Photo by Corey Husic

Sunday, May 29, 2011

And as we transition into summer...

Many of us look forward to the seasonal changes that signal spring's arrival and it is, of course, hard to miss the glorious color display that we see in fall with the leaves changing color. But now that the hot weather has hit eastern Pennsylvania, there are many things to be on the lookout for.
Over the past few weeks, I have seen goslings ranging in size from small yellow fuzzy balls to the awkward gray-brown “teenagers”.  You may have noticed that some birds are quieter now – indicating that they may be incubating eggs or taking care of young.  You should start to notice other species of baby birds soon.
We haven’t seen or heard Empidonax flycatchers this spring.  Where are they this year?  Earlier this week (5/27), we heard the first Veery calls along Lower Smith Gap Road.
A lot of different butterflies have appeared – various skippers and the wood satyr; swallowtails have been around for a few weeks.  Yesterday (5/28) we saw the first adult monarchs in Kunkletown.

Turtles are sunning themselves along pond edges, we have seen snapping turtles (and other species) crossing roads, and yesterday, we saw a box turtle in the woods on Chestnut Ridge in Kunkletown. 

Today we heard the first cicada – apparently the periodic type, not the annual species common to the area (Swamp and Dog-day).  You can see the emergence of the periodic cicadas across the country at

Tibicen tibicen (Swamp cicada)
Today, we also saw the first blooms of Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium) and False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) and a Clearwing Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe).

Be on the lookout for the first fireflies!

From Judy in Center Valley along Saucon Creek:


The invasive Star of Bethlehem has been in bloom since last week and the invasive Dames Rocket is now sprinkled throughout the woodlot in full bloom. The Honeylocust trees are plentiful in this area and they are also in bloom. Our young Fringetrees are also showing off nicely.

What a scolding I got today when I tried to do some weeding. The Virginia Creeper that trails on our rail fence has a robin nesting in the shelter of the vine with four nice blue eggs in the nest. The Redbud tree is hosting a caterpillar and I think I noticed its presence soon after it shed the skin it had outgrown. Additionally, a family of fox is in residence along the creek and the adults are hunting regularly with success in my yard.  (In Kunkletown, we have been seeing a red fox on a pretty regular basis as well and I have seen several driving to Bethlehem in the farm fields lately.)


The four robin eggs that were observed last week in the nest under the Virginia creeper vine on our fencepost were all gone by Wednesday of this week. The predator could have been the squirrels, blue jays or even the snake.

Today predation was playing out on a smaller scale, as the lady bug larva enjoyed an aphid feast on the milkweed. I did not see the aphids last week when I inspected the plant, so the population explosion took place this week.

One of our resident ground hogs did the annual borrow spring cleaning earlier in the week. I remember last year about the same time seeing all the fresh dirt piled on the grass. Makes me think the groundhog is possibly Pennsylvania Dutch! I put our Christmas wreath around one hole every year to remind me not to step into the hole in spring. I count on the ground hog's appetite for dandelion flowers as part of our dandelion control - generally a good partnership, until more tasty plants emerge.

As always, Judy, thanks for the wonderful pictures and observations.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Some results from out Earth Week "World Series of Phenology" in Eastern PA

One sign of spring is that those of us in academe are really busy at work when nature brings on her spring show!  Now that commencement is over, I will try to catch up on the blog posts from the past several weeks!  Thanks to Meredith who helped to compile the information that was sent in and many thanks to everyone who submitted data during Earth Week, your efforts are greatly appreciated!  dwh

Pre-Earth Week

Carissa reported that the following plants were seen in bloom at the Varden Conservation Area in Wayne County on April 14th, shortly before Earth Week began:

·        Dutchman’s Breeches

·        Trout Lily

·        Spring Beauty

·        Red Trillium

·        Sessile-leaved Bellwort

Additionally, Spring Beauty was also seen on the 14th in Promise Land State Park in Pike County. 

At Big Pocono State Park, Karen noted that the buds of the Red Maple (Acer rubrum) were still closed on April 14th, but by the next day, flowers were appearing.

