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Wild About PA

Read Marcus Schneck's blog on the great outdoors of Central Pennsylvania.

Last Build Date: Fri, 10 Feb 2017 12:28:42 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2017

Much of Central Pennsylvania still waiting for cicadamania 2013

Wed, 05 Jun 2013 14:00:48 UTC


Where are the cicadas of Brood II?

The explosive emergence of 17-year periodical cicadas expected about now has yet to fully materialize in many parts of Central Pennsylvania, and may indeed not materialize this year.

Brood II, which is the group of the large insects emerging this year, has never been as abundant or widespread as the gargantuan Brood X, which also is known as the Great Eastern Brood. However, some areas like Bergen County, N.J., have seen millions of cicadas emerge in the past couple weeks.
And, some locations in Central Pennsylvania - notably the Williams Valley/Lykens Valley area between Tower City and the Millersburg-Halifax area - have seen large numbers of cicadas, accompanied by the trademark deafening buzz of the insects in some spots.

Greg Hoover, ornamental entomologist in Penn State's Department of Entomology and one of the leading cicada authorities in Pennsylvania, said one of the questions he's hearing most often from the media the past few days is "Why don't we have them?"

Part of the answer is the smaller nature of Brood II, but another part is that many areas no longer have "an abundance of uninterrupted woodlands" favored by periodical cicadas they once did. The third part of the answer may reside in the unseasonably cold weather just before Memorial Day, which may have held soil temperatures just below the 64 degrees Fahrenheit required to stir the cicada nymphs to leave their tunnels in the soil in search of mating opportunities.

"Some of those colder overnight temperatures may have slowed things down a bit," said Hoover.

However, he noted, areas southeast and northeast of Central Pennsylvania have seen significant emergences, hinting that "by the end of next week, the peak of the emergence will be past. We're getting close to it, if not in some of the southeastern Pennsylvania counties are past peak."

Central Pennsylvania may have one chance to yet see some emergence out of Brood II, and that chance lies in the rainfall forecast the weekend.

"A rainfall event really triggers" the full emergence," explained Hoover.

If you spot cicadas, please report your sighting to

Media Files:

Will Snow Moon live up to its name with a major snowstorm?

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 10:00:00 UTC


Native Americans knew the full moon of February as the Snow Moon. Watch video

Many Native Americans knew the full moon of February as the Snow Moon or the Full Snow Moon, referring to February as the month when the heaviest snows of the year tend to fall.

This month's full moon, which reaches its peak at 7:33 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, appears ready to fulfill its ancient reputation, give or take a day.

The biggest snowstorm of the season is expected to drop 5-8 inches of snow across southern Pennsylvania Wednesday night through Thursday morning.

Biggest snowstorm of season expected

With temperatures forecast to fall below freezing Wednesday evening and to remain there through Friday, if the snow arrives it will be there for the full moon on Friday evening.

Other Native American names for the full moon of February were Hunger Moon and Bone Moon in reference to the lean times in this month.

More modern February moon fact: On Feb. 6, 1971, Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first and only person to play golf on the moon. During a moon-walk outside Lunar Module Antares, Shepard revealed a makeshift six-iron and two golf balls he had smuggled on board Apollo 14 and smacked the two balls across the lunar surface.


Media Files:

Beyond the zoo escapee, what do you know about bobcats in Pennsylvania?

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 14:00:00 UTC


A bobcat that briefly escaped its cage at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, for a couple days last week caught the attention of a nation largely unfamiliar with the species. Although most people will never see one in the wild, bobcats are not uncommon in Pennsylvania and across much of North and Central America.

Not happy with Punxsutawney Phil's forecast? Here are some other critter-based outlooks you might like better

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 18:18:58 UTC


Many wild things are rumored to have extraordinary abilities to make weather forecasts. Punxsutawney Phil is far from the other prognosticating critter.

So, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow Thursday, Groundhog Day, and gave us a forecast of six more weeks of winter.

