals. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike on Christmas Eve. PPL Wetlands 11/24/2017.

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, 
but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. 
~ Martin Luther ~mushroom on log

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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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Looking For Wildlife? Even in November The PPL Wetlands Never Disappoint

It was another nice November  day here in Northeastern Pennsylvania on Saturday.  The skies were mostly sunny and I knew the sunshine would quickly warm the temperature from the 34 degrees early morning start. I decided to drive  to nearby  Community Park and look for the bald eagles that have been  seen at the lake.  leafless birch trees and clouds surrounding Lake Irena

I was there three times last week with no success in seeing the eagles..  I walked around scenic Lake Irena and, once again,  no bald eagles. clouds and trees surrounding lake Irena

In fact, like on my previous visits,  there was very little wildlife at the park . I saw a few crows and heard some  black-capped chickadees in the woods.trees and clouds and lake Irena

And a  few small airplanes taking off from the nearby airport.small plane taking off above trees

I saw no other wildlife until I finally spotted a few chickadees feeding on some pine cones as I completed my walk around the lake . black-capped chickadee feeding on pine cones

It was still  a peaceful and scenic walk. However  I do love to find and photograph wildlife on my weekend walks so I decided to head to a location where I am almost assured to  see some  wild critters, the PPL Wetlands in Salem Township. Here is a link to some more photographs from my walk out Community Park. Community Park November 25 2017. leafless trees along pond

Almost as soon as I arrived at the wetlands I saw, and heard a number of different species of birds in the branches of the leafless trees. There were a number of woodpeckers high in the tree tops including this red-bellied woodpecker. red-bellied woodpecker on tree limb

And this downy or hairy woodpecker.

The trees, thick undergrowth, and abundance of water  make the wetlands a good place to find wildlife even in the Winter. I found a lot of birds feeding on the berries of a plant humans avoid , poison ivy.poison ivy covered tree

This tree was covered in a poison ivy vine. And juncos, bluebirds and black-capped chickadees were enjoying the berries of this dreaded plant.black-capped chickadee feeding on poison ivy berries

Although most of duckweed in the ponds and canals has died from the cold some of the more sheltered ponds still have a thriving growth of duckweed  and thus still  some green color. duck weed covered pond

I did not see any ducks on this hike. The mallards left a while ago but there were still some wood ducks here on my last hike a few weeks ago. I was surprised to see a few cedar waxwings remaining in the wetlands. cedar waxwing on tree branch

As I walked toward the river lands section of the park I spotted a few birds adding color to the drab November scenery. First this blue bird,blue bird on tree branch

and then this cardinal. cardinal on tree branch

I also saw a few colors remaining on the now dormant plants and trees. The red oak leaves still have a little color. red oak leaves

As do the bright red  berries of this shrub, I believe a winterberry holly

and these dark purple berries also added to the beauty of my  hike through the  wetlands even in late November. 

I walked under the late autumn sunshine to the riverlands and scenic Lake Took-A- While. There were no kingfishers, cormorants or blue herons on the duck, only a  flock of canada geese enjoying the warmth of the November sun. canada geese on lake

As I began my return walk to the wetlands I heard the shrill cry of a red tailed hawk high overhead. It was being chased by a couple of crows and quickly flew away.  I also saw another red tailed hawk land in a tree. I watched it hoping to get a better photograph but it flew off hidden by the trees. red tailed hawk in tree

In addition to the many birds I saw on my hike there were a number of chipmunk, red squirrelsred squirrel with nut on tree branch

and gray squirrels scurrying through the trees and brush. gray squirrel on tree trunk

The reptile kingdom was also present on my walk. I was surprised to find this lone turtle sunning on a log in the now cold waters.  turtle on log

And I even found a few representatives of the insect world including this caterpillar, wooly caterpiller

and even a butterfly visiting a late blooming dandelion.

As I  approached my car I encountered a flock of dark eyed juncos. These birds spend their summers in Canada and return here in the Winter.  Hence they are also known as snow birds. Hopefully they will not see a lot of snow here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this year. Snow delighted me in my younger years but not so much these days.  Here is a link to some more photographs of some of the birds I saw on my hike. PPL Wetlands birds November 25 2017.

Since I was a young child I have always been fascinated by the beauty of nature, especially of all living creatures. I have always walked the woods of my home here in Northeastern Pennsylvania looking for them.I  now get great pleasure sharing my discoveries on social media and here on my blog. It gives me great comfort in the difficult times I am trying to find my way through. And the PPL Wetlands and Riverlands never disappoint, not even in November. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetlands November 25 2017.

