Friday, May 5, 2017

State Gamelands (9-Mar-2017)

Another very nice day. I took a drive up to the Poconos for a trash hike on State Gamelands I wanted to explore. I had been to this area before, but I only covered a small portion of the area. This time I wanted to go further and see where some of the trails lead. I am not sure why the game commission cut back the vegetation on the sides of the trail. They may be trying to increase the amount of edge habitat for game species like deer. Much of the access roads I took on this trip looked like this. 

On the edges there was the normal trailside trash. The one benefit to the trailsides being cut was that I could see more items than I think I would have if the vegetation was still there and the items in some cases were easier to retrieve than they would have been.

When I got to this lake I decided that I wanted to try to go all the way around it. I wasn't sure if there were trails or not, but I was going to try. 

A good portion of the trash collected on this hike was found around the lake. I found this pile of water bottles to be odd. It was on a small point that went out into the lake. Who piles up empty water bottles and just leaves them?

Found a couple pieces of foam along the lakeside. Not sure how they would have gotten there. I don't think the stream that feeds this is very large and I don't think it runs through any populated areas. I can't think of a reason anyone would carry foam in either. 

I am not sure why, but I liked this view of the lake. The habitat on the back end was much different than the trails in. Along the trails were mostly deciduous forest and here Pitch Pines dominated the area. I know several places like this in Eastern PA and they are like walking through small sections of New Jersey's Pine Barrens. 

Another great view of the lake. If it wasn't such a hike in I would definitely take my kayak out here. 

At the upper end of the lake I started to find turtle shell after turtle. At first I was puzzled. What could have possibly killed this many Painted Turtles?

After looking at a few of the shells, I think I had my answer. The marks on both the top of the carapaces and on the sides of the shell looked like repeated chew marks. There is only one thing that I can think of that would do this. An Otter. Although they are making a comeback Otters are still very rare in Pennsylvania. I could be wrong, but that is the only thing that I can think of that could leave those kinds of marks and would kill adult turtles like this.

There were no trails that looped around the lake and I ended up just following more access roads on the side I was on. They eventually led back to the trail I came in on and with a good amount of trash collected I decided to call it a day. 

A decent amount for just walking trails. There are still a lot more access roads and trails in this area to walk and I am sure there is much more trash. I am going to try to get back to this location in the summer.

See my most updated posts on Facebook: Taking Out the Trash in Eastern PA

Hickory Run State Park (8-Mar-2017)

A little chilly, yet the sun was shining and it was a nice day. I took a drive over to Hickory Run to do some exploring and trash collecting around Hickory Run Lake. This area can get pretty trashy and I wasn't sure what to expect at this time of year. I picked up some items around the parking area and then headed down to the lake. 

A thin layer of ice still covered the majority of the lake. The top where the run flows in however was clear. When I walked out to the dam Wood Ducks took off from the other side.

I photographed this male Wood Duck as it flew by. Normally at that distance they do not scare off that easily. I wasn't even making any noise. 

Right next to the dam I found one of my least favorite trash items. A diaper. This one was somewhat frozen to the ground. I bagged it up and continued on down trails that followed the run.

I could see trails on the other side of both the lake and the run and I was really trying to get over to them. I followed the trail down until it ran back into the access road and I couldn't find anyplace to cross. So I took another trail back towards the lake.

By the run I below the dam I only found one other piece of trash, Disney Princess Sunglasses. They went in my pack to be added to my sunglass collection.

The trail I took back brought me into a pines on the lakes edge where I found another disgusting trash find. Two more diapers, waterlogged and frozen. I was out of bags and the one at least I knew couldn't fit into a dog bag. I walked back to my car, found a larger bag and returned to pick them up.

When I came back out to the lake I could see ducks swimming again on the other side. I just thought it would be the Wood Ducks back again. Instead there was a male and two female Hooded Mergansers. They too flew off.

This was everything from my first round at the lake. I still wanted to get to the other side and see what's over there. I never had before. So I started working my way to the top of the lake and found a trail.

With a name like Lake Trail I was confident that this one would take me to the other side. Picked up the can at the base of the sign too. 

The Lake Trail itself took me down to the run again and although the trail continued on there was no bridge or way to cross. I followed a side trail up the run and found this small foot bridge which allowed me to cross. I call it a foot bridge, but really it was just a board not attached to anything. If you go hiking in this area, this may not be there for you to cross. 

