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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A Mink, A Muskrat And A Lot Of Mosquitoes: A Hike In The PPL Wetlands.

It was Saturday, so, of course,  we started the day off with a heavy rainfall. it seems it has been raining every Saturday this Spring here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. But like last Saturday the rain ended early,  and by mid-morning the sun was shining at the PPl Wetlands, were I again decided to hike. wildlife -1

The sun filtering through the wet leaves, the  song of the birds and the  heavenly scent of the honeysuckle made me feel I was walking in the Garden of Eden. wildlife -15

The June sun soon dried any of the wet leaves that were exposed to it’s now intense rays, but the leaves in the shade remained wet for most of my hike. wildlife -6

I walked along the familiar trails of the wetlands searching for birds, bugs, frogs, mammals or any other critter I  could find. The first one I saw was the ever present red winged-blackbird which appear to be everywhere in the wetlands now. wildlife -6

And the cool rain overnight, and the cool nights we’ve been having  brought a lot more turtles out on the logs, rocks and shores of the canals and ponds to baste in the sunshine this week.  I also saw a snapping turtle, or maybe two  snapping turtles in the water . Here is a link to a video.https://youtu.be/UFb4yOGpW7c wildlife -7

I  saw this furry critter swimming slowly through a duckweed covered pond. I am pretty sure it is a muskrat and not a beaver. wildlife -3

As I walked trails I found an abundance of small green high bush blueberries and  it still looks like there will be a good crop this year. All they need now is plenty of sun to ripen them.wildlife -16

I made my way to the riverlands section of preserve and Lake Took-A_While where I found plenty of folks fishing and cooking out. The smell of the charcoal grills filled the air. wildlife -24

And I was greeted by these fellows, a pair of domestic geese who came waddling up to me looking for a handout. I am sure they must have went AWOl from a local farm. wildlife -11

I found a group of their  wild cousins as I continued  my hike out the river tail  and to the Susquehanna River. wildlife -14

The river was high and it’s waters a deep brown from the runoff resulting from the recent heavy rains. wildlife -29

Most of the migratory birds have now passed through the area , but I saw a few of the ones that decided to stay such as this Baltimore oriole. wildlife -22

A little further on my hike I found this Baltimore oriole nest hanging right above one of the trails. I waited for around 15 minutes hoping mom of dad bird would re-emerge from the nest but I think they knew it and were not coming out. wildlife -23

I saw a few of the always beautiful yellow warblers and was able to capture a photograph of this one. wildlife -31

I was frustrated that I missed so many birds, many I could not identify and others, such as a red-bellied woodpecker and kingfisher I could. I know I had the experience of seeing them, which is satisfying, but I so much enjoy sharing them with my friends. I was able to photograph this blue heron standing along the trail.wildlife -9

And this red squirrel who seemed, like a lot of the birds, was gathering material to build a nest. wildlife -24

As was this  little fellow, I believe an eastern phoebe. wildlife -21

I enjoyed the warmth of the June sun as I continued my walk in the open areas of the trails, and also the way it filtered through the leaves under the ancient trees in the more wooded sections of the trail. wildlife -31

I came across a mulberry tree that was already setting it’s fruit. This tree  will provide a feast for the birds in a few weeks. wildlife -41

Along the wetlands I saw a few frogs in the lurking in the waters, waiting for insects, and trying to avoid being breakfast for a blue heron.wildlife -39

There is one inhabitant of the wetlands  I do not like to encounter, the mosquito. That wish was sure not granted. There were hoards of them, breeding in the many pools of water created by the wet Spring.  I have many bites to attest to our meetings yesterday, but you got to take the good with the bad.wildlife -11

There is so much to see out doors this time of year such as the blue flag, or wild iris which  were scattered about, adding color to the wetlands.wildlife -19

Even the many species of wild grasses have a unique beauty to them. wildlife -3

As I was nearing my car, and the end of my hike, I saw this critter in the distance. At first I thought it was a squirrel that scampered into the woods along one of the canals.  However, as I approached I realized it was a mink, who gave me, what seemed like a wink, before he or she disappeared under the duck weed covered waters. Here is a link to some more photographs of the wildlife I saw on my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-wildlife-June-3-2017-wildlife -37

