Wildlife Sightings: October 18 - October 30, 2019
Prior recent articles have focused on birds migrating through our area on their way south, such as warblers, northern flickers and sharp-shinned hawks. However on this past week’s outings, I noticed a few migratory species that have appeared but which are not just passing through; instead they will settle in and spend the Winter here. In the Crum Woods I saw a few ruby-crowned kinglets, one of the few warbler species that winter here, as well as numerous white-throated sparrows. White-throated sparrows spend the winter scraping about in the leaf litter looking for food. When I hear the sound of scurrying in fallen leaves, it’s almost always white-throated sparrows. And honestly - not just speaking from personal lethargy and inertia here — that’s why it’s a good idea to not worry so much about raking your leaves. Fallen leaves are a natural part of the ecosystem, supporting other species during winter, and fertilizing the soil when they break down. So don’t be too fanatical with the rake.
Rick Stabinski submitted a photograph of a fox that has a den in his back yard. He said it’s not afraid of his dog, and that “there were small tracks on our Honda Accord from the trunk to the top to the windshield to the hood. It walked over the entire car.”
Julie Ellis submitted a photograph of a dead short-tailed shrew. Recall in my last article I mentioned numerous sightings of dead voles, which may have been misidentified short-tailed shrews? In any case, Julie, who is a Senior Research Investigator in the Department of Pathobiology of Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine, said, “My veterinary colleague thinks that this may be part of a normal mortality of young animals at the end of a productive breeding season… hard to know for certain without doing necropsies of the dead animals.”
Heather Jorgensen and Andrea Knox both noted healthy, thriving populations of eastern chipmunks on their respective Rutgers Avenue and Riverview Road properties.
Each week I turn over logs seeking material for this column. This past week, red-backed salamanders finally appeared (photograph). They often have a red stripe down their backs, but the specimen in the photograph was in an all black phase. I read years ago that salamanders come to the surface when temperatures are moderate, and during the heat of summer and the cold of winter, they go deeper into the earth seeking the baseline 55• F. When ambient temperatures approach that temperature, turn over a log or stone in your yard and see if you have salamanders. And speaking of salamanders, has anyone seen any species in our area other than the northern red-backed? There is an established population of long-tailed salamanders — beautiful orange creatures with black spots — in a spring at Hildacy Preserve in Marple, and I’ve seen other orange and red salamanders in other parts of southeastern Pennsylvania. I’d love to know if we have more species to watch for locally.
Charles Cresson submitted a photograph of a white-lined sphinx that landed on his hat while he was working in his yard.
Jonathan Hodgson submitted a photograph of a fritillary taken in front of the Co-op.
Louise Coffin submitted a photograph of a dreadful infestation of spotted lanternflies which she reported was “One swarm of many noted on a maple tree on Dartmouth Avenue.” If you see the flies (actually tree hoppers that can fly short distances) and/or their egg masses, try to bring yourself to smash them. Info on these invasive pests and the damage they do.