Saturday, March 31, 2007

Prescribed Burning, Another Habitat Improvment Tool

I recently encountered employees of the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources conducting prescribed burns on a local Game Lands.

Fire is a valuable tool in the tool box of wildlife habitat professionals. Its use quickly reduces the available fuel load, greatly reducing the threat of wild fires. When burning dry grasses such as this the fire becomes very hot extremely quickly and only burns for a few minutes. In its aftermath a fine ash covers the ground, a layer of fertilizer which will soon encourage lush new growth.

It was very evident from watching this crew work that they are professionals who understand the nature of fire as they controlled it so well that at no time was there even a remote chance of it spreading beyond the intended area.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Spring, New Life in Abundance

As spring comes to our area the annual life cycle begins anew. For the last few evenings I have heard the mating songs of the frogs and toads. This evening I visited a local wetland to check on the progress and found many egg masses deposited in the shallow water. Inside the gelatinous mass of each egg is a small black tadpole.

I take time to muse on what the future holds for the new life contained in these eggs. Life is delicate and uncertain at best and only a very few of the eggs will ever survive to become an adult. The spawn creates a feeding bonanza for water fowl. Ducks and Geese spend much of their day now searching the wetlands feeding on not only the spawn but also new vegetation. Soon the egg masses will hatch into tadpoles which will likewise be food for water fowl. Many of these wetlands may dry out before the tadpoles have grown legs and lungs, giving them the ability to escape the puddle where life began. Even then their life will be fraught with danger having little chance to survive until mating season next spring.

Small creatures such as these which are such an important part of the food chain reproduce in large volume. Although the chance of any one individual surviving to reproduce is slim it only takes a very small percentage to guarantee the future of the species.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Meet Paula

Our circle of friends recently added a new member

After years of trying, one miscarriage and biological clocks ticking our good friends Paul and Sindy were concerned that they may never have a child of their own. Last summer they received the good news, a baby was on the way. The doctors viewed it as a high risk pregnancy and predicted that she would never carry to term. The doctors insisted on weekly appointments and bed rest for much of the time.

Pretty little Paula arrived just two weeks ahead of schedule whole and healthy.
She is one lucky little girl. Many children enter this world unwanted but in Paula’s case she could not have been more wanted!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Honk Honk

There was no beautiful sunrise to behold this morning. Instead I was greeted with a cool foggy drizzle. What should I do with a Saturday morning such as this? The first thought to come to my mind was, “This is a perfect day for ducks!” A short drive to nearby Big Pool Maryland didn’t provide me with ducks to photograph, but there were a number of Canada Geese.

As I approached, this honker’s mate flew away, leaving it to fend for itself

In a nearby marsh honkers were paired up. Some were standing on the bank while others were swimming nearby. It appears that the nesting season is beginning. In a few weeks I hope to be able to photograph the goslings.

This has to be the strangest honker I have ever encountered.
I could not believe my eyes when this image materialized on
my computer screen :)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sinker Casting…A Hot Deal

Various projects help pass the time throughout the dreary days of winter. One such project involved casting a supply of sinkers for the upcoming fishing season. Considering the price of sinkers the cost of a mold can be quickly recouped in just one casting session.

In this photo the metal is being melted in preparation for casting

During the entire casting process one must exercise due care to avoid the hazards involved. Make certain to provide good ventilation for lead vapors are toxic. The metal must be completely dry before being placed in the melting pot for any moisture will instantly vaporize creating an explosion of molten metal. Eye protection and heavy gloves must be worn to protect from spatter and heat. By implementing these few precautions casting can be accomplished safely and enjoyably.

The metal solidifies almost instantly upon being poured into the mold. As this photo depicts, I drop the sinkers on a piece of heavy cardboard to cushion their fall for they are still soft as they come from the mold.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring...8:07 PM

A Turkey Vulture glides gracefully in the strong March winds.

I always await the return of the vultures. Their graceful flight is one of the first signs the long winter is coming to an end.

New Grass

A spring seep provides warmth to give this grass an early start

Sunday, March 18, 2007

An Evening Stroll

I found these lichens growing on the end of an old pine log. A macro shot reveals the beauty that is easily missed if we do not slow down and “SEE” our surroundings.

This tuft of grass caught my attention. I liked the contrast between its soft brown colors and the cold white snow.

As I topped the ridge I encountered this flock of Wild Turkeys

The turkeys didn’t hang around long

Wild Turkeys are not very trusting creatures and would rather flee than take a chance on becoming dinner!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Snow Geese

A flock of migrating Canada Geese pauses for a break on the Potomac River

The migrants find open water on the rivers and streams but most of our lakes and ponds are still covered in ice. I have noticed many migrant birds the last few days. Grackles, cowbirds, and robins are now here in significant numbers. Last night the spring peepers were singing loudly, but today we have received about six inches of snow and it is still snowing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Old Farmer Ingenuity

Old Farmers can be very resourceful. I am frequently impressed with what they will repair or improvise with materials commonly found lying about the farm

With us more modern types duct tape and WD-40 are at the top of the list but for a farmer; baler twine has no equal. Here our 87 year old farmer has fashioned a latch for his wire gate. Although it will not last long, it did not cost him a penny.

Our farmer uses old galvanized roofing and baler twine in this photo in an attempt to keep his cattle from escaping where the road bank has eroded along the fence line.

Here he has used rusty galvanized roofing to cover an attic window. His repair does keep the weather out but it does nothing to enhance the appearance of his home.

