Wednesday, September 14, 2011

(23) Leading up to the "Long Sleep"

     This female Ruby Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is now on her way to warmer climes. The feeder was taken down last week to urge her on her way. Looking forward to seeing her next spring.

Mapleleaf  Viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)
     It is evident that summer is drawing to a close.  Birds are starting their migration south.  The beautiful song of the thrush in the evening is now gone.  Chipmunks are hoarding faster than ever and Gray squirrel tails are shorter while their new winter growth is starting.
     It is hard to find a leaf that has not seen the ravishes of some insect.  Many are starting to lose their grip from the host tree.  Only the occasional wood frog (Rana sylvatica)  can be heard in the evening.  The shrill call of the peeper is long gone.  Thousands of tiny toads are scrambling to live for another spring.  The black bear (Ursus americanus) is fat and the doe is getting her winter coat.  Catipillars are getting ready to hide in the folliage for their winter sleep and I am lucky enough to witness all of this, appreciating more that the forest and its inhabitants are nearing their time for the "Long Sleep".
     The pallete of color is waiting to be brushed upon the leaves of the trees and cooler nights will signal that process.  As I have recently learned and contrary to popular belief.  It is not early frost that causes our woods to fill with color, rather the cool dry days of autumn trigger a sequence in trees where by shutting off the flow of water to the leaves.  The leaves prepare all summer for the own demise by growing two layers of cells at the base of the leaf stem.  As the two layers grow, they meet and shut off the flow of chlorophyl which makes the leaves appear green.  The chlorophyl breaks down quickly and disappears revealing the beautiful yellow, gold and orange we now see, always there all summer but masked by the chlorophyl.  Other pigments are produced creating dramitic reds, scarlets and purples.  Soon, all pigments disappear and only the drab brown tannins are left to carpet the forest floor. 
     I have stocked my reserves of kerosene, propane and candles.  Firewood is stacked, coffee is on the shelf and I am ready with new excitement for visits during the long sleep.
 This is the "Hidden Pond" I have mentioned in previous posts.  I have begun building a wooden path through the bog to attain access.  I have built a small camp at the top of a hill overlooking the pond.  It is about a half acre in size and stunning.

Pitcher Plant
                                                                                                                                                                           This is a pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea) that grows in the acidic sphagnum moss that surrounds the pond.  Tamaracks and black spruce also grow in this medium.  The pitcher plant is an insect-trapping plant.  The leaves form a pitcher that collects rain water, although scientists now say the roots of the pitcher also pump water into the pitcher.  The pitcher has a lip at the top with sweet secretions that attract insects.  They crawl down into the pitcher over hairs that grow downward to inhibit the insect from crawling out.  As the insect gets further in a secretion stuns them further causing them to fall into the water and be digested by plant enzymes.  The decomposed insect is then converted into nitrogen and other nutrients absorbed by the plant. 

     Tuesday 9/13/2011 6:22 p.m. 66 degrees relative humidity is 68%.  It is breezy.
     Two does, presumably sisters and probably mama does daughters arrived. It is amazing how the color has changed since last week.  One has more grey than the other but both are far into their winter coat.  They both are quite healthy.  The one is still quite dominant and insists on feeding first while the other circles and looks longingly at the pile of corn.  They are extra wary as hunting season is just around the corner and they need all of the stealth they can muster- it is inherent.
    When the deer stand still it is awesome how they blend with the bark of similar colored oaks.  
     Squirrels and chipmunks busy themselves with the sunflower seeds I have provided and their noise often gets the attention of the deer.  The chipmunks and their stuffed pouches continue to fill seed burrows already stuffed from the summer- also inherent.
     6:50, Doe #2 finally gets a chance to finish up the corn and they leave at 7:00 p.m.  
     The breeze is up and the temp is dropping.  What a day this has been.  Thanks for looking.  I hope you enjoy your space as much as I do mine.  Till next time.  Thanks again.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

(22) Recap of the Spring and Summer to the Present.

