ENVIRONMENT

Laurel Hill Creek

In Somerset County, the cold, clear waters of Laurel Hill Creek run through forests and farmland, state parks and backyards, joining the Casselman River and, just downstream, the Youghiogheny.

The Ruffed Grouse

by David Liebmann
Imagine a bird like a chicken, but a little sleeker, a little more wild. Rufous, gray, with a tail that is barred with black and white stripes at the tips. When the tail pops open in a half circle, it resembles an earth-​tone parasol. What’s most visually arresting about the…

The Great Blue Heron

by David Liebmann
Years ago, I found a long, light bone with honeycomb latticework inside that probably belonged to a juvenile Great Blue Heron. After a winter storm, the bone lay in a pile of sticks that had blown down from the crown of an oak tree just off the 18th hole of…

Fall Run Park

The verdancy of summer is best experienced in a narrow western Pennsylvania ravine. These places are particularly inviting after thundershowers wash the air crystal clear, polish the leaves to a glistening shine, and fill streams with roiling water.

Gone Fishing

At various times in a fisherman’s life, it becomes desirable to try a new spot. Perhaps an old place gets too crowded. Maybe the fish move on. Or maybe one simply wants a change of scenery. Of course, truly knowing a fishing spot means getting there early, before the fish…

The American Robin

by David Liebmann
The early bird catches the worm,” so the proverb tells us. As the light and warmth of spring slowly thaw western Pennsylvania, it’s likely that the American Robin will be that early morning bird with an unsuspecting wiggler in its beak.

At Your Birdfeeder

by David Liebmann
Next time you turn the heat up a notch or pull on a sweater, consider the birds. Birds that winter in western Pennsylvania wear their own down garments, feathers fluffed on cold days to trap warmed air close to their bodies.

Autumn Knights

by David Liebmann
When these nobles gather, they’re known as a parliament. They hold proceedings under cover of darkness and their debates typically end with sudden death for the commoners around them. Whoo are they? Owls, of course.

On Nesting

by David Liebmann
While attention rightly goes to our region’s green buildings, the greenest construction puts them all to shame. It uses only native materials, costs nothing and is totally biodegradable. And the winner is: Bird nests, so many and so varied that we hardly notice them.

Songbirds of Spring

by David Liebmann
An avian chorus is warming up, a spring concert that begins with a quiet movement and builds to a wild paean to the dawn that almost bounces us out of our beds. Take some time to listen to the growing swell of sound, and since there is usually a relationship,…

The Origin of Spring

My benchmark for the onset of spring follows neither the facts of planetary motion, nor the predictions of a rodent. In my mind, spring starts when the daily average high temperature begins to increase after bottoming out in late January. By using this ruler, my favorite part of the year, spring,…

The River Starts Here

For the Allegheny River, a journey of 352 miles begins with a single drop of water. Emerging from a hillside in rural, wooded Potter County, in northern Pennsylvania, the trickle swells to a river that provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people, 72 miles of navigable waterway for…

The Perfect Snow

I’m both amused and dismayed by media weatherspeak. I’m amused by the hyperbole of Storm Watcher Central and Severe Weather Tracker. You’ve seen the flashing alerts across the screen.

A Different Kind of Hunt

by David Liebmann
The Christmas hunt was long a holiday tradition. Armed with rifles and shotguns, Christmas guests would choose teams for a “side hunt” and fan out over field, woodland and riverbank. Winners bagged the largest number of birds.

Crystal Clear Designs

Winter slows the primal routines of nature. Trees shed delicate, food-​factory leaves before they freeze. Forests subsist on sugar hived in roots protected from the cold by the consistently above-​freezing deep soils.
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