BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Photographic Inspiration Along the Canal
Since the development of photography, this technology has been used to record important events, inspiring vistas, family gatherings, and simple pleasures. Photographs help give context to a place and time.
If you are familiar with our Facebook Page, you have seen many images provided by two outstanding photographers who generously share their talent with us weekly. Sometimes it is challenging to choose which image to post next.
Our photographer in the northern part of the towpath is Carole Mebus. She is a great photographer and has a deep knowledge of the flora and fauna of the region. Carole is exceptionally knowledgeable about birds, often using their bird calls to guide her way.
If you have tried to photograph a bird, you know it can be frustrating. The little creatures won’t sit still. But Carole has a talent for finding and capturing birds in a unique and artistic way.
We are also blessed to have a photographer in the southern section of the towpath, Judy Greger. Judy will tell you she has learned a great deal from Carole and has become an excellent photographer in her own right. Judy has a great talent for finding and capturing patterns made by nature. Whether it is ice crystals forming on the Canal or glistening autumn leaves, Judy finds beauty in the seemingly random order found around us.
A Tale of Two Nature Lovers
Even though these women share a passion for nature and photography, their backgrounds are very different. Carole taught in the Easton School District for many years and became an environmental advocate after taking a summer course on Ecology at Lehigh University with Dr. Francis Trembly, the curriculum creator for the conservation major and head of the Ecology Department at Lehigh. At the time, he warned of DDT’s dangers on the Bald Eagle populations. As Carole points out, in the 1970’s, only two active bald eagle nests existed in Pennsylvania. Today, there are 300.
And while Carole spent a lot of time on walks and bird counts, she was not a photographer. That interest came when her husband gave her a camera for her retirement from teaching. From there, Carole has continued looking for just the right photograph.
Judy’s photographic journey was a bit different. She and her husband, another avid conservationist nicknamed “Mr. Earth Day”, were frequent visitors to the towpath. Judy would take her point-and-shoot camera on walks and was very disappointed with the results. So much so that she decided to enroll in a photography class at Bucks County Community College. The teacher asked the students to bring their cameras to class, and when he saw what Judy had been using, he said simply “That is not a camera.”
Since then, Judy has invested in better equipment, which has paid off. From Red-shouldered hawks to Blue dasher dragonflies, Judy’s images capture the true nature of her subjects.
Trends in Bird Populations
Both Judy and Carole have noticed changes in the bird populations over the years. While it’s true we have seen a growth in the number of bald eagles in Bucks County, other species have not fared as well. Carole has seen the disappearance of Evening Grosbeaks at her bird feeder. Purple finches seem to have been replaced by House finches. And birds that would typically call southern climes their home have become more common in Pennsylvania.
Judy has also noticed a change in the bird populations in the Washington Crossing area. She rarely sees cormorants or egrets; however, the Great Blue Heron populations and Red-shouldered hawks are doing quite well. Both photographers noted that Bluebirds, a favorite photographic subject, seem abundant. This may be due in part to the numerous bluebird houses that residents throughout the county have installed.
Not Just Birds
When not capturing images of our avian neighbors, Carole and Judy love taking pictures of butterflies, dragonflies, and other canal-side creatures. Carole said she became a bit obsessed with butterflies about ten years ago. One of her favorite spots to photograph is the zinnia patch at Trauger’s Farm. The vibrant flowers in the field punctuate the beauty of the butterflies.
Carole and Judy may differ in their locale (remember, Bucks County is a very long county), however they share a similar approach to their photographic endeavors. Both rely on serendipity, the excitement of not knowing what you may see, and the expectation that something magical just might appear for the perfect shot.
A Closing Note
We don’t know if you have ever tried taking a picture of a bird, but they can be the most difficult subjects. They fidget and flit. They can’t seem to sit still. And the minute one appears to want to cooperate, some friends fly by, and off they all go. It takes patience and perseverance to become good at capturing these creatures in their habitat. So, hats off to Carole and Judy for their skill, artistry, and willingness to share with all of us.