     There were enough nice days in April to dismantle the fence I built last summer.  I am happy that I did as I felt I was secluding myself from my friends (the animals).  It worked, the place looks nicer and the wildlife is much closer.  The deer have not eaten anything they shouldn't but a bear or bears destroyed a pink crab apple I planted.  I cut the tree to within a foot of the ground and it is now growing back nicely.  I moved more large rocks for continued rustic landscaping and planted a small amount of grass to keep the ground from eroding.  Keep in mind this is not a lawn, that would be a shame in the Realm.
     I have been able to take some nice images of birds, insects and animals some of which I will post here.  I also built another small trail and have maintained the others as well.  I have been fortunate enough to have a mother bear and two little cubs hang around this summer and exposed some very nice images and videos. 
     We have had enough rain to keep things nice and green and the swamps and pond pretty full.  The Realm has been certified by The National Wildlife Federation as a wildlife habitat.  A journalist from Milwaukee is planning on a visit to do an article on the Realm and my tiny cabin.  I am pretty excited about that.
     This bee was flying about and I got some nice images.  This one in particular.  I have spent quite a bit of time throughout the season photographing wild flowers as they bloom.  I will be cataloging them and adding them to the next Realm book.

     This sow and her cubs first came when they were only about fifteen pounds each.  On their second visit she felt comfortable enough with me  there to lay on her back and nurse the cubs not more that fifty feet away.  The cubs are very inquisitive and have come to within ten feet of me.  They no longer run up a tree when I am out and about.  I still respect that they are wild and follow all of the rules pertaining to black bears.

     It is amazing how much more I notice things as time goes by.  I guess my study and desire to be a naturalist has helped that but I thought I was always pretty observant.  I guess now I have actually trained myself to move slower, more quiet and constantly look everywhere.  However, the Wood Thrush has still alluded me but not her beautiful song.  Summer is not over and I am determined to see her.

     There are more insects around now that I have added native flowers to attract them.  This Monarch was nice enough to sit for a quick photo.

        This bull thistle is a favorite of the American Goldfinch in the fall. 

     I found this hairy little guy crawling along my foundation.

     and this one waiting atop a wildflower for a meal.

     I increased the size of the "arena" and this little guy is the happier for it.  I have counted a dozen chipmunks this year and they are constantly at my screen door asking for a handout.
     All in all, the summer has been excellent and I am looking forward to the rest of it.
     Meanwhile, thanks for looking and enjoy your space.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(21) We still have snow- But now, a better outlook!

     March is almost over and still we have too much snow on the ground.  So spoiled last year with all snow gone by the 15th and unusually warm weather.  Oh well, we take what we can get.
     Yesterday while at "Observation Hill" I saw two chipmunks in the snowy arena vying for sunflower seeds and also saw a robin.  Juncos are passing through and goldfinches are back.
     I am thinking about plans for a small addition.  Comtemplating the pros and cons.  I don't really want the extra expense but a little extra room would be nice.  I am only thinking about 25-30 sq ft.  Anyway, more on that later. 
     Purchased a new camera and have plans for various research through the season.  I am very excited about that.
     Here are a few thoughts about winter via a poem I wrote in December-


Walking through the "Realm" fingers numbing,
Snow crunching under foot, toes throbbing.
Stick in hand to keep from falling,
A chickadee lites nearby all curiousity.

I stop to gaze and listen,
To the wind above, through the limbs.
Below, the tracks of those who live here.
In the snow that yeilds and glistens.

I wonder who has passed most recently,
Is it the deer or squirrel or both?
It matters not, they live here.
Me only a traveler on their path.

I shudder quietly with winters weather,
Not enjoying but enduring.  That I must.
If I want to be, and go where I want,
This path must I take and feel the brunt.

I see through the trees not far off,
The destination I desire.  The hill of observation.
With patience I employ my means of desire,
To make the "Hill" and light the fire.

My heart enlightens as progress unveils,
The gate that I enter that allows me haven.
A place to relax and warm up,
To be where I want, winter comfort.

