Saturday, December 28, 2013

Meadow Grounds Lake, Still Empty At Year's End

Empty, with the exception of a small pool, the Meadow Grounds awaits the political will to identify funding for the necessary repairs.

View of the lake outlet.  Notice the outline of the concrete abutment in the ice.  I can only surmise that the outline was caused by the temperature difference between the concrete and the deeper water as the ice is a few inches above the abutment. 

There is an old saying that goes thus, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease", and in view of recent developments apparently we Fulton County residents and Meadow Grounds Lake users are not squeaking loud enough.

 A view from the former lake bed looking west into what was a cove that was productive for both fish and waterfowl.

Tonight I visited the PFBC website and viewed the High-Hazard, Unsafe Dam Revitalization Program Update page which had just recently been updated.  Reading over the projects the Colyer Lake repair grabbed my attention.

 The draining of Centre County's Colyer Lake was announced the day of the first public meeting about the Meadow Grounds, about a month after the Meadow Grounds drawdown anouncment.  Colyer Lake drew much media attention from the State College, Johnstown area and by early May the PFBC had reconsidered the complete drawdown and announced that a 17 foot reduction in the water level would be adequate to insure safety until funding could be found.

Fish structure installed by the PFBC in 2012
With much media attention and apparently the attention of the state senator serving the area today the 7.2 million Colyer Lake project is fully funded as listed below (PFBC website) 

                                                     1. GBO - $5.85 million (Senator Corman
                                                     2. Save Colyer Lake inc. - $100,000
                                                     3. PFBC - $1.25 million in Act 89 funding
Not only is the funding in hand but the PFBC has completed the engineering design and the project is currently awaiting Department of Environmental Protection review and approval!  It is very apparent from line 1 above that Senator Corman heard his constituents concerns and acted in their interest.

Meanwhile the Meadow Grounds lies empty with no funding identified.
And I have yet to receive a reply to a November 9th email sent to my State Senator, John Eichelberger, asking what effect if any that Senate Bill 680 has on funding the repairs to the Meadow Grounds dam.  In the beginning Senator Eichelberger seemed quite eager to do what was necessary for the restoration of our lake, now I am not as sure.
Rest assured that prior to voting for anyone for county commissioner or state office I will need to know their position concerning the lake and before voting for any incumbent I will not be listening to their promises but rather will be looking at their record.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Succesful Hunt: Northern Harrier Male

Male Northern Harrier at approximately 260 yards, Canon 6D, EF 600mm f/4.0L IS lens
As I topped the hill behind my home I spotted a male northern harrier soaring low over the stubble field.  By the time I was able to stop the truck and get the 600 out the window the hawk was soaring low to the ground behind my house in the distance.  As this swoop took the harrier near my bird feeders I felt fairly certain that the small birds were his attraction.
The harrier continued a short distance before turning 180 degrees and dropped from sight as he soared past the house again but lower in the ravine. 

Driving towards home I again spotted the harrier, this time on the ground, some 40-50 yards behind my home.  The harrier watched me intently as I jockeyed the truck in position to allow photographing from the open window but did not fly as I expected.

After watching me for ten minutes the harrier reached down between its legs and began to tear a small creature apart!  This when I realized why the bird did not flee when I approached.

After feeding for a few minutes the bird lifted it prey.  While I was expecting a song bird the animal appears to be a meadow vole. 

After the harrier finished off its meal it walked about picking up the pieces it had missed.  In fact it cleaned up so well that when I inspected the area trying to find fur to help confirm my identification of its prey I was unable to find so much as a single hair!  With the clean up finished the bird rested on the ground for another five minutes or so.  Notice its bulging crop.

Finally the beautiful bird lifted off on silver wings.

And soared away into a fast moving snow squall leaving me with memories and images of a few minutes spent with a northern harrier.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Wildlife Out In The Cold

 When the cold blast of winter sweeps across the land we have the option of heading indoors and cranking up the heat or bundling up in warm layers of clothing.

Wildlife on the other hand have no such options.  While some species migrate to warmer climes, wildlife such as the deer and turkeys must cope by using their naturally insulated coats and by searching out thermal cover during the night or on cloudy days and warm southern exposures on sunny days.  This young buck with frost on his head and neck demonstrates the incredible insulating ability of his dense winter coat.

 A small fawn of the year stands chewing her cud with frost clinging to her fluffy forehead. 