For much of Pennsylvania, with very little snow and relatively mild temperatures so far this winter, another six weeks may not be all that bad.

However, if you're not overjoyed with that outlook, maybe one of the other critters rumored to have abilities of weather prognostication.

Maybe something from the woolly bear caterpillar? Or, maybe the wasp? Or the squirrel? Or the black bear?

I took a look at what all those critters and more had to say about the upcoming winter last fall. Here's what the wild things appeared to be telling us at the time:

Winter weather forecasts from the wild

Media Files:

Punxsutawney Phil defended in rap song from central Pennsylvania songwriting duo

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 16:25:00 UTC


The weather-forecasting groundhog gets a "Bad Rap," according to the Song Whisperers from Tyrone and Shippensburg. Watch video

The central Pennsylvania songwriters who most recently gave us a theme song for Raystown Ray, the lake monster rumored to dwell in the Huntingdon County lake of the same name, are back with a rap number pleading the case for Punxsutawney Phil.

In "Punxy Phil's Bad Rap, the Song Whisperers - Bill Dann, of Tyrone, and Jack Servello, of Shippensburg - present the weather-forecasting groundhog's argument:

"C'mon folks, give me a break. Hang me out to dry for one mistake. It's a tough call to make when you're half awake. Now they all want to roll me in Shake 'n' Bake."

As always, their collaborating video/slideshow producer, Michelle Peters, of Beech Creek, came up with an amusing video to accompany their song.

Phil was a natural target for Dann, who begins the process for the team, by writing lyrics like those above, and tends to have an affinity for folklorish Pennsylvania.

He explained, "I never know what the next one is going to be about. Yeah, it's nice, but where did that come from?"

For his part, Servello said, "as soon as I saw his words, I had a melody I my head. Sometimes I need to rewrite a line or so. You try to make it interesting."

It's a process that's been working for the duo for more than a decade.

Raystown Ray and Punxsutawney Phil are far from the first animals to be immortalized in song by Dann and Servello.

Raystown Ray gets a theme song

Several years ago, they composed "Thor, the Purple Squirrel from Jersey Shore" about the strangely colored, headline-grabbing squirrel in northcentral  Pennsylvania. That one went viral, and was featured on the Travel Channel program "Paranormal Paparazzi" and on Dr. Demento's long running syndicated radio show.

They've also produced more serious songs, including tributes to the likes of the Beach Boys and Ron Dante, lead singer of the Archies; patriotic tunes; holiday songs like "Tonka Trunks and Tinker Toys" and "Santa Does the Peppermint Twist;" and pleas for better treatment for dogs, including "A Warmer Place to Rest" and "All Chained Up and No Place to Go."

About 50 of their songs are available on their dreamsedge YouTube channel.

Media Files:

Snow geese mass early at Middle Creek this winter

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 14:00:00 UTC


Snow goose numbers reach near-peak level about a month early at popular waterfowl site on the Lancaster-Lebanon county line. Watch video

About 50,000 snow geese were counted at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area Wednesday afternoon, a number nearing the peak number of some past years.

A mild winter, as the region has experienced so far this year, with the 400-acre lake at Middle Creek mostly unfrozen and fields free of snow, leads to widely fluctuating numbers that "can change within minutes or hours," noted Lauren Fenstermacher, manager of the Pennsylvania Game Commission site on the Lancaster-Lebanon county line at Kleinfeltersville.

Just an hour or two before posting the 50,000 report to the Middle Creek website pages, Fenstermacher had reported to a webinar audience that the current count was about 15,000 snow geese.

"This is a perfect example of how their numbers are so difficult to track," she explained.

The website update page warns, "Please note that these numbers are estimates and subject to rapid and dramatic change."

A pre-trip call to the visitor's center at Middle Creek is recommended before making the drive. The number at the center is 717-733-1512.

The snow-goose peak usually comes in late February or early March. Last year a peak of more than 65,000 was recorded on Feb. 29.

