A few weeks ago, while peddling along the woodland edge of Ridley Creek State Park, an eastern tiger swallowtail fluttered past my slow roll up an incline.

Standing to gain on its flight, I accidentally jammed gears, ground to a halt, and had to surrender the pace.

But the butterfly doubled back, flashed left and right before my handlebars, and resumed the way only when I set off again.

Later parting at a fork atop the hill, I waved thanks & praise to my continuing friend and rolled to rest alone in the shadow of a tulip tree.

It was flowering unusually low to the ground.

So I left the park with this picture of a bloom and the memory of a curious companion that led me there.

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Later, while mulling it over along Little Crum Creek, someone called me to a large moth perched wide on a window screen.

Carefully I removed the docile thing to a nearby trunk, snapped some pictures with the hope of discovering its identity, and soon marveled at how the moth’s name could have been recognized in the curious convergences of our day.

For here was Epimecis hortaria, the tulip tree beauty, a moth named for the recently seen flowering tree that hosts its larvae (a tree, incidentally, that I have not yet noticed here along Little Crum Creek).

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Lots of birds have frequented Little Crum Creek’s feeders this winter:

Blue Jay, Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, European Starling, House Finch, Goldfinch, assorted Sparrows, Mourning Dove, White-breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, a few Woodpeckers—Downy, Red-bellied, & Hairy—and several opportunistic Hawks—Cooper’s, Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, & Red-shouldered.

Any one of them could lift one’s spirit from the desolation of winter dormancy.

But the absence of another really drew me out to the invigorating cold.

Hoping to discover why we never see the Pileated Woodpecker on Little Crum Creek, I set out for the snowy trails of Ridley Creek State Park.


There the Pileated first announced itself with distinctively powerful drumming.

Slow and deliberate, like the strike of an axe, it was much louder than we are accustomed to hearing from smaller woodpeckers.

After scanning the bare trees and creaking limbs awhile, I finally spotted one.


In subsequent visits, I followed the Pileated’s loud laughter from tree to tree.

It made many stops over a large area of dense woods, increasingly gaining more ground than I could cover.

It especially seemed to love chipping out large rectangular holes in the larvae-rich trunks of dead tree snags.

Woodchip piles littered the snow.


I’ve seen similar evidence in the Crum Woods of Swarthmore, just a few suburban blocks from the headwater spring of LCC.

But the thin corridor of LCC runs a residential course.  Trees are generally younger and increasingly fewer downstream.

Property owners often remove dead ones before they can mature into rich old snags on which the Pileated depends for food and nesting.

Fewer trees, over smaller areas, where snags are scarce … these are probably sufficient reasons to explain the Pileated Woodpecker’s absence from Little Crum Creek.

But even its absence highlights something about our place in the region.

And now I have some clues for how to find one.


To see a nearby Pileated Woodpecker in action, check out this cool video from Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, just about a 30 min. drive from LCC.





Ridley Creek State Park – In the middle of March, after heavy rains, the spring peeper frogs courted on the marshy side of Ridley Creek, opposite the multi-use trail. Their invisible chorus lulled many walkers to  pause and listen awhile to spring’s arrival.



More recently, at the end of April, an eastern American toad crossed the trail. 






And along several yards of Ridley Creek, several green frogs leapt from muddy perches into the clear flowing stream…




…where thousands of tadpoles teemed in shallow pools by the banks:

*Occasionally, I will venture from the yard. In these cases, I’ll title the post “Afield” and identify our new location.   Any other time on this page, you can be sure of  visiting Little Crum Creek.