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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

After a very rainy Mother’s day I was going at it again for another gobbler. Laurie and I had Mother’s day at the house with my mother, Ruth Smail Miller and step father, Bob Miller and my sister, Ruthie. My mother is 91 years of age and I am so happy to have her around.

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Bearded Hen

As I moved easterly this morning, I could see the cloud line from yesterday’s rain out ahead. The morning was looking to be a much better day than the last week. Unfortunately, I heard no gobblers with certainty during the very hours moments of the hunt. I state “with certainty” for I may have heard one very far, but I wasn’t sure.

After a time I began to move around calling and listening and looking for Morel mushrooms whenever I could keep my brain focused on the search. A fog settled in the valley for a brief time.

Somewhat disappointed, I quietly moved all around the property calling at strategic locations and still no gobbling birds. Once I reached the farthest point I turned and moved back to my early positioning.

I leaned up against a gas well to enjoy the heat from the sun. I called and believed I heard a gobble. My second call affirmed my belief. I did hear a gobble and much closer. I backtracked and circled to get down lower on this site. I wanted to set up within a thirty feet wide woodland corridor between the gas well landing and a narrow field. I wanted to cover as much area as possible.

All I heard was silence. Did the gobbler see me I don’t believe he did due to contour and terrain features, but why the silence. I became quiet, too. After twenty minutes I called again and heard a gobble seemingly from my left side. Another gobbler or did he move above my position behind the gas well?

I called twice more and definitely heard gobbling behind me on my left before silence again. Something wasn’t feeling right and I became suspicious to last year’s gobblers known as Jakes.

I decided to circle around above the gas well and try to locate the birds better. Once I reached the round top I circled around the edges calling and listening. Nothing! However, after a loud gobble call I heard two gobbling birds below me and near to where I thought I had heard the gobbling earlier. I was almost completely convinced I was playing around with young gobblers. I returned to the woodland corridor and called only to receive silence. I decided I needed to move in their direction because quitting time was winding down and I needed to fire these birds up soon.

I moved another sixty yards and called. No gobbling, but I would soon see the culprit. Four silent Jakes showed up. The longest beard was around three or four inches. Now I was seeing great photo ops, but my camera and shotgun needed reversed. The Jakes began to move around in a confused state. This fact allowed for some photos, but not the best opportunity for the birds moved into thicker vegetation.

One of a few clear photos of the moving Jakes.

I would see a bearded hen on this day.

I had played around with those Jakes for over two hours.

A friendly cow. Cows bellowed for about half an hour in a lower pasture field making hearing difficult.

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Lucked Out!

I was up early as is normal for me. My original plans was to check a property I have hunted for years, search for some morels and go trout fishing. I was not over enthused because many bordering acres had been just posted by a hunting lease. These were lands my father had me in when I was around six or seven. Many years of hunting and walking will be forever gone and that saddened me. However, I still went out.

Early morning full moon.

The sky was clear and a beautiful full moon could be observed. As the skies brightened I heard one or two gobblers far off. I would end up seeing five gobblers in several places and as many, if not more hens. Deer were out everywhere!

I stopped at my mom and step father’s place to see their new truck and do some mowing.

More pics below:

I took a lot of turkey photos this morning.

…and a few deer photos, as well.

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Morels and Wildflowers

A Morel

The morel season is upon us. I have looked around three or four times without any success. Conditions for my area of Pennsylvania seems to be on currently for I discovered enough for a mess for myself. I hope to find more in the next couple of weeks. This day I went out in the afternoon to search for some and take photos of wildflowers and whatever I might see.

The wildflowers in the secluded hollow are out in force and I knew they would be. I wasn’t disappointed. However, finding Morels wasn’t as easy, but I finally lucked out with the first one barely visible among some leaves. I would find more in the same general area. These species of fungus are most delicious.

I saw one hen turkey and one gobbler during the trip afield.

Later, I spotted my friend Frank the Muskie, Maus and we chatted for about an hour in his garage.

Purple Trillium (Red Trillium, Wake Robin)

White Trillium

Sweet William (Wild Blue Phlox)

White Violet

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Alvin Bush Dam on Kettle Creek

The mountain traveling and breakfast had been completed before the two if us moved east to visit the Kettle Creek area. The Alvin Bush dam controls the water of Kettle Creek. We enjoyed sightseeing some before I drifted back a small stream called, Beaverdam Run. I settled in for some time to catch the native Brook trout again. I wasn’t disappointed.

Why I enjoy fishing for these beauts is a mystery for kettle Creek has big trout in the waters. I think the reason in part may be the solitude of lack of seeing any other fishermen.

After a time the jeep wanted to climb a mountain road. On the top Laurie and I witnessed some beautiful vistas seeing for great distances.

The plan to complete the day was to return west taking Wykoff Run Road in route to the Quehanna Highway again. I wanted to take a couple of short hikes to long-abandoned bunkers and the Kunes camp. (These adventures will be included within separate entries.

Dam backwaters

We saw some hen turkeys and deer and many Turkey Vulture. I saw a Black Squirrel but failed to get any photos. We saw over fifty elk during our time north.

