There are some insects that just don’t know when to quit, it seems. On a mild day in winter, you may spot small flying insects, spiders, or even the striking Mourning Cloak butterfly. These insects are protected by antifreeze-like substances in their bodies, and it doesn’t take too much mild weather to see them emerge for a temporary hiatus from their deep winter dormancy. Read more
In my last column about webcams, readers were pointed to opportunities to intimately observe birds with the aid of modern technology. Those who prefer a more active role can consider participating in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch project, in which “citizen scientists” are helping to provide answers to questions about bird nesting behavior by monitoring nests and reporting their observations utilizing online data entry tools. Read more
With spring around the corner, migrant birds of all types are preparing to make their move north. Eagles that are over-wintering in our area are returning to their Canadian breeding grounds, and the first returning turkey vultures should be arriving in our region right around the start of March. A few raptors suffered various mishaps during fall and winter, however, and they spent the winter healing up at the avian equivalent of a hospital. Read more
With mating season underway for Pennsylvania’s peregrine falcon population, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has launched its popular annual webcast.
This year’s events will be captured by new high-definition cameras that will stream the footage live on the Internet. The new cameras are expected to create crisper, more detailed images than in the past. Read more
If you believe in groundhog meteorology, then according to the prediction of “Punxsutawney Phil” that occurred not too far back, we should have an early spring on the way. Barely a week after Phil’s prediction, a winter storm sideswiped us and went on to dump more than three feet of snow over parts of New England. Groundhog Phil may have lost a few fans due to the storm named “Nemo.” Read more
The common merganser is a fairly large and attractive duck that is frequently encountered in the Upper Delaware region. Many will recognize the deep green head of the male and tufted cinnamon head of the female. Both sexes sport long narrow bills with serrated edges that aid these diving ducks when hunting the small fish, amphibians, mollusks, crustaceans and other invertebrates they prefer. Read more
The month of January saw mostly cold temperatures through to the last few days of the month, when unseasonably mild weather arrived. During the cold weeks, snow covered the ground and it got cold enough to freeze over lakes and much of the Delaware River. Much time was spent checking out bobcat and coyote tracks in the snow, or observing frozen waterfalls and seeps from rock outcrops. Not much thought was given to plant life, but that changed during one hike when I visited a few of these places where water flows. Read more
I recently enjoyed observing a 9-year-old girl wake to the pleasures of bird watching. Joei Marie is the recipient of an introductory birding kit I purchased from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Using the birding log and identification materials included in the kit, Joei began her “life list” by observing the birds that visited our feeders. Read more
Around the 10th of January, a number of people throughout the country brave the cold and go out in the field to count eagles. The counting can be done from a fixed location, or by traveling a route by car, aircraft, or even by boat in ice-free areas. The counts are collected by state or federal agencies and the results are compared with previous years. Read more
When the winds howl and sleet sheets across the landscape, our fellow feathered residents adapt to challenging conditions in a variety of ways.
Some of the most visible can be observed by paying attention to the trees we see, inspecting their trunks for openings and peering up at their tops for collections of leaves, branches or twigs.
Cavity nesters, such as red-bellied woodpeckers and yellow-bellied sapsuckers, excavate holes in trees, thereby providing shelter and nest sites. Read more