We arose at 4:15 am to head for Pennsylvania’s elk range. Packed a lunch and something for supper, snacks and water; then grabbed the cameras and got underway well before dawn. We stopped for coffee, a doughnut for H and a bagel for me. Then on the road headed west along the Susquehanna River’s West Branch; at Keating the road leaves the river and follows Sinnemahoning Creek; beyond Driftwood we paralleled Bennetts Branch where, before the sun had risen above the horizon, we saw the first elk of the day. In a streamside field there were three young bulls, two bedded down and one feeding –
And then it was up the hill to an area that had once been a cluster of small hill farms but is now a mix of managed elk habitat on State Game Lands and cabins on small privately-owned properties. There we found two bulls feeding in an old field –
It was cool enough that frost was on the grass in cooler spots and the bull’s breath was easily visible as a cloud of steam at every exhalation –
Every once in a while one of the bulls challenged the other to a sparring match –
They fed for a while and then slowly drifted towards the forest where they spend the day.
We didn’t find any other elk feeding in the open, so we decided to head for the Quehanna country (where there are also elk) to spend the day exploring some new areas and other places we hadn’t seen in years.
Following the logging of over 100 years ago some sections had never regenerated to forest while in other places beavers had dammed the streams and later abandoned their ponds which subsequently became open meadows. Some of those beaver meadows have been converted into shallow water impoundments that mimic the old beaver ponds and provide similar wildlife benefits.
By noon we were close to one of those impoundments and decided to eat lunch on the shore near a cluster of dead trees standing in the water.
We’d finished eating and were admiring the crystal clear blue sky and view across the water when, suddenly H saw an adult bald eagle swooping in –
to land in one of those dead trees –
A moment later another adult bald eagle landed beyond view along the shore. We watched the first eagle as it preened and then both birds flew across the water to land in a dead tree near the far shore –
After watching the eagles for well over a half hour we decided to move on.
As the day wound down it was time to start looking for elk once again. And what did we find, but a young bull with a radio collar feeding within 50 feet of the road in the yard of a cabin. This animal was completely unafraid –
We came by again about a half hour later and he’d bedded down across the road from where we’d first seen him. As I watched and photographed the young animal he closed his eyes and seemed to drift off to sleep –
It was getting late in the day so we were off to look for more elk; what we found was an impressive bull and a band of cows. He was still bugling and pursuing the ladies even though the rut was almost at its end –
We watched as he fed and bugled and the sun sank behind the hills; I was fortunate enough to photograph him against the skyline –
It was indeed an outstanding day: elk, beautiful interesting country, and two bald eagles.