As schools, playgrounds, libraries, museums, and all other public events and social gathering places closed down over the past few weeks, many parents with young children found themselves in uncharted water. As a mother of 2 toddlers myself, “just keep swimming” runs through my head on a daily basis (thanks Dory!). Add to that, the indefinite end of playdates and visits to Nana and Papa’s house, it’s been a challenging reality for everyone, to say the least! Like most parents, keeping my kids healthy and happy are always top of mind, but navigating life during the Covid-19 pandemic has added a whole new weight to those priorities.
However, throughout all the cancellations, closures and uncertainties – nature remains constant AND accessible (thanks to people like you!). Pennsylvania has 2.2 million acres of forestland for us to use and enjoy. Not to mention the thousands of acres of public use land managed by other conservation organizations across the state. And while your social interactions on these public lands may be a little different these days (“social distancing” is bound to be the Word of the Year), the numerous benefits of time spent in nature remain the same.
NPC is guided by a mission to sustainably conserve the rural landscape and waters of our region for the enjoyment and well-being of present and future generations. Those two words right there – future generations – have just been resonating so deeply with me lately. Mainly, because I and my family, along with so many other growing families like mine, are the “future generation” that NPC was founded for 30 years ago. And 30, 50, 100 years from now, my grandkids, your grandkids, and so on, are the future generation that this land will be gifted to. Right now, while working through all these new challenges, having places in nature to play and explore, feels very much like a gift! Since it is NPC’s 30th Anniversary, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with some of its founders and dive into the history and formation of the conservancy (more on that coming soon!). I am in complete awe and full of gratitude for those individuals, the community that rallied together to bring NPC into existence, and the ongoing support from our members that have helped carry on the NPC Legacy. Oh, and of course, have subsequently helped maintain this mama’s sanity in doing so. 🙂 Thank you!!
So, when the confines of our home start to feel, well, a little too confining, we grab our boots and head outside. Here’s a peek at some of our recent adventures and some helpful resources for any other folks juggling parenting during the pandemic right now!
From the emergence of new buds to the return of migratory birds and the amphibian activities at vernal pools (check out those eggs!) – Spring is a great time to start a nature journal! It’s easy – observe, write, sketch.
Pick a new outdoor destination (or in our case, one we hadn’t visited in quite a while), pack a picnic – don’t forget to carry out everything you carry in) – and take a drive!
School field trips may be cancelled, but there are TON of virtual adventures available online, including Yellowstone National Park!
What ways are you staying connected to nature these days? If you have any new ideas, activities, or destinations, this Mama would love to hear them!
Stay well everyone and thanks for listening! – Holly HByers@NPCweb.org NPC Office & Communications Coordinator
Tamara Wagner recently joined the NPC staff as the new Land Steward Specialist. Tamara has her BS in Environmental Resource Management with a Minor in Marine Science from Penn State University. Previously, she has served as a Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the USFWS and a Natural Resource Specialist with the USDA. Tamara is also a certified CrossFit Trainer and enjoys daily farm life with her family on their homestead in rural Danville.
Here’s a little Q&A to help you get to know Tamara better:
Q. What are you looking forward to the most about working for NPC? A.My college training was in the conservation field and I’ve held numerous positions dealing with conservation work. After taking a hiatus to raise my boys, I’m thrilled to return to my “roots” in conservation work, to meet local landowners and hear their stories and visit some incredible properties within the NPC region!
Q. Why does NPC’s mission to conserve the rural landscapes and waters of our region matter to you? A.Being a rural landowner and also helping to raise the next generation of conservation stewards is the heart of the way of life for my family. Protect, preserve, and pass it on for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.
Q. What are some of your favorite ways to spend time outdoors? A.You can always find me soaking up some time in the sun, working around our farm, swimming in ponds, or bouncing with my kids on a trampoline!
Q. Do you have a favorite outdoor destination is Northcentral PA? A.Our family loves a good hike at Ricketts Glen, taking in the waterfalls! I’m definitely drawn to locations with water nearby—anything from the Susquehanna River and its tributaries to RB Winter state park and Locust Lake. There are so many beautiful areas in our region and state!