When viewing farms we cannot judge the wealth of their owners by their appearance. Some keep very neat tidy farms while having very little wealth aside from their real-estate. Other farms are run down with makeshift repairs while their owner refuses to spend a dime of his considerable wealth.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Historic Sunrise

Some folks are night-owls who stay up late into the night and arise from their beds long after the day has begun. They do not know what beauty they have missed. The dawn of a new day is frequently a glorious sight.

Saturday morning is my time to greet the dawn, some times from the mountain tops and some times in the valleys. Soon I will meet the sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay but on this Saturday I met the dawn by the Potomac River.
This river holds particular significance in the history of our country for along much of its course it was the dividing line between the North and the South during our country’s Civil War. As I stood along the historic river I thought about the time many years ago when General Stonewall Jackson and his troops were deployed along the far bank with the artillery on the hills beyond. From their position they shelled Union positions in the small town of Hancock to the left of the photograph. The Confederates spent a day looking for a place where the troops could cross giving the Union time to bring up reinforcements. Stonewall; upon learning of the arrival of Union reinforcements withdrew his troops.
At another time it was learned that Pennsylvania’s Governor Curtain would be passing through nearby. A plot to kidnap the Governor was conceived and Confederate troops quietly crossed the river hiding in a culvert nearby. Their officer along with a small detachment went to do reconnaissance and ordered the remaining troops to remain hidden until their return. The men became restless and a few went out to do reconnaissance of their own. They discovered a cold storage business and stole some ice cream. Shortly after getting back to the culvert their commanding officer arrived. The men, not having ever seen ice cream before hid it under their hats where it quickly began to melt, running down their faces. The soldiers had been discovered, their plan foiled and they quickly returned across the river

The Tonoloway Primitive Baptist Church

This church, established in 1752 served as the Union hospital during the siege of Hancock. A few years ago restoration work began and as the wall paper was striped away a number of places were found on the wall where the wounded had written their names and the date of their stay.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Late Winter Snow

Snow was late coming this year but with spring only two weeks
away it seems as if it cannot stop

I am looking forward to the daffodils blooming
But I can’t find them for snow!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Narrow Escape

The creek nearly claimed another life Friday. Underestimating the power of the creek nearly cost our neighbor his life

Granddad told the story of the death of Elsie Fike. The tragedy happened on a hot summer day many years ago at this very same creek fording. Elsie and her husband had dealt with a neighbor for the breeding of their mare. The mare had recently delivered so Elsie, with her horse and buggy went to the neighbor’s farm to settled their account. A thundershower passed through upstream while she was away. On her return the creek fording was flooded but she attempted to cross. Elsie along with her mare and buggy were swept away. A search party of neighbors was gathered and her body was found downstream. The mare was found standing on the creek bank about a half mile downstream. As my brother and I were growing up this story was told to us many many times in hopes of instilling in us due respect for the power of the creek.

Friday, for whatever reason with the creek at flood stage, our neighbor drove his truck straight into the raging torrent. He said he had no idea that it was so deep. Once the truck stopped he found he could not open the driver’s door. His decided to escape via the window. Not wanting to go out headfirst into the water he instead went feet first. He found this was not an easy maneuver at his age and the truck cab was filling quickly. He recounted that his escape took him about twenty minutes and the cab was full of water by that time. His window of opportunity was quite narrow. The water was very cold, only a couple of degrees above freezing and hyperthermia will incapacitate us in a few minutes at these temperatures. After wriggling out of the truck he made his way to shore and headed to his home about three quarters of a mile away. Never once during his escape did he think to try the passenger door. The current was pressing against the drivers door effectively blocking it from opening, the downstream passenger’s door would have opened easily.

These photos were taken Saturday morning after the water had receded considerably.

Note the arrow pointing out the high water mark on the hood. The water was beginning to recede when the incident occurred making this the high-water point at which the vehicle came to rest.

Neighbors came to the rescue of the truck. A high lift belonging to the township road department operated by one of our supervisors aided in the removal.

With rear wheels lifted high the truck is pulled from the creek

The extremely fortunate victim surveys his truck

Note the high water mark on the steering

This is the same creek featured in my October 25th post “Autumn Creek and in the Walking on Water series posted this past February. Our society has built infrastructure to protect us from nature but when one travels the back roads they must be aware of the hazards present and give due respect to the powers of nature. Our neighbor’s moment of carelessness cost him his truck and very nearly cost him his life.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ice Out

Winter is coming to an end here in south central Pennsylvania. With warming temperatures and a heavy rain Thursday night the creek threw off its winter cover.
Sadly I did not get to document the event but this morning I was able to photograph the aftermath. I remember ice out from my youth, a time when we lived very near the creek. With the first heavy rain I could hear a cracking and booming sound coming from the creek. Soon this would be followed by a heavy roar of breaking and grinding ice as the large ice sheets would be broken and pushed along by the rushing current slamming into each other and everything else in their path.

As the water level recedes large chunks of ice lay strewn along the creek

Here a block of ice became wedged between trees

To capture this image I set my camera on macro and
put the rim of the lens against the side of an ice block

The trees in this photo are growing on a small island
Notice the damage to their trunks inflicted by the ice

We nearly experienced a tragedy during this event. A neighbor of ours who moved here from the city a few years ago came within a hairsbreadth of losing his life in the creek Friday. He is fine and much the wiser for his experience, but that story must wait until my next post.