Dark-eyed Junco from near Alpena, WV
Don't know if I've posted a close-up of one of these before, so here is one. This is a dark-eyed junco, which in West Virginia is typically the slate-colored variety. Nice little birds that tend to fly near roadsides in the evening so I catch them in the bat nets fairly often.
Just a quick pic of a small, cute bat. Small-footed bats only run about 5 grams in weight, or roughly the weight of two pennies. Really! Quite agile flyers, but we still catch them in the nets if they are around. And as always the rubber gloves seen in the background are to protect the bats from getting something from us, not the other way around.
Sorry about the near total lack of blog posts this summer!!! The places I have been working have been pretty deep in the mountains without any internet connectivity. I am briefly in town so wanted to get out at least something. Regular postings will start again in the middle of August after I finish my last travel project.
Here is an eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis) in hand from the Monongahela National Forest. We catch a fair number of these beautiful bats, and so far they don't seem to be affected by White Nose Syndrome as they do not hibernate in caves or apparently in large clusters. This is a male, which is really more orange than red, while the females are somewhat more reddish although I would have called it the orange bat not the red bat. The background is the bluish purple examination glove, something we wear when handling animals to help prevent us from spreading any disease to them. It is not to prevent them from giving us anything, quite the opposite, but makes for an odd background for a bat photo.
Fawns were really common this year in the Monongahela National Forest. We saw a lot of them. In general, when they are this small they can't run away from anything so their sole defense is to remain motionless and hope not to be spotted (get it, spotted like they are). Anyway, if you do see one you can just walk up to it and take its picture. But I don't like to disturb them too much and they are usually down in the brush so the photos only come out so-so.
This one was under a downed tree in an area that had been burned off near a pond. So kinda under some stuff but also kinda right out in the open and pretty easy to see.
Dolly Sods is a pretty neat place. It is a high elevation sandstone plateau located in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. While the edge offers views of the surrounding mountains, the plateau itself is like something out of the far north. Heath barrens and stunted spruce trees with a lot of exposed rock and even some sphagnum bogs.
There are lots of hiking trails and in general cool temperatures so a good spot for a hot summer day. But it does rain a lot, so come prepared with sunscreen AND rain gear.
Note the spruce tree in the photo has all the branches missing on one side. This is called "flagging" and happens in areas where a strong prevailing wind from one direction is the norm. The branches on one side break off at some point from the wind leaving what looks like half a tree. Very common in Dolly Sods.
The common mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) is a neat salamander that is aquatic in all life stages. Most salamander juveniles have external gills, but the mudpuppy retains these gills even into adulthood and needs to stay in the water to breathe properly. In poorly oxygenated water the gills are large and red. In well oxygenated water they are quite small, such in this example where they can just barely be seen in front of the front leg.
These are some of the largest salamanders, which are typically about 11 inches long but are known to reach 16 inches, although the one in the photo is only about six inches long. There are various reports that these salamanders can bark a bit like a dog, and various reports that this is a rural legend. I honestly do not know but I've never heard one bark.
I am sure it says many things when the state prison in Huttonsville has a permanent sign out front advertising that they are hiring officers.
Seneca Rocks, WV
A spectacular site is Seneca Rocks, one of the big rock climbing meccas in the east. Would have liked to have had time to climb up top but did drive by it a couple of times and always impressive.
I am back from tent camping and catching bats in the Monongahela National Forest. The whole project took almost a month to complete and it is nice to have a hot shower and bed to sleep in again. But the MNF is such a fabulous place to hang out that it is worth it.
It rains quite a lot there and so not super great for the type of photography I do, but I got a few shots and will be posting photos from in and around the Forest for the next few days.
During the first two weeks we did not see the sky much either during the day or night. Clouds were omnipresent and much rain fell. But on one night I was happy to find the clouds cleared off and we had a brilliant starry night. And then all the fireflies started up right by where I was sitting. I put the camera on a tripod and made a few exposures at 30 seconds each around 1am after the moon disappeared. I like this one the best.
Setting up mist nets over a pond
Kodie Smith is setting up three single-high mist nets over this little pond on the Monongahela National Forest. These little water holes in the otherwise dry upland forest are important places for the bats to come in for a drink as well as hatching off tasty insects. Here we caught five species of bats.
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist