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October 13, 2015
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River Talk

The River Reporter is fortunate to be housed in a building overlooking Little Lake Erie in Narrowsburg, NY. This small body of water provides excellent habitat for a variety of wildlife, many of which we have the pleasure of observing while they live their lives as our closest neighbors.

Because the building’s owners allow the banks of the lake to remain wild, they are lush with natural growth and provide abundant resources for birds, insects and amphibians.

A bat, the only mammal capable of sustained flight, invokes many things to many people. Many fictional books and movies have maligned bats as evil creatures to be feared, and many of us have an underlying fear of bats when we encounter them. The truth is that the only thing that needs to fear a bat in our region is a mosquito: a bat can eat up to 50% of its body weight in mosquitoes and other flying insects per evening. It turns out that a bat is a highly beneficial critter that has picked up a bum rap.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett completed a two-day kayak tour on the Delaware River through Wayne, Pike and Monroe counties last week. Among his entourage were PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Richard Allen and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer.

If you live near a hardwood, or deciduous, forest, you would have heard these by now; in fact, they may even be keeping you awake at night if you have a bedroom window open. The evening chorus is courtesy of the common true katydid (Pterophyla camellifolia).

True katydids are a key phenology species. Phenology is the study of timing of periodic events occurring in nature. I usually hear calls starting right around the last week in July to the first week in August; this year, I first heard katydid calls in Pike County around the second week in July.

Guest column by Jamie Knecht, Watershed specialist, Wayne Conservation District

The Canon Envirothon celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, and we were very pleased and excited to host it here in Pennsylvania. The team that represented PA in the Nationals was from MMI Preparatory School in Luzerne County. PA placed 15th overall at the national level, an accomplishment that few high school students experience.

Years ago, miners entered a mine to work, and sometimes they were accompanied by a canary in a cage. The idea of the canary was that if there was a low oxygen level or hazardous gas present, the canary would show signs of distress before the miners did; this gave the miners time to evacuate. Thankfully, modern innovations like portable gas meters and self-contained breathing apparatus have eliminated the need to sacrifice any more canaries. The job description of a canary, had it been listed by the mining company, would probably read “bio-indicator.”

Since March, I and thousands of other fans of the great blue heron have thrilled to the close-up observation of a pair of herons, and ultimately their five chicks, thanks to a live webcam hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY.

Among the more enjoyable activities of summer are things like swimming in a nearby lake or river and enjoying a picnic under the trees. If you take a close look at the shoreline, however, you may see some snack-grabbing activity going on besides hamburgers and coleslaw.

Northern water snakes are our neighbors here in Narrowsburg, where we enjoy observing the heavy-bodied Nerodia sipedon living along the banks and in the waters of Little Lake Erie.

This aquatic snake can grow to more than 50 inches in length and swims easily across water, submerging itself to escape harm if threatened. Although it is not venomous, if provoked or cornered, it may defend itself by flattening its body and striking repeatedly. Not surprisingly, such bites can be extremely painful and can become infected.

When a friend called me up and said he had a northern flicker nest in his backyard in late June, I packed my camera and binoculars in anticipation of some good looks. Northern flickers, as most woodpeckers, are cavity nesters, and the cavities are frequently low enough on the trunks of trees to afford some excellent views of young being fed by adults.