Few clouds
Few clouds
68 °F
August 29, 2016
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River Talk

We just had what could have been a significant snow storm during the past month. The storm brushed to our south, however, and left us with anywhere from a dusting to six inches of snow. It was easy to clear off, but not quite enough to cross-country ski unless you were on a lake or a pretty smooth trail. The morning after the storm, I took my camera and went on some nearby trails to see what could be seen.

True confession—I am a nemophilist. And as a reader of “River Talk,” I’d hazard to say that you are probably one, too.
Now don’t be insulted. In fact, the term applies to “one who is fond of forest or forest scenery; a haunter of the woods; one who loves the forest and its beauty and solitude.”

We are not alone in our admiration, following paths forged by forest lovers like John Muir, who wrote, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”

January is the time for the annual Mid-winter Bald Eagle Survey, coordinated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The survey has just wrapped up. Most states in the U.S. participate in the survey, including New York and Pennsylvania.

This survey takes place during the first two weeks of January, with January 9 to 10 as target dates. Migrant eagles are in their usual wintering grounds from Canada by then and are counted by observers on foot, in automobiles, or by fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft.

Winter has arrived, but the snow, so far, has been minimal. Should the day come when you catch yourself whining about the weather, crabbing about cabin fever, or getting grumpy over the lack of color in the local landscape, get ahead of the gloom by getting down, as in—nearer to the ground.

With so many things—at eye level and upward—tugging at our senses, it’s easy to lose track of the ground beneath us, and all the wonders we can encounter there. With a new year freshly here, set a goal to get to know what’s going on down in the zone where your feet usually hang out.

It was a day before Christmas, and instead of going skiing or snow-shoeing, I took a ride on the motorcycle. With temperatures in the mid 60s on Christmas Eve, there were quite a few other bikes on the road that day. A few kayaks and canoes were on nearby lakes as well; the watercraft shared the lakes with mergansers, buffleheads and other waterfowl, as no lakes are frozen yet in the region.

Watching birds in winter can really lift one’s spirits, as they somehow survive conditions that most humans couldn’t withstand. Their colorful plumage and spirited antics inspire our devotion to do what we can to help them thrive. In ongoing efforts to improve our knowledge of these feathered miracles, several counts take place. Audubon’s 116th Christmas Bird Count is underway now and continues until January 5, 2016 (www.audubon.org/conserva tion/science/christmas-bird-count).

If you have read anything about bats in the last several years, you have probably heard about white nose syndrome (WNS). First discovered in New York in 2006, WNS affects hibernating bats and is caused by a fungus, Psuedogymnoascus destructans. Bats contracting WNS are irritated by the fungus and expend energy as they become restless. During hibernation, they expend their fat stores too quickly and frequently die before they reach the end of hibernation.

Sullivan County, NY is home to the largest wetland in the Southeastern region of the state. The Basha Kill Wildlife Management Area (BKWMA) consists of more than 3,000 acres located just south of Wurtsboro. Until this November, my enjoyment of the magnificent natural resource was limited to spring and summer kayak excursions among the lush green vegetation one encounters while quietly plying the open channels that weave through abundant groves of pickerelweed and other plants.

Some months back, I was contacted by Bill Streeter, director of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center. He told me that he rescued a turkey vulture from the area near Forest City, PA. The vulture was found on the ground, emaciated, but not injured. Lab tests were negative for lead or any other contaminant. The one very evident characteristic with this particular vulture was that its plumage was pure white.

As we enter late autumn in the Upper Delaware River region, the forest palette is suddenly bereft of the colorful explosion of fall foliage that for weeks kept us enthralled. In truth, the far more subtle tones of the December landscape are also satisfying.

One plant is particularly striking at this time of year, standing out in stark contrast to the muted forest where it climbs and clings to trees, wrapping them in a vise that sometimes costs them their lives, in a showdown that is both treacherous and attractive at once.