As the Land Steward Specialist, Tamara is responsible for ensuring that all of NPC’s conservation easements are monitored for compliance. To welcome Tamara to NPC and/or reach out to her with any questions, please feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here at NPC, we’ve been proud to serve as your local land trust for the past 30 years! The foresight and generosity of NPC donors throughout these years has helped conserve the landscapes and improve access to some of the region’s most beloved outdoor destinations – such as the Pine Creek Rail Trail, Loyalsock Trail, and the Susquehanna River – just to name a few!
These natural treasures are now a gift that can be passed on for generations to come, thanks to donors like you.
We invite you to continue this legacy and help celebrate NPC’s 30-year history of conserving the land we all love, by supporting NPC during this upcoming Raise the Region event.
Here’s a few ways you can help:
Get ready to give! You can help NPC surpass our goal of $5500 by donating during the campaign.On March 11 – 12, starting at 6PM on March 11, visit www.raisetheregion.org and make a donation to Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy. You will have 24 hours to make your donation, and all giving will end at 11:59PM on March 12.
Help us spread the word! Helps others learn about NPC by sharing this email and upcoming Facebook posts about the campaign. Ask others to do the same.
Become a fundraising champion. Sign up to become a fundraising champion to help drive people to our Raise the Region profile on March 11 – 12. Contact Holly for more information.
Wetlands are land areas that are saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally. They are rich with biodiversity and provide critical habitat for many species of migratory and resident birds, reptiles and amphibians, fish, insects, and plants. In fact, 40% of all species live or breed in wetlands! Wetlands also provide a variety of important ecosystem services, such as storing floodwaters, cleaning and recharging groundwater, sequestering carbon, trapping sediment, and filtering pollutants for clean water. In addition, Wetlands offer economic opportunities for recreation activities like boating, fishing, hunting, bird-watching, and canoeing. The variety of life, or the biodiversity, that can be found in wetlands plays a major role balancing the health and wellness of the entire planet.
Inland wetlands, such as the ones found in Pennsylvania, include marshes, ponds, lakes, fens, rivers, floodplains, and swamps. For the past 30 years, NPC has played an active role in helping to conserve these delicate ecosystems across the region. Here’s a look at some of those conserved land:
Pennsyl & Homer Webster These two sisters properties located just north of Wellsboro cover a large area of wetland, locally known at the “The Muck.” The area was once used to raise lettuce and celery, but today hosts as a breeding ground for a variety of birds, including Marsh Wrens, American Bitterns, Common Snipe, Virginia Rail and Sora Rail. It’s been designated as one of Pennsylvania’s Important Bird Areas and offers a boardwalk and wildlife viewing blind for the public to enjoy.
Cavanaugh Access Many people know the Cavanaugh Access Area because it provides quick access to the Pine Creek Trail. However, this 132-acre parcel of land also helps conserve important wetlands along Marsh Creek. The wetlands are extensive, fed by Canada Run, and close to wooded areas. This allows wildlife to use the wetlands and Creek by moving from the forest to the stream and wetlands and back. Marsh Creek is a major tributary to Pine Creek. Marsh Creek meanders and bends through this property for nearly one mile. This Creek and its associated wetlands are a huge sponge that provide water year round that helps keep Pine Creek’s water cooler in the summer.
Clinton County Solid Waste Authority (CCSWA) Wetland mitigation is the restoration, creation or enhancement of wetlands for the purpose of compensating for unavoidable impacts to wetlands at another location. During the 1990’s, the CCSWA worked closely with the Army Corps of Engineers to construct a mitigation wetland to replace an area that was impacted during their expansion. Today, NPC holds a 49-acre easement on the land, protecting the wetlands’ water, soil, fish and wildlife conservation values.
PPL Wetlands This property was the first conservation easement of any type in Montour County back in 2008. The entire conserved property consists of nearly 109 acres and includes a 5-acre mitigation wetland constructed by PPL, 59 acres of wooded wetland, cropland, and creek frontage. Today, dragonflies can be found patrolling above the water and broods of ducks raise their young here.
Fossil Farm The 150-acre easement holds a variety of unique environmental values, including a beaver pond and several other large wetland areas. Catlin Hollow Creek flows through the property before entering Crooked Creek before winding its way to the Chesapeake Bay. This property helps to conserve the water quality of not only this region, but plays a vital role on a much larger scale as well!
Canoe Access Development Fund Awards Grant for Avis Canoe Launch
This past November Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy
applied for a grant to install a geocell at the Avis Canoe Launch and make some
improvements to the parking area.
The path from the parking area down to Pine Creek is a
compacted dirt path that gets slick when wet, making the walk down to the creek
and getting in and out of the creek a little tricky. One way to address the mud
at the Creek’s edge is with a geocell. The Bureau of Forestry and Pennsylvania
Fish and Boat Commission have used these at other canoe access points across
the state. The geocell is made of a heavy duty material, and when stretched
out, it looks like a honeycomb. Stone is used to fill in the “hole” in the
honeycomb. The geocell helps hold the stones in place and keeps the stones from
squishing down into mud. This will make the access/landing area at the Avis
Canoe Launch more pleasant to use, and a little safer.
Stone will also be used to improve the pathway from the
parking area down to the stream. Right now, there’s a gate at the top of the
path. The gate will be replaced with a bollard (a single, solid, post). It will
be easier for people to carry their equipment past the bollard than around the
Local fire companies use the site to fill tanker trucks. By
replacing the gate with a bollard we’re also making it easier for them to get
the necessary hoses and equipment down to the water, saving them time during
The parking area improvements will include more stone to
help with mud and some signage. The vegetation will also be cut back and a
split-rail fence installed to help visitors understand where the public access
is and is not.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy manages the Canoe Access Development Fund. We’re grateful for the opportunity to apply and work with one of our partners in conservation!
Ownership of the Avis Canoe Launch was recently transferred to the Bureau of Foresty, ensuring that the Launch will remain open to the public for generations to come! A ribbon cutting ceremony is being planned for this summer, following the completion of the site improvements.
Plunketts Creek Streambank Stabilization Funded
The Pennsylvania Chapter of Trout Unlimited recently awarded
Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy a Coldwater Heritage Program grant to
help cover the costs of stabilizing a stretch of Plunketts Creek in Plunketts
Creek Township, Lycoming County.
Currently, eroding streambanks are adding sediment to
Plunketts Creek and covering the substrate on the bottom. Plunketts Creek is a
HQ-CWF (High Quality-Cold Water Fishery) that is also designated as a naturally
reproducing trout stream. All of that means, the water quality of the stream is
really good and native fish and other aquatic species can live there.
This project will stabilize the streambanks and immediately
end the erosion at this site and stop sending sediment downstream. There is
some concern that if not addressed these eroding streambanks could cause the
stream to degrade and eventually be considered impaired. By immediately
stabilizing the streambanks, we’ll eliminate the source of the sediment and over
time, the sediment on the stream bottom will flush out of the system.
Plunketts Creek is a relatively small watershed. Most of the
headwaters of the watershed is forested with a large section of the stream on
State Game Lands. During the 2011 and 2016 flooding the stream experienced at
least 500 year floods each time. This caused significant erosion in this stream
stretch and the erosion is continuing today.
This project will use a series of log framed deflectors to stabilize the eroding stream bank of Plunketts Creek. Random boulders will also be used in the project to create additional aquatic habitat. Partners on this project include the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, and several private landowners.
Thank you, again, to the Pennsylvania Chapter of Trout Unlimited for this project funding!
With the winter solstice approaching and the holiday season in full swing, what’s your go-to way of staying cozy and warm? Throw another log on the fire? Pull out your favorite sweater for an extra layer? Or perhaps, you’re in the kitchen cooking up a hearty stew?
As humans, we have many ways that we can keep out the cold by altering our environment. But of course for our Pennsylvania wildlife, adjusting the thermostat is not an option. Fortunately, they have a variety of amazing physical and behavioral adaptations to help them survive the winter.
Here’s a look at a few of those wintertime adaptations!
A New Coat Some mammals, such as the snowshoe hare and ermine, change color to help camouflage themselves and elude predators. In the fall, as the days become shorter, they’ll start to molt their brown fur and instead don a white coat to match the snow just in time for winter.
