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Archive for the ‘Hikes’ Category

Laurie the tree hugger.

Laurie found out about this nature park and suggested we visit and hike the trails and explore. The park is called the Succop Nature Park and is located south of Butler, Pennsylvania.

We noticed a lot of children standing around in preparation for some guided tour. We had forgotten about this day being the annual Earth Day. We went in the opposite direction on a hike. We quickly learned of what lots of rain can do… create muddy areas. This fact would dampen the hiking for we continued but via different routes looking for dry trails.

The walking would bring us along two ponds. Here we would see bluegills, large koi fish, Wood Ducks and turtles. I saw some deer and squirrels, as well, but obviously not on the ponds…haha.

Lots of birch trees in the area.

The park, although small in acres, has a hundred-and seventy-year-old historic mansion on it. The site is used for events, such as weddings. The park is owned by the Audobon Society of Western Pennsylvania. Their web site is: http://www.aswp.org

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I have been out on hiking excursions as much as possible. I find with retirement I seem to have a lot going on. Here are some photos from these adventures.

Golden-crowned Kinglet.

These little birds can be difficult to catch in photos. they continually dart back and forth. Occasionally one gets the shot in the millisecond prior to the bird’s movement.

Turkey Vulture

Chestnut burr

Devil’s Walking Stick or Hercules Club

This tree has a covering of very sharp thorns covering the trunk thus the common names. If you ever reach for one without recognizing it be prepared for some intense pain. Birds love the purple autumn berries, as do the Black Bear.

Early spring greening!

This bottom photo requires some explanation. All the gray hues in the background is the water. This limb you are viewing is actually a refection on the water. The image is weird to observe until you know what had happened. The limb has broken off the main branch and is hanging over the water by a length of monofilament fishing line thus allowing for an eerie looking reflection.

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Frank “Muskie” Maus and I conducted our annual late winter hike on this morning. We have been doing this event for a number of years and look forward to the time together to “catch-up” on things and retell many old “work-related” stories.

This particular morning was in the upper twenties with heavy fog, however, that fog seemed to disappear amazingly fast as we trekked along our journey of the day. This was new country for both of us as far as hiking, but still within areas we have known about for years.

Sun filtering through the fog onto the water.

On one side would be the mighty Allegheny River and on the other side was rocks, and big ones, and steep hills. We were amazed at the sizes of the rock formations not realizing there were rocks in this area.

The exploration time afield yielded various wildlife. We saw two Bald eagles and one on the nest. Other wildlife included: Killdeer; lots of Canada Geese; Common and Hooded Mergansers; Bufflehead Ducks; two deer; Fox and Grey Squirrels and various hawks.

Bufflehead Duck

Our conversations have taken a new turn in recent years and that is our aging ailments. HaHa. Yes, we are growing old having known each other since the mid-seventies. Always a joy for our time together to laugh and remember.

Killdeer

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Red Squirrel

Sycamore Tree

Deer feeding

Bobber in tree…last year?

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The last month has had a share of cold weather. Temperatures have been cold and very recently those temps have dropped into the single digits and even below zero. Strong winds have been the norm very often further increasing the cold weather into a Big Freeze!

Today the single digit numbers quickly moved into the twenty degrees and at 22 degrees I decided to head off for a walk. To further add to the comfort the winds were ceased.

Many deer tracks

Armed with my camera, I began the hike to see what wildlife I would see and what other wintry things I would observe. Deer tracks were everywhere, and I mean everywhere. The snow depth of nine or ten inches and the cold had forced the deer to move a lot searching for food. Interestingly I would only see a few deer throughout my travels.

Much of the water was frozen over with the exceptions of the faster moving water. Here I watched for Bald Eagles and various species of waterfowl. The species I witnessed this day are as follows: Canada geese, mallards, Black Ducks; Common Mergansers and the Redhead Duck. I do not see many Redhead Ducks in my area.

Female Common Merganser

Redhead Duck

Canada Goose tracks

Of course, I saw a lot of small bird life. I saw six or more Eastern Bluebirds. One female allowed for a few photos. The males were not as easy to approach close. the few that did always seemed to be among brush thus not allowing a good pic.