Acer rubrum buds - April 14th

Red Maple flowers beginning to open - April 15th
Karen's first spot of a Brown Thrasher at Big Pocono State Park

New growth on the Mountain Laurel at Big Pocono - April 14th
Pap reported in from Tuscarora:

"On the Spirit Trail this evening I found new growths of both Lady’s Thumb Smartweed and Pennsylvania Smartweed. Also Common Buttercups have come up as well as Yarrow. The Multiflora Rose is leafing out. This along with Barberry and Autumn Olive are the three main invasives we have there. There are some patches of Mile A Minute Plant and Japanese Knotweed but the park is doing a good job on removing and controlling them. Stopped by one of the Wood Frog pools. The pools were devoid of frogs and I didn’t see any more egg masses. This is a small amount compared to what I’ve seen in previous years. That spell of cool weather we’ve had recently has certainly effected their reproduction this year. The Osprey is still feeding at the lake."

Kathie from Plainfield Township near Wind Gap noted that the marsh marigolds, dandelions and trout lilies were blooming for the first time.

From Upper Saucon, Carolyn sent pictures of bloodroot:

The single bloodroot is flowering.

Flower buds on the double bloodroot
Earth Week Phenology Notes

Part I

On the first day of Earth Week, Saturday, April 16th, Mike reported that dandelions were seen flowering in Lehigh Township.

Status of serviceberry at Big Pocono State Park:

Amelanchier sp.

Earth Week Phenology Notes
Part II

On April 17th, Judy reported that the buds were swelling on red bud trees (Cercis canadensis) found along the Saucon Creek in Center Valley, Pennsylvania.
Note the difference of the buds on March 19, 2011 versus April 17, 2011.

Thank you, Judy, for these great photographs.

Kathie from Plainfield Township spotted her first Chipping Sparrow of the season.

Earth Week Phenology Notes

Part III

On April 18th, Doug reported a tremendous number of plant and animal sightings at Jacobsburg Park.  The following animals were seen at Jacobsburg Park:

·        Tiny winter stonefly

·        Bumblebee

·        Beefly
The following plants were seen at Jacobsburg Park:

·        Bloodroot

·        Trout Lily

·        Hapatica

·        Rue Anemone

·        Purple Violet

·        Spring Beauty

·        Coltsfoot

·        Dandelion- no seeds yet, just the flower

·        Spicebush

·        Marsh Marigold

·        Mayapple- no flowers

On the same date at the Bake Oven Knob, the following birds were also seen by Doug:

·        Broad-winged Hawk

·        Sharp-shinned Hawk

·        Osprey

·        Red-tailed Hawk

·        Kestrel

·        Black and Turkey Vulture

·        Loon

·        Cormorant

On April 18th, Lynn noticed the following plants blooming in Easton, Pennsylvania:




Flowering Quince

 She also noticed the asparagus coming up.

 Thank you very much, Lynn, for these great photos!

·        From Mike in Lehigh Township:
·        Wild violets flowering – several varieties
·        Henbit (alias Dead Nettle) blooming in fields
·        Wild Grape Hyacinth blooming (as distinguished from the cultivated varieties which have been blooming for several weeks)
Local meteorological conditions: Sunny - breezy - low 50’s
Karen reported from Big Pocono State Park the the Serviceberry buds were beginning to break.

Amelanchier sp. buds
Earth Week Phenology Notes

Part IV
April 19th...

From Nigel’s backyard in Bethlehem Township:

·        Dandelions have yellow flowers

·        Peonies poking through the ground, some 9-10 inches

·        Forest Pansy Redbud still dormant

·        Smoke bushes small buds

·        Dogwood budding

·        Gold Star chinese dogwood budding also

·        Black lace elderberry leafing

·        Purple Sand Cherry new growth

·        Wiegelia new leaves

·        Dwarf Magnolia's flowering

·        Sweet bay magnolia's just getting new leaves

·        Snowballs still dormant

·        Crimson Maples small growth showing

·        Willow starting to bloom

·        Golden willow blooming a few weeks earlier

·        Fraser photinia showing new leaves with some frost damage on smaller bushes

·        Camelia slow growth but budding

·        Mock orange plants showing new growth

·        Spirea new leaves after being eaten to about half their size by rabbits over the winter

·        Scotch broom green but no flowers

·        There are rabbits, squirrels and some hawks; the rabbits have eaten into the bark of pussy willow bushes, spirea, and yucca plants !

·        Birds:  2 pair cardinals, plenty of robins, pigeon doves, and an occasional woodpecker

Kathie reported that the sweet white and common blue violets were blooming for the first time in Plainfield Township.

Earth Week Phenology Notes

Part V

On Wednesday, April 20th, Doug noted that ruby-throated humming birds were seen for the first time in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania!

Mike observed Canadian geese pairing up in isolated marshy areas (pre-nesting activity) in Moore Township.
Local meteorological conditions: Overcast – low 70’s 

Hiking the Appalachian Trail south from Wind Gap, Kathie saw the first Black-and-white Warbler and Yell0w-rumped Warblers.

