Thursday, September 26, 2019

Three Weeks at the Big Log

Not far from where this is being written is a patch of mature woodland that has all the characteristics of an old-growth forest – there are large old trees and small young ones; many species of trees and shrubs grow in this woodland in addition to the five species of oaks that cause it to be described as an oak forest; dead woody material lies on the ground in abundance, from small branches to the fallen trunks of very large trees; the death of those large trees has created wide gaps in the canopy that will allow some of the small young trees to grow and prosper.

Although this woodland has many of the characteristics of an old-growth forest, it is not as it seems. The trees are growing on very fertile well-watered soil; the forest hasn’t been disturbed in a long time, at least 80 years; it’s likely that it was not logged in the 20th Century; a farm woodlot is what this forest has been since the late 1700s. So it's definitely not an old-growth forest.

The trunk of one of those large fallen trees created an opportunity for the placement of a camera trap, one that was in place for a mere three weeks. The reward for putting the camera at the big log is here –

The camera trap recorded a large number of videos of gray squirrels on the log. You’ve been spared all but one of those videos, I just had to include one to prove gray squirrels inhabit this woodland.

The tailless raccoon appears to have a significant medical problem. Speaking of medical issues, the three-legged raccoon seems to be getting along just fine and has raised two young ones.

As for young ones, those young bears returned to mess with the camera trap as bears often do.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


The pileated woodpecker is the largest woodpecker in North America, about the size of a common crow, exceeded in size only by the now extinct ivory-billed woodpecker. The pileated feeds on the carpenter ants that live in galleries in trees, alive or dead, as well as wood-boring insects. 

Pileated woodpeckers also feed on various fruits and berries – once I watched a pileated feeding on poison ivy fruit that dangled on the ends of vines extending several feet from the tree trunk on which the vine grew. The bird repeatedly flew out from an adjacent tree to, in mid-air, snatch berries from the vines and then fly back to the tree from which it had taken off. Oh for a video camera that day!

A recent post on an Internet forum highlighted how little many people know about these magnificent birds. The author of that post indicated he was tempted to kill a pileated woodpecker that was “damaging” his trees –

Pileated woodpeckers feed on insects from ground level to high in the largest trees and will also excavate insects from fallen trees and decaying logs –

The trees in which pileated woodpeckers chisel holes already have major troubles. Those trees are often riddled with carpenter ant galleries and are, therefore, structurally compromised –

Other trees have beetle larvae either beneath the bark or in the wood of the tree –

Pileated woodpeckers extract insects from the insects' galleries with their long tongues
Large excavated cavities in dead trees, or in decayed branches of live trees, serve as sites for the woodpeckers to raise their young and are subsequently used by wood ducks, barred owls, and a host of other birds and mammals –

The writer of that forum post made an incorrect assumption, he didn’t realize that pileated woodpeckers only “damage” trees that are already damaged.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Running Log

We call it “The Running Log”, but it’s actually a fallen tree suspended several feet above an old logging road that climbs a hillside. Fallen trees and logs are frequently used by wildlife since they can be a bridge across a stream, offer an elevated viewpoint, are easier travel than pushing through vegetation or they're a place to leave a scent mark.

If you look at some of the earlier posts on In Forest and Field you’ll see that fallen trees and logs are great places to put a camera trap and to capture photographs or videos of a wide variety of wildlife. This summer a camera trap was watching the running log to take videos of mammals and birds that used the log and some that just passed by. Here are the first month’s results –

And the second month’s –

The camera trap was moved closer to the log at the end of the second month. Here are the third month’s videos –

It was surprising to see how frequently the weasel used the log since I seldom catch them on a camera trap and have personally seen them even less often. Only two of the videos of the long-tailed weasel in the third month's were taken on the same day.

The raccoons and the weasel repeatedly scent-marked the log in the last video; is there something about the change of season that causes them to scent mark more frequently, staking out a territory for winter perhaps?