The white-tailed deer’s coat changes from a reddish-brown to a dark, grayish-brown in the winter months. The winter coat consists of long, thick, hollow guard over wooly, densely packed underfur. That design locks in the deer’s body heat and provides insulation capable of holding snow on the animal’s back without melting.
Hibernate While you might be quick to assume that all bears hibernate, it’s actually a common misconception! Only a few Pennsylvania mammals are true metabolic hibernators, meaning their respiration and heartbeat slow dramatically, and body temperature falls to near freezing. These include the woodchuck, the 2 jumping mouse species and all 11 bats common to the state.
Torpor Black bears, common in PA, fall into this winter survival strategy category. Torpor occurs when an animal lowers its heart and respiratory rate down to a point that saves energy, but is not the near death of hibernation. Animals in torpor are capable of being aroused and/or waking occasionally to move about and eat. Other common animals in PA that have extended periods of torpor include chipmunks, skunks, and raccoons.
Frozen Alive Several species of frogs, including the common Wood Frog, are freeze tolerant, meaning capable of surviving episodes of freezing. They’ll remain frozen under leaf litter or rotting logs throughout the winter, until their anti-freeze like blood helps them defrost. They’ll be the first amphibians to congregate in vernal pools for mating in the spring.
Teamwork Many animals find warmth in numbers throughout the winter. Snakes usually move from a summer habitat to a winter den in caverns or crevices of rock formations. In fact, many different species of snakes may even den together.
Honeybees really prove that they are the ultimate workers in the winter. To insulate the colony as outside temperatures drop, the honey bee workers form a cluster around the queen and the brood (immature bees, from eggs to larvae) to keep them warm. As the temperatures drop, the worker bees will generate heat by flexing the flight muscles located within the thorax of their bodies, keeping the inside of the cluster at a cozy 90 degrees. Bees on the outside of the cluster trade places with those at the center to maintain the cluster temperature, and feed on stored honey in the hive throughout the winter.
Happy Winter Solstice everyone! Don’t let the cold weather stop you from enjoying the beautiful Pennsylvania wilds this winter….and be thankful you’re not a wood frog! 🙂
Ahhh, Thanksgiving! A
whole day set aside to pause, reflect, and just appreciate what you have. As you celebrate with friends and family over
the coming days, here are some simple, eco-friendly tips to help you show some
gratitude for Mother Nature along the way:
Buy local. When shopping for ingredients for your holiday meal, consider buying locally sourced food. Buying local helps support our rural economy and reduces the transit waste associated with shipping foods long distance.
Decorate with nature. Ditch the plastic and synthetic decorations. Instead, take a walk outside for tablescape inspiration. Collect pinecones, acorns, colorful leaves and twigs to use as decoration or adorn the table with seasonal gourds that can be sent home as gifts for your guests at the end of the night. *Bonus idea: Get the kids involved! Send the kids or grandkids outside to collect and see what natural treasures catch their eyes.
Use the good the dishes and cloth napkins. While the ease of using disposable dishes and plastic utensils may seem tempting, they create a TON of waste. However, if you need to use disposable table settings, look for biodegradable or compostable options.
Reduce food waste. Speaking of compost, composting kitchen scraps can have a huge impact. When we throw away kitchen scraps or leftovers, we’re throwing away all the water, fertilizer and fuel used to grow and transport that food. At a landfill, that food waste releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Strive to repurpose leftovers (perhaps in a creative new recipe) and/or compost scraps to recycle those nutrients back into the soil.
Shake off that post-meal drag by getting outside. Whether it’s a hike through the woods, a walk around the block, or a game of flag football – finding ways to connect with each other while also connecting with nature: it’s a win/win. Find trails here and #OptOutside this Thanksgiving.
While Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, it’s also inevitably the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. Here’s some quick ideas to keep in mind as you prepare to check off your gift list:
Avoid unnecessary purchases. Buying less conserves our natural resources, reduces wastes in landfills, and lowers greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and shipping.
Buy gifts secondhand. Shop thrift stores and online marketplaces to give new life to gently used (and often unique) items.
Give the gift of time or experience, instead of products and gadgets.
Shop for gifts by local artisans and fair trade products.
