Thursday, August 30, 2018

It's Fungus Time

Northcentral Pennsylvania had a very wet summer and now as fall begins it’s fungus time in the Big Woods. Very wet I say because over the span of two days in July we had almost 15 inches of rain at the house and in the course of 48 days in July and August rain fell on 27 days. 

With all that rain came a tremendous crop of fruiting bodies of many species of fungus. Some of those are edible, some are deadly; some are a dull brown or tan, some are extremely colorful; some are quite large, others tiny. There are fungi that live on dead woody material, fungi that feed on dead (or even living) animals, fungi that break down dead leaves and fungi that live in a cooperative relationship with many green plants. 

While we see, admire, eat, photograph or ignore the mushrooms and conks that are the fruiting bodies of the many fungi of forest and field, the great bulk of those fungi are out of sight in the soil, the trunks of trees or dead things on the forest floor. It’s only when conditions are just right that the fruiting bodies appear and release the microscopic spores that will colonize new sites.

Mushrooms are difficult to identify, with many species looking remarkably alike. Among the many field guides available, I’ve yet to find one I think is a really good guide to the mushrooms of the northeast – thus there are no names attached to these photos of some mushrooms that have appeared recently –


Many mushrooms are ephemeral things, appearing and disappearing in little more than a day or two – enjoy them while you can.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Why Does a Deer Cross the Creek?

Several weeks ago we were riding the rail-trail on a day that promised to be unpleasantly hot and humid. We’d gone as far as we were going to go and stopped to sit on a large rock and have a snack before heading back the way we’d come. The rock was on the edge of the trail with a view of the adjacent creek and a few islands.

On one of the islands three white-tailed deer were feeding; after a few minutes they walked over to the streambank and into the water. This is the time of year when white-tail bucks form bachelor groups and hang around together until early fall when they will become rivals instead of buddies. Two young bucks growing antlers and one antlerless deer made up this group –

The deer reached the near side of the stream when several other bicycle riders came down the trail. That was enough for the deer and with a few bounds they reached the island, crossed it, and then somewhat more sedately made their way across the main channel and onto the far shore.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Videos from the Bear Wallow

Frequently called bear wallows by old-time woodsmen and hunters, these woodland pools are now frequently called seasonal pools. Actually they’re pingo scars, remnants of the last glaciation which ended in northcentral Pennsylvania over 10,000 years ago. See this post for a further explanation of pingo scars.

The pools are “seasonal” because they normally go through a seasonal cycle, holding water from snowmelt and rainfall in spring and early-summer, drying out in late summer and beginning to refill in late-fall and winter. Since they frequently dry completely they harbor no fish and therefore are vital places for amphibians, especially salamanders, to reproduce.

Seasonal pools are also important to many other creatures. Bears use them to cool down on hot summer days; raccoons spend a lot of time hunting for the pools’ amphibian inhabitants; they’re water sources for birds and mammals; and breeding sites for insects.

For three summers I had a camera trap overlooking a seasonal pool in the Big Woods; some of the results were posted here, here and here. Now it's a camera trap that takes videos day and night overlooking the pool, some videos of a bear doing what bears do in a bear wallow were in an earlier post

Again this summer the pool attracted other species of wildlife in addition to bears –

A camera will be at this pool to capture images of more visitors for another month or so.