2012 was a great year for viewing wildlife, especially from my view. I do not go on wildlife or bird watching trips but still I see plenty of wildlife during my fishing, hiking, kayaking and biking travels. The animals are out there waiting to be viewed by any watchful and quiet moving individual.
Some say, the number of deer, especially does have decreased and the amount being shot by hunters are way down in the past year. That’s bad news for the hunters, but on contrary, the numbers of deer spotted this past year by myself and others has been phenomenal. Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the nation in deer-vehicle collisions as local collision numbers increase as do the dollar amounts of insurance claims. Slow down when driving and always be alert for deer whether in wooded areas or on our highways.
I did see a black bear walking in the woods at Lake Minsi in Northampton County where there is a good number of them. Locals say there is one bear in particular which can be seen walking through the parking areas right past fisherman while minding its own business. It was even seen swimming around in the lake several times near the east boat launch.
I saw several foxes out and about crossing various trails and in fields, plus a coyote crossing the D&L Trail near Treichlers. Most inspiring though, were the seven bald eagles I saw. Six of them were along the Lehigh River in Lehigh County and the seventh was along the Delaware River in Bucks County.
The numbers of eagles being seen in the past few years has dramatically increased. Once an endangered species and near extinction as recently as 1967 in the lower 48 states, our country’s national bird was recently a rarity to see locally. The first one I ever saw in this area was at Lake Nockamixon and that was over 10 years ago. Now they can be spotted regularly along the Lehigh and Delaware rivers and at several lakes throughout eastern PA and western New Jersey.
The bald eagle is truly a majestic bird to see. It has a wingspan of about 80 inches and can build the largest size nest of any North American bird weighing over a ton.
There were plenty of the common birds around here like cardinals, blue jays, juncos, finches, nuthatches, Belted Kingfishers, various species of sparrows and several species of hawks. Also, I saw some lesser seen species like Gray Jays in Monroe County; a Yellow Warbler, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and several Eastern Bluebirds at the Jordan Creek Parkway in Whitehall.
I saw Tree Swallows, Barn Swallows and even Cliff Swallows, plus vast numbers of wild turkeys along the D&L Trail in Lehigh County. Also, I viewed a large flock of wild turkeys near the McDade Trail in Monroe County. There were Pileated Woodpeckers at the Jordan Creek Parkway in Whitehall, along the Lehigh River in Bethlehem Township and there was even one in our neighbors yard just last week; a first in my neighborhood.
Large numbers of Double-crested Cormorants, Common Mergansers and loons could be seen in local lakes and in the Delaware River. Swans and Green Herons seem to be increasing in population and the numbers of Great Blue Herons I spotted were in the hundreds. While bike riding one fall day on the D&L Trail along the Delaware Canal in Bucks County, I saw so many blue herons it was mind-boggling.
Unfortunately, the numbers of nuisance geese seem to be increasing everywhere. I see them in farm fields, along the Valley’s rivers and streams, at local lakes and making filthy messes in many parks where children play in sports leagues.
Also, plenty of ducks, including undesirable numbers of Mallards are everywhere. Though, I did see several Wood Ducks in the Delaware Canal in Bucks County. Wood Duck populations were in serious decline in the early 1900’s as a result of severe habitat loss and hunting, but their numbers have increased a great deal in the last decade or so through conservation efforts. Also, in the Delaware Canal, I spotted several muskrats, a species I have not seen in a while.
Turtles are in good healthy numbers and can be seen regularly during the warmer months in local ponds, the Lehigh Canal and in the slow sections of the Lehigh River. And now winter has brought its annual large numbers of sea gulls to the Lehigh River in Bethlehem Township near Wilson Avenue.
Here’s wishing everyone a great 2013. Get out and enjoy nature and all its beauty. Remember to always be respectful to all forms of wildlife and plant life. Please don’t throw trash in our woods or waters! Protect our environment so all can enjoy the great outdoors.
Whether you are boating or hiking do not approach nesting birds, which could put fledglings in danger. Do not feed wild animals, especially bears. Watch for ticks, from early spring to late fall, and when hiking on wooded or rocky trails in the warmer months be watchful for Northern Copperheads and Timber Rattlesnakes.