I have loved hiking in the woods near my house since I was a child. Each time you leave your house you never know what you will see, whether it is a new plant, flower, mushroom, tree, or bird, mammal, reptile or bee. I am so glad i can now share this adventures with you folks here on my blog. And, the sun is shining this morning as I type so time to fine another  place to hike. Here is a link to some more photographs of my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-June-3-2017

wildlife -15


In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.  John Muir


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Spring Sure Has Sprung At The PPL Wetlands

I loved my recent trip to Poland, but it  has now  been almost a month since I last visited one of my favorite hiking grounds, the PPL Wetlands and Riverlands in Salem Township. PPL Wetlands -1

And I sure missed so much. We were having some cold weather in March when I last visited and the wetlands looked  more like mid  Winter than  early Spring. Not today. The plants and trees  in the wetlands have put forth a remarkable growth and everything was  that delightful light green color found only in Spring. . PPL Wetlands -3

So many flowers are now  in bloom or preparing to bloom, and I enjoyed them all,even the lowly dandelion looked good after the drab  months of Winter. PPL Wetlands -63

The honeysuckle are just starting to open and their heavenly aroma is already filling the wetlands. PPL Wetlands -19

The mandrakes or may apples have put forth a lush growth,PPL Wetlands -8

as did the skunk cabbages. When I last saw them they had been severely damaged by the late cold and heavy snow. They sure  have made a  recovery and they added to the lushness of the wetlands. PPL Wetlands -6

I walked to the ponds to look for water fowl and it appears that we have had a lot of rain while I was gone. There is usually  a path separating the two ponds in this photograph. It is now underwater. PPL Wetlands -25

I saw no ducks today. The only water fowl were  these two geese and a blue heron that took off before I could capture a photograph. PPL Wetlands -23

And, as a walked along the muddy paths, I must have came near a robins nest since mommy and daddy robin were not too happy with me being there. They made sure to  let me know I wasn’t welcome. PPL Wetlands -12

I came across this intricate and unusual flower, one of my Spring favorite, a jack -in-the pulpit. It should be blooming in a few days. PPL Wetlands -5

And I even found some early mushrooms. It seemed everything was growing today in the wetlands. PPL Wetlands -28

And there were plenty of birds  to be found too. The woodlands were filled with the songs  including the constant chattering of the red winged blackbirds that can be heard throughout the wetlands. PPL Wetlands -73

The catbirds, a very friendly bird that doesn’t seem to mind humans was also back. PPL Wetlands -44

As were the warblers. I am learning, but I am by no means an expert on bird identification.  Growing up we  knew the easy ones, the robins, cardinals, blue jays, crows, etc and just assumed  the smaller birds were sparrows. It wasn’t until I purchased a zoom lens for my camera that I became aware of the many beautiful species that live in and visit our area. So if I make a mistake please correct me. This one is, I think a yellow warbler. PPL Wetlands -70

And this an American redstart .PPL Wetlands -32

I walked from the wetlands to the riverlands. It was overcast when I started my hike but there were now some breaks of sun and this brought the frogs and turtles out.  I was able to capture a few turtles before they kerplunked into the water as they saw me approach but the many frogs I saw avoided my camera lens. PPL Wetlands -66

It seems every year there are a lot of Baltimore orioles in this area and, sure enough, I spotted one this year. It seems that tent caterpillars are on their menu. PPL Wetlands -52

There was just so much to see this time of year. Everywhere you looked there was a new plant sprouting on the ground or a bird in a tree. I found this interesting plant,  Solomon’s seal, starting to set forth it’s unique flowers.PPL Wetlands -62

And also it’s smaller relative the lily of the valley. PPL Wetlands -30

I wish I had more time, I could have walked these paths looking for the many wonders of Spring until dark but I had to head home. On my way I saw a few more birds including, what I think is a yellow-rumped warbler. PPL Wetlands -55

And this one, I believe a song sparrow. Here is a link to some more of the birds I encountered on my hike in the PPL wetlands. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-birds-April-29-2017-PPL Wetlands -47

