While autumn brings a welcome array of rich colors to the region as the light sharpens and foliage begins to change, it also signals the departure of the brilliant green ruby-throated hummingbirds that enhance our lives throughout spring and summer.
By early fall, hummingbirds begin their long journey south, bound for Central America. Many will cross the Gulf of Mexico in a single flight. Males may begin migration by early August, with females lingering into mid-September. Read more
Herons in our region can be found just about anywhere there is water. Lakes, ponds and rivers all have the potential of providing good habitat for herons as well as other aquatic bird species. Herons are hunters, and their diet consists mostly of fish, with some amphibians, insects and even small mammals rounding out the fare. Herons are somewhat shy of humans and will fly off if approached too closely by persons on foot, or in watercraft. Read more
A spectacular specimen of Phaeolus schweinitzii has grown at the base of a dying hemlock tree in my yard over the past month. Commonly known as dyer’s polypore or velvet-top fungus, this attractive mushroom is a pathogen of conifers that causes the roots and base of the tree to rot. While it is not edible, it can be used for making dyes of green, yellow, brown and gold. The fungus is named after Lewis David de Schweinitz, an important early American mycologist born in Bethlehem, PA. Read more
Along the shore of any given body of water, whether it’s a lake, river or stream, insects are usually very obvious. There may be some flies hatching out, butterflies and moths, and even some pesky mosquitoes or other biting bugs. The pesky biters are in jeopardy themselves from another group of insects that are on the prowl—the odonata family, or dragonflies and damselflies. Read more
August is upon us, and nature’s clock is letting us know in the form of nightly katydid serenades and blooming cardinal flowers along streams and wetlands. If you have seen cardinal flowers in the wild, you may also have seen many hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies near the brilliant red blooms of the cardinal flower. This striking trait of the cardinal flower is an adaptation of the plant to help attract pollinating fauna; the birds and insects, in turn, exhibit behavioral adaptation when they are attracted by brightly colored plant inflorescence when gathering nectar or pollen. Read more
Experiencing the natural world through the eye of a camera lens is a satisfying activity that comes with plentiful rewards. For shutterbugs who enjoy spending time photographing on Pennsylvania public lands, two upcoming photo contests might be of interest. Read more
People in certain parts of the region may have noticed a familiar looking caterpillar early this summer. It seems that the gypsy moth is back. An egg mass survey done last February in Pennsylvania by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) indicated that egg mass density was light (40 to 200 egg masses/acre) at most sampling points in Pike County and isolated sampling points in Wayne County (see map at centrecountypa.gov/index.aspx?NID=217). Read more
An Illegal Dumpsite Survey (IDS) of Pennsylvania has been completed, and the results aren’t pretty. From 2005 to 2013, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful (KPB) performed the county-based survey of the Commonwealth, identifying 6,487 illegal dumpsites containing an estimated 18,516.83 tons of trash.
The results only capture sites that are visible from the public right-of-way and do not include farm dumps or dumps on private lands. For this reason, KPB notes, “It can be presumed that there are significant numbers of illegal dumpsites out of sight on private property.” Read more
Anyone who learned how to fly remembers their first solo flight. In a light, primary training aircraft without 170 pounds of instructor (“official” weight, mileage may vary), the aircraft seemingly leaped into the air. For most people, it was an exhilarating experience, and maybe you left the traditional shirt tail with your name and solo date on the flight school office wall.
For young bald eagles that are now as large as an adult, their first solo is imminent, and with a bit more risk factor than a first-time pilot who follows a simple square traffic pattern around the runway. Read more