2016 at Middle Creek

The largest count was 170,000 in 2007, but anything above 100,000 is considered a great year.


Also on Wednesday, about 2,000 tundra swans were counted at Middle Creek.

That is another good number for this early in the year. Last year a peak of 3,500 was recorded on Feb. 29, and as many as 10,000 of the large waterfowl have been counted in some years.

The snow geese and tundra swans, which usually winter south of Pennsylvania, use Middle Creek as a late-winter stopover en route back to the nesting grounds in the far north of Canada.

Media Files:

Coyotes in Pennsylvania: Closer than you think, much closer

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 14:00:00 UTC


Population of coyotes in Pennsylvania has leveled off, but there are 10s of thousands of them sharing the state with us. Watch video Anywhere in Pennsylvania, from the most mountainous forest to the largest cities, coyotes are living, hunting and mating much closer to humans than most of us imagine. The large canines roam the alleys, backyards, parks, fields and forests nearly everywhere in the state. "Whether people know it or not, they've infiltrated just about every nook and cranny of the state," explained Tom Hardisky, furbearer biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. "They've adapted to urban and suburban life. They'll eat garbage. They'll eat cat food. They'll eat any food item we leave out." 11 things you don't know about coyotes in Pennsylvania In 2003 the commission estimated the entire coyote population across the state at 25,000-30,000, at a time when hunters and trappers were thought to be killing about 11,000. A couple years later the number being taken by hunters and trappers every year had more than doubled, pointing to a much larger and more expanded population than previously thought. The commission now estimates that hunters and trappers are killing more than 40,000 coyotes in the state every year. Media in our cities continue to report on new sightings of coyotes and their ravages on local pet populations, but those mostly likely are the exception rather than the norm. Many more coyotes likely are living in close proximity to the areas where those reports originate without ever being spotted by a human. "They're in and out of there without leaving much sign" of their passing, said Hardisky. "They like to travel at night primarily. They use the cover of darkness to explore." Coyotes leave tracks, but they are remarkably similar to the tracks of large dogs. Coyotes howl to communicate among themselves, but those howls are practically indistinguishable from the sounds of dogs to the untrained human ear, and they stir up response barks and howls among the local dog population. Across most of the state, the carrying capacity for coyotes has been reached and the population has leveled off, according to Hardisky. Some population increases and expansions continue in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where coyotes continue to adapt to local conditions. The canines first occupied the less developed areas of the state, with more natural environments and natural food sources, and later generations were pushed into less natural areas over time, finally into the cities. "They needed to adapt to the urban environment," explained Hardisky. Coyote hunts in Pennsylvania: nearly 24 in 2017 Genetic testing and skull morphology have determined that most coyotes in Pennsylvania and the rest of the eastern U.S. are descendants of coyotes from expanding western populations that migrated north around the Great Lakes, hybridized with a reduced wolf population there and then moved south through New York into Pennsylvania. Photographic evidence of coyotes in Pennsylvania dates to the 1930s, but it appears the true expansion south into the state began in the late 1960s. It appears coyotes in western Pennsylvania descended from coyotes that moved directly east from the western U.S. and did cross with wolves along the way. More from PennLive [...]

Media Files:

What do you know about squirrels in Pennsylvania?

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 18:30:00 UTC


Squirrels are a common, everyday sight all across Pennsylvania, but what do we really know about them?

Pennsylvania outdoor show season begins: Here's the schedule

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 14:00:00 UTC


From the world's largest outdoor show to small local shows, Pennsylvania offers something close to nearly everyone. Watch video

In addition to the National Rifle Association's Great American Outdoor Show, the largest outdoor show in the world, Pennsylvania is home to weeks and weeks of outdoor shows.

Most running for a single weekend, or a long weekend, the shows are spread across the state, and each carries its own local flair in the attending vendors, organizations and experts.

Here's the Pennsylvania outdoor show schedule for 2017:

Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 26-29 - Early Bird Sports Sports Expo, Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, Bloomsburg;; more than 120 vendors; seminars by Bobby Hart, Kevin Leasure, Frank Angelo, Glenn Orr and Ed Folk.