Even the poison ivy looks so pretty this time of year. PPL Wetlands -18

As I approached my car, I realized how much I miss the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Poland was beautiful, as were many of the other countries I have visited and explored, but you don’t have to cross an ocean to see beauty. We sure have plenty of it here in our own backyard. Just take a walk and keep your eyes peeled. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-April-29-2017-PPL Wetlands -29


And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth’s dark breast
rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~Percy Bysshe ShelleyPPL Wetlands -64




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Community Park: No Bald Eagles, But Some Other Birds Have Returned

There was a cold wind blowing today but the clear blue skies and March sun made for a beautiful afternoon and I decided to take advantage of it and head out to our local Hazle Township Community Park.community park-1

I had heard there were recent bald eagle sightings and I was hoping to see one near Lake Irena. community park-16

I had no luck spotting an eagle as I walked around the lake but I did see a few water fowl who returned to  the lake now that the ice had melted. community park-18

I spotted this common loon   in the center of the lake and, as I watched it swim and dive I also noticed it had a friend. community park-6

I believe this is a bufflehead duck bit am not real sure. community park-10

And a few mallard ducks flew past me as i watched the loon and bufflehead duck community park-8.

I walked around the lake, finding the paths to be very wet and muddy from the recently melted snow. community park-21

It was a  beautiful afternoon and I loved walking under the pines that towered into the deep blue skies. community park-14

As I walked along the lake i ran into a pair of Canada geese who I am sure were looking for a place to build a nest.community park-29

As the sun dropped into the western sky it got quite chilly and I regretted wearing only  shorts and a tee shirt. community park-39

And I was getting hungry so I decided to leave before the sun set, knowing there will be  plenty warmer days ahead now that Spring arrived. Here is a link to some more photographs from my short hike out Community park. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Community-Park-march-29-2017-community park-37

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
Charles Dickenscommunity park-31

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More Winter Weather, And A Bald Eagle, At The PPL Wetlands.

It was cold last weekend here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and even colder today, with the arrival of an arctic cold front yesterday. Temperatures dropped into the low teens this morning.  I decided, as I often do,  to again hike in the PPL Wetlands. As I drove the approximately 25 miles,  and neared the wetlands in Salem township, I spotted a bald eagle perched in a tree along the Susquehanna River. .PPL Wetlands -2

I pulled my car over to the side of the road and got the best photographs I could through the tree limbs. After about five minutes he or she decided to take to the cold skies, probably in search of a late breakfast or early lunch.  It wasn’t my closest encounter with an eagle but it still was, as it always is, a great experience. I am so glad the regal birds are making such a big comeback in our area. PPL Wetlands -8

It was mostly cloudy and cold  when I arrived at the wetlands and very little wildlife was up and about. The turtles, frogs and snakes that were making an early appearance during the unseasonably warm weather we had a few weeks ago were no were to be found. PPL Wetlands -8

I was also surprised with the absence of the usual birds that are common in the wetlands, the black-capped chickadees, juncos, and nuthatches. This is the second week I haven’t seen any on my hikes. I did see this flicker, also a year round resident in these parts,  perched  in a tree.PPL Wetlands -9

The flooding that occurred last week after the severe thunderstorms had subsided. This path was under water last week. PPL Wetlands -9

I walked along the canals which were mostly still ice free although  there was a new thin layer of ice forming in spots. It will get thicker tonight when temperatures are expected to drop to near zero. PPL Wetlands -13

I was surprised to find these mushrooms sprouting aside a dead tree. I usually find them growing in late April or early May. PPL Wetlands -3

There  were other signs of Spring too like the skunk cabbages now sprouting throughout the wetlands. PPL Wetlands -11

Many of the maple trees were displaying the first buds of the season. It won’t be long until more species of trees join them.PPL Wetlands -22

And I also found a flock of robins, another sure sign Winter is just about over. PPL Wetlands wildlife -3

I walked out to the river lands section of the preserve and again found this pair of common mergansers on Lake Took-A-While. PPL Wetlands -13

