Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Ah Nuts!

It was late morning in the Big Woods a couple of days before Thanksgiving and I was walking along an old road looking for subjects to photograph. Then, off to the side, about 125 feet away, a bear was laying in a small depression beneath a shagbark hickory tree feasting on fallen nuts that had rolled into the depression.

Shagbark hickory produces the largest nuts of any of the hickories growing in the area, delicious I may add, and are a favorite of back bears –

Naturally I stopped, unlimbered the camera and began photographing the bear. The camera is getting long in the tooth, at it’s expected lifespan and chose that moment to begin having trouble with a combination of both focusing and setting the correct aperture (the opening in the lens) so the photos are far from the best. Now it will go where good cameras go to retire after years of faithful service.

Although the bear was facing away, I was standing still and the camera was silent, the bear soon became alert and began to get up and investigate a scent – mine (a bear’s sense of smell has been estimated to be about 2,500 times better than a human’s).

It walked over to a nearby tree and looked as if it was going to climb the tree, but didn’t –

Instead, after taking a couple of steps, the bear sat down looking in my direction for about a minute –

Although bears’ eyesight is not particularly good and I hadn’t moved, it was obvious the bear knew I was there. After several minutes the bear turned, climbed onto and over a fallen log and walked away –

You may ask if I was frightened by being that close to a wild bear – the answer is a resounding NO! Over the last 60 years I’ve probably encountered somewhere between 200 and 250 black bears in the wild including many females with cubs, only two have given me any cause for concern.

As the bear went out of sight I continued my walk on the old road, taking other photographs along the way –

The day was in the midst of Pennsylvania’s several bear seasons so this young bear may not survive, indeed it may be dead by the time you read this. On the day I saw the bear approximately 1,400 bears and one human had been killed during bear season by hunters in Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021


The fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day for those of us who live in the U. S. The day is surrounded by traditions and myths and a reminder to be thankful for what we have.

Some of the things for which I’m thankful:

Having met and married a wonderful lady and having 57 years together (so far). A lady who has traveled the country with me; indulged my hobbies, including once having had a rattlesnake in the laundry room (in a secure cage) and a pile of cameras; and enjoyed the bears in the yard.

Our two kids who are now middle-aged adults (hopefully they won’t be offended to be called middle-aged) and nice people with whom we are good friends –

Our three granddaughters, now young adults; one a PhD candidate, one a teacher and one a college student –

That I could spend 52 years working in forest and field, seeing some wonderful and fascinating things along the way and, hopefully, leaving the world a bit better.

My parents who brought me into this world: my mother who helped me catch my first snake and my father who introduced me to the world of forest and field –

The cardiologists who twice saved my life and the scientists who developed vaccines for diseases that have, over the centuries, killed millions.

That I can still walk several miles every day to enjoy the woods and waters.

And the natural world: it’s plants and animals; its hills and mountains; streams and lakes and rivers; rain and snow; sunshine and wind and sunsets.

Hopefully you too have things for which to be thankful, not just on Thanksgiving Day but each and every day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

2021 at the Bear Wallow

Beginning in 2014 one of my camera traps has frequently been at a seasonal pool capturing photographs or videos of the birds and mammals using, or passing, the pool. In this area seasonal pools are frequently called bear wallows since bears often lounge in the water, especially on hot summer days, and so this one has been called the Bear Wallow. The pool appears to have originated as a pingo scar remaining from the Wisconsinan glaciation (for an explanation of pingo scars see this post). 

The camera has usually been at the pool from late spring through the fall, being removed before the arrival of hunting seasons when more people are in the woods (unfortunately not everyone’s honest). Following a suggestion from a person who follows In Forest and Field (that's you Chris), the camera was put in place just before January 1st and remained until November 1st – deer and bear seasons begin in several weeks and people are already prowling about.

Ever since a camera was first placed at the bear wallow the photos or videos captured by the cameras have been the subjects of posts on In Forest and Field. Here are the best of the videos from 2021 – white-tailed deer have been particularly visible while, unlike in past years, black bears have been notable by their general absence. Perhaps the dearth of bears is the result of longer hunting seasons and a record bear kill in 2019 coupled with an outbreak of mange in the bear population.

The hawk and owl were feeding on the wood frogs that breed in the seasonal pool.

Why were there no videos of opossums or raccoons or bobcat and but one fleeting nighttime glimpse of an eastern coyote on the far side of the pool? Population cycles? Weather? Disease? Coincidence? The natural world is full of beauty and mystery; beauty that can be enjoyed, mystery that can be solved by research – I'll enjoy the beauty and leave the research to others.

The camera will probably go back to the bear wallow in late December. Hopefully, when warm weather arrives next year we’ll once again see bears bathing and playing in the water.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Looking Beyond 80 – the first three months

My 80th birthday was last August 3; H’s sister and her husband came for lunch and our daughter came to visit. The day before we’d returned from a trip to our son and daughter-in-law’s place as their daughter got ready to leave for college. 

During that period of rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19 we were all vaccinated and had been in the spring as soon as the vaccine was available - if only others had done the same. 

In the morning, before our guests came for the quiet celebration, I'd walked three and a half miles in the Big Woods taking photographs of insects, streams, flowers, fungi and deer. That walk produced the first image for the fourth “the best photo of the day for a year” series. The earlier three series can be seen on In Forest and Field.

Here are the photos from the first three months of my 81st year on this green earth.


And so another three months pass, day by day; months like most months, chock full of interesting things to be seen in the natural world - for anyone who cares to look.