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October 21, 2016
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River Talk

The Pennsylvania Game Commission and Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have announced that they are seeking public input on the draft 2015-2025 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan. The purpose of the plan is “to conserve Pennsylvania’s native wildlife, maintain viable habitat, and protect and enhance Species of Greatest Conservation Need.”

In July, I shared some photos of early summer’s flowered finery (www.riverreporter.com/column/river-talk/11/2015/07/01/flowered-finery). As the season has progressed, a different set of regional beauties has seized the stage. Along the banks of the Lackawaxen River, an assortment of flowering plants are now competing for resources such as light, water and nourishment to sustain their showy blooms. Some are faring better than others, but all are putting on a lively display, guaranteed to satisfy our senses and restore our spirits.

It’s a hot day, and you hear a sound in the trees that can best be describes as a buzzing, or a gourd being rattled at a high cadence, lasting about a half a minute, and finally fading into nothing. The same sound might immediately be followed by an identical sound from another tree, perhaps farther off. We associate this sound with the heat of summer, because it is usually heard during the hottest part of the day. The singers we hear in the trees reinforcing the fact that it is very hot outside are none other than the dog-day cicada.

Lately, it seems I frequently encounter wild turkeys throughout my travels. As proof of their pervasiveness, I was joined by a young turkey that ambled out of the brush near the picnic table where I had perched to listen to the festive music at the Appalachian Fiddle and Bluegrass Festival in Wind Gap, PA last weekend.

Every spring, fisherman flock to the Upper Delaware River to try their luck in catching migrating American shad; from May into June, shad migrate to the upper reaches of the river in order to spawn. After spawning, many of the adult shad die, but some survive, to migrate downstream and back to the sea. Meanwhile, the fertilized shad eggs hatch, and the tiny shad fry spend the summer in the river. In the fall, these two-to-three-inch young-of-year (YOY) juveniles start their own migration to the sea.

The Upper Delaware River region is riddled with water bodies, ranging from rivers to lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands. Those who spend time near such waters are likely to encounter the northern water snake, a large colorful snake that ranges in size from 24 to 50 inches at maturity.

This non-venomous snake is sometimes mistaken for the northern copperhead, a venomous species that prefers drier habitats featuring rocky terrains. Generally speaking, venomous snakes in our region have flattened triangular-shaped heads. But head shape can be misleading.

It’s July, and this is the time when young birds of all types are reaching the point where they are leaving their nests and learning to fend for themselves. Among the myriad of species of young birds that are leaving their nests is the bald eagle.

Bogs are one of nature’s most mysterious and intriguing ecosystems. We are fortunate to have a spectacular bog in the Upper Delaware River region, where the public can experience the unique plants, insects, birds and other life forms that thrive in this special habitat.

The Tannersville Cranberry Bog in nearby Monroe County is protected by The Nature Conservancy and open to the public. Environmental educators from the Kettle Creek Environmental Education Center lead guided tours along a floating boardwalk on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, spring through fall.

Anyone who remembers the British rock band Mungo Jerry may also remember that around 1970 they came out with a single titled, “In the Summertime;” the song’s idea was to celebrate the carefree days of summer. Somewhere just past the middle of the track, a couple of the band members imitated bullfrog calls. To this day, whenever I hear that song, I think of summer and also, of frogs and toads as they call during a tranquil summer night.

Sometimes, I want nothing more than to offer up expressions of the incredible beauty we are privileged to share in the Upper Delaware River region. Adding words seems to restrict what is best experienced with a walk or hike or paddle, all senses engaged and an open heart for receiving what is out there, ready for our interface.

Right now, our region is bursting with flowering plants, offering a spectacular array of colors, forms, fragrances and textures. Make it a point this week to get out there and see how summer is unfolding. And enjoy the show.