Some years back, I was riding a motorcycle on a sparsely traveled road in Pike County, PA when I saw what looked like a stick in the middle of the road. There was enough room in the travel lane to avoid the stick, and as I got closer, I took another glance at it. It wasn’t a stick at all, but a medium-sized timber rattlesnake, maybe three feet long or so. Neither snake or rider was the worse for wear, although it did find a quieter place to bask.
For nearly a decade, I’ve had the pleasure of contributing this column to The River Reporter and in the process, have continued to learn about the flora and fauna with which we share the Upper Delaware River region. The practice of interfacing with one’s “place” deepens understanding and fosters a sense of stewardship.
The days are getting shorter and somewhat cooler with Labor Day come and gone and fall just around the corner. However, even during the warmer days of August, there were signs of the impending seasonal change. During the last couple of weeks in August, common nighthawks were seen over lakes and rivers just around dusk as they circled overhead, looking for insects to fuel their southward migration. Narrowsburg had a good number during several early evenings.
Fifty years ago, on September 3, 1964, the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, following 60 drafts authored primarily by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society and eight years of diligent effort.
Many people who venture outdoors will recognize the red-winged blackbird for what it is; a black bird with red or yellow shoulder patches. However, if the same people see a streaky brown bird nearby, many will not associate it with a red-winged blackbird. It probably is the same species, but is a female. The dull-colored female has none of the contrasting black-and-red plumage of the male.
A new 2.2-mile trail and boardwalk were dedicated earlier this month, providing easy public access to a 2,500-acre tract of special Pennsylvania property known as the Thomas Darling Nature Preserve at Two Mile Run, pieced together over time and through partnerships.
A few years back, some friends and I went to a seafood restaurant in eastern Long Island for dinner. As we walked through the entrance, I noticed a rectangular planter in which were growing some pretty purple flowers. These flowers caught my eye for a different reason though; they were all of the invasive plant species purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Perhaps the owner or an unwitting landscaper saw the pretty flowers along a roadside and decided to transplant them, not knowing the undesirable qualities of this plant.
Earlier this year, I heartily enjoyed serving as an environmental educator at the Lackawanna College Environmental Education Center (LCEEC) in Covington Township, PA. Traipsing through the forest, followed by children ranging in age from pre-school to fourth grade, peeking under rocks, poking along a stream bank, exploring a meadow, we focused on learning about habitats and the various species typically found in each.
It was wonderful to see the children absorbed in these outdoor experiences as their senses came alive. Often, we would hear one exclaim, “I wish I could do this EVERY day!”
Anyone who has paddled or fished the Upper Delaware River has probably spotted one of the dozen or so eel weirs in the river. Located in shallow rapids, these weirs are v-shaped with a trap at the downstream side. Boulder-sized rocks are used to construct the v, and the rock obstruction channels eels down to the trap. Operating an eel weir is hard work and involves some risk due to river flooding during late summer and fall, when the eel harvest takes place. To gain an insight on eeling on the Delaware, visit Sandy Long’s October.
As summer heat and rains combine, the Upper Delaware regional forests become a marvelous landscape of mysterious fungal life forms that bring to mind the magic of fairyland and folklore. Poking from moss-covered decaying trees, sprouting under the frothy wings of ferns, lifting the old leaf litter from the forest floor, mushrooms capture our imagination with their varied shapes, colors and textures.
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