River Talk


TRR photos by Scott Rando

This male turkey is very prominent in the sunlight with hints of blue in its iridescent plumage and red head and neck area. This male has a beard from its breast; a turkey’s beard grows about three to five inches per year, but starts wearing down as it gets longer due to the end dragging on the ground during feeding.

Turkeys: history and status

I usually take a hike through some nearby forest first thing in the morning when home, about a mile or so if the weather is not too severe. Most mornings over the last two weeks I have been hearing a flock of wild turkeys around the same spot. There is a field where they like to browse for food, and where there are many oak trees nearby.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

Look for this marker to locate the trailhead along Watts Hill Road, which can be found by following Church Street through Honesdale and turning right just after crossing the bridge where Church Street concludes. Straight ahead, you’ll spot the trailhead marker. The trail, along with several side trails, provides a good challenge to one’s cardiovascular system. There is also a paved road leading to a parking lot atop the cliff. Access that location via Gibbons Park Road.

Seize these wintry days

As winter weather visits the Upper Delaware River region, the temptation to stay indoors can be overwhelming. We find ourselves becoming more sedentary, when what we really need is to gear up with layered clothing and head out into the bracing air and stark beauty of the season.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

Cardinals can be found year-round in the region and also are attracted to feeders.  In the wild, they can be found near fields and shrubby forest edges.  They also like many backyards, and at the feeder they favor sunflower seeds.

Where are the birds?

Our editor, Anne Willard, recently mentioned to me that she had seen concern expressed about the apparent lack of small birds in the a region via the online Upper Delaware network. People were worried because birds were not visiting their feeders, and they were not hearing many birds calling in the woods as they had earlier.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

As its name implies, the variable oakleaf caterpillar feeds on all species of oaks, with a preference for white oaks. It will also consume species such as beech, basswood, paper birch, American elm, and occasionally walnut, black birch and hawthorn.

A collection of caterpillars

Most of us would recognize the fuzzy black-and-brown-banded woolly bear caterpillar or the distinctive monarch caterpillar and its striking bands of yellow, black and white. But there are many caterpillars we might encounter in the Upper Delaware River region that are more challenging to identify.


TRR photo by Scott Rando

The lower of these two sub-adult bald eagles is R27, a New York radio-tagged eagle captured two years prior. New York State is also experiencing issues concerning lead toxicity in bald eagles. A 22-year study where 300 bald eagles were screened for lead has shown that about 17% had high levels of lead, high enough to be lethal.
 

PA Game Commission: Bald eagle lead poisoning on the rise

It’s mid-January in a conifer forest with a few clearings within. On the ground, at the edge of one of the clearings, sits an adult bald eagle. It’s not by choice the eagle is sitting on the ground; a few days back it started to experience awkwardness in flight.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

This wood frog was resting under the leaf litter in my yard, where it will eventually overwinter. Due to their light tan coloration, wood frogs are well camouflaged by fallen foliage. An easily identifiable characteristic is the dark mask that stretches from the frog’s eye to just behind its eardrum.

Lurking in the leaf litter

While raking leaves in my yard recently, one suddenly leapt away from me. Similar in color to the foliage on the ground, the leaper turned out to be a wood frog, who probably didn’t appreciate my disruption. The truth is, most animals prefer their habitats to be ungroomed, and as unaltered from their natural state as possible.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

This monarch was caught by the camera in mid-flight after stopping for a rest as it checked out some goldenrod. This individual, like many others of its species, is on its way south to Mexico. Migration counts are still ongoing at hawk-counting sites, but the numbers are above average compared to the last three years.

Still time for fall butterflies

For those readers that have been following the monarch butterflies through the summer, you have probably been encouraged by the number of monarchs seen compared to the previous few years. In the August 16 issue, I did a River Talk column on the increase in monarch sightings, and that trend seems to have continued.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

Finding fall foliage

Fall foliage season in the state of Pennsylvania is a spectacular thing to experience. With more than 17 million acres of forested land throughout the state, there are abundant opportunities to enjoy the trees, brush, berries and vines that contribute to this deeply satisfying sensory treasure.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

This close-flying broad-winged hawk allowed us to get a good look. Broad-winged hawks are smaller than red-tailed hawks; they also feed on small mammals. In flight, the barred tails are very evident as well as the dark fringe on the trailing edges of the wings.

The flight of the broad-winged hawks

If you have been in or near the woods during this past summer, you may have heard a high-pitched single-note whistle. It is piercing and carries a fairly long distance, even through the forest. Occasionally, you may have spotted a stubby-winged hawk, appearing somewhat like a miniature red-tailed hawk, sounding this call.

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