At a recent meeting of the Wayne Conservation District, board members and staff received a sobering update on two factors negatively affecting Pennsylvania’s forests.
John Maza, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources service forester for Wayne and Lackawanna counties noted that the emerald ash borer (EAB), a brilliant green beetle that has decimated ash tree populations in multiple states since first being identified in Michigan in 2002, has now been identified in Luzerne County.
Now is the time when you will likely see furry caterpillars, black with an orange stripe in the middle, crossing roads or sidewalks. These are the much celebrated “woolly bears,” or the larvae of the Isabella tiger moth. There are two generations of wooly bear caterpillars per year, and the second generation overwinters in logs or under bark. Most of the caterpillars seen in the fall are on a quest to find a suitable overwintering location.
In June 2013, the first Upper Delaware BioBlitz took place in Northern Wayne County, PA, during which teams of scientists and volunteers documented 1,024 distinct species of plants, animals and insects during a 24-hour period (learn more at upperdelawarebioblitz.com).
The effort provides a snapshot of the biodiversity of life on the Starlight, PA property, and has since led to the first “Photos of Nature in the Upper Delaware Watershed” contest.
September is here, and many animals in our area are preparing in some way for the onset of colder weather to come. Some insects and many birds have already started to migrate to warmer climes, and it is this migration behavior that enables researchers to get a “snapshot” of the wellbeing of a particular species and its habitat.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Upper Delaware Region is currently blessed with abundant high quality water resources. Protecting them is critical to future life forms, both human and non-human.
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.
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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