Monday, March 25, 2019

Swimming with the Ducks

With a nice day forecast and the boat trailing behind, I headed for a lake early yesterday.  Although a high of 61 was called for, the trucks thermometer indicated 27 degrees Fahrenheit as I arrived at launch ramp with the sun beginning to peak over the eastern horizon.  After an hour or so of nice morning light clouds moved in covering the sky for the duration of my outing.  

Waterfowl was plentiful with a nice variety of species present.  The highlight of the trip was an encounter with a accommodating flock of Bufflehead ducks who allowed me to approach quite closely.  Comparing to my outing last Friday, the Tundra Swans and Greater Scaup had moved on, however Green-winged teal, Lesser Scaup, and Red-breasted Merganser made their appearance.  The numbers of Hooded Merganser and Ring-neck Ducks were lower while the numbers of Gadwall and Horned Grebe, had increased.

When the day turned breezy under dreary cloudy skies I stashed the cameras and broke out a fishing rod to try my luck for the first time this spring.  Four yellow perch and three crappies later it was time to load up and head home.

Male Bufflehead

Bufflehead, two males with a lone female

Bufflehead pair

Ring-necked Ducks

Ring-necked male showing his chestnut neck ring

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebes take flight

There is nothing common about the beauty of the Common Loon

Common Loon

Red-breasted Merganser males, a first for the year

Scaup taking off,
Not sure of the identity but am leaning towards them being of the Lesser variety 

Green-winged Teal exploding from a marshy area

Saturday, March 16, 2019

On The Water with Migrating Waterfowl

With winter loosening its grip and a warm day in store for Thursday, I invited my wife for a daytrip to check out some likely spots to find migrating waterfowl.  My goal was to find migratory waterfowl in a setting where I could photograph them from my boat, something I haven't been able to do seriously since the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission drained our nearby Meadow Grounds Lake.  When we stopped at a state park containing a nice sized lake I knew we had hit paydirt.  Various flocks of waterfowl were scattered about in the open water while half or more of the lake remained ice covered.  Also of interest were at least four bald eagles soaring about causing eruptions of ducks and geese whenever they approached a flock too closely.

The sight of hundreds of waterfowl certainly had my interest so upon returning home I hauled the boat from winter storage, checked it over, and prepped it for a trip to the lake on Friday morning.

Friday morning was exceptionally warm, windy, and spitting rain.  Not to be deterred I arrived at the lake at dawn.  I was surprised to find that nearly all of the ice that had covered the lake the day before had now melted and while the waterfowl wasn't out in the open windy areas vast flocks were taking advantage of the sheltered coves.  The following are some of the better photos I was able to capture during my morning outing.  

Common Merganser


American Coot

Ring-necked Ducks

Wood Ducks 

Bald Eagle with Ring-necked Ducks along the reeds


Canada Goose

Hooded Merganser

Greater Scaup

Tundra Swans

American Wigeon

In addition to the species pictured here I also had sightings of the following; Mallard, Horned Grebe,  and a lone Common Loon.  All in all it was a fabulous morning on the water, something that I want to repeat soon!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Middle Creek Morning

As winter wanes massive flocks of waterfowl head north on their annual journey to the northern nesting grounds.  For birds like Tundra Swans and Snow Geese Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area is an excellent place to view the migration as it passes by in late winter.

 A large flock of Snow Geese were rafted near Willow Point this morning where a good sized crowd of onlookers gathered.

There were a number of lift-offs this morning with some of the Snows passing directly overhead.  

Later in the morning Tundra Swans provided nice pass shooting from along the tour road.

Not to be outdone by the hordes of waterfowl, this hawk posed along the tour road for close-up photos.

What you have seen is some of the better images taken this morning with my Canon 60D with the 100-400 lens.  I was also shooting a 6D with a 600mm lens however when I attempted to download that card the files were corrupted and unrecoverable.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Snow & Ice

Yesterday's storm left a covering of snow and ice in its wake.  The views at sunrise this morning were nothing short of stunning.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Snow Highlights History

The wind was causing the clouds to scurry across the sky this morning creating an interesting pattern of light and shadow playing across the landscape.  Looking for an image, I noticed how at this moment the sunlight highlighted the distant pipeline right of way as it crossed Sidling Hill Mountain.

For the most part pipelines are fairly uninteresting to most of us unless you happen to live in the path of where one is to be built or perhaps you are concerned about the environmental impact, however this pipeline has a very special place in our nations history that deserves retelling.

During World War II our nation had a serious problem with German submarines attacking our shipping fleet along our Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.  The problem was so bad that moving oil from the western oil fields to the east coast was seriously hampered.