SOURCES FOR THE NOVICE BIRDER IN ALL OF US
The Canal inspires artists of every kind. Painters, poets, and photographers have all tried to capture the beauty of this landscape.
If you are interested in becoming more knowledgeable about the birds found along the Canal and beyond, our photographers shared some resources you may want to consider.
Both Carole and Judy recommend the The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds as one of the best bird-identifying resources. The Sibley Guide to Birds is another recognized resource.
If you are interested in bird calls (which is often how bird populations are counted), they recommend Merlin, the phone app developed by The Cornell Lab. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website is a great source for information.
The Friends website has Flora and Fauna Galleries which feature many of the photographs we have shared over the years.
BIRD WALKS AND NATURE CENTERS
If you are a novice birder, you may want to join some of the local bird walks that take place throughout the county. Here are a few places that organize bird walks along with their contact information.
Bucks County Audubon Society, New Hope, PA offers bird walks on the first and third Saturdays throughout the year. bcas.org/calendar
Bucks County Birders, Churchville, PA: Monthly lectures (except December) as well as monthly birding trips to drivable locations.
Churchville Nature Center, Churchville, PA: They offer walks every Saturday morning from October through February 8AM–10AM and March through September from 7–9AM.
Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary, Easton, PA: Check with the Preserve Manager on the availability of weekly walks.
Peace Valley Park and Nature Center, Doylestown, PA: Along with events, the park offers a birding guide and binoculars to borrow. peacevalleynaturecenter.org
Silver Lake Nature Center, Bristol PA: Free Birding Walks, Saturday Mornings. See website for details: silverlakenaturecenter.org/things-to-do/activitiesworkshopstrips/
Both Carole and Judy have taken advantage of their local community colleges, Bucks County Community College and Northampton Community College.
Mark Your Calendars for Canal Clean-Up Day
CANAL CLEAN-UP DAY is Saturday, April 1 from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. All 58.9 miles of the Delaware Canal are ready for the Friends’ annual spring cleaning. Some sections of the Canal are closed for construction projects but we know our volunteers will do their best to get the open sections clean as a whistle.
As in years past, the Canal will be divided into approximately 25 Work Areas. We will assign volunteers (based on their preference) to a Coordinator who will help manage the logistics of the morning. We encourage both on-land and by-boat clean-ups. Last year, one of the kayakers helped retrieve a car seat from the water.
If you have questions or would like to volunteer either as a worker or as a community coordinator, please call 215-862-2021 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know of a group (civic, school, scout…) that may be able to participate, let us know.
The Clean-Up Day Work Areas are listed below with a particular need in the areas marked in RED. We will also include the details on our Events page at fodc.org/event/canal-clean-up-day-2023/ on the Friends of the Delaware Canal Facebook page, and in our early March e-mail campaign. Last year more than 100 volunteers helped out on Clean-Up Day. This year, let’s try for 150. Many hands make light work!
- Bristol Riverfront Park to Bristol Lagoon Park
- Bristol Lagoon to Green Lane
- Green Lane to Edgely Avenue
- Edgely Avenue to Levittown Shopping Center
- Levittown Shopping Center to Mill Creek Road
- Wheatsheaf Road to Tyburn Road
- Tyburn Road to Conrail RR Tunnel
- Conrail RR Tunnel to Bridge Street
- Rabbit Run Bridge to Phillips’ Mill
- Virginia Forrest Recreation Area to Lock 12
- Wy-Hit-Tuk Park to Easton
Winter On The Canal
Life on the canal was not an easy one in the best weather. But what was it like in the winter? Several of our Friends asked the question. So, in the spirit of trying to be a source of information, useful and otherwise, we did a bit of research.
Most Canal boatmen and their families would take to solid ground in the winter. Many Canallers had established homesteads on land, or they would move into the closest town or shanty nearby.
According to some oral histories, there were people, mostly young men, who might spend the colder months on the boat, but that was an exception, not the rule.
