River Talk


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.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

This fawn is displaying its spots as well as the typical reddish coat of summer. These fawns, like adult deer are molting (or shedding), and the fawns lose their spots at this time as the summer coat is replaced by the darker winter coat.

Mammal madness

Well, its September now; the kids are back to school and some folks have made preparations to close summer cottages for the season. It is still officially summer, and green still abounds in the environment, but there are subtle changes that can be seen that tell of a change of seasons.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

The white tussock hickory moth caterpillar is not the demon it’s sometimes perceived to be. 

Maligned and misunderstood

When it comes to our knowledge of the natural world, what we don’t know (or what we have been misinformed about via social media or exaggerated claims often fueled by fear) can cause harm. These misunderstandings sometimes lead to unfortunate outcomes for the targeted species.


Timber rattlesnakes are one of the two venomous snakes found in the region, and they can blend in well to their surroundings. Fortunately for us, they will only strike as a last resort and will usually rattle as a warning. When hiking or working in known rattlesnake habitat, keep an eye to the ground and flip any objects like planks of wood, etc., so that any critter can escape away from you.

Herps: masters of disguise

You’ve probably walked on a forest path or even a secondary road this summer in the morning when it was still cool and spotted bright red or orange newts on the trail or roadway. These are the commonly found red efts, or the immature stage of the red-spotted newt. Almost a florescent orange, they look as if they want to be found.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

This periodical cicada was photographed in 2013 and was one of the new generation of Brood II that emerged in substantial numbers that year, particularly in Staten Island, NY. There are 12 broods in the eastern half of the United States that have a 17-year life cycle and three that mature every 13 years. Thirteen-year broods live mostly in the south, and 17-year broods live primarily in the north. Visit magicicada.org/magicicada/general_information to learn more about periodical cicadas. 

Cicadas: summer singers

Forests of the Upper Delaware River region are currently filled with the sounds of summer insects. I enjoy hearing them signal the rising heat of the day, or falling asleep with the windows open as the mesmerizing calls bring the night alive.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

This is one of several monarch butterflies seen at Shohola Marsh on a day in early August. Most of them were feeding on nectar from the many wildflowers along the access roads. Although I saw lots of milkweed, most of the feeding damage I observed was from milkweed tussock caterpillars, not monarch caterpillars.

A few more monarchs around this summer

I have been seeing something this summer that, for the most part, has been missing during the last few summers. The once plentiful monarch butterfly, which I did not see in the wild, or saw only one or two a year, has become easier to spot this year.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

The Delaware Highlands Mushroom Society is seeking photos of polypore mushrooms found in the Upper Delaware River region, such as this edible species, Chicken of the Woods. Polypores are also sometimes referred to as shelf mushrooms due to their tendency to grow from the sides of trees.

Fascinated with fungi?

You are walking along a forested trail when a glowing orange mass among the trees catches your attention. Closer inspection reveals it to be a beautiful bracket fungus commonly called Chicken of the Woods.

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