Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Eastern Wahoo

As I drove down a country road there it was, a plant I’d been seeking out for five years, a plant I’ve only seen twice before in our area. The leaves have fallen now but the bright pink and red fruit stood out in the drab landscape on a cloudy day. The plant was a shrub, by far the largest of the three I’ve been fortunate enough to find. It was an eastern wahoo.

Many years ago I saw a single stem of the plant bearing fruit on one of the nearby State Game Lands. But the spot where it grew was impacted by a tornado in 1985 and the shrub could never be found again, perhaps because white-tailed deer are known to browse the stems.

More recently there was a small cluster of fruit-bearing stems in the roadside hedgerow of an agricultural area. But, those plants also disappeared when the hedgerow was removed.

This time it was a number of large plants growing near the road in an area of abandoned farms gradually reverting to forest. There were 25-30 stems along the top of the roadbank; the tallest almost ten feet in height.

What caught my eye was the abundance of fruit, those colorful, oddly shaped open capsules from which dangled one or more bright reddish-orange berry-like fruits –

Eastern wahoo is a plant of the Midwestern states with, apparently, a very limited range in Pennsylvania, primarily in the southern and western counties. But, here it was adding to the list of species I’ve photographed in northcentral Pennsylvania; here it was, adding a bit of color to the late fall landscape –

Eastern wahoo has a number of common names; the most colorful being “Hearts Bursting with Love” – how appropriate for a plant that many would love to have growing in their gardens.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Another Day in Elk Country

A brilliant red sunset the night before promised a beautiful day, as did the weather forecast, so I was on the road before dawn on the way to Pennsylvania’s elk range. Fog developed as the sun rose; but this time the fog wasn’t in the stream valleys, it was high on the top of the plateau.

As I traveled along Bennetts Branch a young bull elk came into view along the road.

After driving into the fog on high, what was there but the non-typical bull that I’d photographed earlier in the fall (see this post for a better photograph) along with a young bull also with non-typical antlers –

Up on top, in a field maintained as a food plot there were more elk, several cows and the impressive bull that was accompanying them wherever they went –

Several photographers, yours truly included, waited and waited for the fog to dissipate – it did after what seemed a long, long time. By that time the bull, probably exhausted from the exertions of the rut, lay down and a cow nursed her growing calf –

But the bull wasn’t too exhausted to bugle once again –

As the fog lifted even more he walked over to an area of goldenrod, raked the ground with his antlers and, suitably decorated, headed for the nearest patch of forest to spend the day –

The sun rose higher, all the elk disappeared into the forest, and I headed south to the Quehanna Wild Area to search for elk sign in open wetlands and food plots in that more remote area.  

Along the way it was pretty obvious that the fall colors were at or near their peak –

Some of the Quehanna wetlands contain an abundance of sphagnum moss and the sedge called cotton grass –

With sunset approaching it was time to head back to the old farms on Winslow Hill. There, a fellow photographer had located a bull elk bedded in a patch of goldenrod within a sparse woodland. All that could be seen of him were his antlers – can you find him?

Here he is –

After a patience-trying wait the bull rose, walked into the adjacent field and began feeding –

After a while he, like the bull in the morning, lay down in the field –
Then, with fading light, it was time to head for home. Almost a half hour later, in an old field with a fencerow of tall shrubs partially blocking the view from the road, was the last elk of the day, another non-typical bull –

Almost home and a harvest moon rose above the trees –

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Bear Wallow - 2019

A camera trap that takes videos went back to the bear wallow last April and stayed in place until mid-October when the prospect of it being found by a hunter prompted me to remove it. This seasonal pool has been a good location to obtain interesting videos as anyone who regularly visits In Forest and Field has seen.

Herewith is a compilation of some of the best videos from 2019 – wood duck; deer, including a piebald doe; raccoons; great blue heron; red fox; and bears, lots of bears.

The female black bear with two cubs visited on at least eight different days and they seldom left without investigating the camera.

The bears’ investigations resulted in the camera being moved which resulted in the slightly different aspect in many of the videos. Why bears so often mess with camera traps is only a guess – the odor of the human who put it in place, or the odor of plastic or paint, or the sight of something new in their world (but one of my camera traps has been on the same tree for five years and the bears still examine it), or a sound that humans can’t hear.

A camera trap will probably go back to the bear wallow next spring – stay tuned.