River Talk


TRR photos by Scott Rando
This adult red-spotted newt was seen in a small pond along with at least 50 other individuals during the first week of March. The red spots that give this species its name are plainly visible on this adult.

Early sights of spring

Toward the end of February and the first few days of March, we had some mild weather with the temperature approaching 60° in some areas. Ice was completely gone or well on its way to being gone on most waterways, and I did a little hunting with eyes and ears for early frogs and salamanders.


Photos by Sandy Long

The Delaware and Hudson Canal was built between 1826 and 1828 by immigrant labor to transport anthracite coal, timber, tanners’ bark, animal hides, iron, cement, glass-making materials, finished glassware and bluestone to New York City. Today, while walking the cleared path along the canal, we can imagine the boats pulled by mules as they made their way, loaded with cargo from our region.

Trail time

As we enter the third month of 2017, it’s good to keep in mind how quickly time passes and how soon spring will be here. Connecting with the rising energy of spring is a great way to uphold those New Year’s resolutions for better physical and mental health.


TRR photo by Scott Rando
This summer roost of little brown bats was found in an abandoned building in 2014. During daylight hours in spring, summer and fall bats rest in attics, belfries, or even openings in tree trunks. Two years later, this same building was surveyed again during the same timeframe, and there were about one third of the bats that were counted during 2014.

The plight of the bats

During the cold months of winter, the average person doesn’t think about bats; there are none to be seen outdoors or in the attic, where they may roost during the day in the summer. Now is the season when bats in our region are literally fighting for their lives, as they attempt to survive the winter hibernation period.


TRR photos by Sandy Long
Twentieth century American poet Robert Frost, wrote his beloved poem “Birches” as a response to the beauty of the rural landscape he loved at his home in Franconia, NH. The poem was published in 1916, a year after he moved to Franconia. It concludes with the lines: 
“I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”

Poet-tree for thee

Fans of Robert Frost’s poetry and lovers of trees might be pleased to know they can now plant a piece of history on their Upper Delaware River region property. 

Contributed photo

TRR photo by Scott Rando

Northern harriers can often be seen foraging over Liberty Marsh as they fly low looking (and listening) for mice, voles and other rodents. Like an owl, they have a disk-shaped head so the placement of their ears enhances their sense of hearing; this enables them to hear the faint rustle of a hidden mouse in the grass.

Wallkill River NWR, a year-round destination

During the first week of February, I visited the north end of Liberty Marsh at the New York side of the border with New Jersey. It is located within the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, a roughly 12-mile-long area of federal refuge lands that surround the Wallkill River.

TRR photos by Sandy Long

Flocks of mallard ducks float on the Lackawaxen River in Hawley, PA.

Place-based explorations

Several years ago I established an annual practice of “gifting” myself with a roving ramble of this place that I love—the Upper Delaware River region—on my birthday, which transpired recently.

TRR photos by Scott Rando

Hoarfrost, in its simplest form, resembles needles on a surface. If there is a light wind, most of the needles will be on the side away from the wind. Leaves, grass, or even a barbed wire fence can all serve as an anchor for needles to form.

Hoarfrost magic

On cold winter days, we usually don’t think on ice or frost except when we have to scrape it off the windshield of our vehicles, or salt the walkway so we don’t slip and fall. Occasionally, especially when it is very humid or foggy and below freezing, or we are right next to a stream or river, we can see a more interesting frost.

TRR photos by Sandy Long

Squirreling around

Somehow, Squirrel Appreciation Day sneaked past me on January 21st without the proper praise the occasion warrants. So belatedly, I celebrate the clever, cute and captivating rodents that rob many a feathered friend of its food sources at backyard feeders and suet blocks, while entertaining us with their squirrely antics.

TRR photos by Scott Rando

Halfway through winter

We have passed the halfway point of winter, and the busy holiday season is behind us. This is what some people describe as the winter doldrums, and perhaps a few cases of “cabin fever” are setting in. For some of us, spring cannot come soon enough.

TRR photos by Sandy Long

Is there anybody out there?

With the exception of the feathered friends who ply our bird feeders (and the rascal squirrels that rob their share), it’s easy to believe that most other creatures have vanished into thin air at this time of year. Animals we often encounter in warmer months seem to be absent as we hike or drive in the Upper Delaware River region. 

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