Turkey Vulture

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Laurie and I, upon leaving the Austin Dam remains headed south on Route 872. We had a goal to spend some time at the Sinnemahoning State Park including the George Stevenson Dam area. I, also, was going to do a little fishing for native Brook Trout and whatever I can catch on the Sinnemahoning.

Laurie loves to read so any fishing I was to do would find her happy with a book. The first visit was at Brooks Run to fish for the beautiful native Brook Tout.

Native Brook Trout

Brooks Run

Those who know me understand how I am in awe in the Sinnemahoning Area of Pennsylvania. I never tire of viewing the high and steep mountains and those deep and shadowed hollows. I am always amazed as to how those men in the nineteenth century were able to denude all those mountains of virgin trees. Today, the beauty is back in force.

After the Brooks Run fishing we went to the Stevenson Dam area to fish a little more. I caught many Yellow Perch as Laurie sat on a bench along the shore to read. I walked upstream to explore. Personally, I enjoy the exploration as much as fishing. There were many Canada Geese and Common Mergansers using the water.

Laurie and I saw two mature Bald Eagles along the Sinnemahoning. One beautiful bird allowed my approach as I clicked away. I just have to include some of those pics here.

After the fishing and exploration halted the hiking began. But first we stopped of the famous “Arch Tree” farther upstream. Laurie had not ever seen it. This image appears on many sites. People seem to find a lot of enjoyment posing with the tree. Unfortunately, I see some decay on the tree. One can only guess how long the tree will survive. It could be many years.

Arch Tree

As what always happens the time to head back to the lodge comes much too quickly. I am including a few more photos below of the Sinnemahoning area.

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Laurie and I had planned some time away and we scheduled four days at the Bull Elk Lodge near Driftwood, Pennsylvania. The lodge’s website is: http://www.bullelklodge,wixsite.com .

We left early to travel to the lodge and as I generally do, we moved across back country roads of the Quehanna Wild Area. We stopped at the Shagger’s Inn Shallow Water Impoundment to see how the Ospreys were doing this. At this site I didn’t know what to expect for I had heard the Osprey nesting platform had collapsed. However, two nesting platforms were added farther down from the water. Two Ospreys were using the one platform. I moved across a wetland to close the gap for photos. I stopped once the water began to become worrisome for getting wet. We saw Canada geese, mallards, Wood Ducks and Common Mergansers at the water.

Osprey at nesting platform

As we drove the back roads we saw a Beaver dam and lodge. Of course, I have to get out and take some photos. WE continued on and visited the Beaver Run Shallow Water Impoundment where we saw another Osprey on a nesting platform. The last time I was here the water had been drained. We saw 15-22 elk while we traveled.

Beaver Lodge

Upon arrival we met with the owner of the above-mentioned lodge. Marcy has become a friend to us. She is a delightful person and Laurie and I have been honored with her friendship. We were the first to spend time at Bull Elk Lodge last year when she first opened it up for stay. We met her latest addition too. The German Shepherd pup named Cheech was full of energy upon greeting them all. Max, the little dog, was just as eager to say hello to us.

After we had settled in I went for a walk along the Bennett’s Branch of the Sinnemahoning anxious to see anything of interest. I immediately spotted some Common Mergansers on the water. As I explored around I saw, what appeared, to be deer hair along the shore. I assumed a deer may have been hit on the road and headed to the water and died. As I approached the hair became white feathers. I expected a male Common Merganser may have become a meal for a bald Eagle. I was wrong! The dinner had been a Red-Tailed Hawk. I am still assuming a Bald eagle killed the hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk feathers and parts.

I walked east along the branch along a remnant of an ancient logging road. I could see where workers had placed rocks many years ago over a ditch to make the road more level. To my right a 90 degree vertical, rocky cliff was present entirely. I could not even think of climbing this area. This road remnant, apparently, is used much by the local Elk population for droppings and antler rubs are everywhere. Across the creek I saw two deer. They were enjoying the greener, bottomland grass.

Rocks laid to make old road.

Elk droppings

As I continued along I saw a Porcupine about twelve feet in a small tree. I shook the trr some, but the mammal didn’t care a bit. I could have shaken him out of the tree if I had wanted.

Porcupine

I came upon a log diagonally across this old road. I noticed the leaves on the one side, but I didn’t realize the leaves had blown in against the log and filled in a depression in the ground. I stopped onto the log and stepped into the leaves falling head-first. The depression was two feet deep and filled with leaves. I gathered my senses and brushed myself off and moved about thirty yards farther and began to checking for things. I realized my one camera lens was not in my shoulder bag. I returned and frantically began to search eventually crawling into the depression. I found my lens. Relief!

I removed a few ticks from my clothes disposing of them all….But one! Later in the evening after I showered I found one of those despicable critters in my neck. That totals three embedded ticks in seven days for me.

Juneberry or Serviceberry

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With the weather of springtime the urge to watch the reemergence of life in the wild is strong. This past week I was out and about on several different days. I fished the Allegheny River one morning and did some woods-walking to see the wildflower progress and I searched a little for the Morel Mushroom. I had no luck yet with the Morels, but it may be a little early locally.

