Buzzing, chirping, splashing, rustling — summer life along Cherry Creek fills the steep-sided valley from ridge to ridge with sound.


Now, in deep winter, all is quiet. As you walk the paths, fresh snow makes bare trees stand out in stark relief. Last year’s wildflower seed heads have been stripped clean by long-gone songbirds. Twigs and branches bow low along the ice-edged creek. Life has slowed to a standstill.


Or so it seems.


In fact, the stillness you feel here is an illusion. The bears are hibernating, but bobcat, coyote, white-tailed deer and great horned owls are on the hunt. Under the snow in the meadows, in deep pools in the creek and under the mud in the wetlands, creatures eke out a living, waiting for spring.


This is Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the 6,000 acres of land that protects Cherry Creek, native plants, fish and shellfish, reptiles and amphibians — hundreds of species, large and small.


In fact, these wetland and upland habitats support an unusually large number of mammals, birds and other wildlife listed as “Federal trust species” — including five threatened or endangered species.


“This type of system is degraded or destroyed elsewhere,” says Mike Horne, manager of the refuge. “That hasn’t happened here, and we have a concentrated number of these types of areas here in Cherry Valley.”


And that’s what makes protecting this land so important.


These areas provide exactly what the bog turtle, a Pocono native, needs to thrive. Maxing out at barely 4 inches long, bog turtles are the smallest turtles in North America. And the cutest. They eat just about anything that fits in their mouths, and most spend their whole lives in the wetland where they were born.


Even in summer, they spend much of their time buried in mud, able to survive without oxygen for long periods. Now through mid-April, they are hibernating in small groups. In spring, when the skunk cabbage starts putting up its green furls, they will come blinking to the surface, ready to bask in the sun and look for a mate.


Females lay clutches of just three or four tiny eggs. Eggs and hatchlings are prey for birds and mammals, but if a young turtle survives, it may live 50 years. In all of North America, there may be as few as 2,500 bog turtles alive today, their numbers slashed by disappearing habitat.


As special as it is, the bog turtle is just one of the threatened or endangered species that are found in the meadows and wetlands of this beautiful place. All of them depend on the complex interactions of plants, animals, soil, water, warmth and cold that are typical here.


Find out more about the critters who depend on this complex system of habitats and the people who care for it. Come to a “Turtle Talk” at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.


Then walk the paths at the refuge. Imagine all the life that surrounds you, waiting.


Carol Hillestad is a hike leader and writer for Get Outdoors Poconos, a grant-funded series administered by Brodhead Watershed Association.