Thursday, August 9, 2018

Fabulous Fens

Unfortunately, most of us use the terms "bog" and "fen" interchangeably, but aside from the fact that they’re both wetlands, they’re actually quite different.
Bogs receive only surface water and therefore are normally quite acidic; they have no inlets or outlets; and are generally low in nutrients.

Fens, on the other hand, receive groundwater and usually have both an inlet and outlet; since fens’ water derives from groundwater, they have more available nutrients than bogs; and although they may be acidic, fens are usually neutral or basic.

Although bogs are home to an interesting variety of vegetation, fens frequently have a rich array of plants, including orchids.

Friends and family have frequently accompanied me in visits to fens in five states. Come, let us go on a photographic journey to look at some of the plants in those fens.

Acidic fens are lower in nutrients than those with a neutral or basic chemistry and, therefore, are often home to the same carnivorous plants found in bogs. 

Pitcher plant –

And sundews –

And specialized insects like this Hudsonian whiteface dragonfly –

For many of us the real attraction is in the less acidic fens; in the many species of wild orchids, some quite rare, found there –


Leafy White Orchid
Northern Green Orchid
Rose Pogonia

Showy Lady's-slipper
Small White Lady's-slipper

White Fringed Orchid
Yellow Fringed Orchid
The vegetation in fens can’t withstand the trampling of many visitors nor the depredations of unscrupulous collectors and so the sites where the photos were taken will remain as "secret undisclosed locations".

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Bathing at the Bear Wallow

Seasonal pools are often called bear wallows in northcentral Pennsylvania. They’re seasonal because they collect runoff from snowmelt and spring rains then gradually evaporate during summer’s hot weather. Some dry completely by late summer, others hold a small amount of water throughout the summer, normally the pools slowly accumulate more water as fall progresses and the cycle begins again.

They’re called bear wallows because black bears with their dark coats and large size are quite sensitive to summer’s heat and use these pools to cool off in hot weather by soaking in the water. 

For three summers I had a camera trap overlooking a seasonal pool in the Big Woods; some of the results were posted here.

This year I put a camera trap that takes videos at the same pool and it certainly lived up to the name of “bear wallow”. It's best to watch with the sound on –

There are videos of other species at the bear wallow, but those are the subject of another post.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

And More Moths ...

This is National Moth Week, the subject of the last post on In Forest and Field; because of the large number of species found in northcentral Pennsylvania (vastly more than the total of bird and mammal species combined) here are some additional photos of our moths.

At times moths can be confusing to identify as some species are found in several different colors and/or patterns, witness the abbreviated button slug moth –

Many moths are rather nondescript; others are colorful, even spectacular. Here's a sampling of several dozen moths found in northcental Pennsylvania, first the less showy

Now, some of our more spectacular and colorful moths   

Moths aren't just household, agricultural or forest pests - they also feed our songbirds, break down already dead material, are the primary food for northeastern bats and add beauty and interest to our woodlands.