Near by where this flock of Canada geese. It looks like both of these  species of water fowl will be nesting in the wetlands this year. i hope they are soon joined by many more of their feathered friends. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-wildlife-March-4-2017PPL Wetlands -15

As I began my return hike I found yet another sign of the early arrival of Spring, these first leaves sprouting  on an elderberry bush. PPL Wetlands -17

I made my way along the Susquehanna River, which still was very high from the recent rain and melting snow up river. PPL Wetlands -31

I love walking under the ancient trees that grow along the river, and as I have said many time in previous blog posts, I often think of the many  generations of Native Americans who would walk  these same  paths along  the Warrior Trail.PPL Wetlands -30

It was a different world back then. They say a squirrel could jump from tree to tree from the Atlantic ocean to the Mississippi River without touching the ground because of the dense forest that covered our country. PPL Wetlands -29

As I walked along the river I saw plenty of green plants starting their late Winter growth. it is always good to see the first green leaves of the new year. It was frigid yesterday but the sun was strong and I knew that there would be even more signs of Spring when I visited again. Winter can’t last forever. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-March-4-2017PPL Wetlands -16


“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations




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Back To Winter At The PPL Wetlands

After a record setting week of warm temperatures,  more seasonable cold weather returned to Northeastern Pennsylvania today. I decided to see if the recent warm weather brought some early migrating water fowl to the PPL Wetlands. PPL Wetlands-9

I arrived under cloudy skies, temperatures in the upper 20’s and with  a few  passing snow showers.  I found the canals and ponds totally ice free and flooded from the heavy thunderstorms, and even a few tornadoes, that brought the cold air back to our area. Some of the paths were impassable from the overflowing ponds and canals. PPL Wetlands-5

I was surprised how quiet it was on my first mile walking in the wetlands. I did not see any wildlife and heard only a few crows in the distance. I thought there would be a number of species of migrating water fowl staying in the area after the storms yesterday. But not a one. PPL Wetlands-12

I walked over to the  adjoining river lands, not seeing any of the year long resident birds nor any squirrels, chipmunks or deer. I did see some of the effects of the recent warm weather. Plenty of green early plants pushing through the muddy soil.PPL Wetlands-2

And the skunk cabbages were now popping up throughout the wetlands, a few weeks earlier than usual. Just two years ago we had a week of cold weather with sub-zero temperatures.  There was no vegetation to be found for at least two more weeks that year. What a difference this year. PPL Wetlands-37

As I walked along the flooded swamps and wetlands I was greeted by the familiar sound of this common summer bird in the wet-lands. The red-winged blackbird. I was surprised since there were only two of them and they usually migrate in large flocks in the spring. PPL Wetlands-10

I continued onward to Lake Took-A-While where I found three common mergansers on the water. I watched these beautiful birds, shown below and above,  for awhile when I heard the sound of a large flock of birds in the distance. PPL Wetlands-18

I soon realized why I  had seen the two red-winged blackbirds earlier. They were  probably part of this  massive flock of red-winged blackbirds I saw roosting in the trees at the edge of a corn field. I uploaded a video of the flock to my You tube channel. You can see it by clicking on the red highlighted link above. And here is another as they moved to the corn fields. https://youtu.be/5HhDhhENtv0  This was one of the largest flocks I hve seen and they arrived much earlier then usual, PPL Wetlands-11

I soon saw another sign of Spring,  a robin, although many of  these birds stay here in the wetlands near the river year round. It was still nice to see one. PPL Wetlands-21

I also saw a few Canada geese on the lake, but not as many as I had anticipated. I am sure more will be joining them in the next few weeks, looking for an isolated corner of the wetlands to build their nest and lay their eggs. PPL Wetlands-25

While watching the geese I saw this bird flying low over the water. I  have been seeing it for a few months now but this was the first time  I was able to get a photograph. I am pretty sure it is a kingfisher. PPL Wetlands-27

I made my way back to the wetlands, and again noticed the absence of the usual winter birds, the juncos. nuthatches and black capped chickadees. I am not sure why they weren’t around today but I did see this song sparrow along the way. Hopefully they will return next visit, and will be joined by the returning song birds. PPL Wetlands-30