I went directly below the dam in Kittanning, Pennsylvania. I found the currents much too wild for me. I casted twice and snagged twice. I mover farther down the river and eventually found an area shielded from the current. I caught a catfish. I saw an immature Bald Eagle being harassed by a crow. I spotted a few Common Mergansers.

During the time in the woods I saw and heard some gobblers and I noticed some hen turkeys out and alone. They are leaving the gobblers to go nesting. Once their clutch of eggs are complete the incubation process will begin.

I worked with my crossbow again. I am having some issues during the string pull-back time. Sometimes I am having troubles getting the string to lock in the proper place. I need to figure out what I am doing wrong or if there may be a mechanical issue. (I pulled a muscle in my arm so the adventure consisted of about four attempts to shoot. At twenty yards I was hitting a six-inch paper plate.

I have been seeing plenty of deer, also.

Various spring wildflowers are emerging. Wild Leeks (Ramps) are all out. The Cutleaf-Toothworts and Spring Beauties are blooming. Various violets are in bloom as well. I have seen Dutchmen Breeches, Hepatica and White and Purple Trilliums in bloom. Another week the woods will covered in their blooms where they are present.

No morels, yet!

Apple blossoms…I hope we don’t get a heavy frost.

Leeks

Turkey Vulture in the fog

Water Strider…we always called them Skippers as a boy.

Female Common Merganser

Quills from a dead Porcupine.

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A friend of mine and I were talking about Screech Owls and my nesting box success. As the conversation continued plans to build him a box came into mind. I said I may have enough scrap lumber overhead in the garage. I continued, if I find enough I would build one for his residence.

I found a sixteen inch wide board I had placed overhead. The board was a shelf board. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough to make the owl box without using some old weathered deck boards I had saved. The back and bottom of the box were made with these boards.

This morning I watched the skies and decided to run the box out to his place before doing some hiking. I rang the doorbell and lightly knocked without a response. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but in case the couple were sleeping I decided to set the box down before heading to the woods. I would later find out they were home but neither one had heard me outside and the bell was disconnected.

Afterwards, I walked in familiar country where I often hunt. I spotted a flock of turkeys in a field of around 7-8 birds. I circled around the field and tried to see the flock. They had already exited the field. I heard a couple of toms gobbling far off in leased land.

I had a bag of native Wild Leek with me and I planted a stalk of the leek, also called Ramps, here and there hoping the bulbs would survive allowing for established future colonies. I had planted a few last year, but couldn’t find any. However, I plant randomly and could easily miss the leeks.

Early Virginia Bluebells

Last year I had carried and transplanted some Virginia Bluebells. These, like the leek, are native plants. I recognized a spring seep remembering I had planted something in this area. I found two of the flowers growing. These flowers self-sow readily so I hope to find an increase soon.

I would see about eleven deer as I tramped around. I would see about five gobblers moving out ahead of my approach. I would see a lone hen, a gobbler with two hens and another strutter as the morning moved. I saw several strutting gobblers on a right-a-way, too.

As I walked I tried to concentrate and find some Morels, but I was having trouble staying on target with the fungus. It felt too dry to me.

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I needed to stay around the house early this morning to await a delivery of a new table and chairs. The men arrived at nine and I would be able to et out and enjoy some woodland time.

My first adventure was to experiment with my latest toy…the crossbow! I had only shot one shot at the house and needed to get out to the range and experience this new contraption. I needed to get familiar and the “how to” and overcome any fears. The crossbow worked flawlessly after I realized the need to be sure the string is pulled back until it locks properly. Another trip or two should iron out all fears and gain a solid knowledge.

Afterwards, I decided to go for a hike to an area I had found some Morels last season. I didn’t find of those treasured mushrooms, but last year, the location yielded them later in the season. I would return. I did discover some Wild Leeks, often called Ramps. I dug up a few to eat and a few to transplant to some wooded areas voided of the early spring plant.

I saw four deer and some turkeys here and there in the fields, but one began to gobble after noon. I moved in and began to try to talk with the turkey. I would see him in the distance and eventually he began to strut and walk towards me. Needless to say< I snapped a number of photos. This gobbler came in to about twenty yards if me. Unfortunately, once he moved in to that distance a lot of downed hemlock trees refused to move allowing any clear shots.

I enjoyed finding some early spring wildflowers as I tramped around. the flowers were the Spring Beauty and Round-lobed Hepatica. I enjoy watching this next month or two come alive with the varied flowers.

Round-lobed Hepatica

Native Leek or Ramps

Crossbow

Spring Beauty

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Screech Owl

I have been fortunate to have these little owls living in an owl box I made many years ago. This specie is a red-phrased Screech Owl, although, I see the gray-phased owls at times. Sometimes both in the same box. They become quite used to my presence allowing me to walk directly under the box and/or mowing around the tree. I especially enjoy listening to, both, the adults and young. I have had the babies lined up and perched on the deck railing. I have, using my natural voice, called the little birds up close.

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