Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Looked out the front window ...

Looked out the front window

and what did I see?

A sapsucker, sapsucker

on the old apple tree.


The apple tree has been in front of the house since it was planted 50 years ago when it’s trunk was little more than an inch in diameter (so it's not really very old, but that sounds better than "middle-aged apple tree"). A couple of years later it bloomed for the first time and it has done so every year since.

A wide variety of bees and flies visit the flowers for their abundant pollen and in doing so pollinate the flowers.

Migrating warblers and vireos stop in the apple tree to feast on insects before flying on north 

Months later, before the apples are mature enough for us to pick, gray squirrels scramble through the branches to eat some of the apples.

We don’t spray the tree against the insects that feed on its leaves or developing apples. But we have picked the apples when they ripen in September, some for eating but most to make into apple sauce. The apple tree hasn’t just fed the bees, or the squirrels, or the birds that come to eat the insects that feed on its leaves, or us – it has also fed the yellow-bellied sapsuckers that have made rows of holes on its trunk.

And so it was on a day in mid-November when I looked out the window and saw a female yellow-bellied sapsucker on the apple tree. She was busy making new holes in the bark to obtain a fresh flow of sap. So busy was she that I could go outside and approach to within 25 feet while taking a number of photos

And still she worked steadily, so I switched to taking videos of her hard at work –

It was quite cool outside and, expecting her to fly off, I hadn’t put on a coat so after a few minutes I left her hard at work and went back in the warm house.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Six Months at a Fallen Pine

More than a century ago portions of the Big Woods were farmland. But then, just about 100 years before this is being written, those farms were abandoned; some were planted to various species of conifers while others reverted to woodland. As in much of the northeast, white pine was the pioneer tree species to begin growing in some of the old fields.

The elongating tip of white pines growing in the open of old fields is frequently killed by feeding larvae of white pine weevils. When that happens one or more side branches begin growing upward, the result is a multi-stemmed tree –

A single fork of one of those large multi-stemmed white pines snapped off in a windstorm last winter – the sound it made as it fell to the ground must have been impressive. It’s that fallen pine and the critters that use it which are featured in this video –

The camera’s been removed for the duration of the fall hunting seasons but will be back in mid-winter.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Suspended in Air

It’s quite a skill to be able to photograph a falling leaf, a skill that takes many years and excellent eye/hand coordination to master. Although the most advanced cameras can lock focus on a flying bird or a running mammal’s eye, none are designed to photograph falling leaves and success is largely dependent on a photographer’s skill. Fall is the time to catch leaves as they gently drop to the ground after the corky abscission layer that forms in the fall between the leaf’s petiole (stem) and the twig has broken.

Here are some leaves, and basswood fruit, caught in mid-air as they fell from their trees –


Unfortunately the skill necessary to photograph a leaf drifting in the breeze isn’t one I possess. These were caught in mid-air by a single strand of spider silk which had made photographing them easy – were you fooled?

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Wet Afternoon at the Bear Wallow

Before you jump to conclusions: No, I did not fall in the bear wallow!

Rain had fallen for about 36 hours but turned to little more than a drizzle just after noon so I decided to head for the Big Woods. The hunting seasons for bear and deer are but weeks away and hunters are starting to head out, scouting for a good spot to search for their quarry. So it was time to retrieve the camera trap I’ve had at the bear wallow before some-less-than-honest person might come across it.

On the way to the bear wallow I got absolutely soaked (my boots would spend the night on the boot drier). Although many of the trees’ leaves graced the forest floor, there was still fall color to be seen: bright yellow on the tulip-poplar amid the oaks’ browning leaves which will be the last to fall –

Closer at hand some small beech amid the oaks –

And a scattering of fallen tulip-poplar leaves –

Although most of the American hornbeam leaves were yellow, some of their fallen leaves were a rich red –

Also showing a bit of red were the leaves of a small scarlet oak (although the leaves weren’t what I’d call scarlet) –

Closer to scarlet were the fallen leaves of the red maples –

By that time I was almost at the bear wallow 
suddenly a woodcock, that had been less than 15 feet away, flushed and disappeared behind a clump of small white pine. Woodcock usually don’t fly far, but this one couldn’t be found again.

At the bear wallow the camera trap, its protective steel box and cable lock went in my pack and off I went: homeward bound. On the way I stopped to photograph some false turkey-tail fungus –

And more bright red, the leaves on a blackberry cane –

The topping the day’s cake was a 6-point white-tail buck that stood and watched me approach before turning and heading into thick cover –

At home I changed out of the wet clothes, then the camera trap’s memory card went into the computer to download the videos it contained, here are the best from October at the bear wallow –

I’ve visited bear wallow for at least 30 years and have had a camera trap there for nine years, never has there been so much vegetation in and around the pool. Is this a one time occurrence or a portent of things to come and a sign of our changing world?

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Colors of Fall

It’s fall and the colors have arrived, the myriad colors of fall. The Rocky Mountains have their aspen groves that turn the mountainsides into a beautiful tapestry of gold and green. But northeastern North America has the grandest colors of all – yellow, orange, red of various shades; pink and port wine, gold and tan and green.

Trees and shrubs, wildflowers and fungi – in the northeast colors are everywhere at this time of year. Here are just a few –


Now the colors are fading, the leaves are falling and our world is turning to the grays and browns, black and white and greens of winter. Enjoy the colors of fall while they’re here.