Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Hole

One evening last September the camera trap at what has been my favorite location took several photographs of an eastern coyote. In one of those photos the coyote was urinating in the center of the small opening in the forest where the camera trap is located –

During the following months deer and bear were occasionally photographed smelling the area –

And so it went until early May when a woodchuck was photographed at the spot. After five years this is the first time the camera trap at this location has ever photographed a woodchuck –

A few days later a porcupine was also photographed there –

It was in these two photographs that a small hole was beginning to appear. The spot was really attracting mammals, including gray squirrels and the cottontail rabbits that spent a lot of time in and around the hole -
The camera also photographed a  bobcat squatting over the hole –

The woodchuck returned frequently, as did the porcupine, and the hole became wider and deeper –

White-tailed deer continued to stop and smell the hole –

In July the hole attracted a black bear that spent over five minutes there; the camera took 19 photographs before the bear walked past the camera –

Although only the coyote and bobcat were photographed urinating at the spot, it may well be that other animals did the same. Porcupines are well known for being attracted to salty substances, including urine, as are many other animals from deer to woodchucks, so the hole may continue luring visitors and growing in size.

Thursday, August 24, 2017


It’s ‘shroom time in the Big Woods, brought about by the arrival of the first of the fall rains. Mushrooms have sprung up everywhere, white and red and yellow and brown and purple and ….

The folks who like mushrooms for their psychoactive properties often shorten the word to ‘shrooms and some prefer the colorful fly amanita that is abundant and colorful, appearing in red, orange and yellow –

The toxic chemicals in fly amanita are quite variable, with the effects ranging from none through hallucinations to, rarely, fatal. Speaking of fatal, another of the amanitas the destroying angel is virtually always fatal to those who ingest it. So toxic is this mushroom that more than one mushroom guide warns against even tasting it. Once the symptoms of poisoning by the destroying angel, also called death angel, appear it’s too late. Beware the destroying angel –

The amanitas are what are called mycorrhizal fungi which live on the roots of trees and are the primary means for the trees to acquire nutrients and water.

Identification of fungi can be very difficult and confusing, some are easy to identify and perfectly fit the field guides' descriptions, but many others do not or require microscopic examination of their spores or chemical reactions with reagents to identify.

Here’s a sampling of the recent crop of mushrooms in the Big Woods - minus names –

The sizes, shapes and colors of the thousands of species of fungi are beautiful and intriguing, but I won’t eat the ones to be found in the Big Woods.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nap Time

One of the camera traps above the house happened to be in the right place at the right time – a stroke of luck that confirmed Ah Wang’s comment, “Never underestimate luck.”

A white-tail doe walked into the camera’s view one mid-afternoon and bedded down right in front of the camera. During the time she was there the camera took well over 50 photographs. Here’s a video assembled from some of those photos –

This appears to be the old doe whose other fawn died in our yard earlier this year, as chronicled in this post.

The doe, fawn and the doe’s older offspring have been eating drops from an apple tree in the yard for several weeks and she didn’t go far to rest during the heat of the day.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rock Run

Rock Run begins in the acidic wetlands along the border of Pennsylvania’s Lycoming and Sullivan counties, flowing in a generally southwestern direction until it flows into Lycoming Creek near Ralston. This is not the only Rock Run in Pennsylvania, a state whose early explorers and settlers were particularly unimaginative when naming waterways, but it is probably the most beautiful of those bearing the name.

The headwaters of Rock Run’s North Branch are in the Loyalsock Sate Forest’s Devils Elbow Natural Area with its extensive wetlands of emergent vegetation and wooded wetlands dominated by eastern hemlock –

Leaving those wetlands Rock Run becomes a high-gradient free-stone stream as it begins its descent from the Allegheny Plateau, losing 1000 feet in elevation in its first five miles. After Yellow Dog Run joins Rock Run, the stream’s gradient diminishes and the nature of its bed changes. Now segments of gravel bottom alternate with extensive sections of bedrock.

Three small waterfalls grace the course of Rock Run –

The chutes and potholes carved into the bedrock add to the beauty of the stream –

Some of the potholes contain smaller rocks of the sort that, swirling around during high water events, wore away the bedrock to create those potholes–

Rock Run’s beauty has attracted visitors for decades. Unfortunately, about 25 years ago the valley began to attract society’s less desirable elements and so camping has been prohibited in this part of the Loyalsock State Forest.

Further along, Rock Run is joined by Miners Run (featured in this post) which has its own waterfalls –

In addition to its headwaters in the Devils Elbow Natural Area, Rock Run borders the 7,500 acre McIntyre Wild Area. The wild area contains three other streams: Hounds Run, Dutchmans Run and Abbotts Run with waterfalls of their own.