River Talk


Photos courtesy of PA Dept. of Agriculture

Almost clownish in appearance, the spotted lanternfly is no laughing matter. This exotic insect poses a major threat to many of our region’s native plant species and hardwood forests. Adults are approximately 1 inch long and one-half inch wide at rest.

Meeting to target spotted lanternfly

As noted in our news story of February 8, the latest exotic insect invader to threaten our native plant species is the spotted lanternfly (SLF). Despite its eye-catching appearance, this is a seriously bad bug that was first discovered in Berks County, PA in 2014 and has expanded to affect approximately 3,000 square miles by the end of 2017.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

These yearling immature bald eagles were above the Lackawaxen confluence early in February. As is the case with the young of many species, the play instinct is strong. Many immature eagles display talons to each other, but it is mostly play; they are also honing skills they will need to survive.

Winter eagles and air shows

This is the time of year when ice is plentiful on the lakes and rivers, a central factor in explaining why we see so many bald eagles over-wintering in our region. During these cold months, many eagles migrate from northern New England and Canada to spend the winter here.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

Participants on the Eagle Photography Workshop Bus Tour visited the Barbara Yeaman Eagle Observation Area on Route 97 along the Delaware River. At the age of 70, Yeaman founded the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, which has protected nearly 15,000 acres of eagle habitat that benefits both wildlife and human inhabitants of the Upper Delaware River region.

'Capturing' eagles

For fans of the bald eagle, the future is looking much brighter, thanks to the efforts of regional heroes whose love of this iconic raptor and its habitat has led to legacies that will last well beyond their lifetimes.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

This is hoarfrost forming from moist air just above the water level of a small stream during a cold winter morning. A closer look shows some smaller tendrils growing off the main stems of ice; these form at exactly a 60-degree angle, or one sixth of what you see in a snow flake. This is an example of the crystalline molecular structure of water at work.

The ice of late winter

The season of winter has slightly less than two months to go before it officially ends; as to what winter does from now on weather-wise, that’s anyone’s guess. We’ve had some mild days in the 50s and also some sub-zero days and a moderate amount of frozen precipitation so far.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

The remains of a football-shaped bald-faced hornet nest ended up in my driveway recently. Its former residents don’t overwinter here, so a new nest is constructed every spring. According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, bald-faced hornets are not true hornets; they are yellow jackets. They help to reduce populations of unwanted insects and pollinate flowers when seeking nectar.

A world of wonders

The other day I came upon a wonderful thing in my driveway. It lay in a tousled clump and resembled a shaggy rag. Bending to retrieve it, I discovered a beautiful gift from the natural world—the slightly weathered remains of a bald-faced hornet nest that had broken free from a nearby tree.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

A south-bound female common merganser is winging its way toward the Rio Reservoir in this image. Common mergansers are the most widely seen mergansers in the region and are also plentiful on the Delaware River.

Ducks steal the show during the mid-winter eagle survey

January 10 was my designated day to perform my part of the New York State Mid-winter Eagle Survey. The target day for New York has usually coincided with the “fly day” (or days), when the aerial portion of the survey was flown.


TRR photos by Sandy Long

One bird you won’t find at your backyard feeder is a bald eagle. However, it is eagle watching season in the Upper Delaware River region, as this majestic raptor returns to ply the open waters of our rivers for its sustenance. Seize the opportunity to look for eagles in their habitat by signing up for the Delaware Highlands Conservancy’s Eagle Photo Workshop Bus Tour on February 3, during which I’ll be offering tips on photographing eagles in the context of this special place. The Conservancy has also announced a new juried photo contest, “Sharing Place: Eagles and Their Environs,” open to professional and amateur photographers. Visit https://delawarehighlands.org/photo-contest/ for details.

Birds and bomb cyclones

Now that we’ve added a new term to our vocabularies and weathered the wild winds and brutal temperatures of the past week and its “bomb cyclone,” it’s time to reflect on the awe-inspiring survival strategies of our backyard birds and the role we can play in their welfare.


TRR photos by Scott Rando

A red-tailed hawk, one of the hawk species that can be seen all year in the region, is shown here flying next to a raven. Both birds did some maneuvering and talon displays before breaking off. It appeared that both birds did this in play.

Winter raptor watching

If asked about winter raptor watching, the first thing that would pop into mind is eagles. This region is one of the favorite wintering habitats for Canadian bald eagles in the Northeast, and that’s not counting the ever increasing number of resident bald eagles that stay in the area year-round.


TRR photo by Sandy Long

What can you do to support the natural resources of the Upper Delaware River region in 2018? Adopt a spot by regularly removing trash; volunteer for a non-profit conservation organization; redirect time spent on negative news toward fresh perspectives like those offered by DailyGood.org; subscribe to publications that consistently cover local environmental news; keep tabs on environmental agencies like the New York Department of Environmental Conservation or the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; or attend monthly meetings of the Upper Delaware Council. 
 

One small thing

I recently received an email message from The Wilderness Society highlighting the “biggest wilderness milestones in 2017.” Unfortunately, most were the dismal and disturbing actions taken by our nation’s current administration to dismantle or eliminate hard-won environmental policies and protections, beginning in January with “scrubbing” mention


TRR photos by Scott Rando

This bear, about 150 pounds, was tagged and released in Pike County, PA. Bears that repeatedly cause damage are usually trapped and relocated. There are a lot of steps (electric fencing, etc.) that the landowner can take to deter nuisance bears.

The 2017 bear harvest and the tale it tells

Among its many responsibilities, PA Game Commission (PGC) is charged with managing wildlife within the state.

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