Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Dinner is Served

Down at the edge of the wetland lay the carcass of a white-tail buck, nearby was a crossbow bolt (arrow), a good clue to the cause of its demise. The deer was probably wounded during the late archery hunting season which ended in January. Wounded deer, especially those hit in the abdomen, frequently head for water. The hunter never found the deer so there it lay.

Poachers frequently use crossbows since they’re silent and quite accurate, so the deer could have been wounded by a poacher working after dark. In that case there was almost certainly no effort made to find the deer.

When I found the carcass it had already been fed upon by scavengers – eastern coyote, bald eagle, vultures or …?

Another great opportunity to get videos of whatever was feeding on the carcass. As usual in an area without trees I mounted the camera on what is called a concrete stake, a half inch diameter steel rod three feet long with a series of holes along its length. These are usually used to hold concrete forms in place, but they’re also excellent for holding a camera trap.

With the camera trap in place there was nothing to do but wait for a week or so and then check the videos it obtained. The first week the camera had well over a hundred videos of vegetation blowing in the wind – but it also had many videos taken over several nights of a red fox feeding on the carcass –

Most predators will feed on the carcass of a dead animal or bird. Less energy is expended in feeding on something that's already dead and there’s much less risk of injury for the predator – an injured predator is at a distinct disadvantage in catching prey.

Over the years In Forest and Field has had a number of posts showing the creatures that have fed on the carcasses of a black bear, white-tailed deer, raccoon and screech owl.

The plan is for the camera trap to remain in place until the deer has been reduced to scattered bones and hair – bones that will be gnawed upon by rodents, hair that will grace nests of birds and rodents.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Last Year at a Fallen Aspen

If you’re a regular visitor to In Forest and Field you’ve seen previous videos of the wildlife activity on and around fallen trees. Today we’re looking at the wildlife that used a large fallen quaking aspen in 2023.

Quaking aspen has the widest range of any North American tree and is named for the way its leaves shake in the slightest breeze due to their flattened petioles (stems). Aspens are fairly short-lived trees with an average life-span of about 75 years although some individual trees can live twice as long. These trees are pioneers on disturbed sites: abandoned fields, strip mines and areas burned by a forest fire. They can be distinguished by their gray bark with a greenish or yellowish cast and almost round leaves. Old aspen have dark furrowed bark.

This fallen aspen grew in a long-ago pasture and was one of the last remaining aspens on the site; it was surrounded by younger maples, ash and birch trees which will take its place in the forest. The tree stood for several years before it decayed enough to fall. In death it’s attracted a host of wildlife species –

The red fox can be easily differentiated from the eastern coyote by its uniformly colored coat and the dark stripes down its front legs. Apparently the black bear was exhausted as it rested before it crossed the fallen aspen. Did you notice the mouse climbing the distant tree and the mouse carrying its prize, a small bone that will provide the mouse with calcium?

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Eagles on Ice

It was an absolutely beautiful morning – clear as a bell, bright blue sky with nary a cloud, cool bordering on cold. It was also a great day to do something H and I have done often over the many years that we’ve been together: take a long ride through pretty country.

It wasn’t long before H spotted an adult bald eagle perched in a white pine; I never saw the bird and could neither stop nor turn around to take a look. Some time later we visited a property where I’d occasionally worked in recent years, a property with large old trees, abundant wildflowers in spring and beautiful stone walls.

The beauty of the day prompted us to visit a large Corps of Engineers lake to see what we could see. The lake was almost completely covered with ice with just a few areas of open water. In the water was a flock of Canada geese and on the ice was a group of ring-billed gulls.

We drove to a spot where we could see more of the lake – out on the ice was a juvenile bald eagle feeding on fish frozen in the ice and being harassed by a band of common crows –

I was busy looking through the camera’s viewfinder and taking photos when H said “Here comes another eagle!”

That was the beginning of a squabble over the fish scraps between the two young eagles –

One prevailed and enjoyed a few pieces of fish –

Until an another bird (a three year old) flew in and took over –

The birds kept looking up and we did likewise to see three more bald eagles coming in –

The after a while the crows left, a bit later the eagles flew further out from shore. One of the eagles that had come late to the party was a four year old bird which the youngsters followed to another frozen fish –

The blue sky reflecting off the ice gave it a blue cast and the heat from the sun caused a heat shimmer that made photography at long distances problematic; the shimmer can be seen in the video.

While the ice easily supported the eagles, it wouldn’t support little ole me and, despite it being a beautiful day and wanting to get closer, I decided a polar plunge was not in the cards so the photos and video were taken from shore and at quite a distance.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024


Anyone who has watched chickadees and titmice has seen the gyrations and contortions they sometimes go through to get a bite to eat. One recent day I was walking along the edge of an old field and stopped to watch a tufted titmouse getting seeds from several 5-8 foot tall dead plants. It would go through a few contortions to get a seed from the dried seed pods and then fly off to open the seed’s hull to get at its contents.

 Here are a few photos –

I’ve still not been able to identify the plant they were visiting, so I must hang my head in shame. Although the seed pods vaguely resemble those some other plants, I know not what it is. It may be an exotic plant from elsewhere that’s not common and isn’t in any of the field guides in my library.