I walked along the Susquehanna River which was also ice free and which now filled it[s banks from the melting snow up river as well as the thunderstorms we had yesterday. PPL Wetlands-35

As I neared my car, the sun broke through the clouds, and, warmed the air enough to awaken another sign of spring. the spring peepers. I love the sound of these tiny frogs in early Spring. There were only a few, and this is the first time i heard them in February. Most years the starting peeping in late March or early April. Here is a link to another video I uploaded to YouTube. https://youtu.be/8AENIespElw       PPL Wetlands-33

You can also hear  some birds, whose song I cant identify,  in the video, as well as some ducks in the distance. It may have been colder today, but there were still plenty of signs that Winter is ending. We may get some more cold weather, and even snow, but Winter’s back is broken and it won’t be long until the wetlands and all of Northeastern Pennsylvania is enjoying the beauty of Spring. I can’t wait, since it is my favorite time  of year. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike today. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-February-26-2017-

PPL Wetlands-38

“What kind of bird are you, if you can’t fly?” said he. To this the duck replied, “What kind of bird are you if you can’t swim?” and dived into the pond.
Sergei Prokofiev

PPL Wetlands-3





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A Very Early Spring At The PPL Wetlands.

The record temperature today  here in my hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania,  is  16 degrees below zero. That is pretty darn cold.  Although it is not that cold every year, most years we still have some snow cover, cold temperatures and ice on the ponds and lakes  in our area in late February.  Not this year. In fact, the  temperatures were  in the  low 60’s  when I hiked in the PPL Wetlands near Berwick today.PPL Wetlands-1

I arrived early at the wetlands and found many of the canals and ponds were now ice free. Some years the ice is so thick this time of year you can drive a car across it. Not this year. PPL Wetlands-2

It was overcast in the morning as I began my hike with temperatures in the mid 40’s. I had hoped to see some early migrating water fowl and I did find a few geese.PPL Wetlands wildlife -8

There were still no ducks on the waters and only a few of the year long residents such as this cardinal fluttering in the thick, leafless, underbrush.PPL Wetlands wildlife -1

I saw a few  of the always present, and friendly, black capped chickadees,PPL Wetlands wildlife -4

and quite a few nuthatches scampering in the trees. This one was feeding on young, what looked like, maple buds. PPL Wetlands wildlife -5

I also saw this bird high in a tree top and I  am not sure if it were a flicker or a red headed wood pecker. I am guessing a flicker. PPL Wetlands wildlife -7

There was still a lot of ice on the ponds that were in areas shaded from the sun. With warm weather predicted for the next few days I am hoping it will all be gone by next weekend. PPL Wetlands-23

The  strengthening sun broke through the clouds as I walked into   the adjoining  river lands, and,  not only made for some nice scenery, but also quickly warmed the air up. PPL Wetlands-27

I made my way to the Susquehanna river, which was also ice free and which was high and flowing quickly from the melting ice up stream.PPL Wetlands-33

I was surprised that I didn’t see more  wildlife in the warm sunshine only  a few squirrels, some crows and this chipmunk.PPL Wetlands wildlife -11

I walked along the river a bit and returned where I found, very early this year,  the first sure sign of spring, the skunk cabbage. There were some growing during the warm spell we had in early January but I didn’t see them again until today. PPL Wetlands-6

There were still many of the old dead plants from last years  growing season.PPL Wetlands-25

and a few new hardy plants thriving in the warm temperatures we had this year. PPL Wetlands-17

As I returned to my car, the sun had warmed the air and the temperatures were in the low 60’s  As I walked I heard something in the brush near my feet and, looking down was surprised to find this critter on the ground. PPL Wetlands wildlife -17

I never saw a snake here in Northeastern Pennsylvania this early before, in fact I don’t remember seeing one until May. This fellow was sluggish, but did manage to crawl away before I could get some good photographs. PPL Wetlands wildlife -18

And I was in for another surprise. I found this turtle sunning himself on a log. Again, the  earliest I have seen one before was mid to late April.  Turtles and snakes in February, If you told me this a week ago, and if I hadn’t seen them with my own eyes I would never have believed it. Here is a link to some more photographs of the snake and other critters I saw today.http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-wildlife-February-19-2017-PPL Wetlands-41

