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Wild About PA

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

Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 15:19:13 UTC

Copyright: Copyright 2018

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:

Green moon on April 20? Here are the facts

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:00:16 UTC


Reports of a green full moon on April 20 - caused by some unusual alignment of the planets - are making the rounds of social media. But, are they true?

The full moon on Wednesday, April 20, will not be green, despite several hoax reports making their way through social media.

Maybe you noticed the incorrect day and date relationship in that first sentence. It's not a mistake. In 2016, when we first debunked the green-moon social-media hoax, April 20 was a Wednesday.

This year, April 20 is a Friday. That's different, but just as in 2016, there will not be a green moon on April 20, 2018.

Also, as in 2016, those social-media sharers have missed the fact that the full moon this month is April 30, a Monday.

Bottom line: No green full moon on April 20, this year or anywhere.

It all started as a joke posted to a few Facebook friends in April 2016. It then escalated into a full-blown hoax, shared across social media by people who made no effort to check out even the most basic details of the thing.

The hoaxers apparently went with April 20, which might also be referred to as 4-20, to include a street reference for marijuana in their joke.

Then, one of the original hoaxers eventually went on to support his original, simple meme of a green-tinted moon with an elaborate, but totally false, explanation involving the alignment of the moon with Uranus. Even that alignment won't happen.

That same fakery is being spread again this year.

In 2016, another version of the hoax moved the green moon to Friday, May 29, but that moon also will not be green nor a full moon. Expect the hoax to continue in a similar vein this year, but remember there will not be a green moon.

Some of the original hoaxes, which apparently were first posted on personal Facebook pages, used digitally tinted versions of a NASA photo of a normal full moon like the one accompanying this article. If you see an image of a green moon this year, now you'll know you're being hoaxed.

Media Files:

Where to find the sky-dancing woodcock in Pennsylvania

Thu, 19 Apr 2018 09:00:00 UTC


The American woodcock has a unique courtship known as the sky dance. Male woodcocks are engaged in the exciting display on singing grounds across Pennsylvania.

When will the hummingbirds return to Pennsylvania?

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 09:00:00 UTC


Ruby-throated hummingbirds are nearing Pennsylvania on their spring migration north from the southern U.S. and Central America.

When and how to watch the Lyrid meteor shower

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 09:00:00 UTC


Lyrid meteors, with long trains of dust, expected this week.

As Earth passes through the trail of a comet Monday, April 16, through Wednesday, April 25, observers in the northern hemisphere, including Pennsylvania, could get a good look at the Lyrid meteor shower.

The peak of the shower will arrive in the early morning hours on Sunday, April 22.

The Lyrids generally are not one of the showier meteor showers. They typically appear at 10-20 per hour, but in some heavy years observers have reported more than 100 per hour.

A particularly active shower in 1803 led a Richmond, Virginia, newspaper reporter to comment, "From 1 until 3 in the morning, those starry meteors seemed to fall from every point in the heavens, in such numbers as to resemble a shower of sky rockets."

The Lyrids are debris from Comet Thatcher, which was officially discovered and named by A.E. Thatcher on its most recent approach to the solar system in 1861. It's expected back in 2276.

While they didn't note the comet, Chinese astronomers recorded the Lyrid meteors as early as 687 B.C.

The Lyrids appear to originate from the constellation Lyra, which gives the shower its name, but they are best viewed with by looking away from the radiant. They are known for trailing luminous dust trains that remain visible for several seconds.

Media Files:

Ramp season is on in Pennsylvania. What does that mean?

Fri, 13 Apr 2018 09:00:00 UTC


The ramp, a close-relative of the onion, native to Pennsylvania, has caused celebrations of spring for generations. But, are too many of us joining the celebration today, and can the ephemeral plant survive our appreciation?

