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Wild About PA

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

Last Build Date: Sun, 25 Jun 2017 9:03:21 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2017

Much of Central Pennsylvania still waiting for cicadamania 2013

Wed, 05 Jun 2013 13:00:48 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:

Beautiful Pennsylvania: Millersburg Ferry crosses Susquehanna River

Sun, 25 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


For about 200 years the all-wooden, stern-wheel paddleboats of the Millersburg Ferry have carried vehicles and passengers across the Susquehanna River. Watch video

On the last two, all-wooden, double stern-wheel paddleboats in the U.S., the Millersburg Ferry Boat carries vehicles and passengers across the mile-wide Susquehanna River, between Millersburg in Dauphin County and a landing downriver of Liverpool in Perry County.

In a particularly beautiful part of the Susquehanna, where mountains and historic towns press up against the shorelines and islands dot the river, the ferry continues as the oldest transportation system in Pennsylvania. It's included in the National Registry of Historic Places and the Pennsylvania state historic registry.

Although the exact date of origin for the ferry is not known precisely, the volunteer Millersburg Ferry Boat Association has planned a 200th birthday celebration, with music, speakers, presentations and fireworks, for 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 3, at Millersburg Riverfront Park.

According to the association, "When Daniel Miller founded Millersburg in 1807, he reserved the shad fishery and ferry rights to himself.

"An unsigned agreement dated 1817 tells us that George Carson, from Upper Paxton Township and Michael Crow from (then) Cumberland County, were negotiating for the use of Crow's land as a ferry landing.  In 1820, Michael Crow was assessed for a farm, sawmill and ferry.

"Then in 1826, a sheriff's sale transferred Daniel Miller's proprietary reserve and ferry right to David Kramer, who did establish a ferry at Millersburg."

After a succession of owners and operators, when the ferry seemed destined to cease operations, "in 1990, Community Banks of Millersburg purchased the ferry and gave it to the Millersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber formed the Millersburg Ferry Boat Association, a board of nine members from various community organizations, who oversee the seasonal operation of the boats while preserving this historical value for future generations."

The ferry runs two boats - the Roaring Bull V and the Falcon III - 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and Friday, and 9 a.m.-dusk Saturday, Sunday and holidays. They do not run on a set schedule throughout the day, but as traffic, water levels, wind and weather conditions warrant.

The cross-river transit generally takes 15-25 minutes, depending upon water levels.

Private charters are also available.

For more information, call 717-692-2442 or email

Check out these previous Beautiful Pennsylvania videos:

Media Files:

Largest black bear ever in Lancaster County relocated to Dauphin County

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 15:31:00 UTC


Pennsylvania Game Commission and East Lampeter Township police darted the black bear with tranquilizers and moved it to Stony Valley, east of Dauphin and northeast of Harrisburg. Watch video

A 550-pound black bear was darted with tranquilizers and moved from Lancaster County to Dauphin County on Thursday afternoon.

According to, the large, male bruin - the largest ever documented in Lancaster County - was captured near Leola, about 7 miles east of the city of Lancaster.

It was darted and relocated to the Stony Valley area of State Game Lands 211, east of Dauphin and northeast of Harrisburg.

Bear sightings in Lancaster County are rare, but have become more common in recent years. However, they are usually much smaller bears, such as 100-pound yearling males in search of new home ranges to claim.

Game Commission records include no bears have been killed by hunters in Lancaster County in the 21st century.

LancasterOnline reported that the bear was first spotted by a woman and her grandchildren in the woman's backyard, which is surrounded by cornfields and farms. She reported the East Lampeter Township police, who in turn called in the WCOs at 11 a.m.

Meanwhile, the bear was startled by the woman and her grandchildren and retreated up into a white pine tree in the backyard.

The WCOs hit the animal with three tranquilizers before it fell from the tree, stumbled about a bit and finally falling between a shed and wire fence, where it blacked out.

Eight men were required to move the animal onto a tarp and then into a bear cage for its trip to Dauphin County.

It was not the first such ride for the bear, which was live-trapped May 20 in northern Adams County and relocated to northern Perry County, according to Game Commission records for ear tags on the bear. In Adams County it had forced its way into buildings to eat rabbit food and bird seed.

To get to Leola on Thursday, the bear had travelled more than 60 miles and across at least the Susquehanna River in 33 days.

