One thing I do around this time of year is check for monarch butterflies, usually by just walking down some nearby roads; there are a few milkweed plants growing off the side of the roads that will support caterpillars. I check some of the plants for the tiny white eggs that will eventually result in a new generation of monarch butterflies late in the summer. This year, however, my hunt has been in vain.
The second Upper Delaware BioBlitz was held last weekend, with the blessing of terrific weather, dedicated volunteers and an ideal site making for another successful event. Activities took place on property owned by the Boy Scouts of America, Greater New York Councils, at their Ten Mile River Scout Camp in the Town of Tusten, NY.
A few years ago, I talked to an old friend who spent his younger years in the Milford, PA area, and among his many exploits were the times he went to the bluffs along the river, just south of Milford, to watch breeding peregrine falcons. The peregrines at Milford and other places were soon in trouble. The state of Pennsylvania reached a peak of 44 pairs during the early part of the 20th century before the species was extirpated in the eastern U.S. Like eagles and other raptors, population declines were attributed to DDT and other organochloride pesticides.
Opportunities to experience a BioBlitz abound in our region these days, offering a wonderful chance to learn about the natural diversity of a given site. A BioBlitz is an event where scientists and other volunteers gather to collect, identify, and catalogue every living thing on a demarcated property in a 24-hour period. The results are typically made available to the public following the collection period, along with various workshops and talks.
Phenology, or the study of timing of seasonal events of plant and animal species from year to year, has been drawn more into the limelight in recent years due to concerns of climate change. Factors such as temperature, sun declination, seasonal change in cloud cover and precipitation are all thought to be factors in key events of a given species. Noting the time of the first call of a wood thrush, the sighting of the first painted turtle in a pond, or the occurrence of the first bald eagle egg in a nest can all be used to measure variances in timing of natural events.
While traveling along a Pike County roadway, my parents, some friends and I came upon a small bird stranded in the middle of our lane. Tilted backward onto its tail feathers, with its beak open to the sky, we feared the worst for this helpless creature. As we looked for a place to pull over, several other cars passed above the bird, which appeared unable to move. Dad hopped out and gently gathered the beautiful orange and black bird into his hands. When he returned to the car, we saw that our new friend was a male Baltimore oriole that probably collided with a vehicle.
While walking with some friends last weekend, I heard a familiar bark. Tucker, my friend’s labradoodle, was with us and had evidently found something in the woods. I went to check it out, and on arrival to the scene of the barking, I found Tucker had corralled a small porcupine on to a small log. Tucker had already had two separate encounters with porcupines before that required “de-quilling” of his muzzle, and now he was trying for engagement number three. He must have learned something from his past experiences, because I was able to call him off.
They’re back! All around the Upper Delaware River region, hummingbirds are brightening our backyards with bursts of metallic green, red and golden plumage as they ply nectar feeders and early blooms for nourishment.
Hummingbirds must sync migration and nesting times with the flowering of nectar-bearing plants. According to Audubon, “climate change threatens to throw off this delicate balance, with unknown repercussions for hummingbirds.” (Visit birds.audubon.org/hummingbirds-home-effects-climate-change-feeding-behavior to learn more.)
Bald eagle young have been hatching around mid-April, with some early and late exceptions, and now that they are two weeks old or more, they are more visible in the nest. The heads of these eaglets are popping over nest walls, enabling observation and head counts. Small they are, but not for long. The eaglets, which can be cupped in both hands now, will be 10 pounds and have a wingspan of 6.5 feet in 10 short weeks.
The state of Pennsylvania is in the process of updating its Outdoor Recreation Plan. Every five years, states must update their plans in order to remain eligible to receive federal Land and Water Conservation funds. Part of that process includes an online survey in which residents can weigh in on the recreational activities and conservation goals that are most important to them. The deadline to complete the survey is May 16.
Scott enjoys the outdoors and wildlife conservation; and is currently assisting NYSDEC with an ongoing eagle study taking place in the Upper Delaware corridor.
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Sandy Long has a lifelong interest in the natural world and has explored this in words and images through the River Talk column since 2005.
Email Sandy Long