Meanwhile, in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, chipmunks, flying ants, and bees were all observed by Joann.  Joann also noted that dandelions and tulips are blooming in Palmerton and there is 2-inches of new growth on the rose bushes." 

Karen notes that at Big Pocono State Park, the red maples are now in full flower (compare with note from the 14th above).

New growth on the blueberry shrubs at Big Pocono State Park - April 20th
  The following species of plants and animals were observed by Diane at Nescopeck State Park:

·        Spring Peeper

·        Male and Female Mallard

·        Red-winged Blackbird

·        Ruffled Grouse

·        Louisiana Waterthrush

·        Trailing Arbutus in bloom

·        Hepatica in bloom

Earth Week Phenology Notes

Part VI

On Thursday, April 21, Carol noted that blooms emerged on serviceberries in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.   

In Moore Township, Pennsylvania, Canadian Geese were seen by Mike performing their pre-nesting activity by joining together in pairs.

The following plants and animals were also seen by Mike on April 21st in Lehigh Township:

·        Several varieties of wild violets were flowering

·        Henbit blooming in fields (Dead Nettle)

·        Wild Grade Hycainth blooming (note that this is difference from the cultivated kind)

·        Shadbush leaves emerging (this also signals the migration of the shad in the Delaware River)

·        Maple dropping

·        Oak dropping

Earth Week Phenology Notes

Part VI

On April 23, Dennis noted the following plants and animals in Big Pocono, on Camelback Mountain.

·        Dandelions in bloom

·        3 Spring Azure Butterflies seen

·        American Woodcock

Earth Week Phenology Notes

Part VII

April 24th marks the last day of Earth Week!  A large number of plants and animals were observed by Dennis on the Spirit Trail.  This includes:

·        Azure Bluets

·        Dwarf Ginsend- 2 inches tall with immature flower heads

·        False Hellebore- reached 8 inches tall

·        Ladys Thumb- distinct red “thumb prints” on second set of leaves

·        Interrupted Fern Fiddle Heads emerging

·        Spice bush blooming

·        Dandelions blooming

·        Coltsfoot blooming

·        Common and Yellow Violets

·        4 Black-throated Green Warblers

·        1 Black-throated Blue Warbler

·        1 Black and White Warbler

·        1 Wood Thrush

·        1 Indigo Bunting

·        Northern Water Thrush call heard

·        Flicker call heard

·        3 Red Efts

From Elsa:  "I was working on the trail at Leaser Lake Saturday and the trout lillies were 
pushing through the leaves. Skunk cabbage was already past the blooming stage. And
there was a small white flower that nobody could name. It looked like spring beauties 
but was bigger than any I've seen north of the mountain. Of course there has been coltsfoot 
along the roads for about two weeks."

Beth observed the following plant species on April 19th along Lower Smith Gap Road near Blue Mountain Ski Area.
· Forsythia in full bloom

· Daffodils

· Rose Bush is blooming

Additionally, she said that she has been hearing birds singing in the morning and spring peepers peeping at night.

From Carissa at Promised Land State Park (Greentown, PA):
  • Our resident Eagle is incubating at least one egg right now.
  • 33 Loons were seen on Promised Land Lake.
  • We still have some piles of snow up here!
While hiking the Appalachian Trail south from Wind Gap, Kathie saw her first Black-and-white and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tree flowers

It is amazing how few people realize that all of our native broad-leaved trees here in Pennsylvania are flowering plants. While some have showy flowers that attract bees and other insect pollinators, some are wind pollinated and have less conspicuous flowers.

Apple blossoms (two photos below are hard) to miss and the bees love them. These are not native trees but are quite common.

Pin Cherries grow clusters of small cherries that will develop from the flowers shown below. Black cherry forms longer strings of flowers (racemes). Cherries and apples are related, both members of the rose family.

Sassafras has small yellow flowers that blossom before the leaves sprout.

Birches grow male catkins that shed pollen into the wind to fertilize female catkins. Black (left) and Gray Birch (right) catkins are shown below.

Red oaks are flowering now and have tassel-like strings of green flowers. These and the birch catkins are litter the ground when pollination is complete.

Meanwhile, the Red Maple flowers have been pollinated and are turning into sumaras, or winged seeds that will eventually twirl to the ground like helicopters.

Watch the trees in your yard, a park, or a nearby forest and look for their flowers, seeds and fruits.

Dan Kunkle