A weight of 550 pounds, which was estimated for the animal using a scale based on chest girth of the animal, is a large bear, but far from a "monster" bear, in Pennsylvania.

Of the 3,529 bears killed by hunters in 2016, 60 weighed more than 500 pounds, 17 weighed more than 600 pounds and the largest weighed 740 pounds.


The largest bear ever recorded in Pennsylvania weighed an estimated 879 pounds. It was killed in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County on Nov. 15, 2010. Since 1992, six bears weighing at least 800 pounds have been killed in Pennsylvania.

Media Files:

Here's where to see rare butterflies on display

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:00:00 UTC


Regal fritillaries have disappeared from nearly everywhere in the eastern U.S., except military training ranges at Fort Indiantown Gap. Watch video The only regal fritillary butterflies in the eastern U.S. will again be the focus of annual tours of Fort Indiantown Gap in northern Lebanon County on Fridays, June 30 and July 7, and Saturdays, July 1 and 8. The tours, which have been offered for more than a decade, take visitors into the rare, disturbed grassland habitat on the training ranges of the military post needed by the rare butterfly population, as well as other ecosystems on the 17,000-acre site. The regal fritillary is closely linked to its native tallgrass prairie habitat, about 99 percent of which has been destroyed through human activities. In response, populations of the butterfly, which once extended from Colorado to Maine, have declined drastically. The species is listed as vulnerable by the Xerces Society, and was proposed for listing under the federal endangered species list. It is listed as endangered by Michigan, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin; threatened in Illinois; and a species of special concern in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Fort Indiantown Gap is the only live-fire, maneuver military training facility in Pennsylvania. The installation balances one of the region's most ecologically diverse areas with a military mission that annually supports 20,000 Pennsylvania National Guard personnel and more than 120,000 additional personnel from other branches of service, multinational partners and interagency partners at the federal, state and local level. The active training activities on the wild lands at the site maintain a habitat of nectar and caterpillar food plants and cover types required by the butterflies. In the announcement of this year's free public tours, Col. Robert Hepner, commander of the post, noted, "Our annual tours allow the public to witness up close some of the natural marvels that can be found on Fort Indiantown Gap's ranges and observe the direct connection between 80 plus years of military training and the rare grassland habitat that the regal requires. "It is our responsibility to preserve freedom, conserve wildlife species and serve the citizens of the commonwealth. For the past several years, we have maintained status as the busiest National Guard training site in the nation and trained 4 times more soldiers on a per acre basis than sites exceeding 50,000 acres. It is no surprise to me that we have increased the amount of training and number of butterflies over the past 15 years." Each day's free, guided tour departs in a vehicle caravan at 10 a.m. However, all participants are required to arrive at least 30 minutes earlier (9:30 a.m.) at the USO Liberty Center (Building 13-190) at the intersection of Rt. 443, Asher Miner Road and Clement Avenue, to ready their vehicle in the caravan lineup, fill out paperwork, attend a mandatory safety/orientation briefing and receive driving instructions. No reservations are required, and no rain dates will be scheduled. Each tour run about three hours, but attendees may leave part way through the tour if necessary. Visitors of all ages and abilities can take part in the tour, which includes out-of-vehicle nature walks on gravel trails and sometimes uneven, mowed paths. They are encouraged to bring cameras, binoculars, insect repellent and sun screen, and to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for that walking. The tour includes information about current efforts to restore native grassland habitat across Pennsylvania and to raise regal fritillary caterpillars from eggs in a lab, with support from the Pennsylvania Wild Resource Conservation Program, in partnership with ZooAmerica and Temple University. The goal is to return the butterfly to areas where they were located historically. The regal fritillary butterfly is just one of the many rare species [...]

Media Files:

Beginning life with a 50-foot fall and other facts about ducks in Pennsylvania

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


From the common mallard to the brilliantly colored male wood duck to the name for a group of diving ducks, here's a portrait of the waterfowl in Pennsylvania.

What and when is summer solstice?

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


The summer solstice is a key point in the passing of the year that was celebrated by many cultures.

Summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the first day of summer falls on Wednesday, June 21, this year.

Technically, the summer solstice is the point at which the northern hemisphere of the Earth is most inclined towards the sun, producing the most hours and minutes of daylight in a single day in the northern hemisphere. It's the day when we get the most daylight of the year.

