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May 26, 2015
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River Talk

After the Halloween snow that coated the roads and trees, it seemed that winter was trying to get a foothold in time for November. November, however, was not ready for winter. The Halloween snow soon melted, and by the end of the month, the weather was very mild. During the weekend after Thanksgiving, temperatures were approaching 60 degrees.

Without doubt, one of the least appealing residents of the Upper Delaware River region is the tick. These blood-sucking parasites have proliferated along both sides of the river, increasing the risk of exposure to certain infections for humans and for animals.

Fall always brings some feathered visitors to the region that are not full time residents here. From golden eagles and loons to snow buntings, they all provide a great variety of wildlife viewing during migration season. One species that is commonly seen around starting in October is interesting in that it has to dive for its dinner.

Anyone traveling in the Upper Delaware region lately has likely noticed the rising number of animals on the move as winter closes in. Unfortunately, one outcome of this increased activity is roadway encounters with vehicles. Balancing the needs of rising human and deer populations in the region is an ongoing challenge.

Recently the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) adopted its new five-year Deer Management Plan. The plan was revised based on public comment and is now available on the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7211.html.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.)

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.