Weird Stuff

OK, Nature Nerds.  Any explanation for this:

Weird Stuff

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Thrilling Sighting

We teach the Project WILD lesson on food chains and how DDT is known to travel through them.  We talk with fourth graders about how dangerously low Bald Eagle populations had fallen due to the way DDT affects egg production in females resulting in weak and brittle shells that break easily sometimes causing hatching to occur prematurely.  In addition to DDT use, habitat destruction and hunting served to decrease eagle populations.

I always ask how many of the kids have ever seen a Bald Eagle in the wild.  In every classroom hands go up.  I explain that if someone had asked that question in my fourth grade class, no hands would have gone up.  DDT was banned two years before I graduated from high school.  We simply did not see this bird when we were kids.  Today, we see eagles nearly every day in Chautauqua County.

Eagle on NestThis morning, I hiked out to a spot where eagles have nested in the past to see if the nest will be used again this year.  It wasn’t hard to spot the huge blob of sticks near the top of a leafless tree.  I kept my distance so as not to disturb the eagles.  I found a tree to lean against and settled in to observe for a while.  It wasn’t long before I caught sight of an American Bald Eagle soaring near the nest.

Eagle Soaring

Soon, the eagle coasted in for a landing on a tree near the nest.  I heard the strange screechy calls eagles make… Eagle Perched South of Nestand it wasn’t long before a second eagle came into the picture.  Together they flew in a wide circle around the nest, then landed in another nearby tree.

I watched in fascination as the pair engaged in…  well… shall we say… an intimate moment.  (I wish I had switched from binoculars to camera… but I didn’t!)

The pair sat in the tree for several minutes before they finally stretched their wings again.  One of the birds landed briefly in the nest, then left to fly in wide circles around it.  Just before I left, she (I assume it was the female) landed on the nest once again, and this time settled in so that only her head appeared above the rim.

Eagle Soaring Near Nest

I can’t begin to describe how thrilling it was for me to watch this…  a bird that was on the brink of extinction in my lifetime now thrives here where I live and work.  It was a spectacular morning!

Learn more:  http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Bald_Eagle.html

Holts Run – Allegany State Park

Winter lingers on.  The snow was deep – but frozen solid and sprinkled with fresh powder providing a nice even surface for an easy walk.  The sun shone on ice-covered trees and once again, I was unable to capture their glistening beauty.

Valley at Holts Run Road

Holts Run Road is on the left just past the boat launch at the Quaker exit of Allegany State Park.  We drove up the road until it ended, then hiked up the “path”.

Holts Run Road

Take the word “path” with a grain of salt!  There was no path.

There was plenty of evidence of beaver activity. At one point, we chose to climb up into the woods and around a beaver pond. From up on the hill, we had a great view of the pond.  Notice the lodge center left, and the dam along the right side of the picture:

Beaver Habitat

This was just one of several ponds with lodges.  At another spot in the valley, we found ourselves standing where a beaver pond once had been.  The dam had been breached and the creek was flowing through the hole in the dam:

Standing in a Former Beaver Pond

Bear Footprints

 

There were plenty of tracks in the snow, including fox, turkey, deer, and squirrel.  Our favorite tracks were the bear tracks!

Bear Footprint Closeup

 

After stopping for a bite to eat and some warm soup, I tried hard not to fall in the creek while still getting some creek photos.

Ice in the Creek 2

I had hoped to find SOME spring flower blooming… Hepatica maybe?? No… But I found some green right in the middle of the creek…  no blossoms yet, still… I think it must be some sort of Bedstraw:

Bedstraw Perhaps

Then I turned 180 degrees to find this ice:

Ice Closeup

The calendar says spring and I am ready.  Winter lingers.  And that’s OK.  But I’m ready!  Ready for different photographic opportunities.  Ready to leave the long johns home.  Ready for a little warmth.  Bring it on!

Holts Run is not a well-marked trail.  If you don’t have a good topographic map, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this hike!  If you go without a topo, hop over the creek early on and keep the creek and beaver ponds to your left…  Once past the biggest ponds, hop back over the creek and keep it on your right.  There is a “road” that hasn’t seen much use and is starting to be overgrown…  There are some lovely areas out there…  And some bears!  I might try this trail again in spring… but the brambles… Yikes!  Maybe…

Are you going to play?

Saturday, March 29th between 8pm and 9pm – your local time…  Turn off the lights!  Why?  Read on…

bulbsEarth Hour is a global event created to symbolize that each one of us, working together, can make a positive impact on climate change – no matter who we are or where we live.

Created by WWF in Sydney, Australia in 2007, Earth Hour has grown from a single event into a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 35 US cities will participate, including the US flagships–Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco.

Earth Hour brings together communities, local governments, corporate and nongovernmental organizations to heighten awareness about climate change and to inspire our nation to take practical actions to reduce their own carbon footprints.

Read more about it here:  http://www.worldwildlife.org/earthhour/

So come on!  Play along!  Turn off your lights, your computer, your TV, EVERYTHING that draws electricity.  Light a candle.  Tell stories.  It’ll be fun!

Had to…

Had to go for a walk today around Big Pond.  No really.  It was required.  Had to check something out for the DEC.  It was chilly, but not uncomfortably so.  There were hundreds of ducks, lots of geese, and a handful of swans.  My favorites were the Hooded Mergansers.  Of course, I couldn’t get close enough with my lens, so I’m borrowing this picture from Tom:

Continue reading

Wintergreen

On a south facing bank where the sun had melted away much of the snow, I found a rather large patch of Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), a low, evergreen plant that spreads through slender, underground runners.

Wintergreen

Flowers appear on Wintergreen in July and August (as early as May or as late as September, depending on climate).  Once the berries set, they remain on the plant throughout the winter and spring, unless someone finds and eats them…  The young leaves can also be nibbled, or tossed into a salad. It’s a lovely, fresh flavor, and I love finding it in the woods.

Also known as “Eastern Teaberry”, it is found in most states east of the Mississippi.  Other common names include checkerberry, creeping wintergreen, and mountain-tea.

USDA Plant Database Listing - Eastern Teaberry

From the Forest Service site:

White-tailed deer browse wintergreen throughout its range, and in some localities it is an important winter food.  Other animals that eat wintergreen are wild turkey, sharp-tailed grouse, northern bobwhite, ring-necked pheasant, black bear, white-footed mouse, and red fox.  Wintergreen is a favorite food of the eastern chipmunk, and the leaves are a minor winter food of the gray squirrel in Virginia.

By the way, back in January, I posted a photo of Wintergreen, but wasn’t sure what it was.  Two readers, Dave W. and cestoady pointed me in the direction of the correct ID.  So today’s post is for them!  Thanks!

What did you find in the woods today?