There is no guarantee this warm weather will last, we have had frigid temperatures and blizzards here in March and heavy snow and freezes in April. but every day like today in February is a blessing and it is looking like we will be blessed fro another week. No complaints from this guy. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to the wetlands this morning. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/PPL-Wetlands-February-19-2017-PPL Wetlands-38

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God. George Washington CarverPPL Wetlands wildlife -14



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It’s A Different Look In The PPL Wetlands In December. But Still A Lot Of Birds Staying Around For Winter

I headed out to one of my favorite hiking spots, the PPL Wetlands in Salem Township, this morning. Last time I was here, just two weeks ago, it was an unseasonably warm day and I saw turtles  on the water and some  green vegetation along the paths. It felt more like late Spring. Not today,.ppl-wetlands-5

It has still been mild here in Northeastern Pennsylvania these past two weeks, , but we had some more seasonable weather these past two days, near freezing temperatures this morning, and the wetlands are finally looking a lot like Winter. ppl-wetlands-18

All of the trees have now lost their leaves. Even the stubborn oaks only have a few brown ones clinging on.  The lush green canopy of Summer now is an intricate interweaving of bare branches. ppl-wetlands-3

Some of the trees still had red berries clinging to them.ppl-wetlands-26

As  did some of the shrubs and briers growing along the paths. ppl-wetlands-11

And I saw quite a few birds scampering in these shrubs feasting on the berries or seeds of the summer’s plants. such as the black capped chickadees shown here and on the featured image above. ppl-wetlands-birds-4

I am not good with sparrows but I am pretty sure this is a white-throated sparrow. ppl-wetlands-birds-14

And I believe this is a song sparrow. ppl-wetlands-birds-20

This one may be a tree sparrow or a chipping sparrow, not too sure but please correct me is I misidentify any of the birds, plants or trees here on my blog.ppl-wetlands-birds-11

In addition to these  birds which remain here for the Winter, I saw a few flocks of these birds which are not Summer residents but stay here for the Winter heading south from colder weather to the north, the northern juncos or snow birds. ppl-wetlands-birds-10

I also saw a few cardinals. a woodpecker, and this Summer resident who decided to stay here and enjoy the mild weather we’ve been having, a robin.  Hopefully he will stay here all Winter. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw this morning.  http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/PPL-Wetlands-birds-December-4-2016-ppl-wetlands-birds-1

I enjoyed watching the birds and spent sat for awhile near a thicket as they scampered about looking for food.  And I noticed this bright yellow object on the ground among the brown dead leaves, a flower! Yes it was only a lowly dandelion but it sure looked pretty amid the fallen leaves. And I thought of the Spring that will surely follow the dark and cold Winter that is in front of us. ppl-wetlands-44

And as I stopped to photograph the dandelion I heard a bird singing right over my head. As I turned this  bird, I believe a winter wren, perched on a branch almost atop my head. He was to quick to get a photograph at the close range but I did manage to capture this image before he flew off in the swamp. ppl-wetlands-birds-21

I walked along the banks of the Susquehanna River on my return and again felt a serene sadness as I walked under the leafless ancient trees. ppl-wetlands-46

Still I saw some plants still clinging to life during these cold short days of ppl-wetlands-42December. 

It wasn’t lush, green and teeming with life like it is in the Spring and Summer but still it was a nice day to roam the wilds of the wetlands, and, as always, I was glad I make the trip down here. I fear next time I come there may be a blanket of snow covering the ground, but i am sure there will still be many wonders to find in the snow. Here is a link to some more photographs. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-page-2/nggallery/photographs-page-two-blog/PPL-Wetlands-December-4-2016-ppl-wetlands-23

“Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own.”