The answer was to build pipelines and on August third of 1942 the project commenced.  Two pipelines were to be built. The Big Inch, a 24" pipeline running from Long View Texas to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania where it then branched with one branch running to Linden, New Jersey and the other to Philadelphia delivered crude oil.  This pipeline was finished an amazing 350 days later!  The second line, nicknamed the Little Big Inch, a 20" pipeline, began in Beaumont Texas, joined the Big Inch at Little Rock Arkansas, and from there shared the same right-of-way and pumping stations until it reached its terminus in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Unlike the Big Inch, the Little Big Inch carried refined products; gasoline, heating oil, kerosene, and diesel with each product separated by a solid rubber ball slightly smaller than the pipe diameter.  This pipeline is credited with making a very important contribution to the war effort.  Much of the fuel and oil products that supplied our troops fighting in Europe flowed through these two pipe. 

I remember my grandfather Hill telling stories about the pipeline during the war.  He recounted how people were hired to walk the line checking for leaks.  He told of one particular individual who walked a section in our area who would add to his income during the winter by trapping fur.  Granddad recounted how the man would bore a hole about in inch in diameter and two or three inches deep into trees along the right-of-way. Then driving three or four nails at an angle into the opening and placing a bit of sardine into the hole he fashioned a trap that would grip a paw. It would have been a gruesome trap to be sure, but with money tight in those days, no doubt it was an inexpensive method to acquire some much needed income.

The pipeline became surplus property after the war and was sole to the Texas Eastern Corp who converted it to carry natural gas.  While the pipeline has changed ownership a few times since and has been upgraded it still serves as a vital energy link for our country.

For a short but interesting read concerning this historic pipeline follow the link Here 

Friday, February 01, 2019

Quietly They Rest Beneath The Snow

With the thermometer registering 12 deg. F and a fine snow softly falling, I walked through Union Cemetery today looking for an image that would resonate with my feelings of melancholy.

Passing by tomb stones I noted some of people who had lived long lives and others who died before their life outside the womb had even begun.

Thinking of these folks who have now gone on I could not help but think of their hopes and dreams, their emotions of love and hate, their financial success or lack there of and how it makes no difference now as their remains rests with the remains of their loved ones, family members, and also with those who they may have spent many years feuding with.

As I walked the cemetery I could not hear the children playing, nor the sounds of their crying.  I could not hear the happy chatter of the adults greeting their neighbors nor the angry words shouted during times of disagreement; only silence.

And all too soon we to shall join them as time marches on............. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Morning Musings

A few inches of snow fell during the night with snow showers still dusting the countryside this morning.  As I made my morning rounds I paused for a moment to capture this peaceful rural scene.

On the way to the farm I helped extricate our neighbor lady's car from the road ditch.  While on her way to church she had spun out and slid off the road.  A good push on the front fender while she gently backed up was all it took to get her turned around and headed safely home.  Continuing to the farm and tending the cattle I had plenty of time to think about some of the things I have to be thankful for.

I am thankful for my family, those that are with us and those who have passed on.  Each one in their own way has influenced my life and made my time here richer.

I am thankful for the lifestyle that I am able to lead; thankful for not having to get up and drive a long commute each morning, thankful for the farm that my grandparents bought in the 1920's and retained while struggling through the depression.

I am thankful that I live in a peaceful country, a place where I don't have to worry about war or  paramilitaries invading my home, taking our belongings, and destroying our lives. I'm thankful for a warm home with plenty of comforts and food.

I am thankful for our good neighbors who are always a pleasure to chat with and who we can always depend on to give us aid and moral support during times of hardship.  And that goes both ways.

I am thankful for the career that I had and the various jobs that I held.  Each job and the coworkers influenced me and enriched my life.

I am thankful for the hardships that I have faced.  While hardship is never pleasant to go through, the hardships test us and teaches us to make better life choices in the future.

When I think of all the things that I have to be thankful for I realize that so much of what I am thankful for are things that I had no choice in.  These are things to be truly thankful for rather than proud of.

None of us chose what family we were born into, we didn't choose what race we are, we didn't chose what religious tradition our family taught us, or what socioeconomic group we are born into.  Not one of us had a choice in whether we were born black in an underdeveloped country, a mixed race person born in a so called shit hole country, or being so fortunate as to be a white American.

None us us had any choice about our birth but we do have a choice in how we live our lives.  We can either choose to be thankful for what we have and treat others as Jesus commanded "you shall love your neighbor as yourself"  or we can stand up, beat our chest proudly and vilify those who are less fortunate than we.   