Support your local land trust. You can help direct corporate giving to NPC while you shop this year, through Target Circle and Amazon Smile. You can also join the #GivingTuesday global movement by donating to NPC on December 3rd.
Strive to incorporate one or even all of these ideas into your Thanksgiving traditions this year, and Mother Nature will thank you too!
Project Summary: The Pine Creek Rail Trail currently runs 62 miles from Wellsboro Junction in Tioga County to Jersey Shore in Lycoming County. The Trail is on the rail bed that once hauled celery, lumber, and ginseng from the region to markets throughout the world. The Trail is popular with tourists, Boy Scout Troops earning bicycling badges, and local residents staying healthy by biking and walking.
While the Trail is a wonderful way to spend part of your day, people have identified a need at the northern end of the Trail. People have said they’d like to have a place to sit and watch wildlife, as well as just take a break to enjoy the day. In this stretch the Trail runs along Marsh Creek and a large wetland complex. The Trail is bordered on both sides by private land with the Bureau of Forestry in charge of maintaining the Trail.
In October 2016 there was an opportunity to purchase 132 acres along this stretch of the Trail. The property was being sold at a court ordered auction. When the Tioga State Forest staff saw the auction sign they quickly called their central office in Harrisburg to see if there would be some way to buy this property.
Staff from Forestry’s central office called NPC’s office. There isn’t a way for the state to attend an auction and buy properties. The rules, systems, and laws in place require various state offices and state departments to review sales contracts for real estate. As you can imagine it takes time for these multiple reviews to take place.
NPC talked to the staff from Harrisburg on a Monday. The auction was set for a Thursday. NPC had 72 hours (almost to the minute) to figure out if the property had conservation value and if NPC could buy it.
The property has multiple conservation values. The NPC board approved staff attending the auction and bidding. NPC was the high bidder.
Other partners include: Bear Meadows Lodge Tiadaghton Audubon Society Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group Waste Management Northern Tier Solid Waste Authority
Conservation Values The property’s ecological features include wetlands along Marsh Creek. The wetlands are extensive, fed by Canada Run, and close to wooded areas. This allows wildlife to use the wetlands and Creek by moving from the forest to the stream and wetlands and back.
Tiadaghton Audubon Society’s members have been spending time tracking the bird species on the property. During a club wide event on a Saturday morning, they counted 47 species of birds.
Marsh Creek is a major tributary to Pine Creek. Marsh Creek meanders and bends through this property for nearly one mile. This Creek and its associated wetlands are a huge sponge that provide water year round that helps keep Pine Creek’s water cooler in the summer.
The property’s location is part of its recreational attributes. Because it’s almost exactly halfway between the Stokesdale access near Pag-Omar Farm Market and the Ansonia Access near where Marsh Creek enters Pine Creek, the Bureau of Forestry plans to create a parking area and access to the Pine Creek Rail Trail at the Cavanaugh Access property. A few benches will be added to the property to allow bikers, hikers, walkers and wanderers a place to sit rest, and enjoy the day. Forestry will eventually create a walking trail to allow people to see more of the wetlands, and hopefully see more wildlife.
Why “Cavanaugh” Access? Earl Patrick Cavanaugh (“Pat’”) and Elsie Belle Colony Cavanaugh bought the property in 1939 from the George Adamy Estate and lived there for many years.
At the time they bought the property Pat worked on the crew of a pusher engine for the railroad. The crew worked a steam engine and would often wait on the siding at Tiadaghton for heavy freight trains or slow moving trains to come through. As the freight train passed the Tiadaghton siding, the pusher engine would attach to the back of the freight train and use the power of the pusher engine to help push the freight train up the grade.
Dr. George Durrwachter explained that pusher engines helped trains for many reasons. Dr. Durrwachter grew up along Pine Creek and the railroad at the village of Cammal. Cammal had a side track to allow one train to pull off so another could pass. The problem was once a train pulled off and stopped it was hard to get it moving again. The pusher crews would help these trains get moving again.
Dr. Durrwachter also remembers watching steam engines work to get started again after stopping at a water tower to refill. As the name implies, steam engines needed steam and used water to create that steam. Water towers were scattered along the rail line so the engines could refill. This meant the pusher engines were needed throughout the rail line to help the heavier trains start moving again after they refilled at the water tower.