Pennsylvania birders drop in rankings in Great Backyard Bird Count

Wed, 11 Apr 2018 14:00:00 UTC


Pennsylvania remains among the top states for participation in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count but a few other states climb higher in the 2018 event. Watch video Pennsylvania's birders slipped a bit as a state in the 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count earlier this year. The Pennsylvanians submitted 6,065 checklists of birds spotted, which placed the Keystone State fourth behind California, with 8,683 checklists; Texas, 6,859; and New York, 6,599. Pennsylvania is perennially among the top states for number of checklists submitted in the GBBC, an annual, international count by bird enthusiasts of birds at backyards, parks, nature centers, hiking trails, school grounds, balconies and beaches. Last year, Pennsylvanians submitted 7,212 checklists, second to New Yorkers with 7,452 checklists and ahead of Californians with 7,117 checklists. The state's birders managed to record about the same number of species this year: 145, compared to 149 last year. That maintained Pennsylvania's status in the middle of pack, tied with Delaware in the 24th position both last year and this. Each year, tens of thousands of volunteers contribute data to the GBBC. The global event encourages bird enthusiasts to contribute important bird population data that help scientists see changes in bird populations. Participating bird watchers count the birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and then enter their checklists at Gary Landham, vice president and chief scientist for the National Audubon Society, explained, "The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in community science. No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds." In 1998, during the first GBBC, bird watchers submitted about 13,500 checklists from the United States and Canada. In this year's 21st annual count, more than 190,000 participants submitted 176,905 checklists, noting 6,310 species of birds. The most frequently reported species were northern cardinal, which appeared on 48,956 checklists; dark-eyed junco, 43,742; mourning dove, 43,412; American crow, 40,959; blue jay, 37,549; downy woodpecker, 36,495; house finch, 34,766; black-capped chickadee, 31,942; house sparrow, 31,884; and European starling, 28,683. The most counted species were snow goose, 4,957,116 birds tallied; Canada goose, 1,626,585; common murre, 1,365,546; red-winged blackbird, 778,311; ring-billed gull, 743,932; mallard, 742,408; European starling, 701,381; American coot, 461,082; common grackle, 382,268; and herring gull, 333,047. To learn more about what scientists discovered the past 21 years and how to take part in next year's Great Backyard Bird Count, visit How many of these birds do you have at your feeders? What do your backyard birds want to eat? Supercharge your backyard bird feeding with these 16 tips Cardinals at your bird feeders could reduce visits by other birds: Outdoor Insider [...]

Media Files:

Bald eagle soap opera heats up at nest near Hanover: The original female is back

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 16:19:00 UTC


The resident female bald eagle appears to have returned to the nest at Codorus State Park near Hanover in York County after being attacked and driven away in March by an intruding female, which also continues to frequent the nest. The resident male continues to hang around as well, and a juvenile makes an appearance now and then. Watch video The original female bald eagle has returned to the bald eagle nest at Codorus State Park near Hanover in York County, according to regular viewers of the online livestream from the nestcam monitoring that nest. Based on their many hours of viewing the nest and the bald eagle pair that had been tending to two eggs laid there in mid-February, they believe Liberty - their name for the resident female - showed up back at the nest on March 31. She's been seen at the nest repeatedly since then. She had been missing, and presumed dead or injured, since another, much larger and younger female - they named her Lucy - attacked her in the nest and drove her off just after 7 p.m. March 10. Lucy also continues to frequent the nest, along with Freedom - their name for the resident male - and a juvenile bald eagle. Although both eggs were lost and the nest most likely will produce no eaglets this year, both adult females and the adult male have been engaged in nest-building and pair-bonding activities. All three of the adult birds have interacted at the nest. On Monday, April 9, Liberty and Freedom had a brief struggle over a fish that one of the eagles had brought back to the nest. Liberty won and ate the fish. Dawn Denner captured the entire action from the nestcam online feed and shared it on Facebook and with Here's what the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which provides the livestream through its website with the help of Comcast Business and HDOnTap, had to say on the activities at the nest. The commission posted these notes on its website. March 27: "None of the adults that have been to the nest are banded or otherwise marked. It is speculative for us to attempt to tell them apart. Females are generally larger, though a large male and small female could appear similar in size. Also, the wide camera angle tends to make the bird closer to the camera appear larger. "It is possible that an adult other than one of the pair that started this season at the nest is attempting to take over this territory. This is known as 'intraspecific intrusion.' There are a large number of bald eagle 'floaters' in the state. These are adult birds that are not associated with a nesting territory. The number of floaters is growing as bald eagle nests successfully produce young each year. "Some of these floaters intrude on active nests. Most intrusion events are quite brief and do not result in nest failure or abandonment, but could if the intrusion is persistent. "This kind of event could be occurring at several nests throughout the commonwealth. As the bald eagle population grows in Pennsylvania, Game Commission biologists expect that we will continue to see eagles fight over territories; it is a testament to the Game Commission's eagle recovery efforts. "As for the eggs, an adult was seen eating one of the two eggs. We believe the egg currently in the nest is no longer viable. It remains to be seen if there will be a renesting. Our biologists believe it to be possible though unlikely. We will learn as we watch." March 22: "As of approximately 3:30 yesterday afternoon, the two eggs were left unattended and exposed to winter conditions. We believe that these eggs are no longer viable. Nature can be difficult to watch. The Game Commission manages eagles in Pennsylvania as a population, not just individuals. Other nesting eagles, including those further north, also experience threats from winter weather and animal encounters. Des[...]