“No matter how few possessions you own or how little money you have, loving wildlife and nature will make you rich beyond measure.” 
― Paul Oxton

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Despite The Cold Temperatures, Plenty Of Wildlife Activity At The PPL Wetlands.

We had near record cold here in Northeastern Pennsylvania yesterday . Overnight the  clear, calm skies allowed the temperature to plummet to a frigid, and near record,  14 degrees. More like January than November. leaves on ice on canal at PPL Wetlands

I decided to hike out the PPL Wetlands again, with the   intent to take photographs of the November scenery and the now leafless trees. I felt  most of the migratory birds would be gone and only the year long residents would  still be there. As I arrived I immediately noticed the one of the effects of the cold temperatures.The lush green color of many of  ponds and canals had disappeared. The color is provided by the duck weed that grows on the waters in the wetlands and provides nourishment to the wildlife that lives here. trees and clear blue water at pond at PPL Wetland

The cold temperatures killed the duck weed in this pond. Here is another photograph of the same pond taken only a few weeks ago. trees and duck weed covered green water at pond at PPL Wetlands

Some area of the wetlands still have a thick growth of duck weed but, as the cold weather continues it will all disappear and I will anxiously wait for the first tiny leaves to reappear next April. bare trees and green duck weed covered canal

Most of the  leaves on the trees have fallen, and, leafless trees on trail

are now covering the  trails with a crunchy carpet of brown. trees on ground on trail

However there was still some color to be found in my hike in the wetlands. sun and red leaves in PPL wetlands

As I walked through the woods of the wetlands I also noticed the lack of insects. I missed the sounds of the cicadas and buzzing of the dragonflies, bees and wasps but was happy the mosquitoes and ticks will no longer plague me on my hikes. But there was still some life as I first noticed this flicker high in a tree top. flicker on tree branch

And along the canals I heard the songs of the always active black-capped-chickadees. They will be one of the most common, and active, birds in the Winter here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. They are a hardy species. black-capped chickadee on tree branch

As I was observing the waning gibbous moon in the clear blue skies,close up of waning gibbous moon

I was rewarded with a bald eagle sighting. It is not the best photograph since he or she was soaring high overhead but is always a wonderful experience to share a hike with these magnificent birds.

bald eagle soaring in blue sky

I continued my hike toward the river lands section of the preserve and encountered a few sparrows on the way. I am not good identifying these birds but I think this is a song sparrow. song sparrow in tree ranch

I was surprised to see a few flocks of cedar waxwings still in the wetlands. I must have seen three separate flocks each with almost a dozen birds. cedar waxwing on tree branch

I also saw a flock of what I think are golden crowned kinglets, my birding friends can correct me if I am wrong.golden crowned kinglet on tree stump

And I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on a flock of house finches, there must have been a hundred of them.  They like black capped chickadees are not shy birds and I enjoyed having them flutter in the trees and brush near me. house finch on branch

I made my way to the river lands and Lake Took-A-While and found a passing flock of Canada geese on the lake. 

I suspect these were not the local geese that resided here all Summer but a flock from further north enjoying a rest before they head south for the Winter. 

As is often the case had another  unusual encounter with wildlife at the wetlands. While walking along the lake I watched a young deer, a buck, jump in, and take a swim, across the lake. I don’t recall every seeing one swim before. 

On my way back to the wetlands, keeping my eyes peeled, I spotted this critter peering out from a hole in a dead tree,

either a downy or hairy woodpecker. 

I also saw a few wood ducks along my hike and a few red tailed hawks soaring overhead. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. PPL Wetlands birds November 11 2017.

I will have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see so much wildlife activity  on this cold November day. Usually November is the beginning of  nature’s  long Winter sleep here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  But, if you keep your eyes peeled, you never know what you will find on a walk in our  woods. I love to find out so I will come on walking.  And, of course sharing what I find with the followers of my blog. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike at the wetlands. PPL Wetlands November 11 2017. 

“Eagle’s flight of loneliness soars so high 
Around its sigh, no more alone the sky 
Other birds remain away, clouds pass by
Between shrouds of life and haze sun rays die” 
― Munia Khan

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Turn, Turn Turn, To Everything There Is A Season

And turn life does. It has been over a month now since my life has so drastically changed as a result of the untimely and tragic loss of my sister and brother-in-law. During that time  I have continued my daily walks in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, trying to find  the peace and comfort the beauty of nature has always provided me.  I had been doing a lot of reflecting on life, death and this most unexpected tragedy.Lake Took-A-While in fall

It has been difficult for me to gather my thoughts and share the beauty I still  find on my walks, despite the pain and grief I am feeling.  But I know  Linda and Charlie would want me to continue with this blog,  sharing my love of life and adventure, now,  from such a different perspective. So I will try to  continue my message to enjoy, appreciate and protect nature during this short time we are given on this wonderful planet.  We must protect it for those who remain after we are gone, and for all future generations to come.  red berries

So I will again try and  share  some of my thoughts, and photographs, of the beauty I found  on my hikes this past month. 

