Immature Bald eagle

I ventured, once again, to the area of Crooked Creek Dam to see what things of interest I could see. However, this hike had another  reason. I had a 12 X 24 Pentax binoculars to test before purchasing. I wanted to see how the worked for me. The main issue I found was the fact of wearing glasses. I have always found a difficulty upon using glasses. To look through them with binoculars you see a smaller image. The remedy is to push the glasses over my eye brows to see a big view through the binoculars. I think I may be getting them.

The water  behind the dam was around 99% covered in a thin layer of ice. Searching about the ice I saw Canada geese; Ring-billed Gulls and Great Blue Herons on top of the ice. I saw an immature Bald eagle on the ice as well. In the few small pockets of open water I saw   Mergansers and some geese.

Ring-billed Gull

Several times while walking I heard the soothing call of a loon. Eventually I spotted the black and white bird in open water across from the side I was on. I place the camera against a tree and took some photos even though I knew clarity would be lessoned.



Later, I hiked below the dam’s spillway. I spotted an eagle perched in a sycamore and was blessed to watch the bird dive twice  after fish. I am assuming the suckers may be spawning.

Eventually, I saw additional eagles. Four immature Bald eagles were soaring over my head. Sometimes they would be close just above the tree tops and other times they would drift high. Suddenly a fifth bald eagle appeared. This one was a mature bird. I would watch two of them fly high and do their dance as if courting.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Other critters of interest included a Fox squirrel and one Gray Squirrel. I saw a Pileated Woodpecker close enough for some decent shots, too. I spooked a Red-tailed Hawk from a meal of dead rabbit. The bird allowed for a few photos before heading off for presumed safety. I am sure the hawk would be back at the meal within minutes.

Pileated Woodpecker

Some Woods Time

Mountain Laurel

This past week I enjoyed some hiking and photography on more than one occasion. The weather during this same time frame was a hodgepodge of   varying conditions. One morning I hiked the Laurel point Trail at Crooked Creek lake area. I was searching for an elusive eagle’s nest. This day reminded me of an early spring day. I had a sweat shirt on and was actually warm. The sun was out shining with a warmth. The lake was a little high and brown.

I failed to find the nest, but I did see throughout the morning seven deer, mergansers and geese on the lake. I saw three Red-Tailed Hawks as well.

    Friday, March 10, produced a much different type of weather condition. This day had about four and five inches of snow overnight. Everything was beautiful come light. Every limb bowed to the weight of snow. Yes, this was a winter wonderland. I really wanted to spend much time afield with camera ready. However, plans would not allow for that.


Note Killdeers flying

The jeep was scheduled in the morning time for tire replacements. Also, a local computer company was to call after nine to work from their end to install and tweak a new virus software. The server I deal with, Windstream, was not cooperating at all. After much failure, they requested I pack up the ‘puter and bring it to them. The computer worked find under their server.


I left their establishment around 1:30 to a snow squall and high winds. Luckily, I had my camera with me and I traveled a back road towards home. I did get some interesting shots.                                                                                         

This morning, March 11, I left early for a walk despite the high winds and cold temperatures. We had a single digit wind chill around the area. My walk proved refreshing. Unfortunately, much of the snow-laden limbs had lost their weight from the winds. The first critter I saw was a rabbit among the briars. I tried to find a good opening to get a shot, but that wasn’t to be.

  Deer sightings were plentiful all morning. Overall, I had thirty deer sightings. One time I viewed down over a steep hill only to see six deer walking along. they didn’t see me. I was offered some pics. They angled up hill to about twenty-five paces. Unfortunately, at this distance downed trees and limbs obscured any photos.                                                     

I saw, at least, eight turkeys. I could see two with 7-8 inches of dangling beard material. I intercepted their tracks several times. They circled my approach and back tracked. Hunting this same situation without snow would have  found me not knowing the birds were so close at different times.                                                                   

I saw a woodcock flying from the snow depth and some ringnecks. I came along a bluebird box I had erected several years ago. I opened the front to see a Flying squirrel gazing at me.

   I would see some Evening Grosbeaks at one time.                 

dsc_0006  I looked outside in the pre-dawn moments to see snow covering everything. Seemed like a great day to get out in the elements. I



chose   to venture back to Crooked Creek lake area to see what critters I could find.

I parked alongside a friend as she watched the horizon line for camera opportunities. She was surprised to look over and see me.


I was dressed for walking and would soon begin a trek through the woods to the lake hoping to see eagles.


Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The waters, as usual, yielded Canada Geese and Mergansers. I saw some gulls fluttering around and occasionally diving into the waters. I saw two Killdeers along the shoreline. Later I saw a large bird flying about. A second appeared as I identified them as bald eagles. Unfortunately I could never get close enough for any photos.

Later I managed some photos of Cardinals and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.

Female Cardinal

Female Cardinal


At most every turn in America these days the “political correct” mentality rules over the thoughts of far too many. Our American culture has declined in liberty and freedoms because of this way of thinking. Self-thinkers are becoming increasingly rare! One basic right of Americans is the Freedom of Speech found in our Bill of Rights. So many people seek anything they can find to announce another’s word or action as offensive. Lawyers are making fortunes with these people. Today, if one says anything at all chances are someone will be offended. Many years ago while still in school I announced the PC culture, that was beginning to really take hold, would cause the decline in American values. I hate it when I am right!

Today, political correctness has evolved for over fifty years and a cry has been shouted around daily. That cry  of the left is “Separation of Church and State!” Usually the additional word of “unconstitutional” is included somewhere in the cry…you know for added emphasis! These words are screamed constantly with anything pertaining to Christ or God in a public place, and I mean anything. The courts have been used as a tool to complete the left’s attacks. And many courts proudly use their personal agendas to accomplish the goals. Astronomical expenses will occur to fight these challenges. Many succumb rather than spend their precious and limited funds to fight the courts. I believe it will be only a matter of time that the attacks will filter into private displays of anything deemed Christ-like. This is the signs of the times we live. Examples are happening almost daily of such attacks. One recent example pertained to a  teacher wearing a cross necklace. Yes, this is how bad the PC world has become. Commonsense is gone!

Christ-based holidays, even the secular ones, have been attacked constantly. One seldom hears the Christmas songs played during the holiday season if a reference to Christ is included in the lyrics. You’ll happily hear Grandma Got Run Over By A reindeer. (Not me, however.)  The Christmas holiday and Easter have become 90% secular in America culture.

The truth of the phrase, “separation of Church and State” has a completely different origin as we would suspect upon listening to the medias and politicians. Those words actually began many years ago as they were shouted by prominent ministers in the 1500 era of England.  The phrase would enter to the land of America during the 1600 time span as Europeans escaping religious persecution traveled from across the sea! The phrase was used by Bible-oriented ministers and colonists. Yes, the phrase was used by leaders of the Christian faith and not the secular world. This is a far cry from what we are all are lead to believe in today’s left-leaning world. Also, few Americans know the facts and believe the left may be correct because our government court system has permeated this falsehood as well. You have heard about if a lie is told enough the lie will become factual. This has all occurred since World War 2.

Thomas Jefferson is usually given credit for the separation of Church and State. He wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to clarify the issue. The ministers were concerned over potential issues of their freedoms from the state. Today, the words in this letter are used against Jefferson’s real response since he actually used the phrase.. The letter reaffirmed Jefferson’s belief on a “wall of separation of Church and State,” however, he was reaffirming the churches freedoms from any meddling into their beliefs from the state. This letter because of the phrase used has been constantly brought up as Jefferson’s belief that anything of Christ not be used in a public place controlled with taxpayer’s expense, etc.

As stated, the history of the “separation of Church and State” phrase goes back much further. The real reason ministers pushed for separation of Church and State began around 390 A.D. under Roman Emperor Theodosius. This man assumed control of the church and decreed Christianity as the official religion of the empire. This would not be a true Christianity! This decree allowed the State (Government) to have control over what could be preached and what the people had to believe. The people would be required to enforce any mandated, religious doctrines of the State.

Anybody who studied the history of Christianity will see the many atrocities committed by the State rulers using the name of Christ as a catalyst for justification. Many Christians, not adhering to the State’s form of Christianity, were tortured; imprisoned and executed by those leaders of the state-controlled Church. And these acts were done by those professing to be Christians, as well. Of course, these people were not true Christians by any means. True Christianity would never commit to such acts of brutality. However, many of the world believe if anyone professes to be a Christian then they must be one and any such actions are permissible as a Christian. WRONG! One poll I have seen claimed 80% of Americans believe they are Christians. I would like to know the reasons these individuals believe they are Christians. I imagine their reasons are wide and varied and not Bible-based.

True Bible-based ministers, in time, demanded that the State separate themselves from the Church. One man and clergyman named Richard Hooker first used the phrase of separation of Church and State.

King Henry VIII started the Anglican Church upon wanting to get divorced. His new church would allow the divorce as needed. Also, Parliament passed laws as to who could take communion and who could be ministers. This added more control over the Church. Are you seeing the trends?