“The Cavanaugh Tract’s acquisition is a shining example of how conservancies complement the goals and work of DCNR. After learning this acreage was headed toward auction, and with our Bureau of Forestry urging, this land promptly was purchased by the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy and soon will become part of the Tioga State Forest.
And what a tract is it! Rich in farming and railroad history, the acreage is comprised of woodlands, reverting farmland and wetlands, offering trail-users a welcoming place to rest. Wildlife watchers and birders, especially, are likely to return to this area again and again.”
Cindy Adams Dunn, Pennsylvania Secretary of Conservation and Natural Resources
While we now walk and bike on the rail line for recreation the railroad had gentlemen whose job it was to walk specific sections of the track each day. These trackwalkers would do minor maintenance themselves, identify larger maintenance needs for the crews to undertake, and work to keep the track clear of rock slides and snow.
The Cavanaugh’s were involved in this aspect of the railroad’s operation too. Pat was named after his father, Patrick Josephus Cavanaugh, known as PJ. PJ was a track walker for the railroad. His section of the line was from Marsh Creek down to Tiadaghton. He walked down and back everyday to ensure the railroad’s trains could travel safely.
Pat Cavanaugh doesn’t just help us honor the region’s rail history, Pat also farmed during this time and helps us understand the region’s farming past. He became a full-time farmer when diesel began to replace steam and the pusher engines were phased out. Pat’s nephew, Grant, remembers a dairy at the property as well as Pat raising hunting dogs.
Farming wasn’t new to Pat. He and his brothers worked on the Adamy and Webster celery farms as kids.
Celery and lettuce was grown along Marsh Creek for decades. In 1901 four families owning land along the Creek entered into a legal agreement pledging to each other to keep the land properly drained and cared for to allow the celery and lettuce farming to continue.
Celery farming was a 9 to 10 month process. In mid-January seeds were planted and kept in “nurseries.” These greenhouses were built out of glass and set directly on the ground. One woman whose father was a celery farmer explained she used a salt shaker to plant the seeds in the greenhouses. She then would go back through with a watering can to set the seeds.
The farmers used steam boilers and woodstoves to keep the greenhouses warm. The fires had to be tended around the clock to keep the seedlings warm. Pat’s older brother worked as a “fire man” on the Webster’s farm beginning at age 13. The knowledge and experience he gained with the steam boiler on the farm helped him gain employment with the New York Central Rail Road. This greenhouse experience also helped Pat and his work with the pusher engines.
In April or May the seedlings were moved from the greenhouses to the fields in the wetlands, the Muck. The horse would be outfitted with “muck shoes” before cultivating the field. On some farms the “muck shoes” were blocks of wood strapped to the horse’s feet on other farms it was steel lid covers. The idea was to make a larger surface to distribute the horse’s weight. After the horses were done, the hand work began. The planting in the fields was done on hands and knees. The person setting the seedlings would use their finger to create a hole in the ground, place a seedling in the hole, and then create another hole six to eight inches away.
During harvest, a large knife was used to cut the celery out of the field. The celery was then taken to washing vats. After cleaned, the celery would be crated and staked on rail cars packed with ice. The railroad would set boxcars at designated rail sidings for the farmers to fill. Once the harvest was in and the car filled, the railroad would then hook up the box car and ship the celery.
Pat and Elsie Cavanaugh and their family tie together the railroad and farming legacy of the region. The Cavanaugh Access is a great way to remember the past and work toward a future of walking, biking, wildlife watching, nature photography, and sitting in the sunshine on a beautiful spring day.
“I think this project is the perfect example of what a regional land trust and its members can do,” said Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy Board of Directors Chair Stephen Schopfer “We can act quickly when there’s an opportunity that meets a community need. Then we can work with the Bureau of Forestry and other partners to keep the project moving ahead.”
Steve Schopfer, NPC Chair (former)
Cavanaugh Access Today! Photos by NPC Executive Director, Renee Carey
Halloween is less than a week away and chances are you’ve seen some kind of bat décor on display to complement the “spooky” festivities. It’s probably bats’ nocturnal nature, unique appearance, and folklore affiliations (hint, hint: “I vant to suck you’re blood”) that have long left bats misunderstood and sometimes even feared. However, bats are actually amazing creatures, vital to our environment. Today, we’re helping to kick off Bat Week 2019, an annual, international celebration of the role of bats in nature, by sharing 3 reasons why you really should LOVE bats.