On June 21 we will see 15 hours 4 minutes of daylight.

From June 22 through Dec. 21, the winter solstice and first day of winter, daylight will grow less with each passing day.

In the southern hemisphere, June 21 is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year there. The southern hemisphere is tilted the farthest away from the sun.

The summer solstice will be celebrated in a livestream event on,  with views of the sun from all over the world, hosted by Bill Nye, The Science Guy and CEO of the Planetary Society; Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer; and Bob Berman, astronomer with "The Farmers' Almanac."

Midsummer's Eve is a celebration of the summer solstice, although it wasn't, and isn't, always held exactly on the day of the solstice.

And, here's some folklore and legend about the summer solstice:

  • Winds blowing from the east May 19-21 portend a dry summer.
  • Falling stars on a clear summer evening foretell the coming of thunder.
  • When the birds of summer gather, the summer too prepares to depart.
  • Rain on Midsummer's Eve (June 24 this year) will doom the nut crop for the year.
  • Herbs gathered on Midsummer's Eve are the most potent of the year.
  • Midsummer's Eve holds most promise for sighting a fairy. Trolls and evil nature spirts are said to be out and about that night.
  • Ancient Druids believed the summer solstice marked the marriage of the Earth and the heavens, which was the origin of the belief that June weddings are lucky.
  • An egg is easier to stand on end on a flat surface on the summer solstice.

Media Files:

Beautiful Pennsylvania: Your first look at the newest park in Central Pennsylvania

Sun, 18 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


Take a look at parts of Dauphin County's new Detweiler Park before it opens to the public on Monday, June 19. Watch video

Dauphin County' will open its new Detweiler Park to the public on Monday, June 19.

The 411-acre park sits at the base of Peter's Mountain in Clarks Valley in Middle Paxton Township.

It is accessed from the rear parking lot of the Dauphin County Conservation District, 1451 Peters Mountain Road, Dauphin.

Detweiler Park has more than nine miles of trails; habitats ranging from meadows to fields to wetlands to evergreen plantations and mature deciduous forests.

It is home to a wide range of wildlife, from deer and turkeys to mink and pileated woodpeckers to butterflies and box turtles.


The Detweiler family previously owned the property. They operated the  Harrisburg Telegraph, WHP television and Stackpole Books.

The family donated $897,500 to help the county purchase the $2.4 million park.

A $887,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and $607,500 in gaming grant funds from the Hollywood Casino were used to pay for the remaining cost.

Media Files:

How many squirrels can you count scrambling up a tree at Detweiler Park?

Sat, 17 Jun 2017 23:28:05 UTC


A pre-opening scouting trip to Dauphin County's Detweiler Park includes an amusing encounter with a family of squirrels. Watch video

While exploring Dauphin County's new Detweiler Park, which opens to the public on Monday at the west end of Clarks Valley, I stumbled across a family of seven gray squirrels. They scrambled up the trunk of a tree one after another, providing the action-packed video shown here.

The 411-acre park sits at the base of Peter's Mountain in Middle Paxton Township. It is accessed from the rear parking lot of the Dauphin County Conservation District, 1451 Peters Mountain Road, Dauphin.

Detweiler Park has more than nine miles of trails; gardens; fields; meadows; evergreen plantations and mature deciduous forests. It is home to a wide range of wildlife, from deer and turkeys to mink and pileated woodpeckers to butterflies and box turtles.

The Detweiler family previously owned the property. They operated the  Harrisburg Telegraph, WHP television and Stackpole Books.

The family donated $897,500 to help the county purchase the $2.4 million park.

A $887,500 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and $607,500 in gaming grant funds from the Hollywood Casino were used to pay for the remaining cost.

Media Files:

Firefly season spreading across Pennsylvania

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


Fireflies are glimmering in backyards throughout Pennsylvania and more are on their way, as is the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival Watch video

Fireflies, lightning bugs - whatever name you might know the little tail-shiners by - have started to appear in backyards across Pennsylvania.

There's already enough of them to send the kids out with some collecting jars. (Remember to make holes in the lid to let any captive insects breathe and to keep them in captivity for only a limited time.)

More will be along in the next few days. They'll probably reach a peak in their annual courtship and mating ritual sometime next week, just in time for the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival Saturday, June 24, at Black Caddis Ranch B&B in Kellettville.