A Reverend John Greenwood was executed for stating a separation was needed. This man started a congregation attended by many English Pilgrims. Parliament passed a law of anyone denying Queen Elizabeth 1 of church supremacy would be imprisoned without bail. Pilgrims began traveling towards the New World of America to escape such laws being enforced upon their beliefs. The Pilgrims believed the government had no right to plant churches by power and force laws and penalties the State deemed correct.

As previously stated, Theodosius took the Church over in 390 A.D. The centuries following lead to even more rulers of the State mandating all church authorities to follow whatever religious doctrines the State decided as doctrine. These many years had a complete lack of religious tolerance. These were the centuries where all the negative attributes of Christianity occurred. many of which are still used today to combat anything Christ-like. A couple of examples of the past were the Inquisition and the Crusades.

Those calling themselves the Puritans began fleeing soon afterwards. Puritans were having their noses sliced, ears cut off and brands placed on their foreheads for not adhering to State-controlled Churches. Over the next hundred years or so many others left for America. These individuals including Jews, Quakers, Anabaptists, Huguenots and Lutherans were part of this migration from religious persecution. William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania, was a Quaker.

Christ is Matthew 24 prophesied of a great “falling away” prior to his Second Advent. Paul in  2 Thessalonians 2:3 stated of a Apostasy prior to the revealing of the Wicked One during the latter days. Apostasy  means to fall away from sound Christian doctrine.This false Christianity permeated the world for these many years. I believe the apostasy mentioned above has been in effect since the very early years of the church’s establishment.

However, there were bright times in Christianity. Bible-oriented leaders began efforts to reform the terrible abuses of the State-controlled Christianity. These were the cries of true separation from the State. Many of these leaders would face tremendous persecution even death. All through the decades the State has controlled and abused the Church. By the time of the New World colonies early years the idea of “separation of Church and state” was firmly planted within the populace’s thinking. Many had witnessed the abuse of the State-run church. They wished to avoid such control in their new world if possible. This mind-set had become prominent with the colonies independence from England in 1776. Read the Declaration of Independence for yourself and you will notice the issues these Americans had with England at that time. So, it is no wonder the Founding Fathers included the Freedom  Religion in the new Bill of Rights. In fact this right was listed as the First Amendment.


“Congress  shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

The idea of “Separation of Church and State” in America changed drastically in 1947.  Many have become completely ignorant of this reality. A supreme court ruling in 1947 used Jefferson’s words of “separation of Church and State” to rule in favor of actually keeping religion from all walks of life concerning public places. HOWEVER, the court did not use the remaining words of Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. They used only the phrase! The new America of shame would be now become the normal way of thinking. Later, in the early sixties an atheist found a sympathetic court to the 1947 ruling and the reading of Bibles in schools became the attack. Now, prayer in school is against policy. If a kid would draw a symbol of religion he/she could be disciplined. This is why having the right judge is so important in America. Remember the original intent of separation was to keep the State from meddling, interfering, and controlling the Church’s beliefs, doctrines and expression. The phrase was never  supposed to be used to remove crosses; Ten Commandment monuments, Bibles from the schools; public prayer for graduation ceremonies, Christmas songs and the like. The “separation of Church and State” was to protect such liberties!  Words were spoken stating, “The separation of Church and State does not mean the exclusions of God, righteousness, morality from the State.”  

Now armed with the above knowledge as presented above read the First Amendment again!

The “separation of the Church and State” was intended by our Founding Fathers to keep government away from governing Christianity and not to be intrusive to Christianity. The Founders knew very well what had happened to the European Churches once the state controlled it all. They wanted their new government to not be as the State had been in Europe for those many, many years. Wow! We have come a long way from the original intent!!!!!





I had a small piece of gesso-treated Masonite and decided to utilize into a painting.  I had just taken a hike on a day with a few inches of snow on the ground and became inspired. the subject was to be a buck White-tailed Deer.


Spring in February


Ring-billed Gulls

dsc_0006 What can one do when the temperatures are in the sixty and even into the seventy degree range in Pennsylvania? One can get outside and enjoy the  days! With that in mind I spent two mornings in the area of Crooked Creek Lake.


Hemlock cones

Hemlock cones


Teaberry in moss

Teaberry in moss

The first morning out was a joy with one exception. I aimed the camera at a male bluebird finding out the camera wasn’t

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

working. I had forgotten to place the memory card back into the camera’s body. I felt so stupid. I had done this one time before and the act takes the punch out of photo taking on any given day! Oh well, I can still walk and observe.

