The book I wrote and built this website for is about a more optimistic picture of the eastern environment, one that doesn’t begin by condemning humans for past and current abuses of nature. And it was easy for me to present this optimistic opinion after my long-haul traverse of our recovering eastern forest.
It’s a big year for animals here in Western Pennsylvania. This opinion is the result of my unofficial springtime survey, which just means looking around myself really as I go out and about. No hard data has confirmed that we have extra animals this year, to the best of my knowledge.
But, nonetheless, critters of all descriptions are seen crawling and leaping across the land each time I step out the door. Rabbits, I’m pretty sure, are more plentiful this year than any year I’ve lived in Pennsylvania. Groundhogs are more common than ever. I’m seeing more deer too, as if that were possible. We’ve finally had a fair amount of rain and the plants are verdant and water-swollen – in their prime for those who need to eat them. The songbirds are more plentiful than ever – from orioles to goldfinches. One sad evidence of all this is the number of roadkills defacing highway shoulders – I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen so many.
I’m guessing this is all tied to the less-than-brutal winter which probably killed off very few animals. The best news though, is that it’s not entirely an anomaly. This may be a year of plenty for our fecund animal friends but it’s also part of a larger trend – the century-long trend of improving habitat. We couldn’t have an exceptional year for birds and beasts if the habitat hadn’t recovered ahead of their arrival.