The warmer weather of spring is trying to establish itself, and with the weather come some birds that have not been seen or heard since last summer. The melodic song of the wood thrush or the high pitched whistle of the broad-winged hawk are soon to be heard as they return to the region and start their breeding rituals and calls. One event coming up, which helps map populations and species distribution in the state of Pennsylvania, is the annual Pennsylvania Migration Count (PAMC).
From the comfort of our couches, we can observe the wonder of new avian life evolving in locations around the country—gaining an up-close and personal view of the doings of our feathered friends—without disturbing them one bit.
Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, increasing numbers of webcams are revealing much about the lives of birds and providing a fascinating front-row view of their nest-building practices, reproduction and offspring-raising activities. ‘Tis the season to tune in, with nesting underway, eggs incubating and chicks hatching or soon to do so.
A week ago Thursday, the morning was chilly, but the forecast called for mild temperatures and sunny skies. I wanted to check out the Tusten trail and it promised to be a good day for a hike. Most of the way up the steep part of the trail, in a small pond near a seeping rock outcrop, I heard a harbinger of spring: an army of wood frogs.
As if the Cornell Lab of Ornithology isn’t already fantastic enough, this leading authority on birds recently released a new in-depth website that explores many facets of feathers from scientific viewpoints.
Viewers can learn how feathers work in a section devoted to feather anatomy. In Feather Function, the various roles of feathers are explored, such as flight, display, camouflage, insulation and weatherproofing. Other sections illustrate how feathers develop and how they have evolved over time.
After a few milder than normal winters, this winter has been an eye opener for many people; it has been cold with very few breaks and the wood pile that was slightly more than half used through last winter is now down to the last few logs of the last row. Spring officially arrived on March 20 this year, but as I write this column, it is 24 degrees and the wind is gusting up to 40 mph.
While it may be hard to believe, given lingering low temperatures and a still-bleak landscape littered with dirty aging snow, spring is underway. Even for those of us who regularly venture outside to enjoy winter’s many fine qualities, this past winter has felt exceptionally long, punishingly cold and unusually restrictive.
A couple of weeks back, I took a trip up and down the river, and up and around Lackawaxen and Shohola townships. There was lots of wildlife present on the river and above. What was more significant was the wildlife tally observed on the roadway on this trip of 30 or so miles. The critter road tally was nine turkey, seven deer (four different locations), a couple of crows feeding on road kill, and one opossum calmly walking along the shoulder.
Pike County, PA is celebrating its 200th year and the Pike County Historical Society (PCHS), in cooperation with the county commissioners, is hosting a celebratory banquet at Woodloch Pines Resort in Hawley, PA on March 26 to mark the milestone.
If you have been lucky this winter, you may have seen a migrant golden eagle; a few visit each winter from Canada. Recently though, migrations of eagles and other raptors have incurred additional risk with the increase in the numbers of wind turbines on ridges that raptors use for orographic or ridge lift during migration.
As winter’s grip begins to loosen, wildlife start to emerge and our encounters with them increase. Such was the case for a small opossum that appeared at my door one recent evening as it scrounged for sustenance.
Well adapted in terms of diet, opossums are omnivores and enjoy a variety of foods such as fruits, seeds, meat, eggs, insects and carrion. Although they often den in hollow trees, logs or brush piles, opossums are also well adapted to human environments and will sometimes seek shelter in culverts and beneath outbuildings.
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.
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