Thursday, August 25, 2016

Stump Fence

North of us there’s a farm that I frequently visit. Farming on this land began in the mid-1800s when the forest was cleared and crops were first planted. The farm’s beautiful stone walls were reportedly built by Irish immigrants who worked in return for a place to sleep and food to eat –  

The farm’s soils didn’t contain enough rock to fully complete enclosing the fields with walls of stone. But there had been a lot of white pine growing on the fertile soils and the abundant stumps were in the way – and so the stumps were removed and put to use as a couple of fences.

Wherever white pine grew in abundance and rocks were scarce stump fences appeared. There were a number of ways to get the stumps out of the ground; probably the most common were various forms of tripod-style stump pullers –

From Michigan State University

After a great deal of work on the part of both men and animals the stumps were lined up and stump fences created –

From Library of Congress

From National Archives & Records Admin.

Now, well over 100 years later, although they’re slowly deteriorating, some of those stump fences can still be found on the farm where I was walking –

The stumps are beautiful in all seasons –

The gnarled and weathered roots have proven attractive to landscapers, and many stump fences have been dismembered and moved to suburbia.

Who can deny that the roots are beautiful and speak of a way of life long gone –

Some stumps still embrace stones that were trapped in the roots as the trees and their root systems grew –

And the stumps have become home to lichen and mosses –

Squirrels and chipmunks scamper among the roots –

I’ll continue to enjoy the remaining stump fences while they last –

No doubt some will outlast me.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Elk in the Rain

The day began with rain falling, but by late morning the clouds were disbursing and there was a lot of blue sky. After a quick lunch, H and I decided to head for elk country to see some of those grand animals.

By the time we got to the elk range the blue sky was disappearing and we could see thunderheads building. On Winslow Hill we found a band of elk cows and calves –

While we were watching this band, the sky darkened and we could see a large area of heavy rain rapidly approaching –

And then it hit, a real “gully washer” that quickly filled the roadside ditches. Spectacular, though infrequent, lightning and thunder accompanied the rain - rain that was often heavy enough to significantly obscure vision. The elk continued feeding even though they usually retreat to the forest during periods of heavy rain –

For those of you that operate camera traps and are concerned about “white-flash” cameras, it was quite informative that the elk apparently ignored the bright flashes of lightning but often broke into a brief run at the loud claps of thunder. They only ran for a short way before they resumed feeding; and after a while also seemed to ignore the thunder.

We found a few more smaller bands of cows and calves on Winslow Hill feeding in the rain, but no bulls.

After several hours of falling heavily, the rain dwindled to a drizzle, fog was developing in the valleys, dusk was upon us and it was time to head for home.

Then, in a meadow along Sinnemahoning Creek we found a band of six bull elk. Some of the bulls offered a good chance for a few pictures, but it was so dark that these photos were taken at an ISO of 6400 and 1/20 second and their quality is far from what I would have liked.

Come September these bulls will be rivals, competing for cows so they can father a new batch of calves – I’ll be back.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

From Up the Hill

Ever since this blog was begun I’ve occasionally posted photos taken by the camera traps on the hill above the house. Recently a check of the cameras revealed over 450 photographs taken in the last few weeks; photos of squirrels and rabbits, opossums and raccoons, and a few songbirds. 

But the real stars of the show were larger creatures. Gray fox appeared in several photos, two in several pictures –

Unfortunately, one of the foxes appears to have a case of mange on its shoulders. Although the hairless area could just be an unusual case of extremely heavy seasonal shedding, it looks more like an infestation of the mites that cause mange which is normally a death sentence for a fox.

White-tailed deer were the most common large mammals in the pictures –

Several does appeared with fawns; one with but a single fawn, and another that had given birth to twins –

As time has passed the fawns are becoming more independent and frequently appear on camera without their mothers –

There are also two young bucks hanging around and occasionally having their photos taken –

And then there was the bear that came down the hill – from the photo’s embedded data it appears that the bear came through about the same time we arrived home that day.

This wasn’t the large male bear that has made occasional appearances on the camera traps over the last few years, but a smaller animal – probably a young male passing through as it searched for an unoccupied territory.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Six Bucks

Nope, that’s not the price of a hamburger at the new burger joint in town. And it’s not the price of the latest used camera I bought for a homebrewed camera trap – wish it was!

Nope, six bucks are what showed up at my favorite camera trap location. A few weeks ago when I checked the camera it was a big male black bear that stole the show as you can see here. This time it was the six white-tailed bucks that had their chance in front of the camera.

In a span of a bit more than two weeks in early July these are the six bucks that were photographed – in size places –

A spike buck –

A 4-point –

And a 5-point –

Still counting? A 6-p0int –

There was also a beautiful 10-point buck –

And then there was one photo showing the 10-point buck running away from the camera with another 10-point buck, mostly hidden in the shrubs, looking on. That second 10-point buck appeared in one and only one photo, this one -

But it wasn’t only bucks that were in front of the camera during that period. There was also a fawn –

And one of those bears –

What a spot for a camera trap!