Where I was camping and working in Pennsylvania we had more than our share of bears. Pretty much saw one or more every day, and sometimes quite close. These were seen while a couple of us were walking along a trail about 200 feet from our camp. Mom wasn't super happy when she saw us, but no real danger as they are more interested in going the other direction when we bump into each other. Admittedly, bumping into this pair only 40 feet away was maybe as close as one would like for such a wildlife encounter. They posed just a moment like this, I snapped a quick photo, and they were outta there.
Took a walk and had a picnic lunch at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens today. This site is run by the National Park Service and is located in the top corner of Washington, DC pretty much right on the Maryland line (walked into Maryland during the hike).
It's a darn nifty green space right by the Anacostia River and has about 1 billion small ponds full of lilies and lotus and similar aquatic plants. Quite pretty place and a bit unique.
Along the trail spur that goes from the Park to the River we saw this yellow-billed cuckoo and got a pretty nice look at it as it was feeding in the trees by the trail. I like cuckoos, and the fun fact of the day is that they are in the same family as the roadrunner! Oh yeah, can you guess the name of the family? How about Cuculidae...a rare case of the Latin being pretty easy to remember.
The wood turtle is found generally in the US northeast, and is rather different than a box turtle. These guys tend to be as home on land as in water, they are more broad and flat, and most significantly do not have any closure flaps to seal up the shell completely like a box turtle has.
Populations have been declining across the range for years, mostly due to human impacts both indirect (farming, water quality degradation, etc.) and direct (collecting for pet trade, run over by vehicles). So anymore I find it quite enjoyable to see one as they just aren't that common anymore. Most places list them as somewhere between threatened and vulnerable.
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.
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.
Keith Christenson - Wildlife Biologist