Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cleaning out the cameras

If I’m not on a trip somewhere, I’m notoriously bad at cleaning out the memory cards Add Imageon my various cameras. Usually I just open a new project in Aperture and dump everything into the one project and see what I like. I throw out a lot of photos but every now and then I find something I like.

First up was a pile desiccated dung I found in the middle of the trail at the Peak Preserve. There is a lot of corn present. I’m going to assume deer but I thought they would be better at mastication.

Next up is this little caterpillar I found at Caley Reservation. I’m a birder and don’t have a clue what it is but it was pretty.

Walking down a trail a few weeks ago I found this deer rub. It was the only tree in the whole area I could find like this.

Just a random shot of a trail in Caley Reservation.

I love this bark pattern.

Finally, a shot over the pond at Caley. Not much fall color this year. It was wet early and then it was dry into the fall. What little foliage that did turn was quickly blown down by the “Chiclone” storm front.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


OK, enough purple birds. Back to WV.

Day 4 of the New River Birding and Nature Festival found me at a place called Muddlety. It’s a location as much as it’s a state of mind. Muddlety is an area with a troubled past, a troubled present, and a troubled future. Part of the area is reclaimed strip mine. Unfortunately, part of the area is the site of a future strip mine. Throw in a variety of clear cut logging zones over the decades and you have a very unusual mixture of habitat.

The morning started with a stop for a Blue-winged Warbler. The bird did not disappoint as it was quickly located at the expected spot. We were also treated to some nice views of a Common Yellowthroat at the same spot but the bird was not real cooperative for photos. The witchity, witchity, witchity call is common in marshes and is a sign that a particularly beautiful bird is nearby.

A bad photo of the Common Yellowthroat.

As we walked along the roads I was amazed by the diversity of plant life. It seems a real shame that all of this might be gone one day so we can run our light bulbs and toaster ovens for a little while longer. Muddlety is a special place.

I learned something on this trip. I was not aware that black birch trees were once harvested to get the oils in the sap to make oil of wintergreen. Jim McCormac spotted a black birch and pulled off a branch. When the branch is stripped and placed in your mouth you can very clearly taste the wintergreen flavor. Quite cool. Almost like those flavored toothpicks but much better.

At our lunch stop we had a couple of nice treats. In a tire rut in the road were dozens of Pearl Crescents greedily lapping up the minerals in the soils. The photo is poor but the little butterflies were really pretty.

The other nice treat at lunch was a giant Tulip Tree, one of the largest in West Virginia. The tree is in the dead center of the photo. The tree was so big it took 6 people linking hands to reach all the way around.

Finally, i couldn't resist this really pretty fungi growing on a stump. I don't the species but I will find out.

The day wrapped up nicely. The next day featured a hunt for a rarity.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ohio Purple Gallinule

We're taking a quick break from WV to post some photo's of a Purple Gallinule that has appeared at the Columbia Reservation in Columbia Station, OH. The vegetation made it hard to get a decent shot but here are a few:

This pair of Killdeer also came in with one choosing a spot for a bit of a bath.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New River Birding and Nature Festival Day 3

Today was spent on a tour called High Country. This trip hits the highest points in this area of West Virginia looking for different birds than can be found at lower elevations. There were two primary target birds on this trip. The first was Bobolink. The other was Golden-winged Warbler.

The Bobolinks are routinely found at a field where the owner delays mowing to allow the species to successfully raise their young. The leaders of the trip told us stories of dozens of Bobolink’s in the field plus large numbers of Eastern Meadowlarks. It sounded good. We arrived at the the site excited to see the birds. The guides led us up to the top of the hill and we found.......NOTHING!!! Not a bird in sight. The morning was unseasonably cold and the wind was whipping. The exposed top of the hill was very cold. The leaders paced around nervously and looked all over. They played calls on iPods. The result.......still NOTHING!!! We decided to give up the fight and head back to the bus.

We drove down the road a short distance and the bus stopped at an area to see what was around. Two of our leaders got out to listen. Suddenly we heard the shout of “Bobolink”. Very quickly 21 people exited the bus. The birds were in a pasture some distance from the bus but we were able to observe them with binoculars and scopes but they were too far for photos. We also got excellent views of Eastern Meadowlark in the same field. Apparently the birds preferred something out of the wind today. The relief on the face of the leaders was palpable. Suddenly Keith, Connie, and Will got together for a group high five and they all visibly relaxed. The trip was saved.

We also spent quite a bit of time on a county road that runs through a MeadWestvaco holding that is used for timber. There was a variety of mature trees, young growth, and clear cut. We tried repeatedly for the Golden-winged Warbler but had no luck. They just weren’t around to be found.

On the trip we had excellent views of a number of other species. The Red-winged Blackbirds were serenading the females in this small wet depression. Their “song” is matched with a furious bit of shaking and flashing of the red and yellow shoulder epaulets.

The Louisiana Waterthrush was a nice find. It responded to a short blast of song from an iPod.

Here is one more. This Black-throated Blue Warbler was at eye level but always seem to be behind some vegetation. Here are some of the better shots.

Although the numbers were down and the weather was cold, everyone had a great time. Tomorrow I’m off to a place called Muddlety.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

West Virginia’s New River Birding and Nature Festival - Days 1 and 2

I am spending this week in the New River Plateau area of West Virginia. The New River Birding and Nature Festival is based out of Fayetteville, WV. So far the first two days of the festival have been outstanding.

Day 1 was held at the Meadows House at the Opossum Creek Resort. The theme for day 1 was Birding by Butt. However, we didn’t spend a lot of time sitting around. The day is intended for full week participants to have a chance to meet other guests, our hosts, and the guides. The morning started off with a pre-breakfast walk lead by Jim McCormac. Highlights were singing Northern Parulas, Ovenbirds, Hooded Warblers, and Scarlet Tanager. After the walk we returned to the Meadows for a breakfast of smoked-salmon strata, buckwheat pancakes, and fruit compote. I’m not sure which was better, the birds or the food.

After breakfast we headed back outside for more exploration. Bill Hilton was banding birds on the property and managed to catch a Ruby-throated Hummingbird in his ingenious trap.

Here is a photo of Bill with a “sheet” of hummingbird bands that must be cut out and formed. There are 160 bands on the sheet.

For comparison there are the bands that would be used on larger birds like robins and towhees.

Because the bands are so small, a special tool is needed to form the band.

Here is a photo of the formed band in hand.

To hold the hummingbird while working, it is inserted into a tube head first. The tube is made from an index card.

The little hummer is banded.

The hummingbird is measured and weighed and given some food before being released.

Here is a close up the hummer before release.

Day 2 of festival was the first for offsite field trips. I was in the New River Circuit trip where we toured the old road and bridge that used to be the only way across the New River before the famous arch bridge was completed in 1978. It is hard to believe that this narrow and twisty road used to hold two-way traffic. Now it is reduced to one-way in the lowest part. Because fog settles into the valley, we spent a lot time in the fog which limited photo opportunities. Once we got below the fog, it was better.

We were rewarded with more great birds including Worm-eating Warbler which only netted bad photos and a very cooperative Yellow-throated Warbler.

Here is a raw photo of the Yellow-throated Warbler.

And here it is cropped and zoomed.

I’m tired but I'm looking forward to day 3. Tomorrow I’m off on the high country trip. I’ll update as I get time.