Reason #1: They help with pest control
Humans shouldn’t fear bats…but do you know who should? Pests!
Most bats in North America eat insects, including nocturnal moths, bugs,
beetles, flies and mosquitoes. Many of those insects on the menu are considered
agricultural pests. A single bat can eat
up to its body weight in insects each night – that’s thousands of insects! Eating all those pests helps lesson crop
damage, reduces the use of pesticides, and saves farmers and forest managers
billions of dollars each year.
Reason #2: They are excellent pollinators
Think of it this way, when it comes to pollination, the birds and bees work the dayshift, and when the night shift rolls around it’s time for bats to clock in. While insects are by far the most common diet of bats worldwide, nectar-feeding bats play a critical role as pollinators for a wide variety of plants. For example, in North American deserts, giant cacti and agave depend on bats for pollination. A few other natural resources that heavily rely on bat pollinators include bananas, peaches, cloves, and balsa wood.
Reason #3: And they’re great seed dispersers too!
Vast amounts of the world’s rainforests are cleared every year for logging, agriculture, and other industrial or urban expansions. In addition, drought, fire, and disease continue to threaten these tropical locations. Regenerating these large, cleared areas of forests is a complex, natural process that relies on a variety of animals to help with seed dispersal. However, since fruit-eating bats disperse seeds from hardier, pioneer plants and can often cover larger distances than other animals, the seeds dropped by bats can account for up to 95 percent of the first new growth!
With over 1400 species of bats worldwide, they are essential to not only the natural ecosystems but also global economies. Here in PA, you can find 11 species of bats, all insect-eaters. One of the most common bats you’ve probably seen fluttering about during the evening is the little brown bat. Measuring about 3.5 inches in length, with a wingspan of 9 – 11 inches, this fierce, little hunter is capable of catching 1200 insects per hour. During this time of year, little brown bats leave their summer roosts and move to tunnels, mineshafts and caves. It’s here that they’ll hibernate throughout the winter, and where you’ll find them in their iconic bat pose – clustered together and clinging to the ceiling. Happy Bat Week!
The Northcentral Stream Partnership efforts to decrease erosion and improve aquatic habitat in the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed began in 2009, starting with in-stream restoration projects at just two sites. Over the past decade, they have completed projects at 15+ sites in the watershed and are seeing some of the long term, positive changes from the fruits of their labor!
Get to know the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed: The Little Shamokin Creek Watershed (LSCW) covers approximately 37 square miles and is a sub watershed of Shamokin Creek, originating in Northumberland County to include four municipalities (Rockefeller, Shamokin, Upper and Lower Augusta townships). It is designated for protection of Cold Water Fishes (CWF). The LSCW is largely forested, 65%, with tree farms and deciduous stands. Agricultural areas of mostly pastures and croplands make up an additional 30% of the watershed & urban/developed lands, 2%. (www.littleshamokincreek-watershed.org).
A Before & After at project sites in the watershed: Eroding and undercut stream banks, poor bank vegetation, poor riffle habitat, and embedded substrate are all visible signs of an agriculturally impaired stream. The Partnership’s use of in-stream stabilization structures and implementation of Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), along with continued support from the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association (LSCWA) and the Northumberland County Conservation District, are steadily helping to bring the watershed back to health.
Signs of Success: The Partnership has worked in collaboration with various educational institutions over the years to help document the pre and post-construction conditions of the streams. Data collected by the Freshwater Research Institute at Susquehanna University* shows an increase of lithophilic fish and macroinvertebrates in the watershed.
Let’s Talk Lithophilic Fish Lithophilic fish are species of fish that use the gravel bottoms in streams to spawn. Typically, the fish are laying their egg on the stream bottom and need to attach the eggs to rocks, or use the spaces between rocks to hide their eggs.
If the stream bottom is covered in silt and sediment, lithophilic fish may not reproduce at all, or reproduce in much smaller numbers. The sediment coating the rocky bottom may prevent eggs from “sticking” to the rocks and if the spaces between rocks are filled with sediment there may not be any place for the eggs, or the spaces may be smaller.