Although it was a very mild month, Fall still came and the leaves donned their  brilliant colors for a few weeks. I tried to enjoy  that color on a number of walks at one of my favorite hiking trails, the PPL Wetlands in Salem Township.  The beauty of the fall foliage did provide much needed peace as I tried to understand the great loss my family suffered so suddenly . Here is a link to some more photographs from one of those  hikes. PPL Wetlands hike October 14 2017.tree lined canal covered in duckweed

This past weekend I again returned to the wetlands.  There was still some color but now most of the leaves  have fallen to the earth exposing  the bare branches of  trees and shrubs. So quickly the seasons turn. As can life.  Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike this past weekend. PPL Wetlands hike November 4 2017. bare trees in PPL Wetlands

They will wear this  Winter  attire until the warm days of Spring return. Change is the one constant in nature and life.  And, as I have learned, sometimes it comes  slowly, like the seasons, and sometimes quickly  like  an unexpected event in life.  leafless black walnut tree

I took many walks in  the beautiful Fall weather and  took some  photographs of the majesty of the fall foliage and scenery  here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this past month. Most were at the PPL Wetlands but I also walked along the shores of  Lake Irene, at a  local Community Park near my home in Hazle Township. Here is a link to some photographs from that beautiful  hike. Community Park walk October 24 2017cloud reflection on Lake Irene

Although many of the robins, catbirds, and song birds had already left our area I still came across a number of  birds on my walks. kinglet in tree branch

Some were still in the process of migrating south. like this cedar waxwing,cedar waxwing in tree branch

while other will remain for the cold Winter that approaches including the downy and hairy woodpeckers.hairy or downy woodpecker on tree

On a hike at Lake Irene last weekend I was fortunate to encounter a number of water fowl still in our area, including this pie-billed grebe,pied-billed grebe on Lake Irene

that was  accompanying this cormorant on a cool morning swim. cormorant on lake Irene

I also saw this noisy pair of Canada  geese, mallard duckstwo canada geese on lake Irene

and a flock of bufflehead ducks that kept their distance. There were reports of a bald eagle in the area, the reason for my visit but I didn’t see it. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds.  from my hike at community park. Community park November 4 2017.bufflehead ducks on Lake Irene

I didn’t see any of my favorite mammals, the black bear, this past month but I did see plenty of deer, including this late season young fawn,deer fawn leaping along path

and many chipmunks, a few voles mice and moles, and gray and red squirrels. red squirrel on tree trunk

The cooler weather eliminated much of the insect activity in the wetlands but there were a few bees, wasp and yellow jackets struggling about  in the lower temperatures, yellow jacket on a leaf

and the few dragonflies I saw also were looking tired and worn after an active summer. dragonfly on a branch

At the beginning of the month because of the unseasonably warm temperatures,  I  actually heard a few spring peeper frogs. But, as the day got shorter and colder  they, too, were silent. The many turtles that were seen along the canals in the Spring and Summer  were now rare although I did find this fellow on one of my hikes. 

As you may tell from reading this post, although my life is forever changed, I still find great joy in my hikes in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

I always have loved nature , since those first walks with my dad as a young child. Hiking in the woods and gathering mushrooms with dad  was  a “boys” thing. Dad loved walking in the woods with his four sons. I learned so much on those hikes.

But my dad   loved his only daughter, his   “little princess” and “birthday girl” They shared January 29 birthdays.  Their relationship was so  special.  Like me she was devastated when  he left us. And once again I am devastated losing here much too soon. .  We miss her and her husband so much. Life we never be the same for me, my mom and siblings, and the four wonderful children they left behind. 

I know how much they loved life and I want to let the world know this, and so as I  continue to share the beauty I find in nature, my  blog posts will now  not only be dedicated to  my dad, but also to Charlie and Linda.They loved life and each other and their memory will accompany me on all of my journeys now. Until we meet again. For we are all dancing on this earth for a short time.

 “My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.” 
― Jandy NelsonThe Sky Is Everywhere

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