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December 09, 2016
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River Talk

Lucky me, to chance upon a most delightful bird last week. At the edge of a Pennsylvania State Game Lands parking area was an adult American woodcock and her four wee babies. They hastily scurried into the forest, except for the one depicted here, who froze in place long enough for a few quick photos before Mom came bobbing back to retrieve her baby.

People usually associate spring with the appearance of daffodils and emerging buds from plants in the garden. Indeed, there are many cultivated plants appearing now. Greens from garlic and other good things from vegetable plots are showing themselves, offering promises of tasty culinary delights a little later in the season.

Spring has sprung, and along with it, a host of fun and informative opportunities to get out of the house and into the world of nature and its endless wonders. Make plans now to seize every chance to connect with this rejuvenating season.

From April 22 to 24, Hawley EarthFest takes place in and around the town of Hawley, PA. Activities for all ages are planned, including an Environmental Expo in Bingham Park and the ever-popular Species Parade. See the full schedule of events at www.hawleyearthfest.com/schedule.

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.