Friday-Sunday, Jan. 27-29 - Tri-State Outdoor Expo, David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh;

Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 28-29 - Monaghan Township Fishing Show and Flea Market, Monaghan Township Volunteer Fire Department, Dillsburg;;  100 vendor tables.

Friday -Sunday, Feb. 3-5 - Washington County Sport Show, Washington Crown Center, Washington.

Saturday-Sunday, Feb. 4-12 - Great American Outdoor Show, State Farm Show Complex, Harrisburg;; more than 1,100 vendors; more than 200 seminars.


Sunday, Feb. 12 - Gilbertsville Sportsman's Flea Market, Gilbertsville Fire Company, Gilbertsville.

Friday-Sunday, Feb. 17-19 - Allegheny Outdoor, Sport and Travel Show, Monroeville Convention Center, Monroeville;; seminars by Michael Huff.

Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 23-26 - Greater Philadelphia Outdoor Sportshow, Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks;; seminars by Hank Parker and Joe Thomas; new this year, Fred's Shed DIY boat maintenance tips.

Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 23-26 - Jaffa Sports Show, Jaffa Shrine Center, Altoona;

Friday-Sunday, March 3-5 - Erie Outdoor Sport and Travel Expo, Bayfront Convention Center, Erie;

Saturday-Sunday, March 4-5 - Susquehanna 23 Outdoor Hunting and Fishing Equipment Show, Midway Emergency Services, Hanover.

Sunday, March 19 - Bechtelsville Sportsman's Flea Market, Bechtelsville Fire Company, Bechtelsville.

More from PennLive

Media Files:

What do your backyard birds want to eat?

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 14:00:00 UTC


Here's your guide to selecting and offering the feeder seeds that will attract the birds you want. Watch video Backyard bird-feeding can be as simple scattering a bag of general seed mix in some likely spot in the backyard. It also can become an engulfing passion, complete with a plethora of feeder designs offering an equally wide range of seed, some specialized to attracting and serving highly sought-after bird species. Here's the list of feeder seeds and the part each can play in your feeding program: Black-oil sunflower If you're going to offer just own type of seed to the birds, black oil sunflower is that seed. It's the most widely accepted seed among the widest array of backyard bird species. Black-oils have thin shells that are easy to crack for nearly all seed-eating birds and the kernels inside carry a high fat content. The seeds will be vacuumed up by the birds in whatever feeder they are offered, everything from hanging tube feeders to a bare spot of ground.   Safflower The seed of the safflower is a specialty offering in a backyard feeder, particularly attractive to cardinals. To make it even more appealing to cardinals, safflower should be offered in a bin- or hopper-type feeder placed close to evergreen escape cover. Chickadees, doves and several species of sparrows also will eat safflower seeds. Some backyard birders have reported that squirrels do not show a preference for safflower, but that is also true for many common backyard bird species. Safflower has a thick shell, hard for some birds to crack open, but is a favorite among cardinals. Some grosbeaks, chickadees, doves, and native sparrows also eat it. According to some sources, House Sparrows, European Starlings, and squirrels don't like safflower, but in some areas seem to have developed a taste for it. Thistle or nyjer A relatively expensive addition to the backyard feeder offerings, thistle or nyjer seed nevertheless is a preferred purchase for many backyard birders. It's the preferred seed for goldfinches and other small finches, like the indigo bunting, redpoll and pine siskin. To better ration the seed away from other species of birds that will be just as content with cheaper seeds, offer the seed in a thistle feeder, which is a tube feeder with the perches above the seed-dispensing openings. The thistle feeder caters to the unique feeding style of the goldfinch, which has evolved to hang upside down while plucking seeds from thistle flowerheads. How does your backyard bird checklist stack up? White proso millet Many species of ground-feeding birds prefer white proso millet, including juncos, sparrows and towhees. To accommodate those species' habit of feeding on the ground, offer the millet there or in tray-type feeders. On the downside, white proso millet also is a favorite among house sparrows, starlings and blackbirds, which are not favored species among many backyard birders. Corn Cracked corn is on the menu for a wide range of backyard species, from blue jays to mourning doves. Whole, dried kernels of corn also are attractive to species like blue jays, crows and grosbeaks. And, dried cobs of corn placed around the backyard in spots away from the bird feeders can help to draw the attention of feeder-raiding squirrels. On the downside, corn is highly attractive to starlings and house sparrows, and to mammals like bear and deer, which can become a problem around bird feeders. Peanuts In-the-shell peanuts are another feeder food that can be placed about the backyard to draw squirrels away from bird feeders. The little goobers also are highly attractive to blue jays, which will spend hours finding and gathering them and flying them off for hiding in the crooks of trees. Avoid these Flax, milo, golden mi[...]