The view looking down the lake towards the dam. What a beautiful scene. From here I walked down the lake and below the dam where I originally wanted to go. Eventually the trail ran out and I followed a small line of trash that led me to another path. 

The new path I was on was strait and wide and off in the distance I noticed something dark in the trail. I thought it could be a stump, but it just didn't look right. It ended up being a Porcupine. Penny was with me and she didn't even notice until we got closer. Both Penny and I watched the Porcupine for a good fifteen minutes. It just kept foraging in the trail even after Penny started barking. When it finally started to move off the trail I tied Penny up and went in closer to try to get some better photos. By the time I got up to where it was it had walked pretty far off into the woods. It is always good to see any wildlife and Porcupines are pretty cool. 

Penny really wanted to get a closer look. Luckily she has never ended up with quills in her snoot. Porcupines are a great reason to abide by the law and keep your dog on a leash in our state parks. 

On the way back to the car I had a little difficulty locating the bridge I had crossed over. I ended up going to the run a little too far upstream. I don't mind being lost for a time in places that look like this. 

This was all I collected along the Lakeside Trail. I was glad there weren't anymore diapers. 

Before heading home I stopped at Sand Springs lake and made my way around. This lake gets a lot of traffic and with it a lot of trash. This time there wasn't all that much. 

I went around the whole lake and this was it. This may be the least I have ever found at this location. 

See my most updated posts on Facebook: Taking Out the Trash in Eastern PA

Another Amphibian Night (7-Mar-2017)

With rain most of the day that continued into night, there was definitely going to be amphibians crossing the roads. I contacted Stephen Kloiber and Jon Mularczyk to see if they were going out to help cross amphibians. Both Stephen and Jon are bird enthusiasts, that at this time of year, hang up their binoculars to help amphibians get to their breeding pools safely. Both were going out and I arranged to meet them. Amphibians can be slow to cross roads and on nights when there are many crossing there can be high mortality rates. Often in areas where many amphibians cross you will find that there are volunteers that help move them across, lowering the mortality rates and helping to ensure we have these species around for years to come. For this and other reptile and amphibian posts, I am not giving a location as to where we were. It is illegal in the state to buy or sell native reptiles and amphibians, but just because there is a law doesn't mean that people don't do it. Not giving locations helps to protect these species from collection. Above is a female Spotted Salamander, one of the first finds of the night. At this time of year it is easy to distinguish male Spotteds from females. Males are slender with a large bulge at the base of the tail. Females are full of eggs and are quite large around the midsection. 

Spring Peepers are one of the smallest spring time amphibians. Only about the size of a nickel, they can be hard to spot in the road if they are not moving. Once they get to the breeding pools they create the loudest vocals, which at times can be deafening. Most of the time Spring Peepers can be identified by an X marking on their back. Not all individuals have this, but most do.

A male Spotted Salamander that made it to the yellow line on its own. If you come across amphibians crossing the road and want to help them along, first wet your hands, then move them in the direction they are heading and place them a couple feet off the road. The spring breeders like Spotted Salamanders, Wood Frogs and Spring Peepers know where their breeding pools are and will continue in that direction once moved. 

Spotted Salamanders are in the genus Ambytoma, the mole salamanders. They are called this because the majority of the year they are underground. Spring is really the only time they venture topside. Other mole salamanders in Eastern PA include the Jefferson and Marbled, the Marbled is a fall breeder and is not often seen other than the larval stage at this time of year.  

It is common to find salamanders crossing the road with this pose. I have no idea why they do it. 

A rarer sight crossing the roads are Jefferson Salamanders. Uncommon in the state this is a protected species. Generally Jeffersons breed earlier than Spotteds, but it really all depends on the conditions of the year. 

We only came across one Red-Spotted Newt on the roads. Generally they are a much more common sight. As juveniles Red-Spotted Newts are called Red Efts and are terrestrial. They spend over four years on land before returning to water and going through a metamorphosis into the adult stage. Both in color and structure the Red Efts differ from the adults. Above is a Red Eft. Adults are generally an olive color and the biggest physical difference the adults have is a large keeled tail.

Red-Spotted Newts are also trying to breed at this time of year. Either Steve or Jon spotted this adult Newt grabbing onto an unsuspecting Spotted Salamander that was passing by. It took some time, but the Spotted was able to break away from the Newts loving embrace.

