NATURE Feed

Electrofishing the Wissahickon

Electrofishing

In a short time, aquatic biologists from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission netted hundreds of fish from the Wissahickon Creek just above the covered bridge - and then returned them to the water. Biologist Aaron Henning (center in photo) relayed that SRBC had won the contract to assess the health of the waterways in this region as part of a national study commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The day before, Henning, his teammate Matt Shank and Michelle Peck from Region III IEPA were working down on the Schuylkill River in the less scenic refinery area. Electrofishing entails putting a weak electrical current in the water through a rod, which actually attracts the fish Henning says, to momentarily stun them. This gives the biologists enough time to identify them by species, take measurements and, for some of the larger specimens, take plugs of tissue to test for PCBs and other contaminants. Henning showed off two large, American eels, a species that lives in fresh water but migrates to spawn in the ocean. The squirming pair were eager for release. More photos here

Watch video here


Horse riding falconer hunts ducks and rabbits

Falconer with horse birds wine assistants
Jonathan Shaw hunts with hawks and falcons from horseback at his 467 acre farm in Queenstown on the eastern shore of Maryland. At the World Horse Expo 2019 at the Farm Complex in Harrisburg, he had two prey birds, his horse and two assistants. His avian hunter is Geronimo, a gyrfalcon, which will hunt ducks and pigeons. His Harris Hawk goes for rabbits, squirrels and, he adds tongue in cheek, “small children.” Historically, Shaw says, falconers would ride horses because they could catch up with the falcon which otherwise would eat the falconer's dinner! The tradition didn't die out until the invention of the gun, the first of which was named after a sparrow hawk, a "musket." Shaw goes on to tell about all the now common expressions that come from falconry like "hoodwink", "under my thumb" and "wrapped around her little finger." Shaw's ideal horse is a pasofino because of its even gait. It won't jostle the falcon up and down when it's sitting on the falconer's glove before release. Prior, he had hunted with American Paint horses but when he was trotting around the farm his "hawk would think I was shaking a cocktail." Watch video interview of falconer describing how he hunts ducks and rabbits with his hawks and falcons while riding horseback."


City crew grinds tree stump

Workers grind tree stump

A severe storm earlier in the summer uprooted a large maple tree on our street and it fell on the roofs of our neighbors’ houses. Some weeks after the tree was cut down and removed, a city work crew and contractor Scott’s Tree Service arrived to grind down the stump. City worker Ed Jardell described how the stump is ground down in sweeping back and forth passes of the grinder’s large rotary blade. The machine takes off more or less two inches at a time depending on the species and hardness of the tree and whether there is any sponginess or rot. Watch video of Philadelphia City crew grinding down the stump of a maple tree uprooted by a storm


City workers grind down tree stump

Stump grinder
A severe storm earlier in the summer uprooted a large maple tree on our street and it fell on the roofs of our neighbors’ houses. Some weeks after the tree was cut down and removed, a city work crew and contractor Scott’s Tree Service arrived to grind down the stump. City worker Ed Jardell described how the stump is ground down in sweeping back and forth passes of the grinder’s large rotary blade. The machine takes off more or less two inches at a time depending on the species and hardness of the tree and whether there is any sponginess or rot. Watch video of workers grinding down tree stump and interview of worker describing process.

Ceramicist makes lovely leaf trays

Ceramic artist plant leaf clay trays interview
Janell Petzko of Shady Hill Clayworks in Media, Pa makes lovely leaf-shaped ceramic plates by  rolling plant leaves directly into clay. She cuts out the shapes she wants and bisque fires the pieces with the leaves still on. After firing, just an ashy white skeleton of the leaf remains atop which gets dusted off. By applying a glaze and then sponging it off, the glaze caught in the crevices reveal the distinctive vein patterns of the leaves. She may then add additional colored glazes. In the winter she uses vegetable leaves such as large kale and pumpkin leaves. She will also use skunk cabbage leaves, ferns, bamboo and other grass leaves. From small begonia leaves she fashions ceramic refrigerator magnets, one of which is now attractively serving its purpose in your correspondent's home. Petzko's wares were on display for sale at the annual Water Tower December holiday craft show in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA.

First Christmas Trees 🎄 🎄 🎄 of season arrive!

Drilling hole in christmas tree

First Xmas tree of season
Charlie Gangloff of Top of the Hill market and a helper hoist the first Christmas tree of the season onto an upright the Monday before Thanksgiving. They expect to receive 1000 trees this season, all grown in Bloomsburg Pa, 90 miles northwest of the city. This one is a 9.5 foot Frasier Fir weighing from 75 to 100 pounds. At the end of the season, Gangloff says customers can drop off their trees through a program of the CH Business Association which will donate them to nature preserves where they provide shelter for animals. On the day after Thanksgiving, Gangloff and helpers were busily drilling holes in the bottom of the trees using a special drilling contraption that makes sure the tree will stand erect when mounted on a post. Drilling Christmas tree so it stands straight.


