could, and perhaps should, have been titled A Year at the
Cave or Cats at the Cave since
bobcats are the stars
of the videos from the first
eleven months of 2022.
Videos from the cave have appeared before, most recently a
bit over a year ago.
appears that, along with a porcupine, an opossum and
possibly a raccoon, a female
bobcat may have taken up residence in the cave on at least a
part-time basis. Not only did a bobcat repeatedly use the cave during
the winter but, as you will
see, it scent marked the
the lens. Later
in the year two bobcat kittens appeared and spent time in front of
bobcat kittens honed their hunting skills by playing with a dead
white-footed mouse. There’s no way of telling whether a kitten
caught and killed the mouse or if the adult had provided the mouse.
Hopefully the kittens have become adept enough at catching their own
food to live long lives here on the edge of the Allegheny Plateau.
all know what feathers are – they cover the skin of birds; as for
wedges, those are used to split firewood. OK, but what on earth do
they have to do with each other – if anything?
not going to talk about birds’ feathers or splitting a winter fuel
supply. Here we’re going to talk about the things also known as
plugs and wedges, wedges
and shims and pins and feathers. Confused now?
and wedges are
ancient tools (still available from a number of dealers) used to split stone.
they may be, but they’re still one of the easiest and simplest way
to shape stone. They were used to shape the stone used in Europe’s
cathedrals, to cut the flagstone for American
city sidewalks and in the production of millions of gravestones in
cut stone using feathers and wedges the first step is to drill a
series of holes about six inches apart in a straight line. In olden
times a star drill and hammer were used to drill the holes, now a
powered drill is used. Following that, two feathers and a wedge are
inserted in each hole.
all the feathers and wedges are in place they
are gently struck with a hammer, one after another and the process
repeated until the stone splits (the beginning of the split can be seen in the photo above).
cut by feathers and wedges often show the telltale holes drilled in
the process as seen in some of the stones in this bridge abutment –
the Big Woods there’s a large boulder which someone tried to split
with feathers and wedges, someone who apparently had heard about the
technique but didn’t know enough. The
drilled holes were too far apart to produce a straight cut.
because the holes are too far apart to effectively split the stone or
even split it at all, several sets of feathers and wedges are stuck
in the holes and have been there for many decades.
tools and their use have been handed down through the ages and are
still very effective – when they’re used correctly.
is a German term meaning “sea of rock” and is used to describe
blockfields that formed during glacial epochs when
temperatures just south of the glaciers fluctuated frequently.
Repeated freezing and thawing of water trapped in small cracks in the
bedrock broke the rock into angular boulder-sized rocks.
that time there was little vegetation on the ground and what there
was resembled the vegetation now growing in the high arctic.
of Pennsylvania's best known felsenmeers are the Hickory Run Boulder
Field in Hickory Run State Park and the River of Rocks in Hawk
Mountain Sanctuary. Felsenmeers occur throughout much of
Pennsylvania’s Ridge and Valley Region, some fairly small and some
quite large. Little of the Ridge and Valley Region in central
Pennsylvania was glaciated in either the most recent glacial era or
the preceding one. But most or all of the region had the tundra-like
conditions in which these block fields were created.
thousands of years later, these areas of broken rock remain, some on
steep hillsides and some on fairly flat areas.
blockfields, as barren as they appear, do provide habitat for a few
species of wildlife. Turkey vultures raise
in voids between the rocks and Allegheny wood rats build
their bulky nests in narrow spaces between the boulders. Unfortunately, Allegheny
wood rats are considered
in Pennsylvania as
their populations have fallen drastically due to the raccoon
roundworm, an internal parasite. Here's a photo of the only one I’ve
ever seen – in a felsenmeer.
number of years ago members of our hiking group explored a rather
large felsenmeer on a steep hillside –
time vegetation is gradually creeping into the felsenmeers as the
spaces between the boulders accumulate decayed vegetation –
the felsenmeers will still be gracing the Ridge and Valley Region for
thousands of years.
those of us who operate camera traps fallen logs are the gift that
keeps on giving. The best logs are those that span an obstacle: a
rock ledge, steep bank or stream. In this post we see videos of the critters
that used a log bridge across a small stream during the summer and
log bridge was once a fairly large eastern hemlock that, when it
fell, created a route for mammals to cross the stream without getting
wet feet; birds
also use the log bridge as a perch with clear flight lines in an area
of dense shrubs. Earlier
videos from the log bridge were posted here
species new to videos from this spot appeared, the most impressive
being a juvenile great horned owl –
they are, the best videos from the summer and fall at the log bridge
the videos from November consisted of over 500 clips, taken in less
than 48 hours, of three blades of grass blowing in the breeze and nothing else; the
grass can be seen in the last few clips in the video. Those 500 clips
filled the camera’s memory card and the camera was then removed
in anticipation of hunting seasons.
