Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Frustration with Birds

American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)-1.jpg
American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla)

I spend a lot of time in the spring, summer and autumn stalking birds in the fields and woods. Some species, like sparrows, some finches and a few warblers are rather easy to see and capture on film. They stalk me while I stalk them (mostly because the cats are always with me and are a very good reason for the birds to stalk us). But there are other birds that defy capture. Two that obsessed me this past summer were the American Redstart (above) and the Black and White Warbler (below). They are both shy. The Redstart never seems to come out of the forest edge, so the lighting is awful. It also always kept its back to me. The Black and White Warbler was a bit shy, but the biggest problem was its speed. One second it is there, and the next it is gone. I can't predict where they will hop to from moment to moment, like I can with sparrows and other birds. I've been within five feet of a flock of Black and Whites and have never been able to raise, aim and fire quick enough. I'm pretty sure cats are OK for the Redstarts, but if I want to get a decent Black and White photo, I will have to lock the cats up. So until next season, these two photos are the only proof I have that these two warbler species live here.

Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia)-2.jpg
Black and White Warbler (Mniotilta varia)


Monday, January 30, 2012

Strangers on the Mountain

Fiber Optic Installation on Barton Mountain-4.jpg
Fiber optic installers on Barton Mountain
The back of our house has great views of the ridgeline of Barton Mountain. Nobody is ever there. We have no curtains and we have no modesty. We are always alone, with only thousands of acres of forest behind us, which is just the way we like it. Until last August. Suddenly there were strangers all over the place and we felt invaded.
There is a ROW on our land to the top of the mountain for cable and cell antennas. This summer, Fairpoint Communications, Vermont’s telephone service provider,  thought they needed to install fiber optic cables up the ROW. I chased off the guys who never asked permission to park on our land, and from that point on everybody was very polite and requested permission for parking. I also tried to scare them off by telling them to be careful of the bears and bobcats up on the cliffs (which really exist). But they are Vermonters and such critters don’t scare them. They hiked up unarmed, something we, who frequently hike up there, won’t do.
The installation took several days. There were men on top of the mountain who fed down the cable to the guys down here. But the guys down here also took cable off of a truck up the mountain as far as they could go. They used four-wheelers and wrecked up the land something wicked. They caused run-off, which is illegal (we have never reported them). They took the vehicle up over boulders instead of using an ancient road that paralleled their invasion. They chopped trees down and tossed them off the ROW and onto private property. Those trees will provide habitat for lots of animals, but it looks ugly and doesn't demonstrate any respect for the forest. I will post those photos in the near future.
Towards the end of the cable installation, some new strangers showed up above the house on the ROW and scared the hell out of me. Thanks to my long lens, I got a decent photo of them. But they can't be identified. Shucks. The photo was taken from the back door.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chickadees and Catkins

Green (Mountain) Alder Catkins (Alnus viridis)-1.jpg
Black-capped Chickadee munching on Alder catkins

In August, the alder trees produce catkins. That's when the chickadees are really, really happy. They crawled over every stand of alder and ate till they burst. They were right-side up, upside down, hanging by one toe . . . anything to get at all the catkins.

Female Alder Catkins-2.jpg
Female alder catkins

We have green (or mountain) alders (Alnus viridis) here that grow in bushy groves. They like water. They have male and female catkins. The male catkins are long, dangly, soft and fuzzy. The female catkins look like tiny pinecones. Alder are food for so many birds and insects that I can't list them. Look around and see if you have any!


Monday, January 23, 2012

A Couple of Bugs

Common House Fly (Musca domestica)-1.jpg
Common House Fly (Musca domestica)

Green Stink Bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris) -1.jpg
Green Stink Bug nymph (Chinavia hilaris)


Friday, January 20, 2012

The Longest Ovipositor. Ever.

Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus).jpg
Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus)

That is an ovipositor, not a stinger. These wasps use that long ovipositor to drill holes through the bark of trees in order to lay their eggs. One of my goals next summer is to see the drilling live and close-up. They keep the ovipositor at a 90° angle to their body while they are drilling. This Ichneumon wasp was in the house in the window. After photographs, we took the screen down and let it out into the wilderness to lay those eggs. I wish I had followed it.

Ichneumon Wasp (Megarhyssa macrurus)-2.jpg
The wasp is quite lovely.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Scenes from a Summer’s Hike in Lyndonville

Sign at Lyndon Institute.jpg
The sign showing the beginning of the trail behind Lyndon Institute

Pond on the Hike.jpg
The pond at the beginning of the hike

Invasive Snail in the Pond.jpg
An invasive snail in the pond

Invasive Purple Loosestrife-1.jpg
Invasive Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Scene at the Pond.jpg
A pond scene

White Water Lily-1.jpg
White water lily

Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)-1.jpg
Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)

White Cohosh (Actaea alba).jpg
White Cohosh (Actaea alba)

Examples of Squirrel and Chipmunk Middens.jpg
A squirrel or chipmunk midden

Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)-1.jpg
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Examples of Squirrel and Chipmunk Middens-2.jpg
Another midden

Examples of Squirrel and Chipmunk Middens-6.jpg
Squirrels and/or chipmunks vertically potted dozens of pine cones along the trail and in the woods.

Examples of Squirrel and Chipmunk Middens-9.jpg
A third midden

Marsh Bellflower (Campanula aparinoides (Campanula uliginosa))-1.jpg
Marsh Bellflower (Campanula aparinoides) (Campanula uliginosa)

Burke Mountain View from Trail-2.jpg
A view of Burke Mountain

Trail Signs.jpg
Trail sign in fern forest


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gingerbread Houses

On the day before Christmas break, the 8th grade made gingerbread houses. It was a fun class (even if it did not have too much to do with math!). We could have calculated the volume of each house, but we ran out of time. Good memories!