PPL’s Environmental Gardens Full of Color and Buzzing with Activity

Monarch Butterfly on Inula
Photo by Sarah Hall


 PPL’s Environmental Garden is in full bloom! Come to the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center to witness the beauty of our gardens down by the dam! PPL prides itself in being responsible stewards of the environment. While you’re visiting the butterfly garden and hummingbird heaven areas, we hope you’ll learn something new about wetlands, butterflies, hummingbirds, and even bats.

 The garden is filled with many species to promote and support a healthy butterfly population, including Phlox (Phlox sp.), Butterfly Bush (Buddleia alternifolia), Daylily (Hemerocallis sp.), Lavender (Lavandula sp.), and many more.

Bumblebee on Butterfly Milkweed
Photo by Sarah Hall

Our garden also supports hummingbird populations with several feeders in place under the trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), which is a natural source of nectar for hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are among the most important bird pollinators of plants in North America, so it is important to support their habitat. Learn more about how to create your own hummingbird and butterfly heaven while visiting the environmental garden at Lake Wallenpaupack!

 Directions to the Wallenpaupack Environmental Learning Center can be found at: http://www.pplweb.com/citizenship/environment/preserves/lake-wallenpaupack/programs-and-workshops.aspx


A Bunch of Bluebirds

How many bluebirds fit in one bluebird box? As you can see from this photo, plenty! PPL’s Brunner Island Wetlands is home to a bluebird trail and during the summer we monitor the boxes and the population. If you want to help maintain the bluebird population, think about adding a bluebird box in your own back yard.

Snapping into spring

Springtime in PPL’s Susquehanna Riverlands is the time when the urge to procreate kicks into high gear for the animals and plants that make their home here. The female common snapping turtle in this picture is laying her eggs in a hole she’s dug especially for that purpose. She’ll then cover them with dirt to hide them and keep them warm while they incubate.

And that will be her last effort on their behalf. She won’t check on the eggs over the 80-90 days it takes for them to hatch, won’t help the hatchlings dig their way out of the nest or teach them how to avoid the raccoons, skunks, herons and crows that would happily dine on baby turtle tartare. In fact, she won’t nurture her babies at all or even recognize them if she happens to run into them somewhere down the road.

Turtles in general are not known as caring parents. In fact, by our standards they might be seen as downright callous. Turtles certainly don’t express tender emotions like we do. Whether they even have them or not is something only turtles know. But by carefully choosing a suitable location for her nest, the mother turtle has already given her babies every advantage that is hers to give. She doesn’t need to give more.

When the babies hatch they will already have all that they need to survive. They can dig themselves out of the dirt, avoid predators and find the safety of the water. And we are talking about snapping turtles here, remember: the young are already pretty feisty right out of the egg.

So don’t feel too bad for the “poor, abandoned” babies. Because after all, turtles have been around since before the dinosaurs — they must be doing something right!

*The black tube in the foreground of the picture is part of the counter system that keeps track of the number of visitors to the Wetlands Nature Area.

The Perilous Passage to Polliwog Paradise

We were wondering recently about the breeding success rate of amphibians in PPL’s Susquehanna Riverlands. So one afternoon we decided to find out for ourselves and planned a hike into the Wetlands Nature Area. 

In our wake, we left behind the comfortable, well-manicured trails we maintain for visitors and headed for a remote cluster of vernal pools.  We carefully picked our way through the rapidly thickening spring vegetation, swatting away the swarms of mosquitoes and keeping a watchful eye out for that scourge of hikers everywhere: the tick.

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. I mean, it wasn’t exactly the Congo Megatransect  or anything. The pool was only about 30 yards off the trail, surrounded by a thick grove of aromatic spicebush. But it was Friday. And I’m pretty sure I walked through a spiderweb.

Oh, the humanity.

Anyway, once we reached our destination, there was ample compensation for our hardships, limited though they were. Everywhere we looked, we found promising signs of successful amphibian reproduction: spotted salamander egg masses with little embryos clearly visible inside, and swarms of wood frog tadpoles crowding every corner of the pools we checked. Life was busting out all over the place. Just goes to show that simply because a place isn’t particularly welcoming for humans, it doesn’t mean that it has no value.

A Quick Snack

There are beavers living in the Susquehanna Wetlands Nature Area, but we almost never see them. Avidly hunted by humans for centuries for their luxurious fur, beavers have learned the hard way to be shy and elusive. And with their keen senses of hearing and smell, beavers can detect the heavy footfalls and exotic scents of a casual human hiker long before they get close. Combined with their nocturnal lifestyle, this makes beavers a rare sight, even for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. More often, we are left with the signs that they have passed by.

A sure sign that they are in the area is trees like these that have been girdled by beavers in search of food. Contrary to popular belief, beavers never eat fish. They are strict vegetarians, feeding mostly on tender shoots, cattails and their favorite: the soft bark of young trees. Even if they are not felling trees to make dams, they will often chew the bark around the base of the tree as a tasty snack. Sometimes they will keep going into the heartwood of the tree because beavers, like all rodents, must frequently gnaw to keep their continuously-growing teeth worn down.

As you might expect, this is not a particularly healthy turn of events for the tree.

When I take kids through the wetlands and we see a beaver-chewed tree, they are often struck by how much it looks exactly like what they thought it would look like: the shape of the chew is almost exactly as it is depicted in cartoons!

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