It was the last week in November, a few days before Thanksgiving, when I was driving in the pre-dawn darkness on a quiet road. A steady rain was ushering in a couple of days of unseasonably mild weather for this time of year. A few leaves were on the wet road, and all seemed normal until one of the leaves hopped. A look at the size of the hopping “leaf” and the length of the hop indicated that it could be an American toad.
On Thanksgiving Day, while most of us in the Upper Delaware River Valley enjoyed feasting in warm homes with family and friends, regional wildlife were suddenly faced with greater challenges than usual in finding adequate food. Thanks to an impressive amount of dense snow that quickly covered much of the available natural food sources, our avian neighbors resorted to pecking their way along the edges of cleared roadways, gathering up bits of seed, gravel and sips of melted snow.
As you read this, you may be getting ready for that big Thanksgiving dinner. Most people associate the Thanksgiving holiday with turkey and turkey will be on the menus of most households across America. Some folks may even partake of wild turkey due to a successful hunt during fall turkey season. Today, whether we are looking in the poultry section of the supermarket, or in the woods in back of the house, there are usually turkeys aplenty to be seen; but it wasn’t always that way.
A variety of afflictions affect trees in the Upper Delaware River region, ranging from those caused by insects, like the hemlock wooly adelgid to others caused by fungi like anthracnose. “River Talk” reader, Star Hesse contacted us recently regarding the appearance of black blotches on the leaves of maple trees along Route 97 in Barryville, NY.
Around Halloween, I spotted what first appeared to be a large spider on the side of my house. As I got closer, however, I saw that it had six legs, not eight as a spider would have, and it took on the appearance of a long-legged beetle with an iridescent gold abdomen. This bug certainly fit the bill for Halloween; it had long spidery legs with even longer antennae, a long proboscis that made it look like it meant business, and to top it off, it had what looked to be part of a cog sticking out of its thorax.
If someone were to seek your advice about the top three environmental concerns in Pike County, what would your answer be? That question is currently being asked in the form of a short survey by the Pike County Conservation District (PCCD). PCCD is in the process of updating its strategic plan for the future of Pike’s natural resources by seeking input from residents, visitors and other interested parties. The survey asks responders to identify the most pressing issues and to list examples of services PCCD should provide, along with potential audiences for those services.
A couple of months back during August, a concerned Pennsylvania landowner contacted the National Park Service (NPS), Upper Delaware to report that an owl was on the ground in his yard and had been there for several hours. NPS biologists Jaime Myers and Jessica Newbern went out to meet the property owner, and found a great horned owl with an apparent injury to its right foot. They captured the owl and turned it over to the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (DVRC).
The fast-flying days of flaming fall foliage have held us in thrall lately as the Upper Delaware Region advances toward the cold and inward months of winter. Watching the leaves turn through exuberant expressions of vibrant color is almost dizzying and sets the mind’s eye spinning. It is almost a relief when gusting winds strip the trees of their fiery cloaks, laying bare the artful lines of form and branch.
A few weeks back, a neighbor told me he was finding what looked like berries on the ground, even though he said no berry trees were anywhere in the area. I asked him about the size and color, and he replied that they were around an inch in diameter and had a reddish hue.
Following two weeks spent in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park photographing its countless wild splendors for the inaugural Artist in Residence program, I returned to the Upper Delaware River region. My focus (pun intended) had shifted, and although the perspective was freshening, it left me with a sense of disconnection.
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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