People who worked on the canal could not afford to remain idle all winter. Some men were employed to repair boats and other equipment in anticipation of a fresh start in spring. Others may have
gone to the coal mines or worked cutting ice for refrigeration. Still others would work on repairing the canal itself.
In the winter, sections of the canal were drained. Boats that were not housed in a boatyard would be positioned in the middle of the canal. As the water level dropped, the canal boats would rest in the bottom of the canal prism where they would stay until spring.
The ice could damage boats that became frozen in place, so every effort was made to store them safely for the winter. Some accounts describe how ice breakers were drawn through the canal
to release boats that were stuck. This task took a great deal of manpower as well as mule-power. In freezing temperatures, it was an arduous and dangerous process.
Today, a frozen canal no longer traps boats or provides ice. Instead, the canal in winter provides free fun for kids of all ages. Ice skating and hockey are two favorite pastimes. And you often see
cross-country skiers using the snowy towpath as they enjoy a relaxing and level glide.
So, be sure to take advantage of the Delaware Canal State Park in winter. Enjoy the serenity of the towpath covered in snow. Or, if skating is your passion, look for a solidly frozen spot to practice your figure-eights. And remember, always bring a friend or two.
Hope to see you out there!
REDISCOVERING THE TOWPATH:
The Legacy of William Francis Taylor
Something new is brewing at Lock 11 in New Hope. A new exhibition commemorating the140th Birth Anniversary of William Francis Taylor will open in the old concession building next to the Locktender’s House at 145 South Main Street New Hope. The exhibit will provide a chronology of the life and times of Taylor and his contribution to preserving the Delaware Canal and Towpath.
Who was William Francis Taylor?
Before the Friends of the Delaware Canal came into being, there was the Delaware Valley Protective Association, and William Francis Taylor was its first president. Formed in 1933, the DVPA encouraged the state to restore and maintain the Canal. Later, the organization was also responsible for securing an essential historic national landmark designation, protecting the Canal and towpath for generations to come.
In 1939, Taylor launched a magazine titled Towpath Magazine, a monthly publication focused on preserving “the beauty and value of the valley.” He wrote numerous articles focused on nature and the environment. Notably, the significant beauty of the Delaware River Valley landscape and that of the canals—both the Delaware Canal and the Delaware and Raritan Canal—were frequent subject matter in his writing and his artwork, calling attention to the importance of their preservation.
An Artist of Distinction
As an artist, William F. Taylor was considered part of the New Hope Impressionist School. Taylor was a student of William Lathrop and became well known for his landscapes and depiction of Washington Crossing the Delaware. His works can be found at the Corcoran Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
William F. Taylor was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where he started his art career as a lithographer and illustrator. In 1905 he moved to New York and studied with John Sloan at the Art Students League. Taylor had swiftly excelled in the illustration field and was appointed art director of the New York Journal in 1908. He held this position for several years while also working as a freelance artist and illustrator for national publications such as Harpers and Century magazines. For many years, Taylor worked for the A.G. Spalding Sporting Goods Company, creating the original art for most of their advertisements. Around 1910, while visiting Phillips Mill, Taylor met fellow artist Mary Smith Perkins, who was studying with his friend William Lathrop. A relationship developed, and in 1913, they married and moved to Lumberville, Pennsylvania. In that same year, Taylor became a naturalized citizen.
Living on the Delaware River, a stone’s throw away from the home of Daniel Garber, Taylor was surrounded by a wealth of subjects for his art. His paintings possess a distinct and appealing style, employing a bright, fresh palette using both a palette knife and brush to apply his paints. Painting the majority of his work within several miles of his home, Taylor also painted on Long Island in New York, and out west in the Yosemite Valley. However, he felt his strength as a painter was his ability to capture the beauty of Bucks County.
Taylor was a member of the Salmagundi Club, the Phillips Mill Community Association, the New Hope Artists and Writers Association, the Delaware Valley Protective Association, and the Asbury Park Society of Fine Art.
