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Audubon Society tracks Honey Hollow Watershed’s evolution


A lot of stuff can change in 50 years but, then again, a lot of stuff can remain the same despite the passage of time.

That’s what some 25 people attending the Bucks County Audubon Society’s publication celebration of its “Honey Hollow Watershed Revisited 2022” book on March 13 discovered.

The publication “provides a unique perspective on changes in the natural world in Bucks County over the past 50 years, and serves as indicator of what may be happening in other areas of Pennsylvania,” Michael Celec, BCAS executive director, told the audience at the Honey Hollow headquarters on Creamery Road in Solebury.

Sally Conyne, who spearheaded the effort to update the BCAS’ 1972 inventory of the watershed, said, “Most of what we found was predictable and surprising only in that we realized how much we had forgotten. Here are a few findings,” she said:

• The average temperatures have gone up significantly — almost 4 degrees — a major change over 50 years;

• New species have arrived from other regions of the state, country and globe;

• Some arrived slowly and quietly like some birds and wildflowers as they adapt to rising temperatures;

• Others invaded rapidly like those masses of Lesser Celandine now coating spring hillsides;

• Some have been catastrophic like the white nose syndrome in bats and the emerald ash borer;

• Other species are benefiting from the changing natural world and human presence. Species like woodpeckers, white-tailed deer, coyotes and ravens are on the rise.

“We learned that we forget over decades,” Conyne said. “As we collected data and compared it to the 1972 information, we were reminded of the fields and forests of 1972 in Bucks County — pheasants cackling, spring beauties and trout lilies carpeting the ground and ash trees dominating many areas of forest regrowth, but no more. Changes abound — some seem for the better or neutral; others are clearly for the worse.”

In Honey Hollow’s 2022 publication, Conyne cites Bucks County’s average temperature from 1967 to 1972 and 2016 to 2021 as being up by 3.68 degrees. The average high temperature rose 3.28 degrees. The average low temperature increased by 4.09 degrees. Precipitation average is up by 4.62 inches.

Celec, of the Audubon Society, told the group that “numerous species are now hard to find or have vanished, while others have recently arrived. Very few grassland birds like Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks have been spotted and Wild Ring-necked Pheasants and Pennsylvania’s state bird, the Ruffed Grouse, are gone from the watershed and Bucks County.

“Plants like the Goldthread and Toadshade are new to the area and today’s coyotes and wild turkeys were not present in the watershed 50 years ago.”

Drew Gilchrist, a regional advisor of the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, told the group that by comparing data from the past to a current biological inventory, decision-makers can assess the watershed’s health and make informed decisions for the future.

“In so many ways Honey Hollow is a microcosm of our larger world,” Gilchrist said. “The major issues of invasive plants, insects and animals, habitat fragmentation and edge effect, deer overabundance and issues with water quality and quantity, can all be found here.”

He praised members, saying they “plan their work and work their plan,” adding “well done Honey Hollow, well done.”

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