Naturalists raise, launch Monarch butterflies

Naturalists raise monarch butterflies
Naturalists at the Wissahickon Environmental Center Treehouse are raising and launching monarch butterflies. In the Andorra meadow a short distance above the Trreehouse, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation staffers Christina Moresi and Maris Harmon harvest milk weed leaves on which monarch butterflies have laid their small white eggs. They bring the leaves down to the Treehouse where the eggs hatch into caterpillars. They demand an abundant supply of milkweed leaves to munch on and grow. Moresi has filmed the whole metamorphosis. The grown caterpillars will climb to the top of a screen mesh and spin into milky green colored pupae. As the pupae mature, their casings become translucent and the butterflies' distinctive orange markings become visible. Finally the encapsulated butterflies emerge out of the bottom and pump blood to stretch out their new wings.
The naturalists place a small round tag on each newborn's wing and register it in an online database so if it is found in Mexico or en route, it can be identified. Moresi (right in photo) explains that the butterflies which lay their eggs in the Andorra are the fourth generation of butterflies migrating from hibernation in Mexico. Before they are released, the young monarchs are fed a rich diet of nectar and become flight worthy in a tall netted enclosure. The Center announces when they are about to release a group of monarchs. They are bound for Mexico, an extraordinary 2000 mile journey.
(Interviewer's Note: Conservationists have been actively engaged in combating a severe long term decline in the population of the monarch butterfly, a beautiful and important pollinator, that has been attributed to habitat loss from logging and pesticide use)

Watch monarchs metamorphosis and interview here 


Wolfpig brand wearable art

WolfPig brand T-shirts and bandannas, the story

Video interview here

Wanna hear a cool story? a vendor at the Art for the Cash Poor fair in Northern Liberties asked me as I walked by. Sure! Two friends in a bar are talking about what kind of animals they would be were they to have animal form. One said a wolf because he's fierce; the other, a pig because he's big. Beer spilled on the bar counter and when they looked down at the suds they saw a wolf and a pig. "Wolfpig!" they exclaimed.

The brother of the guy who identifies as a wolf is an art teacher and he knew they wanted to go into some kind of business with the "WolfPig" theme. Along with another art teacher friend they settled on a t-shirt business because "wearable art" is an economical and effective way of making their art accessible to the public. At the fair they were selling exquisitely drawn t-shirts which they had made on a fine mesh screen using a process called discharge. The technique selectively removes the color from the black and grey t/shirts and bandannas they use. Themes draw on Aztec, Hindu and other mythologies and employ the wolf and pig motif, indicative of the yin and yang balance of nature and life. On some shirts the pig is more simply a commentary on the piggishness of the current administration.

inliquid.org/aftcp

"Based on the premise that everyone can be an art collector, AftCP is one of the longest running art festivals in the Kensington/Fishtown area. The best part: all works, by both emerging and established artists alike, are priced at $199 and under."

For more information see wolfpigbrand.com/


Periscope viewers aid baby sparrow rescue

Periscope viewers come to aid of baby sparrow

At our neighborhood train station my son and I  heard lots of frantic chirping then saw a baby bird on the concrete ground. It appeared to have fallen from the wooden eaves high above. I started a live Periscope stream and solicited suggestions from tuners-in :"put it back in nest", "give it worms", "call 911". Someone  encouraged me to take it I to the wildlife rehabilitation I had mentioned. And so I did after my son boarded the train. At the center, the receiving rehabilitator examined the bird, identified it as a plump baby sparrow, said that it was a little splayed but its wing were not broken, and that it would have lots of brothers and sisters for company because people had brought in about 20 some such babies in recent days. It will be cared for until it can  fly and be released back into nature.  Two days later I called back with the case number I had been given and learned from the woman who accepted the patient, that baby bird 2540 was doing just fine. Watch shorter video here. Watch longer video here.

Periscope viewers come to aid of baby sparrow


Plant swappers compete

Competitive Plant Swap

"You bring a plant or garden-related item and you get an item that you like" explains Diane Olesik who has been coming to the Northwest (Philadelphia) Gardeners Association plant swap for several years. After attendees get a paper ticket for each plant they've brought and stage their plants at the designated tables - annuals, sun perennials, shade perennials etc - they hover by the plants they want to take home. Then they spring into some elbowy action when the countdown teaches "...zero- Go!" Cathedral Village, Roxborough, Philadelphia, Pa. Watch video here