While it may be hard to believe, given lingering low temperatures and a still-bleak landscape littered with dirty aging snow, spring is underway. Even for those of us who regularly venture outside to enjoy winter’s many fine qualities, this past winter has felt exceptionally long, punishingly cold and unusually restrictive.
A couple of weeks back, I took a trip up and down the river, and up and around Lackawaxen and Shohola townships. There was lots of wildlife present on the river and above. What was more significant was the wildlife tally observed on the roadway on this trip of 30 or so miles. The critter road tally was nine turkey, seven deer (four different locations), a couple of crows feeding on road kill, and one opossum calmly walking along the shoulder.
Pike County, PA is celebrating its 200th year and the Pike County Historical Society (PCHS), in cooperation with the county commissioners, is hosting a celebratory banquet at Woodloch Pines Resort in Hawley, PA on March 26 to mark the milestone.
If you have been lucky this winter, you may have seen a migrant golden eagle; a few visit each winter from Canada. Recently though, migrations of eagles and other raptors have incurred additional risk with the increase in the numbers of wind turbines on ridges that raptors use for orographic or ridge lift during migration.
As winter’s grip begins to loosen, wildlife start to emerge and our encounters with them increase. Such was the case for a small opossum that appeared at my door one recent evening as it scrounged for sustenance.
Well adapted in terms of diet, opossums are omnivores and enjoy a variety of foods such as fruits, seeds, meat, eggs, insects and carrion. Although they often den in hollow trees, logs or brush piles, opossums are also well adapted to human environments and will sometimes seek shelter in culverts and beneath outbuildings.
As I look out the window, it is snowing; there is already 12 inches on the ground from a previous storm, and now another foot or so is forecast to fall. Most of us have already stocked up on groceries. Schools have closed for the day and the kids are likely looking for something to do. Will mid-February be the onset of cabin fever for the region?
Ice is interesting and beautiful, as Scott Rando showed us in last week’s River Talk column. Ice can also be deadly, if not approached with respect.
The ongoing cold snap of the last month or so has been great for skiers and ice fishermen, but not so great for homeowners fighting high heating bills, or people who have had to travel in the many “nuisance storms” during the course of the winter. Municipalities along the river have been keeping a close eye out for ice jams and the resulting flooding that can occur during very cold weather. Not all the frozen water has been bad, though.
Those who love birds and want to support their welfare will be eager to know of two bird-related developments in which citizens have played important roles.
Recently, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology released its new app, Merlin, designed as a birding coach for beginning and intermediate bird watchers. Using a series of questions, Merlin helps identify which birds are most likely to be seen, based on location, date and a brief description. Drawing upon more than 70 million sightings submitted from birders across the United States and Canada, possible species are listed.
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.
Scott enjoys the outdoors and wildlife conservation; and is currently assisting NYSDEC with an ongoing eagle study taking place in the Upper Delaware corridor.
Email Scott Rando
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.
Email Sandy Long