Thursday, January 23, 2014

Seven Days

Not every week provides something interesting every day – but once in a while this old guy gets lucky. A recent seven day period let me see some great things:

First Day – Walking on a recreational path along one of the larger nearby
streams, I looked across a small back channel and saw a mink working its way along the far shore. Often, a few squeaks will bring predators to investigate potential prey; in this case, the mink heard the squeaks, entered the water, swam to the near bank and disappeared – never did I see it again. Maybe it entered a muskrat hole, maybe it followed the bank, maybe …?
Day Two – At the lower end of some fast water in the river there was group of 10-15 male common mergansers and one female. They rode the tossing waves easily, and occasionally one would go underwater in search of fish. Suddenly there was a great commotion among the mergansers, with the whole group in splashing pursuit of one individual. At first I thought the males might be rushing the season and attempting to mate with the female. Wrong! As the photo shows, they were chasing a bird that had been successful in catching a large fish.

Day Three – At the beginning of a walk in the Big Woods I was heading down a seldom-used road when something walked out in the road. Although it was too far away and happened too fast for a photo, it was still exciting to see a bobcat cross the road and disappear into the adjacent old field now occupied by shrubs and small trees.

Fourth Day – As I walked along the river a pair of adult bald eagles flew upstream and landed on a large electric transmission tower. This wasn’t the first time I’d seen an eagle on the tower, but it was the first time there had been two birds.

This tower is the highest perch anywhere in the area and overlooks a shallow river section where the fishing is easy. Contact with transmission lines has historically been a major cause of eagle mortality. Fortunately the design of this tower makes it extremely unlikely that an eagle would contact both a hot line and the tower.

Day Five – Got home after sunset, but before dark, to find the tall trees in the yard filled with crows, several hundred, in fact. But, those crows were only a small fraction of the thousands in surrounding trees and flying nearby. I’ve seen this happen before, just not so near the house. The crows were staging before flying to the roost where they spend the night. They appear to assemble after sunset, wait until it’s darker, and then fly to the roost in a patch of large trees several miles away along the river. Interestingly, there’s a significant crow roost among shade trees in downtown Williamsport, Pennsylvania – adjacent to the tall building where a peregrine falcon frequently spends the night on a ledge.

Day Six – This was a pretty evening with an almost full moon showing through high thin clouds. Around the moon was a beautiful halo showing the full spectrum of colors typical of a rainbow. The first thing that came to mind was, “That’s a pretty moonbow.” But a moonbow is actually a “rainbow” caused by bright moonlight, typically seen at a waterfall, but also possible with passing rain. This halo was a corona caused by moonlight passing through high thin clouds, where the ice crystals act as prisms to separate the light into its different wavelengths. By the time I’d gone in the house, gotten a camera and got back outside, conditions had changed and the moon was obscured by thicker clouds.
Seventh Day – Changed the memory cards and batteries in the camera traps behind the house. Between the three cameras there were 495 photos and a few videos from the commercial trail camera. There were photos of gray squirrels, dark-eyed juncos, cottontail rabbit, a roaming house cat, opossum, raccoon, white-tailed deer and many of the neighborhood gray fox. The fox spent quite a bit of time wandering around in front of the commercial camera while it took an infrared video of the fox marking its territory three different times. While our deed to the property is recorded at the county courthouse, a lot of other species also lay claim to this spot on the side of the hill where, years ago, we built our house.

My lady and I consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have spent more than 40 years living in northcentral Pennsylvania where we’ve seen so many of the wonders of the natural world – many of them right out our back door.

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

What a week! I'd like to see more wildlife than I usually do.