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It’s In Your Nature: How animals respond to adversity

It wasn’t too long ago that over a two- or three-day period we were entrenched in smoke. As a soon to be an even older fogie, I cannot ever recall anything like what the air and sky around us was like from the huge wildfires in Canada. Our focus, and the media’s focus, was on the effects the smoke laden air would have on our health. And who knows?

My thoughts though went somewhere else. Since I have a passion for the outdoors (particularly birds), I can’t even imagine with well over 9 million acres of forests destroyed, how has this affected so many species of birds that just struggled through migration to make it to the boreal forests where they set up breeding territories, nest, and hopefully replenish their numbers.

I suspect that birding friends, Dave Hawk, Rich Rehrig and I will see a “bunch” less birds next spring making their way north through our Times News region. Magnolia, Canada, yellow-rumped warblers, and many flycatcher and sparrow species will have to be decimated. I/we are hoping the populations can recover but the number of young birds this year will certainly be greatly reduced. I suspect the tree tops next spring will be a bit quieter.

A few years ago, tremendous amounts of California’s countryside burned. It too sent tremendous amounts of smoke airborne. Unfortunately, the timing was poor.

Many Pacific Flyway migrating birds altered their southward flights farther to the east and ended up flying through much more arid areas of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona for example. Thousands of birds were being found each morning.

The hypothesis was that these insect eating birds, normally feeding in the forested and shrub covered areas of Oregon and California, found very little sustenance in the chaparral and mesquite covered high desert lands here.

Their stored energy reserves were used up in flight and couldn’t get “refueled” in drier habitats. Let’s hope they are beginning to recover their numbers.

In early autumn of 2021 blue tongue disease killed many white-tailed deer. The disease hit very hard in the East Penn, Bowmanstown, and Lower Towamensing areas.

If a whitetail contracts the disease it only has a 2 to 5 % chance to survive. Most died. Deer with a normal birth of twin fawns, can build back their numbers pretty quickly, if predators or hunters don’t take too many,

You probably recall this winter produced only 13.1 inches of snow (Wilkes-Barre official reports). But, Wyoming just made it through a devastating winter for wildlife. Heavy, heavy snowfall amounts and colder than normal temperatures decimated the mule deer and pronghorn antelope herds. Records indicated that over 90% of the collared first year deer died. Nearly 60% of the adults died as well. Making matters worse, many more were killed in highway collisions where in desperation they sought out some vegetation exposed by snowplows.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: Which of these North American mammals sheds its “head gear” each year. A. mule deer; B. pronghorn antelope; C. elk; D. white-tailed deer; E. all but the antelope; F. all of these.

Last week’s Trivia Answer: The northern copperhead is a close relative of the cottonmouth (water moccasin) of the southern U.S.

Palm warblers migrate through our region in spring and fall. Ninety-eight percent of them breed in the boreal forests of Canada. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Ruby-crowned kinglets, and pine siskins, shown here, also breed in the boreal forests. The boreal forest is known as the bird nursery of North America. Millions and millions of birds breed here annually.
ABOVE: Pronghorn antelope make the longest terrestrial migrations in North America. However, the deep snowfalls this winter (in Wyoming in particular), unfortunately halted their migration to suitable feeding areas resulting in great winter losses.
LEFT: First-year mule deer like these suffered great losses in the brutal winter conditions in Wyoming this past winter.