• Butcher Bird

    Butcher Bird

    A week of light snow, followed by sleet and freezing rain last January, turned our mountain into an ice rink and penned me inside until it warmed above freezing. That occurred on January 25 when it was 36 degrees and dripping rain at dawn. Late that afternoon our son, Mark, who was living in our…

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  • A Pandemic Year

    A Pandemic Year

    December is my least favorite month. I used to call it the “freezing rain” month. But lately it has been giving me more varied weather from warm and sunny to cold rain, freezing rain, and snow. Since I write my columns four months ahead of time, I’m writing this one during the extreme drought and…

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  • Female Songsters

    Female Songsters

    Last November dozens of migrating white-throated sparrows took refuge in our fields and forests during the early cold and snow. Despite the weather, they sang their “poor Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” song and occasionally they were joined by a singing song sparrow. Like most birdwatchers, I assumed the singers were male, but I may have…

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  • SGL#166 Beaverdam Wetland

    SGL#166 Beaverdam Wetland

    On a rainy Sunday afternoon in early October, my husband Bruce and I joined fellow members of our Juniata Valley Audubon Society on a field trip to SGL#166. This 11,776-acre game land includes the Beaverdam Wetland Biological Diversity Area (BDA), which is tucked in a remote wooded valley in southern Blair County between Canoe and…

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  • The Glory Days of September

    The Glory Days of September

    After the slow, hot days of summer, September with its often cooler, drier days is a welcome relief. Most of the fair-weather songbirds are still here, but some are already on the move by the beginning of the month. I looked out on a wet day in early September and caught a flush of birds…

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  • Losses and Gains

    Losses and Gains

    Last August, near the end of the month, it was finally clear, cool, and free of the bothersome mosquitoes and gnats that make hiking in the hot, humid summer unpleasant. Still, I had persevered most days when it wasn’t storming. On this August day, I chose to walk along Ten Springs Trail. That trail is…

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  • The Yellow-throated Vireo

    The Yellow-throated Vireo

    Late last June I sat next to our mountaintop vernal pond that has become a permanent pond the last couple wet years. For an instant, I glimpsed the white spectacles of a blue-headed vireo as it foraged on a large red maple tree across the pond. Then I heard a singing yellow-throated vireo, followed by…

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  • The Cut-Throat Bird

    The Cut-Throat Bird

    On a hot, humid morning in late June, I climbed to the top of Sapsucker Ridge. As I followed the trail, I was serenaded by the singing of a hooded warbler, a black-throated green warbler, red-eyed vireos, and eastern towhees. Suddenly, I heard harsh, loud, and repeated calling from an agitated brown and white rose-breasted…

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  • A Sedentary May

    A Sedentary May

    After days of fighting my arthritic left foot and back last May, I gave up wandering our trails during my favorite time of year. Instead, I spent hours watching and listening for birds from our veranda. The veranda side of our house faces a roughly-cut patch of grass, the driveway, our 37-acre overgrown First Field…

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  • Those April Birds

    Those April Birds

    Every April I expect more from the month than it gives me. It warms up and then it freezes. It rains then it snows. But through all the changes in the weather, spring forges ahead. Wood frogs mate in the mountaintop ponds. Spring peepers call in the First Field wetland. Best of all are the…

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  • Mid-March Migrants

    Mid-March Migrants

    March almost always comes in like a lion and often goes out like one as well. Last March was particularly brutal and windy with temperatures as low as seven degrees. An icy snow covered the ground and inch-a-half snows alternated with blue-skied deep winter days throughout most of the month. Despite the spring songs of…

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  • Disappearing Birds

    Disappearing Birds

    Last February a hard crust covered the icy snow most of the month. That led to the highest number of common feeder birds I could remember since moving to our west-central Pennsylvania mountain home in 1971. One snowy dawn seven northern cardinals, instead of the usual pair, flew in together and fed from the red…

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