Media Files:

15 best wildflower spots in Pennsylvania

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 09:00:00 UTC


From wildflower preserves to state forests to community parks, Pennsylvania is home to some fantastic spots for wildflower viewing. Here are 15 of the very best.

Largest bird in the sky lays an egg in Pittsburgh

Mon, 09 Apr 2018 14:00:00 UTC


National Aviary in Pittsburgh hopes to see an Andean condor egg hatch in mid-May.

A female Andean condor has laid an egg at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh.

Lianni, as the female is known, is now sitting on the egg in a cave in the aviary's Condor Court habitat, with hatching expected about May 18.

She and her mate, Lurch, make up one of two breeding pairs of Andean condors at the aviary, which is the only zoo in North America that has two breeding pairs.

The Andean condor is the largest flighted bird, with a body about 4 feet long and a wingspan of about 10 feet.

It's considered threatened, but is in much better shape than its cousin, the California condor, which became extinct in the wild in 1987 and is considered critically endangered while being reintroduced in several western states.

The Andean condors at the aviary are part of an international, collaborative breeding program. The aviary also participates in field conservation projects in Ecuador.

While the species is not critically endangered, it is relatively slow to reproduce. Females typically lay only one egg every 18-24 months.

"Andean condor populations are declining, and every hatching is important," said aviary Executive Director Cheryl Tracy. "We're proud to contribute to a global effort to save this incredible species. And, we are thrilled to be able to share the Andean Condor story with National Aviary visitors."

The aviary is America's only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. The collection includes 500 birds of more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild.

Media Files:

Pennsylvania bluebirders will meet in Lancaster April 6-7

Wed, 04 Apr 2018 00:56:55 UTC


Pennsylvania Bluebird Society will hold its annual conference April 6-7 in Lancaster.

A conservation success story and a group that played a significant role in Pennsylvania's part of that success will take center stage in the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania's annual conference Friday and Saturday, April 6-7, at the Eden Resort in Lancaster.

The conference's schedule of top bluebird experts will begin at 7 p.m. Friday, with John and Cathy Everhart presenting "From the Tree to the Bluebird Box: Getting Youth Involved in Bluebird Conservation by Building Nestboxes." They will be followed at 8:15 p.m. with a showing of the 50-minute video, "Bluebirding" by Bob Metzdorf.

The program will resume at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with "American Kestrels Breeding in Nest Boxes in Eastern Pennsylvania: If You Build It They May Come" by John Klucsarits, assistant professor of biology at Alvernia University who's been involved since 1992 in a long-term monitoring project for the American Kestrel Nest Box Program with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association and has banded more than 1,300 kestrels.

BSP President Dean Rust will present his program, "The Ecology and Management of the Eastern Bluebird," at 11 a.m. Since retiring from his dental practice in Lancaster County, Rust has become an avid worker for bluebird conservation, monitoring more than 350 bluebird boxes in 18 locations in Lancaster, York, Dauphin and Chester counties. He also wrote the acclaimed book, "The Beloved and Charismatic Bluebird."

Kathy Miller, an award-winning nature photographer and author/photographer of the "Chippy Chipmunk" book series, will present "Behind the Lens: Photography Tips & Stories from the Field" at 3:15 p.m.

The conference also will feature exhibits by vendors and organizations offering a variety of bluebird- nature-related products and information.

For more information, visit the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania website.

Media Files:

Last blue moon of the decade shines tonight

Sat, 31 Mar 2018 21:01:02 UTC


Second full moon in a month - a blue moon - will be visible Saturday, March 31.

After a January with two full moons and a February without any full moon, March will see its second full moon - a blue moon - tonight, Saturday, March 31. The peak came at 8:37 a.m. this morning, but with clear skies expected tonight, there will be plenty of blue full moon waiting to shine.

As the second full moon in a calendar month, the March 31 full moon earns the name of blue moon.

