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Birds of a feather

  • A group prepares to leave for Bake Oven Knob. Ron Kline, who is passing out papers, led the group.
    A group prepares to leave for Bake Oven Knob. Ron Kline, who is passing out papers, led the group.
Published October 21. 2011 05:02PM

Kathy Romano, a member of the board at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, bought a plastic osprey that flies in the wind. She thought it would be a great way to greet guests at the Migration Festival during September at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. Since she does not fish she had to go out and buy swivels, line and a pole. It was eyecatching.

Dan Kunkle, executive director of the center, said they wanted to attract visitors and before the day was over there were several new members and many people who had never visited before. It was an event for local and distant people to visit and learn to appreciate nature which would lead to support for conservation.

The Lehigh Gap Nature Center is a non-profit, member-run conservation organization located in the Lehigh Gap of Pennsylvania at the foot of the Kittatinny Ridge, between the towns of Slatington and Palmerton.

In the Great Room are displays such as the one showing the efficiency of a hummingbird making a 600-mile migration flight. It would take the calories in .28 cup of popcorn whereas if a person walked that far he would need 781 cups of popcorn.

Magnets of birds and amphibians could be attached to the pictures on the wall trying to place them in their natural habitat.

Doug Burton said there were 70 eagles that passed Bake Oven Knob in August, a record. He did hawk counting from the porch of the osprey house and told others where to look.

It was the first time the new boardroom was seen by most people. It replaced the patio of the old Osprey house.

Both Saturday and Sunday of the mid-September weekend began with bird walks. A group went to Bake Oven Knob to hawk watch and on Sunday another group went to Hawk Mountain. The Prairie Warbler Trail across from the Osprey House is an easy walk for family bird watching.

Jeanne Carl from the Carbon County Environmental Education Center talked about Lazarus, a redtail hawk that had a run-in with a car and lost a wing. Carl said she enjoys outreach programs. She said people see the hawks high up in the sky but do not realize how beautiful they are up close. She described the red tail as a badge of honor because it means it became an adult.

The only difference in gender is the size. Males are smaller, which is why the center thinks Lazarus is a male. Carl said a bird cannot always adapt to losing a wing but Lazarus has done well. They have excellent ears and can see in color, though Lazarus seems to be blind on the side he was hurt. If he wants to get off the ground, Lazarus needs help. There have been raptors that learned to climb the wire to reach a perch.

Carl brought what she called touchy feely things such as bird skins and feet.

Downstairs in the laboratory Kubiks, Michal and Clare, brought their collection of reptiles and amphibians including snakes, frogs, turtles and salamanders. Michal said a water snake is loose in his house and is emptying his aquarium of fish. The rat snake can climb trees to take birds. They have a tarantula that can lift the lid of its cage but not enough to escape.

Rep. Julie Harhart and Lehigh County Director of General Services Glenn Solt stopped for a quick visit. Harhart said she was a good friend of the nature center and that the Migration Festival is a great event. She said the Kittatinny Ridge is a great raptor counting site and commended the center for the work it has done. She credited Kunkle and the volunteers for the transformation.

Solt said he has been through the area since the '60s. You came through the section and saw the desolation, he said. You look at it now and see how nature is taking it back. Look at photos from 2002, he said. Lehigh county is pleased with what was done with a little bit of help. It was responsible for putting in a boat launch. He said the county bought the 12 acres of the Pfizer property and plans to put a forest there.

Diane Husic introduced Terry Master who has been studying the Louisiana water thrush, "the best bird in the world," in his opinion. It lives only along streams in the eastern United States, usually near hemlocks. Its food is aquatic invertebrates and it likes to flip leaves to find food. It is the earliest migrant coming north the first week in April, and is also the first to leave.

The population has grown by 29 percent. Since it lives in riparian corridors, the nests are easy to find. The water thrush has a loud, ringing song that people quickly learn to recognize.

Master was asked about the multiple bands on some of the birds in the pictures. They are the Fish and Wildlife band with an identification number, one for the stream and one for the individual. Acid streams lower the population by destroying part of the food at that site.

Corey Husic led a group on a monarch-butterfly-tagging expedition. In the habitat garden were milkweeds decimated by the depredation of monarch caterpillars. The milkweed is their only food. The next step is to form a chryslis from which the butterfly will emerge. Monarchs were seen but were too high or far to the side to catch - teasing us, said Husic.

Finally Steve Hirth caught the first one. Husic removed it from the net and showed how it should be held with all four wings together - one fore and one behind on each side. The male has a black scent patch on its wing. When tagging, Husic checks for fat reserves. The one that was caught was lean.

Information is sent to the University of Kansas. A circular sticker shows that the captured butterfly is now PEN402 and can be traced back to where it was tagged.

Michelle and John McCarroll, both teachers at the Lehigh County Technical Institute, said it was the first time they were there and it was a good time because there was so much going on.

Other programs were on bat migration, phenology, gardening for migration, Audubon at home and, for kids, a habitat garden walk, life in a drop of water and migration crafts.

There were more programs and already there is talk of a repeat of the event next year.

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