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October 01, 2014
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River Talk

A mystery goose from the north

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were paddling on Walker Lake in Shohola, PA when we spotted a migrant flock of Canada geese on the far shore. About a dozen or so geese were foraging and resting; they seemed like the typical small flock that stops over during this time of year during their migration south. One individual, however, caught my eye; even from afar, it seemed to have more white plumage than a normal Canada goose.   Read more

A cormorant comes calling

This double-crested cormorant was a recent and unusual visitor to Greeley Lake in Pike County, PA, where it lingered for approximately one week in a swampy area of the lake. Normally found in colonies and traveling in flocks, this bird appeared to be alone.

Double-crested cormorants are black, sturdily built birds with long hooked bills, long necks and an orange throat pouch. Their voice is a deep guttural grunt, although they are typically silent in flight. This bird primarily eats fish, which it hunts by swimming and diving to depths of up to 25 feet for between 30 to 70 seconds.  Read more

Spooky birds

There is likely not a bird more maligned than a vulture. In the movies, especially westerns, they are typically portrayed circling over hapless people stranded in the desert. To look at them invokes comments such as, “What an ugly bird!” Indeed, they are not likely to win any beauty contests in the bird world. In nature however, adaptations usually have a purpose, even the vulture’s seemingly unsightly head.  Read more

Anyone home?

To most of us, a rotting stump is—well—a rotting stump. But for many other life forms, ranging from micro-organisms to insects to birds (and the occasional amphibian), rotting wood can be a valuable resource for food and shelter. While exercising caution, make it a point to inspect such potential treasure-troves when you encounter them. Click the thumbnail photos at upper left to see who calls this stump "home."

Nature’s vision: the ‘eyes’ have it

If we see a bird or some other creature, and it is close enough, there is something that usually catches our eye early in our observation: the eyes. In nature, there are many adaptations of vision. Earthworms have simple eyes (ocelli) that are able to detect light and dark, while eagles and hawks have single lens eyes with visual acuity five times greater than a human. (An eagle has five times the density of vision cells at the central focus area of the retina than humans do.)  Read more

Miraculous monarchs

First-grade students at George Ross Mackenzie Elementary School in Glen Spey, NY recently experienced the miraculous life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Teachers Kelly Robertson and Shari VanHage collected eight caterpillars to kick off the hands-on learning experience.  Read more

Hawk migration 2011: a broad-winged bonanza

When we think of migration, we usually think of ducks, or the many geese we hear overhead during the fall, but many species of hawks migrate as well. In this region, the migration becomes very evident around mid September with large numbers of broad-winged hawks.  Read more

Super spiders

As autumn approaches and temperatures begin to drop, it is increasingly common to see spiders in our homes, where they occasionally seek refuge at this time of year. One of the largest, and therefore potentially alarming, is the fishing spider.

Dolomedes is a genus of spiders of the family Pisauridae. There are over a hundred species of Dolomedes throughout the world, with nine species in North America. Also known as raft spiders, dock spiders or wharf spiders, most are semi-aquatic.  Read more

Super spiders

As autumn approaches and temperatures begin to drop, it is increasingly common to see spiders in our homes, where they occasionally seek refuge at this time of year. One of the largest, and therefore potentially alarming, is the fishing spider.

Dolomedes is a genus of spiders of the family Pisauridae. There are over a hundred species of Dolomedes throughout the world, with nine species in North America. Also known as raft spiders, dock spiders or wharf spiders, most are semi-aquatic.  Read more

Milkweed microhabitat

Anyone who has walked in a field or a roadside has probably at one time or another picked a leaf of a milkweed plant and observed its milky sap start to flow from the plant; hence its name. Like all plants, the milkweed contains a myriad of chemical compounds that are used by the plant in various ways.  Read more