Thursday, March 22, 2018

From a Fallen White Pine

Fallen trees or logs are some of the best places to put a camera trap. At times I’ve set a camera trap at a long-fallen white pine; and sometimes place a “chirper” between the forks of the fallen tree. The chirper, which only operates at night, at random intervals produces a sound that mimics a small bird’s chirp. The chirper was used in hope of luring predators in front of the camera. Sometimes the camera trap has been positioned to look down the length of the log, other times at a right angle to the log. 

The first photos from the fallen white pine were of a barred owl –

Followed a few days later by a raccoon –

Squirrels were the animals most frequently photographed, both an occasional red squirrel –

And the ubiquitous gray squirrels –


Both species of squirrel must regularly gnaw on something to keep their incisor teeth, which grow continuously, at a proper length. Hard nut hulls are frequently adequate for gnawing purposes, but often other items are the subject of the gnawing. One of the things the gray squirrels picked to gnaw was my chirper. The white areas on the chirper are where squirrels have chewed away at the hardened construction adhesive used to help camouflage it from human eyes. 

Early one evening in January a group of white-tailed deer wandered past the log and its attending camera trap –

For anyone who thinks the white flash of a camera trap would scare deer, consider this – the camera (and its flash) took 31 photographs of this group of deer over a span of four minutes.

By far the prize of this location was the bobcat that walked the log and looked back when it heard the camera’s lens extending – 
That's a sampling of the photos from the fallen white pine, we’ll see what the future brings.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pileated and Peregrine

It was a beautiful clear, cold winter morning – a good morning to walk along the river. The ice had gone out weeks ago so seeing some waterfowl was a possibility. But the only waterfowl to be seen were some common goldeneyes far from shore, much too far for good photos and in the shadow of a large passing cloud –

But a bit further on a loud “thunk, thunk” from a riverside tree caught my attention. There on the trunk of a silver maple was a male pileated woodpecker. He moved rapidly up, down and around the tree chipping here and there at the bark as he searched for the galleries of carpenter ants or the larva of wood-boring beetles. His movements were rapid enough that it was difficult to get a still photo of the bird – so here’s a short video of him hunting for a meal –

As I moved for a view unobscured by tree trunks another pileated that was out of sight sounded the bird’s raucous territorial/alarm call and off he went, flying upstream and out of sight. 

Two years ago I’d seen a male pileated woodpecker along this same stretch of river; he’d also allowed a close approach and was also remarkably unwary for a pileated (posted here). Pileated woodpeckers are fairly long-lived birds, so it’s entirely possible this was the same bird. 

Most of a mile further on, in the same tree where I’d photographed them before (posted here) was a peregrine falcon. All the peregrines I’ve ever seen seemed to ignore mere humans, whether just passing by or stopping to watch them. This bird was no different as I stopped to take a few photos –

Another hundred yards along the way and there the second of the peregrine pair was perched in a riverside tree. Unfortunately, a few small branches hampered the view of the bird and there was no place from which to see the bird that was without interfering branches –

After three miles it was time to head for town to join friends for a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wintertime Elk

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to head for Pennsylvania’s elk range. The decision was based more on an increasing case of cabin-fever than any need to actually see or photograph elk. The computer’s hard drive contains hundreds of photographs of elk of all sizes and ages, elk in all seasons – but, what the heck it was a good reason to get on the road and in the woods.

Having left after a quick early lunch there wasn’t going to be time to walk far from the roads and parking areas on Winslow Hill, but at this time of year there wouldn’t be the hordes of tourists that frequent (some would say infest) the area during the fall rut.

In a field in one of the long-abandoned hill farms a band of elk was bedded down –

Except for one young bull sporting a pair of spike antlers that still bore the remnants of velvet, this was a band of cows and calves  – 

After about a half-hour the elk gradually arose to graze in the field –

Along the large stream, Bennetts Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek, that drains much of the elk range there were a few elk in the open woodland –

Including a couple of bulls that were probably 2 ½ years old –

Unlike white-tailed deer that usually lose their antlers in January or early February, bull elk hold their antlers into March or April. The last two photographs were taken as night was rapidly setting in - it was time to head for home.

It was dark as I drove past the post office the village of Driftwood and something caught my eye. That something was a trio of impressive bull elk feeding on the grass on a south-facing portion of the post office’s lawn. By pushing the camera’s ISO setting to its limit, and using the slowest shutter speed that could barely be used with the unsupported camera, images of the elk could be captured –

The largest of the bulls was backlighted by lights in the post office’s lobby which made the resultant photograph one for the trash.

There’s no quality to the photographs from so late in the day, but they do show that photos are possible in the full dark of 8:00 pm on a cloudy February evening.