The festival celebrates the annual mating displays of 15 different species of firefly in and around the Allegheny National Forest, including the synchronous firefly and the unique Chinese Lantern firefly along the Tionesta Creek. 

The synchronous firefly (Photinus carolinus) was discovered in the Allegheny National Forest in summer 2012. The insect's flash patterns are in synchrony with each other, so they appear to be a string of Christmas lights hanging in the forest. The only other confirmed population of the insect in North America is in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee.

The festival's highlight, guided, after-dark, firefly walks are booked solid, but from noon-5 p.m. there will be nature exhibits with experts and naturalists to answer questions about fireflies and the forest, activities for kids, arts and craft vendors, music and food. There also will be firefly information and maps of where to find fireflies on your own.

Beyond the festival, Black Caddis Ranch B&B will run nightly, guided, firefly walks through July 1. More information, including ticket details, are available on the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival website. 

Media Files:

The eagle has fledged: Dramatic breeding season ends well for Pittsburgh bald eagles

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:05:37 UTC


The Hays neighborhood bald eagles lost their nest just days after the female laid her first egg. They rebuilt quickly and laid another egg. Now that eaglet has fledged.

A dramatic breeding season has ended happily in Pittsburgh.

The Hays neighborhood bald eagles lost their nest when its tree fell during a windstorm in February just days after the female laid her first egg. The pair rapidly rebuilt -- creating a new nest in less than one week -- and laid another egg. After hatching on March 29, that little eaglet has now fledged.

The Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania confirmed this morning that the eaglet has fledged. Birdwatchers in the area reported seeing it flying alone earlier this week.

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The adult eagles will continue to provide food for their offspring while it practices flying the next few weeks. Once the parents decide it's time, they will drive out the eaglet to begin preparing for the next breeding season. This eaglet is the pair's seventh.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania nests, the two Hanover eaglets have shown signs of imminent fledging and two eaglets in Harmar are exploring the branches around their nest. 

Check out more Pittsburgh coverage on PennLive. 


Media Files:

They're back! Mayfly season under way in central Pennsylvania

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


Mayflies sighted at Wrightsville bridge over the Susquehanna River lead officials to shut off lights on the bridge, where swarms of the insects caused motorcycle accidents in 2015

With the first windshield-smudging sightings of mayflies along the Susquehanna River at Wrightsville, local officials have shut off the lights on the Veterans Memorial Bridge (Rt. 462) over the river and launched the 2017 mayfly season in Central Pennsylvania.

The bridge was the site of three motorcycle accidents in mid-June 2015 that were attributed to the inches-deep buildup of mayflies on the road surface.

Mayflies emerge in masses of millions for mating and tend to swarm light sources, like the lights on the bridge, at FNB Field on City Island and in parking lots throughout the region.

Officials in Wrightsvile on the York County side of the river and Columbia on the Lancaster County side are attempting to prevent a buildup of traffic-threatening levels by shutting off the lights on the bridge during the emergence in that area.

The group name of mayfly was coined when all known species emerged in May. However, some of the 230 species of mayflies in Pennsylvania emerge at different times May through July.

For example, the legendary whitefly hatch in Central Pennsylvania typically begins in the latter half of July on the lower Susquehanna River, near Columbia and Wrightsville, and then moves upriver. From start to finish, it can be spread over four weeks.

As a group, mayflies are small, short-lived (as adults) insects of the Order Ephemeroptera. As adults, most emerge from their nymph form, take flight, mate, lay eggs and die in just a day or two.

As water quality improves in waterways like the Susquehanna River, the size of mayfly hatches in those waterways has increased. That has led to "modern problems," like millions of mayfly carcasses lying several inches deep on the roadway.

The Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association held a Mayfly Festival in late June last year in Wrightsville to note the improving conditions for mayflies and all species connected to the river.

"Up and down the Susquehanna River and on our many beloved creeks, so many of us have labored hard and while there is more work to do to improve the Susquehanna, we also must celebrate the significant results of our clean water efforts," read the announcement for the festival.

"Last year's remarkable four-week mayfly hatch was an important event demonstrating the improving "health of the Susquehanna River and its creeks.

"Many people have complained and see the mayflies as a bad thing, but the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association has decided to use this as an educational moment and time to celebrate the health of the Susquehanna River and our communities.

