Thursday, October 26, 2017

Elk in the Evening

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to drive to Pennsylvania’s elk range to get some photographs of elk during the rut. It was a quick decision since I’d originally planned to go later in the week. But the weather forecast wasn’t too favorable for either elk activity or yours truly.

It had been too darn hot for early fall so it wasn’t too surprising that there were no elk to be seen in the afternoon. They spend the heat of the day in the shade of the forest, especially in woodland along the streams draining the higher open ground where they feed.

We were on “The Saddle”, part of a reclaimed strip mine, an area where I’ve gotten many of my best photographs of elk. There’s an old road on the flank of the hill that gives a good view of a small basin and the woodland below.

As the shadows lengthened and the temperature began to drop a few elk began to emerge from the forest, cows and calves came first –

The bull that had assembled this small band of cows and calves soon followed –

The bull bore asymmetrical antlers that are often called non-typical, but they were impressive nonetheless. He began to slowly feed, presenting a good opportunity to take some video

This bull is habituated to human visitors because he spends time on Winslow Hill, the heart of Pennsylvania’s elk tourism. I wasn’t alone on the old road on The Saddle; there were other photographers there also –

The photographic opportunities were good on The Saddle, but I prefer a more remote spot – that’s where I plan to be the next time I go to elk country.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Apple Time

Last year the apple tree in front of the house had at most six apples; only one lasted long enough to turn red, the rest dropped early. This year the tree was loaded with hundreds and hundreds of apples, the local commercial orchards also have an abundance of fruit, likewise the old trees on abandoned farms are bearing heavily.

Some trees have produced huge quantities of apples- 
Our tree isn’t sprayed and is only sporadically pruned and then for its health and not to increase fruit yield. You could even say that our apples are gluten-free, lactose free, non-GMO, soy-free, anti-biotic-free, vegan and all natural. The tree’s apples have an occasional coddling moth caterpillar inside and quite a few of them are marred by apple scab; but the tree yielded a lot of apples for apple sauce, apple bread and other goodies, and even some that were without blemishes.

We picked and picked, filling 5-gallon buckets with the fruit –

Now the freezer is packed with containers of apple sauce and loaves of apple bread and we’ve enjoyed desserts of apple crisp.

But it’s not just H and I that have enjoyed the bounty of apples; a lot of wildlife has feasted on the abundance of drops and defective fruit. Opossum –

Raccoon –

Gray fox –

And white-tailed deer visit day and night –

Our apple is a descendant of the apple trees brought to North America by early settlers, as are all domestic apples and their many relatives now growing wild on abandoned farms and at old logging camps. Those apple trees “gone wild” provide a bounty of food for wildlife and those that are best for wildlife are the trees that hold their fruit into late winter –

Apple time is over for us because the fruit on the tree out front ripens early and, if not promptly picked, falls soon after.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bears Investigating a Camera

A few weeks ago I’d put a homemade camera trap at a spot that has proven very productive over the last few years. The camera takes videos during the daytime and still photos at night or when the light is dim. When I returned to change the memory card and batteries the camera didn’t look like it had just after it was put in place –

The front of the steel box in which the camera was encased had been pulled off; the steel box is used to protect the camera from bears and human vandals. When I left home to put up the camera I’d forgotten the small padlock that usually keeps the front of the box closed and used a forked twig instead. Black bears are very curious and very strong and it looked like a bear had its way with the box. Fortunately the camera was undamaged and it had done its job of taking videos.

The first visitors were a female black bear and her cubs –

After the cub had smeared the lens glass all of the following videos and photos from the camera left something to be desired. The camera took a number of photographs of gray squirrels, then four days after the cubs visited a young male bear came into the clearing and ... – 

The large male had come fairly early the next morning when there wasn’t enough light for the camera to take a video so it only took two still photos, the one in the video and this one of the bear at the camera –

The camera has an extending lens which makes some noise as it extends, that sound probably piqued the bears’ curiosity, and the camera carries many different odors of materials used in its construction. The cable lock binding the camera to the tree saved the camera from further damage.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Fields of Gold

Take a ride in the countryside anywhere but in those areas where every plant has been eliminated to make way for pavement or crops and you will see some fields of gold –

That’s the gold of goldenrod, a group of many species: Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide lists 30 species; Peterson’s A Field Guide to Wildflowers adds one for a total of 31 species; Britton and Brown’s An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada increases the number to 62 and Gray’s Manual of Botany tops the list with 69 species.

Whatever the actual number of species it’s a confusing group, but one that brightens late summer and early fall days. However, one member of the genus isn’t gold at all; it’s silver-rod with white flowers –

And not all goldenrods prefer to grow in the sunlight; some, like this blue-stemmed goldenrod, are woodland plants –

But the vast majority of goldenrods are plants of open fields –

In those fields the flowers attract a host of insects; butterflies –

Dun Skipper

Great Spangled Fritillary

And beetles –

Goldenrod Soldier Beetle

Unidentified Beetle

Locust Borer
 Wasps and bees –


Tri-colored Bumblebee
Northern Paper Wasp

And flies and moths -
Syrphid Fly
Warners Metarranthis
 The goldenrods unjustly stand accused of causing hay fever in allergy sufferers. But their heavy pollen doesn’t carry far in the breeze and they rely on insects for pollination. The real culprits responsible for hay fever are the ragweeds which bloom at the same time, in the same habitats and have light wind-borne pollen.

So the next time you pass a field of gold, admire the view –

And take a look at the insects on the flowers, for soon, as colder weather arrives, they will be gone .