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June 30, 2016
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River Talk

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.

January usually heralds the first ice fishing activity for the region; historically, the ice is usually thick enough on most lakes by this time for people to venture out onto the ice. The milder winters of recent years, however, have been a challenge to ice fishing and other outdoor activities that take place on the ice. For most of last winter, the ice was too thin to safely be on the ice on most lakes.

Many species of mammals abound throughout the Upper Delaware River region. One of the most abundant, and likely the most popular in terms of game animals, is the Eastern cottontail rabbit.

Ranging between 15 to 19 inches in length and weighing between two to four pounds, cottontails are so named for the white puffy tail that characterizes this appealing animal. Brown or grayish soft fur tapers to a lighter tan on top, with a white underbelly below.

“O Tannenbaum” is the German version of the song “O Christmas Tree” that we hear so often during this holiday season. Tannenbaum is also the German translation for a fir tree, a very popular conifer to have indoors as the traditional Christmas tree. There are a number of varieties of conifers and evergreens in our region, some of which make suitable Christmas trees, but all have some impact on nature and wildlife.

Here are a few of our most common conifers:

Acrobatic artists of the treetops, gray squirrels navigate their habitats with skill and grace, leaping from branch to limb in an aerial circuit that is both impressive and entertaining. Technically a rodent, the gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is Pennsylvania and New York’s most common squirrel. Other native squirrels are the fox, red and nocturnal flying squirrels.

As the warm spell of the first week of December ends, there have been quite a few species of fall and winter birds spotted. Buffleheads, common and hooded mergansers, and ring-billed gulls are present on the nearby lakes, while passerines such as pine siskins partake at bird feeders. There have already been snowy owl sightings in New York State.

PENNSYLVANIA – Many readers of The River Reporter who enjoy the River Talk column’s weekly images of nature are themselves handy with a camera. Based on some of the photos we’ve received from readers over the years, we know there are a good number of folks out there dedicated to capturing beautiful photos of the abundant wildlife and waterways in the Upper Delaware region.

As colder weather arrives, geese can be heard overhead on their southward flight and deer are in the midst of the fall rut. This is usually the month when the snow starts to fly and the ground turns from brown to white. Migratory species such as bufflehead and green-winged teal can be spotted on waterways through the fall season.

Fall and winter water recreationists should be aware of a new regulation that applies to all Pennsylvania waters. Passed by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) in September 2011, the regulation went into effect on November 1, 2012 and continues through April 30, 2013. It requires boaters to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or any canoe or kayak.

A week or so after Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the northeast U.S. and our region, the sun has returned. Leaves that were left on the trees before the storm were blown down, along with a few of the trees. The trees have been cleared from the roadways and power has been restored, but many homeowners have blown-down trees or branches to contend with. Some of this blown-down debris has its own hidden hazard.