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April 18, 2015
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River Talk

I’m writing this near the end of January, and it’s cold out; 9 degrees in Shohola with a 15-mph wind and some higher gusts. There are some hardy souls that are out ice fishing, catching the last part of hunting season, or maybe eagle watching or some other form of birding. If this cold weather is making you feel more like a “snowbird” with a yearning to head south, there is an event just around the corner that won’t give you a case of the chills.

Two of the most selfless and dedicated individuals serving the Upper Delaware River region have unexpectedly found themselves in need of support following a fire at the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (DVRC) in Milford, PA on January 8. The fire occurred at the home of raptor rehabilitators Bill and Stephanie Streeter. While no people or animals were injured, an indoor clinic and equipment located within the house sustained damage. Outdoor facilities and the resident birds were not affected.

Find a high-quality cold water stream that supports a brook trout habitat, and chances are that the stream is shaded by many eastern hemlock trees. In shading the stream, the hemlock trees are helping to keep the water temperature cool enough in summer so that the trout survive. In many areas though, these riparian ecosystems are in peril due to a die-off of eastern hemlock trees. There are several pests that are a threat to hemlock forests, but the main cause of the die-off is the hemlock wooly adelgid, a non-native insect that was first reported in Virginia in the 1950s.

In my last column, “Enviro-resolutions,” I recommended getting to know the agencies involved in natural resource management in the Upper Delaware River region. Another organization that can help you keep your commitment to greater outdoor experiences throughout the new year is the non-profit Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation (PPFF).

The official partner of the Pennsylvania State Parks and Forests, the organization strives to support the state’s natural and cultural resources through leadership in recreation, education, conservation and volunteerism.

As you read this, the 2015 Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Survey is underway. Coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), this eagle survey is taking place in most states in the U.S., including New York and PA. This survey takes place during the first two weeks of January, with January 9 to 10 as target dates. It is this time when many Canadian migrant eagles have arrived from their northern breeding grounds in order to forage from ice-free water of the contiguous U. S.

The new year is upon us, and with its arrival comes the opportunity to re-consider our commitment to the spectacular natural resources we are blessed with here in the Upper Delaware River region. Most of us already “walk our talk” at various levels on behalf of those resources; but there is always more that can be done.

Following are a few suggestions to launch your list of New Year’s Enviro-resolutions:

As I write this, it is a week before Christmas, and as I look out the window at 8 a.m., it is 36 degrees outside and the snow cover can best be described as “scattered to broken” here in Shohola, PA. Some mild weather has arrived since our last big snowstorm, and depending where you are, you may have more or less snow on the ground at your location.

When I was a child, my parents gave me a small plastic camera. Little did they know they were placing me on a path that continues to illuminate my life today as I shoot digital images throughout the Upper Delaware River region, some of which wind up in this column.

Last weekend, our 11-year-old niece Joei Shaller joined us for a hike at Shohola Recreation Area, where we plied our cameras in capturing images of animal signs along the trail we explored. The snow made the process very productive, with evidence of animal life all around us.

It was the last week in November, a few days before Thanksgiving, when I was driving in the pre-dawn darkness on a quiet road. A steady rain was ushering in a couple of days of unseasonably mild weather for this time of year. A few leaves were on the wet road, and all seemed normal until one of the leaves hopped. A look at the size of the hopping “leaf” and the length of the hop indicated that it could be an American toad.

On Thanksgiving Day, while most of us in the Upper Delaware River Valley enjoyed feasting in warm homes with family and friends, regional wildlife were suddenly faced with greater challenges than usual in finding adequate food. Thanks to an impressive amount of dense snow that quickly covered much of the available natural food sources, our avian neighbors resorted to pecking their way along the edges of cleared roadways, gathering up bits of seed, gravel and sips of melted snow.