This giant salamander is the only one of its kind in North America—its closest relatives are found in Japan and China. It is highly specialized for its habitat, living only where there is well oxygenated, fast-moving water. Reaching a length of 30 to 74 cm (12 to 29 in), it is the third largest amphibian in the world behind its Asian cousins. This summer, we’ll be adding a model of this animal to our Pocono exhibit…do you know what name will appear on the label? Photo credit: Brian Gratwicke
Correctly identify the photo and win a free pass! Email email@example.com with your answers. Correct answer must include scientific name. Winner will be emailed a pass for one adult admission. Members and ESU students are admitted free; these winners may give the pass to family or friends.
Lyrid Meteor Shower
The month of April welcomes one of the oldest known meteor showers in history, with sightings going back almost 2,700 years. Comet Thatcher, which has a 415-year orbit, won’t return to our solar system until the year 2276. But the remnants the comet leaves behind during each visit cause fireworks in the sky when the Earth passes through a patch of its tail each year. The meteors seem to be coming from the constellation Lyra, leading to their name—the April Lyrids. Photo: NASA/JPL
Erigenia bulbosa: Harbinger of Spring
This perky little flower is nicknamed “harbinger of spring” because it is one of the earliest blooming flowers in our region, even punching through the snow in February. But if you see one, don’t pick it! Even though it is a member of the common carrot family, it is on the threatened species list in Pennsylvania and the endangered species list in New York. Another nickname is Pepper & Salt, referring to the contrast between the white petals and black anthers. Photo: Chris Packard
Black-capped (Poecile atricapillus, left) and Carolina (Poecile carolinensis, right) Chickadees
These little guys frequent bird feeders in the winter, but their identification can be confusing. They usually remain separated into two distinct geographic regions, only overlapping where their ranges meet. In recent decades, however, that range of overlap has gradually moved north, and it now includes the Pocono Mountains. You might see both species at the same feeder, and even some hybrids! Photos: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Hamamelis virginiana: American Witchhazel
This lovely resident of the uplands is sometimes called “winterbloom” thanks to its hardy flowers that appear in late fall and continue through the coldest days of the season. Witchhazel has long been known as a natural remedy for sunburn, scrapes, and other minor ailments. In folklore, it is also used as a divining rod to find water sources!
Ceratomia undulosa: Waved Sphinx Moth
The waved sphinx is a large moth with striking patterns that makes an impression when resting near porch lights and in gardens. It is common throughout the eastern US and westward to the plains states. Sphinx moths as a group are known for their ability to fly quickly – even up to 12 mph (19 kph). Some sphinx moths have developed the ability to hover and are sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds!
Parhelia: Sun dogs
What you see here is a parhelion grouping (from the Greek para=beside, and helios=sun), a phenomenon commonly known as sun dogs or mock suns. These bright spots occur when the sun’s rays shine through ice crystals in the upper atmosphere, refracting the light at specific angles. Circles and arcs can also occur. Sun dogs most frequently appear on either side of the sun, but spectacular variations can occur with more spots and arcs.
Arilus cristatus: Wheel bug
This insect is a species of assassin bug, which is an extremely important friend of gardeners. The wheel bug is named for its impressive armor, which resembles a saw-toothed blade. The wheel bug preys on common pests such as Japanese beetles, tent caterpillars, and cabbage worms. Its uses its fearsome proboscis to pierce other insects…so you should try to avoid picking one up, as you could get a nasty poke!
Stemonitis splendens: Chocolate tube slime mold
Amazingly, this organism begins its life cycle as white blobs of slime spreading across rotting wood. Only a few hours later, it transforms into a completely different form by sprouting tiny tubes covered with chocolate-colored spores. Slime molds, like their distant fungi cousins, are crucial links in the chain of decomposition, breaking down dead organisms to create nutrients and new habitat in the ecosystem.