Thursday, February 14, 2019

Frosty Morn


It was -4° F as I left the house and hadn’t even gotten to the car when there was a “Thunk … Thunk … Thunk” sounding from a tall red maple in the yard. Up in the tree was the cause of all that thunking – a female pileated woodpecker all fluffed up against the cold –



Most pileateds are quite wary, but this one ignored the human walking around beneath the tree; she finally left after she’d extracted the insect(s) she’d been after.


With that I headed to the Big Woods to walk an old road. The roadside ditch still had some open water and the road passed some wet spots, called spring seeps, where warm water welling up from underground had melted the snow.


In both areas water vapor had frozen into beautiful and delicate ice crystals –










A week later the temperature had risen to a spring-like level putting a temporary end to the formation of ice crystals.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Reading List

It’s now been over 50 years since this once-young naturalist began working in forest and field, and gaining an ever-increasing appreciation for the complexity and beauty of those ecosystems. 

Although my father had introduced me to the outdoors and my mother helped me catch my first snake, it was a college botany professor who introduced me to the writings of Aldo Leopold, the father of scientific wildlife management. And it was Leopold’s writing that really opened my eyes to the world of forest and field.

In winter, when it may be unpleasant to be outside in wind and cold or perhaps a chill rain, there are days well spent indoors by the fireplace with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a good book. Herewith are some of those that may bring joy and enlightenment –

Aldo Leopold’s three – A Sand County Almanac, the best of the three: poetic and illuminating, combining philosophy and natural history; written by a great observer, teacher and storyteller who simplified complicated ideas and introduced the idea of a land ethic. Round River, an assemblage of additional Leopold essays, compiled after his death. Game Management, the original text on wildlife management, written in Leopold’s lyrical style, many of its concepts are still valid 85 years later.


The Northern Forest by Dobbs and Ober – An excellent exploration of the complex interactions between ecology, economics and sociology in the 26 million acre forested landscape of northern New England and New York told in the words of the folks who live there. It asks the question, still unanswered, "Is it possible to protect a great forest without destroying the best parts of its resource-based economy and culture?"


Gone for the Day by Ned Smith – Ned’s (for a brief time before his death I knew this great outdoorsman and famous artist) diary of days spent outdoors – watching birds and mammals, hunting, fishing, collecting mushrooms and observing the natural world. Highlighted by his sketches and short essays. Gone for Another Day is a posthumous collection of additional diary entries and essays.


Deer Wars by Bob Frye Whether you think there are too many deer or too few, this book is well worth reading. Both sides of the often vitriolic controversy are well presented. It matters not if you're a farmer, forester, birder, insurance broker, hunter, gardener or ..., the management of white-tailed deer has an impact on your life.



Mind of the Raven by Bernd Heinrich – Our most intelligent bird is the common raven, they follow wolves and hunters because they realize that a meal may be in the offing. They cache food for later use, but will move it if they think they've been seen hiding it or if the cache has been discovered. Heinrich, a skilled and prolific writer, takes the reader into his research on the mind and culture of these fascinating creatures. For more insight into ravens take a look at Heinrich's Ravens in Winter.



Thursday, January 31, 2019

Bucks Out Back


“There ain’t no deer” has been a frequent complaint from hunters who don’t get very far from a road. But anyone who has camera traps in woodland quickly comes to see that there are quite a few deer in forest and field.

A friend who lives near the Big Woods knows the deer are there, and there's no shortage of them. He’s said there were deer around his house all summer and fall, although he hadn’t seen bucks around the house and nobody at his hunting camp had seen any bucks.

Not wanting to burst his bubble or break his heart, I hadn’t told him that I’d gotten photos and videos of bucks on the hill behind the house before and during hunting season –


After deer season was over and the woods had been virtually empty of humans for several weeks the camera on the hill above the house caught –


And here’s the question, where were those bucks during hunting season and how did they survive – and how did the older of those bucks escape during previous hunting seasons?

The Deer-Forest Study being conducted by the Pennsylvania State University has shed some light on where deer spend their time during hunting season; and has offered some answers on how the bucks out back may have avoided hunters in this post on the study's blog.

The hill out back becomes steeper and rockier as the elevation increases until the slope rounds off to the top, not terrain that makes for easy deer hunting. But it is terrain that's a good place for deer to lay low.