The stove I light, the pot on high,
Warm liquid inside to thaw and revive.
I put out seeds for energy for the birds,
And wait for the warmth, to return, to observe.

I look around and breath forms a cloud,
To cover the panes and walls all 'round,
Pleased, I see the books on their shelves,
Soon, the warmth overtakes the cold of the Realm.

Winter comfort is here in this place I have built,
To be with nature and Earth and solitude.
Not excessive in the scene before me,
Winter comfort alludes to the place I should be.

Until later,  enjoy your space.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(20) Another Spring is Here!

I entered the "Realm" yesterday.   The sun was shinning and the temp was just above 40 degrees.  I got to "Observation Hill"  and loaded up the feeders.  Birds flocked immediately and I was pleased.  I made a cup of coffee and added a dollop of vodka to help warm the bones and watched.  I got a couple of good pictures and suddenly I noticed a chipmunk, the first of the season!  A huge smile crossed my face as I watched and I remember saying "Yeah" to myself.  So small yet so important to me. 
     My truck stayed in the woods all winter as I got stuck just after the first snow fall and decided to leave it there.  I stuck the key in and she fired off right away.  It shouldn't be long and I will be able to get her out once again. 

(19) On being another

     I sometimes wish that I was the deer, knowing what my life was to be, and what to do.  As long as I stayed in the "Realm", I would be safe.  If I crossed the line I would be in danger of man and his gun or the speed of a car and man's lack of attention.
     I could be in the woods during my life with the rest of nature.  The song of the bird and the yip of the coyote would be my neighbors, neither of who I would be obliged to converse.  No madness of sporting events, politics or religion- the foolishness of cell phones or disasters of the world elsewhere.  The greed of man beyond that of food, clothing and shelter.
     However, coming upon the gift (of man), the occasional pile of corn or an apple to enjoy.  Man is few and far between, at least the dangerous ones.  My instints would keep me from most trouble.  I would run with my fellow deer when the season was right or follow my own course in the summer, bedding down at night on a hill for observation and a clear get-a-way if needed.
     I would eat of the fresh grasses and new leaves in the spring and scrape the snow in winter for the hidden acorn.
     I would look up at the cry of a bluejay under duress and the danger warning of the nearby chipmunk.
     I would mate with my kind in late fall or early winter and enjoy my young for a year after.
     Mother Earth would control our population and I would not take from her more than she gave.
     My specie would carry on as long as Mother Earth wanted us-unless man took us first, as happens all too often. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

(18) February 2011

     Greetings from "Observation Hill".  Winter seems to be dragging on very slowly.
     Yesterday I saw a doe within twenty minutes of arriving.  She was in excellent condition.  The temperature  was almost 50 degrees!  Really makes me desire spring  though I know there is still at least six weeks before we will see warmer weather.
      This winter I took an online course from Penn Foster.  It was a twenty unit course on Wildlife and Forestry Conservation.  The knowledge gained was very helpful for me to better understand the "Realm" around me and gives me much to think about for this spring and summer.
     I also purchased about thirty new books pertaining to natural history.  I have read most of them and am looking forward to studying the "realm" this spring and summer. 
     I have decided to take down the fence around the cabin.  It has kept the deer out but not the bears.  I feel I have alienated myself and want to let any wildlife as near as possible,  if they eat the plants, so be it.  I think I will plant various fruits and grasses and vegetables that the wildlife will enjoy.  I purchased a new stereo microscope with camera that will allow me to put pictures on the computer to share with everybody, so look for pics of the tiny creatures coming soon.  I am very excited about this season coming as I plan to study the pond and transplant some small fish and see how they will do.  As the pond is surrounded by swamp I would like to build a dock through the swamp to the pond. so I can enjoy it more.
      I made some brush piles hoping rabbits would move in but have not seen any yet.  I was very suprised early this winter when upon arrival I spotted this turkey checking out the corn.  I have seen these birds in the area but never in the "Realm".  I hope they will come more often.
     Well, I hope everyone enjoys their own little spot in the world, I know I am.