Thursday, January 10, 2019

So We Need A Wall To Protect Us

I think back over the past couple years, thinking of the heinous crimes committed here in my area.
A man on his way to work early in the morning spotted a duffel bag lying in the road and stopped to check it out.  Unknown to him three people had placed it there and were lying in wait.   Upon getting out of his car, the victim was hit with a hail of gunfire, the perpetrators fled with his car and the few dollars he had in his pocket.  They were apprehended a few days later.  The motive was that the leader wanted to kill someone. They were all local people.

It was nearing shift change at a rural Pennsylvania Turnpike exit when an armed man accosted two tollbooth personnel.  While he had a plan to have them tie up each other they outsmarted him.  The male employee was able to disarm the assailant and run outside, alerting the guard of the armored car that had just arrived to pick up the tolls.  The gunman, unknown to them, had a second gun.  In short order the turnpike employee and the armed guard were both dead.  When the Pennsylvania State Police arrived they killed the gunman.   The gunman’s motive was to rob the armored car.  He knew the schedule, he knew the routine, and he was a retired State Police officer who had been assigned to the Pa turnpike.  He was also was employed as range master at shooting range in nearby Harrisburg.

A family living just a couple of miles away was going through some serious domestic issues.  One night it reached the boiling point.  When it subsided three lives were wasted, the wife and one step daughter lay dead, two step daughters were traumatized, and the husband was headed for a life behind bars.  I knew him, he was a hardworking man born and raised right here in Fulton County.

With this in mind, I think of all the post I see of people wanting our government to build a wall on our southern border.  Now I would be the first to agree that we do need border security and in places a barricade of some sort certainly is necessary however no wall will protect us from the crimes real and imagined that our POTUS trots out daily.  As Walt Kelly said over two hundred years ago “we have met the enemy and he is us”.         

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Winning the Battle

Two weeks ago I posted the story of the birth and problems with this couple.  At the time of the post the cow would not allow her calf to nurse nor allow milking.  Using kicker clamps I was able to milk her some that evening but soon she learned how to circumvent the kickers and fire away unhindered.  Resorting to a belly band and a leg rope I was able to restrain her to allow the calf to nurse a little.  However unrestrained she would kick her baby, knocking him back several feet at times. Concerned for the calf's health and strength I continued supplemental feeding.

By day three I noticed the calf was having problems walking and maintaining its balance while standing.  While I cannot be sure, I suspect that she had injured him with some of her blows. At this point I took him away from her and would only allow him contact with her while she was restrained.  Keep in mind that she was showing every normal mothering instinct by this time except allowing nursing.

Day six I decided to once again allow him to nurse without restraining the cow and after only a couple slurps she struck at him with a powerful blow.  Fortunately I was supporting the calf and able to move him out of harms way.  At that point I finally lost my cool!  Moving the calf to its pen, I opened the stable door and chased her out informing her as she went that she had had her last chance, (yes I do talk to the cows).  A few minutes later I texted my livestock hauler about taking her to market.  He soon responded that he would pick her up the following Wednesday, some six days away.

For the next two days I fed the calf while she spent much of her time standing outside the barn bawling and running frantically from door to door anytime I was near the barn.  Finally I relented and invited her in for one more "last chance", and this time she allowed the calf to nurse without so much as raising a foot!  Keeping the calf in a separate pen and only allowing them together for nursing over then next two days I was able to observe that the transformation was complete.  She is not only the doting mother but also the consummate wet-nurse.

Perhaps even with cattle the old adage, "distance makes the heart grow fonder", is true. Whatever the case the calf now has a good mother and her trip to hamburger land is postponed indefinitely.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Wildlife Management Fail

In the mid 1980's I became interested in arranging a trip to hunt caribou in the Ungava Peninsula region of Quebec.  The George River caribou herd was growing rapidly, trips were affordable, and the success rate for hunters was nearly 100%.  I was fortunate to have been able to make three trips, one each in 1987, 1989, and 1991.  The above photo was of our party in 1991.

The herd which was estimated to number some 50,000 animals in the 1960's had grown to 800,000 animals by the early 1990's.  Sport hunters were allowed two animals of either sex and the killing of wolves was strictly forbidden.  The major management concern voiced by the managing ministry was of the herd eating itself out of house and home.

The early 1990's was the high water mark for the George River herd.  By 2001 the herd was down to 385,000 animals and dropping farther to 75,000 by 2010 when all sport hunting was banned.  The herd population has continued to fall with the 2018 estimate being only 5,500 animals.

According to government researchers wolf populations are considered low, habitat disturbance is low, calf birthrates are normal, and the animals tested are healthy with decreasing prevalence of parasites. However the herd continues to decrease.  Consideration was given to place this herd on the  Canadian endangered species list.

Caribou populations in many areas around the arctic are decreasing and may very well be tied to global climate change.