— Charles Dickensppl-wetlands-13


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Africa Day Nine: Botswana: More Wildlife In Chobe National Park

After returning from our cruise on the Chobe River, we had a nice lunch at the Chobe Safari Lodge and I had a few minutes to relax a bit. botswana-chobe-river-drive-1

We were soon off to the Chobe National Park for a safari through another area  known for it’s high concentration of wildlife. And it didn’t take long to see why it earned this reputation. I spotted this bird while waiting for our paperwork for admission to  the park. botswana-chobe-safari-6

And the park entrance  also had a number of these monkeys scampering about, enjoying whatever food discarded by the humans  they can find. botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-2

Once the paperwork was processed we drove along the arid. almost desert like landscape produced by the lack of rain in the dry season in Botswana. botswana-chobe-safari-landscape-9

Still, despite the dry conditions, and it being the middle of the afternoon,  there was plenty of wildlife activity. We encountered many types of antelopes including the beautiful kudu, here is a female.botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-6

And here is the stately male. botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-10

We also saw herds of impalas along the road as we continued our safari. botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-21

It is always exciting to see the graceful giraffe, and even more so when striding freely along your vehicle in their environment. Here is a link to video of  some giraffes we saw I uploaded to my YouTube channel. https://youtu.be/-LZdb7ylVPs  botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-41 

This beautiful animal was born free , and will live it’s entire life roaming freely throughout the wilderness of Chobe National park.  These rare and special places must be preserved for all future generations can enjoy this wonderful experience. botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-47

Even though it was mid day I was surprised with the number of birds that were active. And many were so exotic and colorful on the mid day sun. botswana-chobe-safari-15

I am sorry I forgot their names but here is a link to some more photographs of the birds we encountered on our safari .  http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Botswana-Africa-Chobe-National-Park-safari-birds-October-17-2016botswana-chobe-safari-13

As were drove the sandy roads we came across the unpleasant sight of a few  elephants that had died, probably from old age or disease. it is part of the cycle of nature. botswana-chobe-safari-landscape-15

And we found some of the living elephants hiding under what little shade they could find to avoid the midday sun and heat. botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-29

As we neared the  banks of the river we spotted a few zebras.botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-37

And we were treated to the very rare sight of civet taking a drink at a small puddle of water. These nocturnal creatures are not often seen in the day. This  shy creature lay perfectly still, blending in with the rocky landscape and thinking he had escaped our sight. botswana-chobe-safari-wildlife-25

It was getting late in the afternoon, but no one in our group were in any hurry to leave this nature sanctuary with it’s diversity and abundance of wildlife. But  all good things must end and so did our safari. Here is a link to  photographs of some of the wildlife we encountered in the Chobe National Park. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Botswana-Africa-Chobe-National-Park-wildlife-October-17-2016-botswana-chobe-safari-landscape-11

 On our way out of the park we saw one of my favorite trees. I remember learning about them in geography class in grade school and always wanting to see one. I still remember the first time I saw one in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania.   The strange looking baobob tree.botswana-chobe-safari-landscape-32 We  drove back to Zimbabwe, and the lines of trucks still waiting for the ferry. We left Botswana with many experiences that will provide many happy memories for the rest of our lives. Here is a link to some more photos of Chobe National Park. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Botswana-Africa-Chobe-National-Park-landscape-October-17-2016botswana-chobe-river-drive-6

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
botswana-chobe-safari-landscape-29Theodore Roosevelt


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Africa Day Nine: Botswana: A Cruise On The Chobe River And Lots And Lots Of Elephants

Well if you like elephants, you should enjoy this post. We again had an early start, and I had  a few moments to catch the setting moon from the observation deck while I had a quick cup of coffee before breakfast was served. botswana-chobe-river-drive-1

After a nice breakfast, I loved the freshly made pancakes, we were off to a new country Botswana, and the Chobe National Park. We again drove through the  arid and leafless landscape, awaiting the Spring rains to change it back into  lush forest. botswana-chobe-river-drive-4

After about an hour ride we came to the Zimbabwe/Botswana border and made our way  through immigration.botswana-chobe-river-drive-5

