As people are riding up and down New York State Route 97 to look for eagles or check out the ever changing ice conditions, other sights are there to see, too. A close look at the water might reveal a dark brown mammal, one to two feet long with a square looking snout and a long muscular tail. It may be in the water, on the ice, or along the river bank. This sleek looking critter would be the North American river otter (Lontra canadensis). This aquatic mammal, although very elusive, is spotted frequently along area waterways, but this was not always the case.
While the medications we consume are meant to help us, when it comes to their potential impact on other species, the news is not good. In the past, we have been instructed to flush unwanted medications down the toilet. That strategy is no longer advised in Pennsylvania, where a better alternative is being put into place. According to Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) Executive Director John Arway, even low doses of pharmaceutical and over-the-counter drugs can ultimately harm fish.
A walk out in the woods during winter usually doesn’t yield a lot of sounds or bird calls; certainly not as much noise as springtime when birds and frogs are in the midst of courtship and breeding. Nuthatches, pine siskins, or the occasional tapping of a woodpecker foraging on a dead tree is the norm. The other day, however, there was the raucous cacophony of a flock of at least two dozen crows calling, while perched in some nearby trees. I checked the trees and others nearby for any interlopers.
At first glance, the winter landscape can appear to be devoid of life. But for the observant person, nothing is farther from the truth. All around us are clues to the existence of animals, and the stripped-down landscapes of winter provide opportunities to learn more about the activities of wildlife in the Upper Delaware region.
This month saw a couple of storms with accumulating snowfalls, and there is a foot on the ground in most areas of the region, give or take a few inches. This is good news for skiers and the area ski resorts, but if you are shoveling your driveway or have to get to work in bad weather, maybe this is not so good news.
Holiday shoppers who desire to make a difference can still do so with some of the following gift options. Support state parks, forests and environmental organizations that play important roles in maintaining regional biodiversity, protecting natural resources and promoting outdoor recreation by checking out these opportunities.
The Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), made famous by “Hedwig” the snowy owl that was a gift to Harry Potter in the popular book series, is not an owl normally seen in this region. They spend their summers breeding at the northernmost tundra regions of Canada and Alaska. Unlike most owls, snowy owls feed diurnally, or during the daytime. They have no choice in the arctic, where it’s daylight everyday most the summer. Feather-covered feet and nostrils shielded by feathers are a few of many adaptations that this owl possesses.
Twenty years ago, the world lost one of the most renowned ornithologists and one of the greatest field biologists of the 20th century. Ted Parker died at the age of 40 in a plane crash while pursuing what he loved most—the study of South America’s birds. In his honor, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO) is offering a free digital download of his recordings from “Voices from the Peruvian Rainforest” (available at tinyurl.com/peruvianrainforest).
With the Thanksgiving season upon us, most of us are thinking about turkey, whether wild or on the dinner table. Wild turkey is common in our region today, and it’s hard to travel in most woodland habitats without at least seeing sign of wild turkeys, but it wasn’t always like that.
Those who seek proof that Pennsylvania is one of the most beautiful states in America need look no further than photographer Michael Gadomski’s newest book, “Reserves of Strength,” which takes its title from Rachel Carson’s statement: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”
Scott enjoys the outdoors and wildlife conservation; and is currently assisting NYSDEC with an ongoing eagle study taking place in the Upper Delaware corridor.
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Sandy Long has a lifelong interest in the natural world and has explored this in words and images through the River Talk column since 2005.
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