The first full moon this month was on March 2.

There won't be another blue moon until October 31, 2020.

Blue moons generally happen about every 2.7 years, because the number of days in a lunation, which is the span from new moon to new moon, is 29.53 days, just a bit shorter than the 30 or 31 days in a calendar month - 28 days in February. A year's worth of lunations totals 354.36 days versus the 365.24 days in a calendar year, and that difference builds until there are 13 lunations in a year, producing what we call a blue moon.

The term blue moon is a derivation from an Old English word for betrayer. The moon does not turn blue.

Native Americans knew the fourth full moon of the year as the Sap Moon, the time of year when the sap was flowering in the trees.

More about full moons and blue moons.

Media Files:

15 great walks in the park across Pennsylvania

Fri, 30 Mar 2018 09:00:00 UTC


For National Take a Walk in a Park Day, here are 15 great walks in state parks, county parks, nature preserves and other spots across Pennsylvania.

Eat your lawn on National Weed Appreciation Day

Tue, 27 Mar 2018 09:00:00 UTC


Although persistent winter conditions have held back a lot of growth this year, think about the epicurean possibilities of your backyard weeds on National Weed Appreciation Day, Wednesday, March 27.

Second blue moon of 2018 March 31 - last one until 2020

Mon, 26 Mar 2018 17:00:00 UTC


The second full moon in March, a blue moon, will shine on March 31.

After a January with two full moons and a February without any full moon, March will see its second full moon - a blue moon - on Saturday, March 31. The peak will come at 8:37 a.m.

As the second full moon in a calendar month, the March 31 full moon earns the name of blue moon.

The first full moon this month was on March 2.

There won't be another blue moon until October 31, 2020.

Blue moons generally happen about every 2.7 years, because the number of days in a lunation, which is the span from new moon to new moon, is 29.53 days, just a bit shorter than the 30 or 31 days in a calendar month - 28 days in February. A year's worth of lunations totals 354.36 days versus the 365.24 days in a calendar year, and that difference builds until there are 13 lunations in a year, producing what we call a blue moon.

The term blue moon is a derivation from an Old English word for betrayer. The moon does not turn blue.

Native Americans knew the fourth full moon of the year as the Sap Moon, the time of year when the sap was flowering in the trees.

Media Files:

Ricki the bear's 'new' home growing with huge new site

Mon, 26 Mar 2018 13:00:00 UTC


The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, to which Ricki the bear was relocated from Jim Mack's Ice Cream Shop in Hallam, Pennsylvania, in 2015, has purchased an expansive, new site in Colorado.

The Colorado animal sanctuary that took in Ricki the bear, when she was taken from a rural York County ice cream parlor in early 2015, is about to grow to nearly 12 times its current size.

Under legal pressure from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Jim Mack's Ice Cream in Hallam, Pennsylvania, gave up the 18-year-old, female black bear, who had lived in a cage at the business for 16 years.

She was moved cross-country to a 15-acre enclosure, described as "rolling grassland," at Wild Animal Sanctuary near Keenesburg, Colorado.

The sanctuary, which is about 30 miles northeast of Denver, has announced the purchase of a 9,004-acre ranch near Springfield in southeastern Colorado. The new land is about 250 miles from the existing site.

According to the announcement, the 38-year-old sanctuary is home to more than 460 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other rescued animals and had reached capacity at its 789-acre site.

"Considered the largest carnivore sanctuary in the world, the organization chose to purchase the large contiguous parcel near Springfield due to its size and abundant natural amenities. Consisting primarily of hills, canyons and rocky bluffs blanketed in various species of pine trees, as well as valleys and pastures flowing with native grasses... the property is well suited for hosting wildlife.

"The additional land will allow (the sanctuary) to continue rescuing and rehabilitating captive wildlife for many years to come."

The organization, which specializes in rehabilitating captive wildlife and releasing the animals to live and roam freely within large natural habitat, said it has no plans to close its Keenesburg facility, which sees more than 150,000 visitors annually. The site features a 1.5-mile long elevated walkway that holds the Guinness Book of World Records award for longest footbridge.

The larger and more natural tract near Springfield will become the main receiving facility for new rescues.

At the sanctuary in Keenesburg, Ricki has 15 acres for natural bear behaviors like bathing, exploring, foraging. She was transitioned into that new life gradually and eventually given the opportunity to interact with other bears.

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