In Botswana we passed long lines of  large commercial trucks waiting to take a ferry to Zambia. Some of the truckers were waiting for three days to use the ferry.  We learned this was because of the high tolls the Zimbabwe government charges for truck traffic. We also learned that there is a bridge under construction which will allow the trucks to cross into Zambia and avoid the tolls. Here is a link to some photographs from our ride to Botswana. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Botswana-Chobe-River-sand-park-drive-October-17-2016-botswana-chobe-river-drive-8

We drove a few miles through the Botswana countryside and arrived at the beautiful Chobe Safari Lodge where we boarded our boat for a cruise on the Chobe River. botswana-chobe-river-birds-1

The Chobe flows into the Zambezi River a few miles downstream from the lodge and serves as the border between Botswana and Namibia. There are large parks preserving wildlife on both sides of the border and some of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa our found in these parks. We soon learned this firsthand. botswana-chobe-river-birds-34

As we set out on the blue waters of the Chobe River our first encounters with the native wildlife were the mainly the many beautiful and exotic species of birds that live here such as this, I believe,  African darter  or snake bird. botswana-chobe-river-birds-5

This relative of the  anhinga that are so common in the Florida Everglades gets it’s name as  snake bird from the long neck that often protrudes from the water as it searches for fish. botswana-chobe-river-birds-8

We saw a multitude of birds  including this Goliath heron, from what I understand the largest in the world. botswana-chobe-river-birds-18

And we saw a few more fish eagles. botswana-chobe-river-birds-11

They did not take kindly to other eagles, not sure of this species, moving in on their fishing territory. We watched the tow eagles engaging in a sparring match and I believe the fish eagle won. Here is a link to some of the birds we saw on the river cruise. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Botswana-Chobe-River-cruise-birds-October-17-2016-

We soon began to see some many other animals including cape buffalo enjoying the still green grass near the river botswana-chobe-river-wildlife-4

And occasionally we shared the waters with some wandering hippopotamuses. botswana-chobe-river-wildlife-21

Large flocks of birds  were roosting in the trees along shore. botswana-chobe-river-wildlife-14

 We also saw some of them more than nineteen species of antelopes that like in the  along the shores. botswana-chobe-river-wildlife-13

And we go to witness the efforts of this amorous male in pursuing a female who sure looked like she was playing hard to get. We watched him chase here so some distance until he finally caught up to her. Here is a link to some more of the wildlife we encountered on our river cruise.http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Botswana-Chobe-River-cruise-wildlife-October-16-2016-botswana-chobe-river-wildlife-8

It truly was a remarkable cruise, the extent and variety of wildlife was amazing. But it would get even more amazing, with our first  sighting  of elephants. botswana-chobe-river-wildlife-24

I have seen these  magnificent animals in the wild before, on the plains of Tanzania and Kenya, and I have loved them ever since. To see them live in the wild, from birth to death, enjoying each day as they forage for food, taught me that no animal should live in the confines of a zoo. They, like humans, were born to live free. And this opinion was further re-enforced seeing these elephants enjoying life on the Chobe River. botswana-chobe-river-elephants-11

The elephants of various ages seemed to really enjoy playing in the mud and swimming in the waters of the Chobe River. botswana-chobe-river-elephants-16

We were able to get very close to  them and we were able to observe their interactions. Here is one of many videos I uploaded to my YouTune channel. Feel free to watch them all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Emp8N0bq8Gcbotswana-chobe-river-elephants-20

One group decided to swim across the river. Unfortunately another boat blocked their route but the eventually made it across.  Our captain reported the captain of  this boat since these elephants may not take the effort to cross the river if they are prevented from making it.  Once the elephants made it to the other side, they actually crossed into another country Namibia, they enjoyed playing in the mud and dirt. botswana-chobe-river-elephants-31

As we made our way back to the Chobe Safari Lodge I was  amazed by the number of elephants along the shores of the river. I was thankful I had the opportunity to watch them in there natural environment but so wish i could have spent much more time in this wonderful place. Hopefully. I will return again someday. Here is a link to some more photographs of the elephants of the Chobe River. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/africa-october-2016/nggallery/africa-october-2016/Botswana-Chobe-River-cruise-elephants-October-17-2016botswana-chobe-river-elephants-43

The question is, are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?” – David Attenboroughbotswana-chobe-river-elephants-35



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