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July 29, 2016
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River Talk

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 ( 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.

On Friday, November 13, the sky at Sunrise Mountain at Stokes State Forest, NJ dawned red with broken clouds and a southwest wind of 10 to 15 mph. The wind wasn’t entirely favorable for migrating raptors I was there to count; they prefer to move during tailwinds. However, I have noticed that similar wind conditions make migrating raptors fly closer to the ridge as they try to maximize the effects of ridge lift.

The natural world is endlessly interesting and many of us who are not scientists nevertheless devote careful attention to what we observe around us. That devotion is not wasted, and in fact, is becoming increasingly recognized as a valuable source of information that can enhance our understanding of the non-human species with which we share our lives. Two new opportunities for “citizen scientists” to make a contribution are now available.

The first week of November started out very pleasant with mild days and highs above 70 degrees—a little bit of very late Indian summer. I have seen some small flies flying around, a few small wasps, even a couple of cabbage white butterflies. Even though we have had some pretty good frosts, there is still one species of dragonfly around to see.

Last Sunday, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s (PAFBC) mandatory lifejacket requirement went into effect. In place from November 1 through April 30, the requirement applies to all Pennsylvania waters and is aimed at protecting boaters from the special hazards presented by an unexpected plunge into cold water.

According to the PAFBC, nearly 80% of all boating fatalities happen to boaters not wearing a life jacket. The number of fatalities increases during the months of November through April due to the effects of cold water on the body.

Over the past year, construction started on a parking area near the intersection of Route 6 and Twin Lakes Road in Milford Township, PA. There was much speculation over what it could be by some area residents. Another area of construction was on Route 6 just east of the Twin Lakes Road intersection. Unlike many construction projects, this particular project was for the benefit of people and the natural environment alike. This fall saw the fruits of over five years of planning and work: the Cornelia and Florence Bridge Preserve.