river talk

Birds and butterflies

By SANDY LONG
Posted 6/10/20

Despite a slow beginning beset by fits and starts, spring is finally in full swing throughout the Upper Delaware River region. The bounty of birds and butterflies all about is a welcome boost to …

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river talk

Birds and butterflies

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Despite a slow beginning beset by fits and starts, spring is finally in full swing throughout the Upper Delaware River region. The bounty of birds and butterflies all about is a welcome boost to sagging spirits and a feast for winter-weary eyes. Following the emergence of spring ephemeral wildflowers and their delicate splashes of color, the varied greens of grasses rising and of trees and shrubs leafing out provide promise that even more vibrancy is returning to regional landscapes.

American robins are often referred to as harbingers of spring for their early appearance toward the end of winter. They are soon followed by more colorful species such as scarlet tanagers, an eye-catching species distinguished by the intense red body feathers of breeding males, offset by black wings and tails. Females are less noticeable, with olive-yellow coloring and grayish wings and tails.

Scarlet tanagers are monogamous during a breeding season, but typically change mates the following year. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they produce one brood with three to five eggs which incubate from 12 to 14 days, followed by a nestling period of nine to 15 days. Eggs are greenish-blue with a speckling of brownish tones.

This species thrives in mature forest habits, and their welfare is negatively affected by development practices that lead to forest fragmentation. Their populations declined by approximately 14 percent between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

Other winged creatures dappling the region with flashes of fleet color are butterflies like the Eastern tiger swallowtail. This common species is easily recognized for the bright yellow and black patterns on its wings. Males often congregate atop puddles following rain in a behavior known as puddling. As specified on Wikipedia, this practice allows for the extraction of sodium ions and amino acids which aid in reproduction.  Adults also feed on dung and carrion.

Seize every opportunity to opt outside as spring gives way to summer’s arrival on June 20. By doing so, you will increase your chances of experiencing the endless wonders of this place we share with such abundant and interesting life forms.

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