Media Files:

Birders: How does your backyard checklist compare?

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 14:30:00 UTC


While rarities like red crossbills and evening grosbeaks set the online birding boards abuzz, most backyard birders and bird feeders also relish the visits by their more common regulars.

Penn State forestry students make annual climb of 142-foot tree

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 13:45:00 UTC


Penn State Mont Alto arboriculture class ends 15-week class in safely and efficiently climbing trees to properly care for them with Big Tree Climb.

When will the Hanover nestcam bald eagles produce eggs?

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 16:30:00 UTC


The pair of bald eagles at the nest near Codorus State Park at Hanover have demonstrated a fairly consistent timing for egg laying over the past two years. Watch video

The adult bald eagles at the nest near Codorus State Park at Hanover, York County, have been active at the nest, but have not yet shown any behaviors that would signal imminent egg-laying.

They've brought new sticks to the nest and threaded them into position. They've shared and squabbled over several meals, including an opossum and a gray squirrel. They've been spending considerable time together.

All of those behaviors are part of eagle courtship, bonding and mating ritual process.

According to the Raptor Research Project, "other behaviors that will deepen their commitment while bonding" will include "perching together, rubbing against each other, beak kissing, vocalizing, hunting together and sharing prey."

All of that, plus some spectacular, talon-locking courtship flights, will eventually lead up to the female signaling "her readiness to mate in a dominance display by gently 'footing' her mate, wiggling her tail or mounting him while vocalizing."

And then, 5-10 days after copulating, the female will lay her first egg, which usually is followed by a second egg a few days later and rarely a third a bit later.

Bald eagles in Pennsylvania: You might be surprised

In the two years that the Pennsylvania Game Commission and partners have monitored the nest near Hanover with a live-streaming webcam, mid-February has been egg-laying time.

Last year, the female laid the first egg on Feb. 18 and the second on Feb. 21. One of the eggs hatched on March 28, but the chick died. The other egg never hatched.

In 2015, the first egg was laid on Feb. 14 and the second on Feb. 27. The first hatched on March 24. The second hatched on March 25. The two eaglets fledged on June 22.

More from PennLive

Media Files:

Coyote hunts in Pennsylvania, at least 23 in 2017

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 15:51:00 UTC


Prize money, love of the sport, predator control attract thousands of Pennsylvania coyote hunters into organized hunts across the state. Watch video More than 4,000 hunters are expected to register for this year's Mosquito Creek Sportsmen's Association coyote hunt, the biggest and longest-running coyote hunt in Pennsylvania. The Clearfield County- based organization, which will run its statewide hunt Feb. 17-19, annually attracts the largest number of hunters and sees the largest number of coyotes killed because of the large pot of prize money offered in the contest. Last year, a 15-year-old 10th-grader walked away with $13,185 for a 46.5-pound, Clearfield County coyote, which was the largest overall and the largest female in a field of 186 coyotes weighed-in by hunters. Second prize was $4,983 for a 45.5-pound, Sullivan County coyote. Third prize was $3,322 for a 44.5-pound, Centre County coyote. Every coyote entered into the contest earned $90 for the successful hunter. Learn more about the Mosquito Creek Sportsmen's Association coyote hunt Money like that maintains Mosquito Creek's position at the top of the organized coyote-hunting world in Pennsylvania, where at least 23 hunts will be held this year, and leads other organizations - six this year - to hold their hunts over the same weekend. Many coyotes are weighed into several contests. A pair of organizations - Shavers Creek and Tubmill Trout Club - have dropped their coyote hunts this year and a hunt based in Sullivan County, New York, has expanded the area of Pennsylvania from which coyotes will be accepted into the contest. While there are exceptions, most hunts allow for coyote hunting anywhere in Pennsylvania. Here's the schedule of hunts for 2017: Jan. 20-22 - Endless Mountain Coon Hunters, Springville, 12th annual,; Little Valley Sportsmen, Saxton, 814-635-3681; Paul's Trading Post, Kane, third annual, 814-945-6504; United Sportsman Camp 271, Huntingdon Mills, 15th annual,; Woodcock Valley Sportsmen's Club, James Creek, sixth annual, Jan. 27-29 - District 9 Pennsylvania Trappers Association, Tunkhannock, 570-942-6895; Jerome Sportsmen, Jerome, ninth annual, 814-483-0084. 11 things you don't know about coyotes in Pennsylvania Feb. 10-12 - Cresson Community Sportsman's Association, Cresson, 10th annual,; Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs of Sullivan County, New York, 10th annual,; St. Clair Tremont Trap and Field Club, Johnstown, 15th annual, 814-6109-5373. Feb. 11-18 - Port Clinton Fish and Game Association, Port Clinton, 14th annual, Feb. 12-19 - Pennsylvania State Hunters Organization, Newport, 12th annual, 717-444-7061. Feb. 17-19 - Colver Sportsmen's Club, Colver,; Laurel Highlands Predator Hunt, Mount Pleasant, 724-455-5217; Mosquito Creek Sportsmen's Association, Frenchville, 26th annual,; Rolfe Beagle Club, Johnsonburg, 814-964-2961; St. Marys Sportsmen, St. Marys, 14th annual,; Sigel Sportsmen's Club, Sigel,; Sinnemahoning Sportsmen's Association, Sinnemahoning, 12th annual, 814-546-2835. Feb. 17-25 - Ellsworth Sportsmen's Club, Scenery Hill, third annual, Feb. 24-26 -  Sullivan County Coyote Hunt, Laporte, 12th annual, March 3-5 - Liberty Township Sportsmen's Association, Blanchard, fifth annual, March 11-12 - Corydon Township Coyote Hunt, Bradford, 18th annual, 814-598-[...]

Media Files:

Why is January's full moon known as the full wolf moon?

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:00:00 UTC


Native Americans, who lived closer to their environment, faced a very real reminder of why they knew it as the full wolf moon. Watch video

The full wolf moon will hit its peak at 6:34 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 12.

When wolves were a widespread, top-tier predator across the North American landscape, including the area that today is Pennsylvania, the full moon of January was known by Native Americans and early European settlers as the full wolf moon.

Those earlier peoples lived their daily lives in proximity to the large canines. As the depths of winter closed in on them in January, the wolves could be heard howling just outside the village and at the edge of the homestead, where they foraged for scraps left by the humans and posed a constant threat.

Today, with a wolf-sized, wolf-coyote hybrid roaming most of Pennsylvania and much of the rest of eastern North America, tomorrow's full moon might more appropriately be called the full coywolf moon or full coyote moon.

Some Native Americans also knew the January full moon as the old moon, acknowledging that while winter still held sway, the newness of spring was on the way.

The most 'Pennsylvania' things at the Farm Show

More videos from PennLive

Media Files:

Bald eagles in Pennsylvania: You might be surprised by the facts

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 13:45:00 UTC


Like many large, charismatic species, the bald eagle is the focus of a great deal of misinformation and unfounded lore.