Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Dangling


There was no snow on the ground or ice on the river, but the temperature had been in the mid-teens for several mornings and hadn’t been above freezing on those days. When the cold front that brought those temperatures came through it came with high winds.

The winds had whipped up waves on the river, many of which had been topped by whitecaps. Now, on a calm morning, I was walking along the river admiring the sculptures created by the wind, waves and chill.

Low hanging branches of riverside trees had been repeatedly washed by the wind-driven waves, building up ice formations on the dangling twigs. The ice sculptures presented a lot of photographic opportunities, here are some of them –



















Warm weather was forecast for the next several days, and the beauty of the ice will have melted away.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Ledges on the Ridge


For well over 40 years I’ve looked at some outcropped ledges on a hogback ridge along northcentral Pennsylvania's Pine Creek. And for well over 40 years I’ve said to myself, “Self, you’ve got to climb up there to see the view from those ledges.”

Well, I finally did it last fall, after almost all of the leaves had fallen and the colors were gone. That I should have done it earlier in the year when the fall colors were at their best goes without saying – as does the fact that I should have gone up there years ago.

The trail to the ledges leaves the Pine Creek rail-trail below the village of Ramsey. Before the great increase in recreation along Pine Creek, there was but a faint trail up the hill but now the route has a name – Stonecutters Trail – and paint blazes –




The route follows the old road by which flagstone was brought down from a sidehill quarry
The flagstone became sidewalks and curbs in urban areas before the quarry was abandoned about 100 years ago. The old quarry isn’t very large but has an interesting cut spanned by a large slab of flagstone –


Once past the old quarry the trail is but a footpath –



After a couple of switchbacks the trail heads straight up the end of the hogback ridge –



Passing rock outcrops and ledges along the way –



Those outcrops are of a fine-grained sandstone, sometimes called siltstone, that were laid down on the bottom of a shallow sea and are highly fractured –



Eventually the trail reaches the top of the ridge –



And approaches the ledges at the end of the ridge –



Where there are views to the east across Pine Creek and into the valley of Ramsey Run –



And to the north up the Pine Creek Valley –



Unfortunately, it was one of those gray sky days so the photos leave much to be desired. Now it was time to head back down the trail, and follow an easier, longer route back to the Pine Creek rail-trail.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Fisher


Nope, not the people who, with hook and line or net, seek to catch those aquatic creatures with fins and gills. The fisher in this case is the medium-sized mammal that inhabits woodlands across Canada and the northern states and south in the Rocky Mountains of the west.



This is the fisher that many people call “fisher cat” – let’s get one thing straight, FISHERS ARE NOT CATS! And therefore shouldn’t be called “fisher cats”.



Fishers are medium-sized weasels, bigger than a mink and smaller than a river otter. Male fishers are significantly larger than females, sometimes twice as large. Fishers weigh between four and 16 pounds and are 30-40 inches in length, including their long tails.



Although they’re primarily carnivores, feeding on squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, porcupines, rabbits and carrion, they also eat large quantities of fruit, including black cherries, apples, blackberries and blueberries. Some people are under the mistaken impression that fishers kill deer; although they may occasionally take a newborn fawn, fishers are far too small to kill deer that are more than a few weeks old. Fishers are one of the few predators that regularly kill porcupines, one of which can feed a fisher for four weeks.



Fishers spend most daylight hours in a den in a hollow tree or among rocks, emerging to hunt at twilight or at night. Females give birth in March or April in a den that is usually high (20’-30’) in a hollow tree. The young are weaned at four months and disperse in late fall to live on their own.



Extensive forested areas of large trees are preferred habitat although one of my camera traps in farm country has repeatedly captured videos of fishers.

Fishers were extirpated from Pennsylvania around 1900 but were reintroduced in the 1990s – they are now found throughout the forested portions of the state. I’m glad to say that I was present at some of the first releases of those reintroduced fishers.