He exhibited at the Province of Ontario (1902 medal), the National Academy of Design, the Society of Independent Artists (1917), the Salmagundi Club (1924, 1927, and 1932 prizes), the Philadelphia Art Club (1924 prize), the Philadelphia Art Alliance (Purchase Prize), and the Phillips Mill.
A Persistent Preservationist
William F. Taylor is remembered today not only for his fine impressionist landscape paintings but also for his organizing and writing abilities. In October 1928, he was appointed to head a subscription committee that would ultimately be responsible for purchasing the Phillips Mill for use as an exhibition space and community center. In 1963, he published a history of the mill. Additionally, he published several articles on local artists. Taylor remained active until his death at age eighty-seven.
Taylor’s love of history and preservation was also evident in his purchase and restoration of the Cuttalossa Inn. He acquired the 180-year-old building in 1930. He also owned, lived in, and rented rooms at the Hard Times Tavern.
Let’s Celebrate a Life of Art and Impact
We hope you will join us for the opening of the William F. Taylor exhibit. We will send an email with the exhibit opening date in the near future.
*****************************************************************************************************************PARPPARK MANAGER’S REPORT
A new administration is now in Harrisburg, led by the recently elected governor, Josh Shapiro. We were happy to learn that Governor Shapiro nominated Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn to continue to lead DCNR.
Budget: Over $5 million of the Bureau’s $60 million allocation of Federal American Rescue Plan Act Funding (ARPA) is coming to the canal in projects that are in design or soon to be under design:
• Lumberville Aqueduct–Design
• High Falls Sub-Canal Culvert–Design
• Towpath Bypass over Inlet at New Hope–Design
• Spahrs Bridge Substructure Rehab–Design
• Bowman’s Wastegate Repair–Bidding
• Repair of Flood Damage (Easton Inlet toCoffeetown) –Bidding
Staffing: We are planning an on-site hiring event for early April at Buckstone Farm. We are looking to fill several vacancies, including:
• Two entry level wage maintenance positions
• Two salaried DCNR Rangers
• One wage DCNR Ranger/Trainee
If you know anyone interested in any of these positions, please ask them to contact the Park Office at 610-982-5560. The Park is working on a residency waiver to open the candidate pool up to non-commonwealth residents. All of these jobs are posted at employment.pa.gov.
The Southern maintenance crew received a new backhoe. This delivery was delayed due to supply issues. This backhoe and a recently purchased tractor/mower will increase the efficiency and safety of the staff, while supporting the upkeep of the park.
• A significant sinkhole at the wastegate near the Golden Pheasant Inn has re-developed. This problem appeared last year and was repaired. Since that time, it resurfaced at double the size. Crews excavated the site, identified the root cause, and completed the repairs.
• The pump at Center Bridge, which provides water through New Hope, is offline indefinitely. A generous funding source for the monthly utility fee for the operation of this pump is no longer viable, and by policy, the Park does not pay this fee. Anyone interested in providing funding for this pump should contact the Friends of the Delaware Canal directly.
• Rt 532 bridge in Washington Crossing was damaged by a vehicle in early December. PennDOT is responsible for completing repairs; however, they have not provided a timeline for completion. Please use caution in this area and obey posted signage.
• The Park Administration continues to work toward obtaining a grant from NOAA, through DEP, to help develop a plan to address invasive vegetation within the southern end of the Park that falls in the Delaware River Coastal Zone. Once developed and implemented, this will help remove undesirable vegetation from the Park.
New E-Bike Policy Outlined:
The DCNR approved a new E-Bike Policy after receiving input from constituents and Park users. The policy states that department staff will treat E-Bikes the same as human-powered bikes, provided the E-Bikes meet the following criteria:
• Weigh no more than 100 pounds
• Do not exceed 20 mph using the motor functionality
• Are equipped with a motor no more than 750 watts
• Are equipped with fully functional, operable pedals
If you would like to review the policy online, please visit www.dcnr.pa.gov/Pages/EBikePolicy.aspx