In the ponds Spotted Salamanders congregate in certain areas. Males will deposit a spermataphore that will later be picked up by a female and used to fertilize her eggs. There is no contact necessary for this salamanders reproduction. 

Every once in awhile you will also find stream salamanders like this Two-lined crossing roads in rain events. They are not traveling to specific breeding sites, they are just crossing the road. 

Redback Salamanders can also be found crossing the roads on rainy nights. This species is fully terrestrial. Eggs are laid on land and when they hatch fully formed salamanders emerge. They have no aquatic life stage. 

A salamander that is often confused with a Redback is a Four-toed. Another protected species in PA, Four-toeds commonly cross roads during rain events. 

On this night I picked up at least one piece of trash at just about every stop we made to move salamanders across. Steve and Jon helped as well. Since we were just throwing it in the back of my car I didn't take a photo of everything at the end of the night. I hope you enjoy this post and watch out for amphibians while you are driving in the spring and summer! Thank you both, Steve and Jon, for your continued efforts in helping amphibians get to their breeding destinations!

See my most updated posts on Facebook: Taking Out the Trash in Eastern PA

Glen Onoco Falls Trail (7-Mar-2017)

It was over to Glen Onoco Falls for this trash hike. In my area the falls are a main attraction to tourists and locals alike. They are accessed through the Lehigh Gorge State Park, but are actually on PA State Gamelands. The trails up the falls really are not maintained and there are several areas that are washed out due to heavy usage. On the few trash hikes I have done at the falls since the start of Taking Out the Trash, I have always come back down with full bags. Too many people utilize these trails and too many do not respect the natural world around them, leaving trash where they should only leave footprints. 

Before heading up the trails followed the Lehigh around a bend and to the point where Glen Onoco Run flows into the river. This area too along the lower portion of the run can get pretty trashy as well. 

Most of the items along the lower portion were hidden. Either wedged into cracks between rocks or underneath Rhododendron, that lines the stream sides.  

The entire run is filled with waterfalls. Most venture here to see the large ones towards the top, but I prefer the much more natural looking smaller falls at the bottom. 

There were a lot of dog bags the last time I did this hike too. These I can't just throw in my trash bag. Most dog bags are made of thin plastic that photodegrades somewhat rapidly compared to other plastics. Often the bags are degraded enough they tear apart when picked up. So I have to use another bag, most of the time another dog bag, to pick these up. 

From the bottom I looped back to the main trail and started taking it up. There was recently rain and even this part of the trail was slick on the right rocks. There are warning signs along nearly the entirety of this trail because especially by the falls the trail can get really slick. Since I have lived in the area there have been a number of deaths and several serious injuries here, the warning signs are there for a reason. 

It would be much easier if people just left their trash on the trail, easier still if they just took it out with them. At several spots I had to climb down off of the trail to get items. In a couple places there was trash that I couldn't safely get, so some items that I saw did remain. 

More falls greeted me when the trail connected with the side of the run. Going up I not only had to make sure every step was secure, but I also had to check every space between the rocks for trash. Throughout this section people seem to like to shove their junk between the rocks, hidden mostly out of sight. 

Other items are just thrown up off the side of the trail. Everything I found was pretty common trail trash.

I got around half way up to the top and I ran into some ice patches. I decided it would be best to turn around and come back when conditions are a little more favorable. I did go around this patch and made it up to the falls that can be seen in the background, but this was my turn around point. 

My idea of Nirvana is not plastic bottles in what could be a pristine stream. 

On the way back down I did find some more trash, including this somewhat hidden diaper. I will never understand people who just leave behind diapers and dog bags. Part of being a responsible parent or pet owner is cleaning up after the little critter you are taking care of. 

Even with only making it half way up the falls I removed all of this. All of it too is new since I did a clean-up here last year. If you go to places like Glen Onoco Falls, please respect the area and take your trash out with you. 

I did one more short walk down by the river. I thought I might find some more stuff and I was right. 

A beer bottle and a diaper. Just like the dog bags I also bag the diapers up in an additional bag. 

Not far from the last one was another. 

I would have found this clean-up to almost be enjoyable if it wasn't for the diapers and dog bags. This was everything from the short walk along the Lehigh. Recyclables and trash were bagged separately and I was glad it was garbage night. The non-recyclables went right in the can on the curb when I got home. 

See my most updated posts on Facebook: Taking Out the Trash in Eastern PA