Goose track

Goose track

I saw  geese; gulls, and many mergansers. However, the one sight I truly enjoyed was the site of an eagle at about forty yards at eye level. I believe the bird was a Golden Eagle and not an immature Bald eagle. I was looking through tree limbs and the presence of this majestic bird was limited in time, so getting a positive ID wasn’t to be.                                                                    dsc_0022

dsc_0026 Friday, February 24, was a day that would reach into the seventies here in western Pennsylvania. I did a lot of yard work in the



afternoon, but all morning I was at the lake again walking and observing. This time, however, I was armed with a loaded camera.

I walked along the lake’s shoreline and some trails. The lake’s water level was down since we have had little rain as od recent. This allowed easy walking along the edge of the water.

Again, many mergansers were all about the lake. A number of Canada geese could be heard and viewed as well. Ring-billed Gulls were rather common today. A specie of goose was far off and sounded off occasionally. I never saw it close enough to positively identify. Maybe it was am immature Blue Goose or quite possibly a domesticated goose who left a farm.


Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

I never saw an eagle this morning. I watched the skies closely.  I did see Ravens; Great Blue Herons; Killdeer; Bluebirds; deer; squirrels; and possibly an immature Red-headed Woodpecker.                                                                      dsc_0036


A Search For A Man


Section of the Stewardson Furnace Cemetery.

Section of the Stewardson Furnace Cemetery.

Research had supplied additional information along with a possible site to search. The  quest was for a man of the past named, Abraham Bechtel. The man searching was Tim Bowser. Another friend, Bob “Slim” Bowser, Tim and I decided to search on this beautiful February afternoon. Tim and Slim are living historians. They represent the Civil War soldiers of the 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (PVI) Many of these brave men came from such counties of western Pennsylvania as Armstrong, Indiana, Allegheny, Westmoreland, and Jefferson. Slim had a personal tie with his great-great-great uncle Daniel Swigart. That fact lead to his interest in the 62nd PVI. His quest recently discovered an actual photograph of his ancestor. I am an honorary member of this group. These two men and others, including wives in many cases do not do reenacting. These people do grave rededications, volunteering to do work in Gettysburg, do displays and educational presentations to inform the public of those men of the 62nd PVI.

However, this day was for Tim’s great-great-great grandfather, Abraham Bechtel. Others. within the 62nd unit had discovered information of the site of   imgp0931-001Stewardson Furnace area of a possible burial site. The cemetery is located on a flat terrain side of a hill about a mile and a half east of the town of Mahoning in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. In times past a working furnace for ore was located in the area. Mr. Bechtel served in Company K during the Civil War.

The three of us walked among the tombstones searching for the name of our quest. A couple of stones were discovered with the last name of Bechtel, but the name of Abraham was absent. I expressed many times the sadness I felt upon walking the cemetery.  Most of  the tombstones were unreadable without study and/or paper tracings. That meant getting down to work. Still many stones were totally unreadable. Scattered about the cemetery were numerous stones down among the vegetation. We gathered some up to set back up albeit only temporarily for without major work the stones would fall over in time.


Tim and Slim studying tombstones. (Slim is in orange.)

Tim and Slim studying tombstones. (Slim is in orange.)

A number of stones were merely that. It seems apparent some of the stone markers were placed at graves without inscriptions. Maybe these were very poor people who couldn’t afford the cost of a stone with details. Maybe they hoped to supply a tombstone with inscriptions in their future and just never could.

We were humbled as we walked the site. Of course thoughts of the people under us became apparent. One can’t help wondering details. Many people were under thirty years of age including infants. What caused their demise? Typhoid? Scarlet fever? Accidents? Fire? I guess we will never know just who these individuals were. The research did tell us Abraham had fallen at a stone quarry near Manorville. He died from the fall. The date of his accident and death was May 3, 1876.

Another obvious discovery were the many areas of sunken graves. The old pine board caskets had

Slim resetting flag at Swigart grave.

Slim resetting flag at Swigart grave.

succumbed to the elements over many years underground and had collapsed. Depressions of this fact were common.

Unfortunately Abraham’s grave was not located on site. He, very well, could have been laid to rest here. One depressed area with only a field stone marker yielded a GAR marker with a flag. Could Abraham have been buried here? (GAR stands for Grand Army of the republic.)

Later, we stopped at the Pine Creek Baptist Cemetery to check on Slim’s ancestor Daniel Swigart’s grave site. Slim was disappointed as to the trees and briars in this section of the cemetery.  Slim reset the flag in honor.