Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Sapsucker & A Kinglet

'Twas a dark drippy day bringing much needed rain to northcentral Pennsylvania. I was sitting on the sofa and occasionally glancing out the front window at the rain dripping from the few leaves remaining on the apple tree.

There it was, a sapsucker on the trunk of the apple tree. As evidenced by the rows of small holes in the apple tree's bark, this wasn't the first time a yellow-bellied sapsucker had been on the tree. Sapsuckers have favorite tree species on which to feed, here those are apple, black and yellow birch, mockernut and pignut hickories and sugar maple. And they also seem to have favorite individual trees where they feed from year to year, generation to generation; why and how they pick one tree from among many of the same species is unknown – at least to me.

A close look revealed this bird to be an immature male yellow-bellied sapsucker.

His colors were pale and the day dark, but I grabbed the camera and went outside. Although the bird quickly hitched to the other side of the tree, he soon returned to the row of old holes and resumed his work and eating. He would gradually work his way up the apple's trunk until he was obscured by the tree's small branches and twigs and then work his way down again.

Because the thick clouds made the day quite dark, the photos are anything but good as is the video –

While the sapsucker worked on the holes and fed on the sap and any small insects the sap attracted, a ruby-crowned kinglet also visited the holes to snatch small insects. There was no red crown on the kinglet, females don't have the small patch of red on the crown and males' red patch is often covered by other feathers. In any case, there it was, feeding at the sapsucker holes, quickly moving up, down and around the tree. 

The photographs are very poor since it was dark and they were taken at 1/30 of a second, these are the "best" of several hundred that were taken, they are what they are - poor. One day a sapsucker will return to the apple tree and, hopefully, there will be better photos.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Fall at the Bear Wallow

It's late fall, autumn if you prefer. Late summer and early fall had been extremely dry in northcentral Pennsylvania and the vernal pool that I call the bear wallow had been gradually shrinking, drying through evaporation since it has no inlet or outlet. This pool, like many similar vernal pools, appears to be a pingo scar

Black bears often visit these pools to bathe in the water that accumulates in the depression, thus the name “bear wallow” which in this area is the traditional name for these pools. In Forest and Field has a number of earlier posts about the goings-on at this bear wallow, too many to list here but they're all in the blog archive (to the right).

So here we are late in 2020 when human society has been turned topsy-turvy, but the species that visit the bear wallow carry on with their lives unconcerned about our problems.

Omitted from the video are most of the videos the camera trap recorded of raccoons, which were frequent visitors, and all of the hundreds of videos of gray squirrels dashing back and forth across the scene.

Gnawing and pawing by black bears, gray squirrels and raccoons damaged the camera case so it's been brought in for repairs. Come spring it will be back.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

It's Fall !

It's mid-fall, leaf-peeper time. If you're not familiar with the term, “leaf peeper” relates to the tourists who flock to a handful of states in the northern United States to see the colors of the tree leaves in the fall. Sugar and red maples are the trees that are the primary bringers of fall colors – orange, yellow and red.

Those species are joined by white ash; the sumacs; four species of birch; aspen, both bigtooth and quaking; and a host of other less common species. In some areas they're also joined by the many species of oaks, but the colors of oak leaves aren't normally as vibrant as those of the maples and birches.

Many of the tourists come for the grand vistas painted with reds, yellows and greens, others come to drive the quiet country roads and marvel at some of the individual trees. Me, in many ways I find the individual leaves, fungi, flowers, a feather or perhaps a single branch of a tree the most eye-pleasing of the fall colors.

In celebration of fall's riot of color, here's a sample of those smaller treats for the eyes –

Poison Ivy

Purple-stemmed Aster


Sugar Maple

Small White Aster


Sugar Maple

Honey Mushroom

Sugar Maple

Cinnamon Fern

Flowering Dogwood

Great Lobelia

Red Maple

Blue Jay Feather

Black Maple

Black Birch

Virginia Creeper

So, yes indeed, fall is a treat for the eyes before the drab days of November. Go forth and enjoy the season.


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A Naturalist's Year - 3rd Quarter

The days were getting shorter and the days were getting hotter as the third quarter of the year began. By the time the third quarter ended the days had become noticeably shorter and, thankfully, cooler. At the beginning of this quarter the incidence of COVID-19 had diminished to a low level in Canada and many countries in Europe due to the steps they had taken to limit its spread; however, across much of this country the disease has been increasing dramatically and setting records. So H and I have continued to socially isolate, gone to stores only when absolutely necessary and stayed away from other people – but we haven’t stayed away from the natural world: its beauties and marvels and creatures.

Day by day photos from the year’s third quarter begin here –








This natural world we enjoy is a dynamic system yet it operates in a reasonably ordered manner, and we live in what we hope is an organized society. Just as in the natural world where species are interdependent, we humans are interdependent; we depend on others for things we cannot do ourselves, and they depend on us in the same way.

Unfortunately, wishful thinking has trumped science and common sense for those who think they should be free to do whatever they want, no matter how foolish. But freedom can go only as far as it impacts the freedom, or lives, of others. It’s many people’s attitude of  “I've got a right to ...” that has led them to act irresponsibly and help lead our country into the crisis, now turned into a catastrophe, in which the nation finds itself as the year’s third quarter ends.

COVID-19 has revealed the gap between what the United States has promised to its citizens and what it has delivered. Without wise leadership this land of ours has yielded to COVID-19. Wear a Mask!