The in-stream structures the Partnership uses to stabilize streambanks also help to increase the speed of the water flow during normal conditions. These water flows are not necessarily “fast,” but there is movement in the water. That movement helps keep sediment from settling out onto the stream bottom and can help move sediment that is laying on the stream bottom.
Multi-log vanes and single-log vanes are variations of the same structure. The purpose is to remove pressure from the banks of the stream, and trap sediment along the bank to help restore the banks that were eroded. Typically, the Partners will install a series of these structures. As one structure helps add a little more speed to the water flow, the next structure downstream will trap the sediment from above while also helping to keep the water moving.
Making Sense of Macros To collect data on the macroinvertebrates present, the scientists use a net with an opening shaped like a capital letter “D.” They shuffle their feet and stir up the bottom of the stream for a certain period of time and certain area. They then use the net, flat side down, to collect all the material that is dislodged from their kicking and shuffling. The material in the net is then transferred to labeled buckets. Formaldehyde is added to the contents to preserve the material. The lid is snapped on and the sample is taken back to the lab for processing.
Back at the lab, the material is dumped into a tray, and a random section of the tray is isolated. This isolated section is then moved to another tray. The scientist then carefully and methodically pulls out the macroinvertebrates (water bugs and water worms). Once they are confident they have pulled everything out of the sample, they identify the species of macroinvertebrates found and tally how many of each species were in the sample. This information is then used to determine how clean or how polluted the water is.
Like Lithophilic fish, macroinvertebrates use the stones and spaces between them on stream bottoms. You will find macroinvertebrates living in those gaps or building “homes” directly on rocks. Another way the log structures help macroinvertebrates is by providing woody material the stream. Macroinvertebrates eat wood and leaves. If there’s not wood and leaves in the stream, you’re not going to have the macroinvertebrates that live in clean water and feed fish that live in clean water.
Many of the project sites the Stream Partnership has worked at there aren’t trees along the stream. We’re working in an open pasture or cropland. This means there will not be a lot of leaves, twigs, or tree branches falling into these streams providing food for the macroinvertebrates. One of the functions trees along a stream will provide is that “food” for macros, which then become food for fish. The property owned by Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association is mostly wooded. The trees are larger and extend out over the stream far enough that they’re shading the stream in the summer (trout like cooler water) and the leaves and twigs can fall into the stream providing food.
*Source: Unpublished data by Dr. Jon Niles and Mike Bilger, Freshwater Research Institute, Susquehanna University.
Clean Water = Healthy Communities It sounds simple. As a basic human need, protecting and cleaning up our local water sources should be a priority for every community. Beyond being able to turn on your tap and know that you can get a glass of pure, clean water; a healthy watershed provides opportunities to fish, swim, and other forms of recreation and can be a catalyst for the local economy. From fishing derbies to farmlands, your watershed is vital for your quality of life and your community. Seen below is a father-daughter duo standing on a multi-log vane at LSCWA youth fishing derby – an annual event made possible through the ongoing efforts of LSCWA, the Partnership, and other conservation groups to clean-up the watershed.
While the research discussed above shows the data supporting the recovery of the watershed, another quick way to assess a stream’s health is to ask an angler! Matt Miller, a Northumberland County native and current Director of Science Communications for the The Nature Conservancy, returned to the area to fish Little Shamokin Creek. He shares about this positive experience in his first novel, Fishing through the Apocalypse. You can meet Matt at a book-signing event being held at the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association’s pavilion on Monday, September 30 at 6:30pm.
Leading by Example At the heart of the Northcentral Stream Partnership, are the dynamic people and organizations that have helped grow the programs impact. As the Partnership evolved and maximized its efforts over the years, so too did the individuals involved. Interns became professionals. Landowners became stewards. Volunteers became advocates.
Now the Partnership has become a model for broader reaching plans to help improve water quality across the state and the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a member of NPC or a partner, such as the Little Shamokin Creek Watershed Association, we hope you are as proud as we are to be a part of the solution to restore the health of Pennsylvania’s waterways. Cheers to another 10 years!