Eastern Bluebird (Female)

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I like the summer weather when the humidity is low and having cool early-morning temperatures. With such conditions I decided to spend some hours enjoying the conditions.

This venture would include a two or more mile hike and some fishing.

I was fortunate to see some wildlife this morning. I saw eight different deer and three buck. Two were running together in the fog and I managed one decent photo of one standing in the fog watching me. I saw two turkeys feeding along the woodland edge. I saw a Great-horned Owl fly out of a tree. if I would have been faster I could have managed a possible in-flight shot. Rabbits were out and about, as well.

Buck in the fog

During my walk I came upon a few bear tracks. I have been fortunate in recent weeks with bear sightings and I had hoped this one might appear somewhere along the trail.

Bear Track

Eventually I settled in for a little fishing. I had my very light tackle and began the fishing for Carp, but the catfish were biting well. I caught around seven or eight cats. One Bullhead managed a quick turn sending the pectoral barb into the fleshy part by my thumb. The barb actually stayed in the “meat” until I pulled on the fish to remove it. That has never happened before.

I haven’t been “hit” by a catfish barb for many years and the realization of those experiences immediately came to be. I bled, I hurt and became slightly swollen and red. In fact as I type this entry on Monday the 12th I can still feel a slight pain.

Some readers may not know what I am talking about at this time. The catfish family have stiff barbs on their dorsal and pectoral fins. To release a catfish one needs to grasp the fish in such a way the barbs can not jab into the hand. I have heard some believe they have a slight toxin and they might have some validity.

This morning had another first for me. My brand new, never-worn, boots were on my feet. I walked behind to the Nature’s Restroom, and noticed something shining among the vegetation. I had tramped upon a fishing lure and the one treble hook was firmly in place. I removed the boot to remove the plug and luckily the hook was in the thick bottom of the boot and not through the thinner material.

I took some photos of various wildflowers during the jaunt. I found the source of the Coronavirus, too. They grow on small shrubs in Pennsylvania. See photo below.

Swamp Milkweed

Dogbane Beetles

Coronavirus Blossom on a Button Bush

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That’s a Bear was heard. I don’t believe I audibly spoke those words, but I do know I thought those words in my mind, at least.

The sky was overcast at this time of the morning. The weatherman said the skies would open up soon, so I was in the woods early. The time was somewhere around seven o’clock when I saw the black form around thirty to thirty-five yards out. the moment our eyes made contact the form moved fifteen feet or so before stopping. I struggled to get the camera focused on the bear’s head. Saplings and leaves , along with the darkened woodlands forbade that focus as needed.

The bear began moving away when I noticed cubs coming up behind her. I no with certainty of two cubs, but with the terrain, vegetation and such there may have been three. As soon as the bears were over the grade I moved hoping to see them again, but they were out of my view already.

My day was made. I could have turned around and went home a happy man, but I continued walking to see what other things of interest were out ahead.

I would see six deer and one fawn before I headed off to home.

I saw three Ravens up close before they noticed me, too. More photos below of the adventure out in the woods this morning.

Land stage of the Red-spotted Newt.

Stink Horn

This Stinkhorn is a fungus having many subspecies. They have a foul-smelling odor with the spores.

Goat’s Beard Blossom

Goat’s Beard Seed Pod

I found an introduced plant of interest along the fields. The name is the Goat’s Beard. It yields an

attractive yellow blossom followed by a dandelion-like seed pod. However, the seed pod shown above is close to three inches in diameter.

Striped maple leaf glowing in the sunlight.

Bee Balm or Oswego

Indian Pipe

Indian Pipe is a parasitic organism. It is, also, known as the Ghost Plant, for obvious reasons.

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Late Wild Turkey Eggs

We have had some hot, humid weather recently and a 62 degree morning and lessening humidity was the ticket for me to get out for a morning jaunt. A always I had hoped to see a bear or two, but this morning proved to be “bearless.” However, I wasn’t disappointed with the wildlife sightings.

I did see four hens out and about feeding and one incubating her eggs. I was almost upon her when she unnerved and flushed. I was surprised to see a clutch of eggs this late into the season. She had, probably, lost her first nest for any number of reasons and re-laid a second clutch of eggs. I hope she returns to finish the task at hand.

