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August 27, 2016
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River Talk

A question that has been on my mind—and probably on the minds of a few other people—is how the unusually warm late winter and early spring would affect breeding eagles in the region. Nature’s timing of breeding and migration events (called phenology) occurs at approximately the same time each year for any given species, but can be influenced to some extent by weather conditions.

Have you ever encountered North America’s largest rodent? Even if you’ve never witnessed a live beaver in action, chances are you’ve seen the results of its handiwork, in the form of dome-like lodges, dams and the resultant ponds and wetlands that are created, or the chiseled stumps of trees harvested by these 30- to 60-pound semi-aquatic mammals.

A while back, when the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptile Survey (PARS) announced it would hold its 2nd annual meeting in Benezette, PA, I looked it up on a map and saw that it was halfway across the state, between four and five hours to drive. With a start time of 9 a.m. for the meeting, I faced the choice of leaving in the wee morning hours of the morning, or leaving the previous day and spending the night in the Benezette area. I saw that Benezette was in Elk County, and asked myself, “What can I do in Elk County for that previous day? Elk County… elk!”

The first day of spring has passed, with the vernal equinox transpiring on March 20. While it might not look like much is happening in the natural world, there is a great deal of activity underway.

Since 2006, when white-nose syndrome first started affecting bats in New York State, people have become more aware of the threat that wildlife diseases pose on species in certain habitats. Steps were taken to restrict access to some known bat hibernacula in order to slow the spread of this fungal disease.

While residents of Narrowsburg, New York observe the evolvement of the old Narrowsburg School into the new Narrowsburg Union, two somewhat unusual visitors have been watching the goings-on from atop a chimney at the building.

The third Saturday in February was a sunny, mild day along the Delaware River at the Lackawaxen confluence. This is a good spot to see wintering eagles from December into March, and Eagle Institute volunteers are present during weekends with spotting scopes and binoculars to help visitors in observing these majestic birds. It has been a mild winter with little river ice, but resident and migrant eagles can still be seen there with a little patience.

Countless individuals have worked with great dedication to protect the magnificent Delaware River—and other regional waterways—from a variety of potential harms. Sometimes that has called for heroic feats of activism to fend off the impacts of power lines, pipelines and natural gas extraction. In reality, all of the individual actions we take, based upon the choices we make, impact the quality of our water, and each of us can implement meaningful and manageable steps to minimize those impacts and protect our water.

Sunday, February 7 turned out to be a decent day to be outdoors. It got pretty mild in the afternoon, with sunny skies and a high of about 50 degrees. With that in mind, I took the camera and went to see what I could see. Near the northern shore of Walker Lake in Shohola, PA, I found that a few flying insects were about, and a few stoneflies were observed. Tiny gnat-sized insects were occasionally seen, and as I went to see if I could find some that might be perched in shoreline rocks, I spotted the spider.

The joy of holding a sturdy, large-format hardcover book in one’s hands is only eclipsed by having that book be filled with stunning full-color images of the much-loved Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains by photographer Michael Gadomski. The fact that Gadomski is a third-generation native of Wayne County with a keen knowledge of Pennsylvania’s natural treasures, following a 25-year-career as a state park ranger and naturalist, serves to sweeten the deal.