the last few years In Forest and Field has
featured four photo-a-day-for-a-year projects. They’ve been
interesting and fun and readers of the blog seem to enjoy them. I’ve thought about doing another such project
but needed more of a challenge. So I’ve decided to undertake a
project, this one featuring the natural world within 200 feet of our
environment within that 2.88 acresconsists of lawn, flower gardens
featuring annual and perennial flowers, shrubs both native and
non-native, an apple tree, shade trees and relatively undisturbed
woodland that developed after a pasture was abandoned about 100 years
ago. That woodland adjoins thousands of acres of forest most of which,
although it’s been repeatedly logged, has been forest for thousands
project will be broken into four segments based on the
meteorological seasons, so the first will be for the winter
(December, January and February) and will be posted in early March.
If there’s an interesting photo to be had for each day of the
winter, the rest of the year should be easy.
an introduction, let me introduce you to life at our little pond:
20 feet from the back of our house, at the base of a fairly steep bank,
there’s a short wall separating lawn from bank. Many years ago I
constructed a small pond behind that wall; small it is, about two
feet by four feet with a maximum depth of 18 inches. In the water grows a
dwarf fragrant water lily, a few fish swim to devour mosquito larvae,
rise for a breath of air, green frogs devour insects and bask on the
wall. The pond is directly outside the kitchen window from which we can
watch some of the goings-on.
I’ve taken camera in hand to photograph critters at the pond –
A camera trap has occasionally been placed to capture videos of visitors to the
pond. Those visitors have varied in size and may come night or day.
Here are videos from the camera trap –
of the visitors are residents, some are just moving through and we or
the camera trap have certainly missed
seeing others. Water is a magnet for wildlife, it was well worth taking shovel
in hand all those years ago.
I'll begin taking a photo a day of the plants, animals and other features of this world to be seen within 200 feet of the back door on December 1 – watch for the results in this space in early March.
By the way – NO, we're not afraid of the black bears that occasionally visit nor do we feed them which is both foolish and illegal.
a number of years a pair of peregrine falcons has nested on one of
the piers under a bridge spanning the river. In summer, after the
nesting season, the birds disappear for a while and are seldom seen.
As winter approaches they frequent a tree along the river about a
quarter-mile from the bridge; and
they spend many winter days in that tree. The tree is open branched,
allowing for unobstructed take-offs and landings, and is near the bridge
with its abundant supply of feral pigeons.
on years’ worth of photographs of that pair of peregrines it
appears that it may have been the same male since 2011; if so that would mean he's at least 12 years old, quite old for a
wild peregrine falcon.
I walked along the river and approached the tree there he was back in
their favorite tree. I took a number of photographs as he yawned and
preened and looked around –
he alerted –
and took off –
had disturbed him, that something turned out to be an immature bald
eagle winging upstream below the height of the riverside trees. The limbs and twigs were thick enough that I couldn't see if the peregrine went to harass the eagle or flew elsewhere. With the dense branching there was no point in trying for a
photo of the eagle.
fall nature gives a seasonal treat to those of us who live in
northeastern North America and around the Great Lakes. That treat
comes in the form of the changing colors of the leaves as the days
shorten and trees prepare for winter.
maples, aspens, black gums, tulip-poplars and oaks of our area add
their colors to the greens of the conifers to paint the hillsides for
a few weeks each fall. Those leaves are down now, almost all faded to a pale yellow or dull brown and their colors gone. But there are other colors to be seen amid the
fallen leaves, those are what we’ll call the little colors – the
lichens, fruits and fungi that add their colors to the display.
a sample, beginning
with some tiny lichens whose names are self-explanatory: pink
earth lichen, lipstick powderhorn and red-fruited pixie cup
a neither plant nor animal, but in a class of its own – wolf’s
milk slime mold that starts out pink, gradually darkens and winds up dark brown –
there are the multitude of fungi which shall remain nameless because
there are many fungi I can’t identify with any confidence –
A couple of late-season fruits, partridgeberry and teaberry –
the trees’ colors are a feast for the eyes, it’s also worthwhile
to look down occasionally, bend your knee and enjoy the little colors.