Two of the hens had poults with them. The one in vegetation shielded the poults so I could barely see any, but I saw a back or two of poults. The second hen with poults had, at least, 5-6 visible babies. I am sure others were in amongst the vegetation. These poults were the size of a Ruffed Grouse or Pheasant. I failed to get any photos.

I saw four deer in totality with two being male deer.

I saw plenty of rabbits during the walk and one Grey Squirrel.

Various summertime wildflowers are blooming and I couldn’t resist taking some photos, as I always do.

I dressed accordingly to the season in regard to Deer Flies. In other words, I had a light flannel shirt and a hat on to deter these pesky and painful insects. I killed one and only witnessed several others. I was lucky for sometimes I am likened to a World war II, B-29 Bomber with many German Messerschmidt 109 fighters diving from all directions. Did I say I despise Deer Flies?

Beautiful morning

Hen turkey

Black-Eyed Susan

Dogbane Beetle

I was glad to find a number of the Dogbane Beetles. As a youngster I would catch these insects and study The brilliance of the iridescent colors. Many, probably, believed I wasn’t right as a child as many still do today.

Milkweed in blossom

Downy Skullcap

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The Bear

Grape leaves

Wednesday, June 23, I left early to go walking and taking photos of anything I could see of interest. I hiked up a gas well road to the top of a long grade to watch the sun filtering on the eastern sides of the trees. The brightness of the early morning sun made some deepening contrasts allowing for some nice landscape photos.

Later, I talked to a member of the Pennsylvania game Commission along the township road and told him I was hoping to see a bear. He was on his way to mow. I went across the hill to check out some more areas.

The walking was pleasant but as the morning turned towards noon the heat was increasing.

All in all, I saw eight deer, two hen turkeys and an injured rabbit. However, I was greatly blessed to have a bear come into an open area allowing me to see the size in its entirety. The bear, estimated 250 to 300 pounds’ didn’t see me initially and we, both, were startled some. He was more scared of me. I was not one bit scared although he was only about thirty-five yards from me.

When the bear’s eyes turned to see me, he looked like a cartoon character running in place for a millisecond before gaining traction. I am describing the bear as a male because mating season is happening currently and most single bear are normally males seeking out females.

Her are a few photos from the day. take note I didn’t get the camera in place fast enough for a bear photo.

Indigo Bunting

An old tree with character.

The squirrel believed he was hide from me.

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I arose early deciding to climb the mountain behind the lodge we were staying. I gawked across the Bennett’s Branch of the Sinnemahoning just in time to see an early rising bald Eagle fly high and above the waters. Actually, I was high enough to be looking down upon the bird. The mature eagle looked so elegant. Four, then six, deer walked alongside my position about the same time as the flying eagle. the deer continued along slowly assuming my presence to be peaceful. I glanced down slope and saw, at least, three more deer moving through some thicker pines. I would see additional deer as this time moved forward.

I went into the lodge to see Laurie was awake. I told her my plans and she said breakfast should be around eight o’clock. Off I went to begin the ascend.

The shadow on the distant mountain is from the mountain I am standing on.

I followed old logging trails at times. These trails often went diagonally upslope in a zig-zag method. Even so the mountain was steep! My hopes was to reach the top in a timely manner, also I wanted to capture photos of the rising sun against the mountain tops. The hollows in darkened shadows against an illuminating sunrise can make for great photos.

The summit was in sight when two large birds flew into a tree about a hundred and seventy-five yards from my approach. They were silhouetted against the brightening skyline. I believe they were eagles, but I never saw either bird well enough to identify.

I continued at that angle to come upon a very steep hollow. At this time I realized the timing would not allow additional climbing, although I believe fifteen minutes would have made the top possible. I would need to begin my descension.

Going uphill was bad for someone of my age, however, going downslope would be painful on the knees. The hillside was covered with rocks and very dry leaves in places. Either could cause me to head downhill faster than I would like. In fact, I did fall once.

Besides the Bald eagle, deer, possible eagles, I would see two pairs of Canada Geese.

I captured many photos of the sunrise and contrasted mountain tops. Some are included here in this entry.

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