"The return of the mayflies represents our renewed commitment to having fishable, swimmable and drinkable water for all residents and visitors to our incredible river and surrounding lands."

The association won't be holding a similar festival this year.

Media Files:

Witness a simulated battle from the French & Indian War

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


Reenactors bring the sights, sounds and smells of the 1754-63 conflict to life, and we capture 2 of those 3 senses on video Watch video

Portraying French, British, Colonial and Native American combatants, reenactors camped with tents and gear authentic to the period of the French & Indian War (1754-630 and staged battles with muzzleloader and canon equally authentic to the mid-18th century Saturday and Sunday at Cook Forest State Park in northwestern Pennsylvania.

It was the 15th annual Cook Forest French & Indian War Encampment hosted by the Sawmill Center for the Arts in the park.

The encampment also featured a sutler (merchant) camp and French & Indian War era artisans selling their wares to the reenactors and visitors, council and trading events, children's program, and demonstrations of the weapons and daily life of the 18th century.

"The Seven Years' War (called the French and Indian War in the colonies) lasted from 1756 to 1763, forming a chapter in the imperial struggle between Britain and France called the Second Hundred Years' War," according to

"In the early 1750s, France's expansion into the Ohio River valley repeatedly brought it into conflict with the claims of the British colonies, especially Virginia. During 1754 and 1755, the French defeated in quick succession the young George Washington (at Fort Necessity in Fayette County, Pennsylvania), Gen. Edward Braddock (at Fort Duquesne at Pittsburgh), and Braddock's successor, Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts.

"Throughout this period, the British military effort was hampered by lack of interest at home, rivalries among the American colonies, and France's greater success in winning the support of the Indians. In 1756 the British formally declared war, marking the official beginning of the Seven Years' War."

Media Files:

Bass in Pennsylvania: Living and thriving far beyond nature's plan

Tue, 13 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


Smallmouth and largemouth bass are among the most widespread and popular gamefish across Pennsylvania

What's a Kids Pit? And other scenes from a Pennsylvania rattlesnake hunt

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 17:32:38 UTC


Sinnemahoning Sportsmen's Association hosts one of the last four organized rattlesnake hunts in Pennsylvania Watch video

With half of this year's organized rattlesnake snake hunts in Pennsylvania held this past weekend, just two more remain.

Thursday-Sunday, June 15-18, will see the Noxen Volunteer Fire Company Rattlesnake Round-up in Noxen. The carnival and vendor portions continue throughout the event, but snakes will be on display only from 1-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 17-18.

The last of the 2017 rattlesnake hunts will be the 45th annual Cross Fork Snake Hunt Saturday and Sunday, June 24-25, in Cross Fork. Hosted by the Kettle Creek Hose Company No. 1, the weekend also will feature a fireman's parade, horseshoe tournament, and non-poisonous and exotic snake show.

Snakes of Pennsylvania: 21 species, 3 of them venomous

The Sinnemahoning Sportsmen's Association Snake Hunt, which remains more centered on the snakes and snake-hunt aspects of the event than the other three, this past weekend included a Kids Pit of non-venomous snakes, a chicken barbecue and live-music.

The 62nd annual Morris Rattlesnake Roundup also was held over the weekend. In addition to the snake-hunting competition, which ended in an awards program late Saturday afternoon, included a flea market, one-pitch softball tournament, local performers and fireworks.

Snake myths you might already believe

Media Files:

Beautiful Pennsylvania: A minute by Beaver Run Pond in Elk County

Sun, 11 Jun 2017 13:20:39 UTC


The Beaver Run Shallow Water Impoundment in the Quehanna Wild Area in Elk County is a magnet for a range of wildlife. Watch video

Beaver Run Pond is a shallow water impoundment, surrounded by wetlands and fields, that lies within easy walking-distance of the Quehanna Highway. It rests in the 48,186-acre Quehanna Wild Area, 7 miles southeast of Medix Run in Elk County.

A wildlife viewing area, complete with a large blind, has been developed at the northeast edge of the impoundment on Beaver Run.

The site attracts a range of waterfowl, wading birds, songbirds, mammals and amphibians. 

Media Files:

Turtles of Pennsylvania: Maybe 14 species, at least 1 softshell

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 09:00:00 UTC


Most species are in decline, but Pennsylvania is home to everything from the familiar snapping and box turtles to the little-known northern redbelly cooter and eastern spiny softshell.