I photographed this gobbler during a snow flurry.  The turkey's feathers retains its body heat so well that the snow lying on his back does not melt.
While wildlife does not have the options to deal with winter that are available to we humans their options are sufficient to ensure the survival of species. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Deer Season Ends in Snow

The 2013 Pennsylvania firearms deer season came to an end at nightfall today.  When I crawled out of my warm bed this morning the sky was clouded over and just before dawn snow began falling.  Throughout the morning snow showers intermittently filled the air with steady snow beginning soon
after lunch.
Throughout the day the occasional sound of gunfire, muffled by the falling snow, thudded in the distance.  With the winter storm upon them I found some deer feeding in heavy cover where they were protected from the cold wind. 

On this particular afternoon the deer were feeding on the dried leaves of wild sunflower.  This year we experienced a near total failure of the acorn crop. 

As darkness descended the most dangerous time of the year for our local whitetails passed.  Although there are a few weeks of archery/flintlock hunting season for them to contend with after Christmas, the winter weather will be a greater threat than the hunters. 

Monday, December 09, 2013

Preening Wild Turkeys

On a recent frosty morning I had an opportunity to photograph a flock of gobblers as they preened before moving off into the woodland.   In this first photograph the turkey can be seen removing water from his feathers.  Earlier in the morning the turkey's backs had been coated in frost. 
When a turkey begins preening it is very common for the entire flock to join in.

While the gobblers typically preen in unison, from my observations they only preen themselves as I have never witnessed one bird cleaning another.
It was during the preening that one bird sat down with his snood extended while another gobbler circled him closely a number of times.  I do not claim to understand the significance of this behavior, however it did appear to be a dominance move of sorts. 

All good things must come to a end and when finished with preening the gobblers filed off into the adjoining woodlands for a day of foraging.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Deer Season, Odds and Ends

Pennsylvania firearms deer season opened Monday morning.  The gunfire I heard Monday morning was the heaviest that I have heard in years.  For the first two hours hardly a minute passed without a shot or a barrage being heard.  The shooting slowed as the morning progressed but even through the afternoon shots were heard every few minutes.

It will be some months before the PGC reports on the official harvest numbers but at least in the area within my earshot the hunters were having a good day.  A neighbor of mine reportedly was sitting beside a large dead oak tree near his house when a stray bullet struck the tree about ten feet up, knocking a patch of bark off.  By violating one of the key firearms safety rules. that of ensuring a safe backstop for the bullet, some reckless hunter could have easily killed or injured someone.  

With the whitetail buck photography effectively ended for now I have spent some time catching up on some of the Pennsylvania conservation issues.  Reading a Pennsylvania outdoor publication I discovered one columnist opining that since the North American model of wildlife ownership holds that wildlife is owned by all citizens that private landowners should not be allowed to harvest wildlife on their property unless they also allow public hunting.  
Another scribe bemoaned the perceived situation that the PGC is managing deer for everything except the "sportsman".  In his opinion the PGC has a fiduciary responsibility to manage the deer for the sportsmen.  While in a 2010 interview PGC spokesman Jerry Feaser did state that "we (PGC) have a fiduciary responsibility to our sportsmen and women", the last that I checked the law states that the PGC is responsible for managing wildlife for ALL citizens of the commonwealth, not just hunters and trappers.  I wonder how some of these folks who demand a special status as the only ones with a stake in wildlife conservation would feel if they had to foot the entire bill for their sport?  To do so they would have to fund the PGC or a like agency to not only allow it to operate in the black but also cover the cost of all agriculture damage, forest damage, and automobile damage caused by deer just to name a few issues.  
And then I read about the great work of the Pennsylvania House fish and game committee, the passage out of committee on a vote of 23 to 3 of a bill calling for the establishment of a coyote bounty.  Frankly this is just about the most stupid thing I have heard of since the PGC established a porcupine hunting season!   It seems that our esteemed legislators have nothing more pressing to deal with than their perception that coyotes are killing too many deer.  Their solution is to offer a bounty of $25, and spend upwards of one million conservation dollars each year plus the cost of administrating the plan to solve the coyote problem.  The last I checked the statistics  showed that Pa hunter were killing over 300,000 deer each year and about 30,000 coyotes.  And by the way this is some of the same legislators that cannot seem to find any money to fix the public lakes that the PFBC has needed to drain for safety concerns.