Friday, August 30, 2013

Day hawk encounter

Spa day for the girls, a dust bath
Although I’ve been looking unsuccessfully for nighthawks, I did have an encounter with a “day hawk” last evening.

I’ve been letting the chickens out in the evenings when I get home. After issues with raccoons, fox and opossums, I no longer feel it is safe for them to roam free when I’m not at home.  They were not happy with this new directive, so we compromised. I let them out when I get home, and since they can’t tell time, they don’t seem to mind that their roaming is only limited to an hour or so each evening.

Last night they’d only been out about 30 minutes when I heard Doodle, my Rhode Island Red rooster, give his alarm call.  Now Doodle is a vigilant rooster. He keeps a wary eye on anything that might be trouble for his girls. To him, this can mean the neighbor’s cat is crossing the forest, anxious to get back home to dinner, or it might be a very high and distant turkey vulture that’s passing not very near by. But this alarm call sounded a bit different, so I went out to investigate.

Doodle was standing in the middle of the driveway, all puffed up, looking as large as he could.  Since he is a Rhode Island Red, this is pretty impressive.  He stands almost knee-high, with large spurs and lots of feathers. The girls were all scurrying to hide under the nearest bush.  At first I didn’t see any cause for all this alarm, but then I heard a sound—kek-kek-kek-kek—coming from an oak tree not very far from the edge of the cabin.  A Cooper’s Hawk.

It didn’t take very long before my presence made the hawk nervous.  It left its tree, glided past the house through the forest and disappeared.  I was left to be impressed by my chickens.  After all those years of domestication and being hatched at a hatchery somewhere, growing up with only me as their mother, their instincts are still well-honed.  Isn’t that a beautiful thing?  They are still birds who know what an alarm by their rooster means and know the difference between the near-innocuous alarm raised by the sight of a distant turkey vulture and the danger posed by a nearby Cooper’s Hawk.  The girls rock!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gloom but no doom

E. Ridge Rd. Monaghan Township, York County PA
Thick fog and overcast skies made my morning walk with Baby Dog as dark and as quiet as midnight.  Not even an owl called, let alone one of the earlier-rising day birds.  Baby Dog stays close by my side and doesn’t stop to sniff anything.   I think she misses the activity of daylight on our walks, too.

I actually find these next two months or so the darkest time of the year for our walks.  Once the leaves begin to fall, the sky overhead becomes visible and that opened-up vista makes walking at night much easier, even when no moon lights the sky.  At the moment, the leaves serve as an impenetrable barrier to light from above.  And so we walk more cautiously now.

The headlamp lights the way but doesn’t help much with navigating the little ups and downs of a dirt road.  The depth of potholes or even uneven ground is hard to judge or to see. It takes some getting used to for me, accustomed as I have been for these last 4-5 months for walking in the morning light.  I have reached the time of year when our morning walks no longer venture off the dirt roads.  Early in the summer we wandered off-road and even off-trail. No longer. The footing on the dirt roads is chancy enough.

The gloomy weather is also slowing or even halting migration this week.  Counters sit on hawkwatches all day long and don’t see more than a handful of birds. I’ve been searching diligently for nighthawks to no avail. Either they aren’t flying or they are flying above the gloom.  I will keep looking. They are a cool bird, these odd little nightjars.  Tonight doesn’t seem as though it will be much better, but I still will look. Perhaps it will clear enough or perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to see them.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Green and gray

It’s warm and overcast today, threatening rain but I’d be hard put to report more than 6-8 drops on anything so far. For a while I thought I’d be forced into a rain jacket on my morning walk with Baby Dog.  I say forced because it was warm enough this morning that even the backpacking shell I use as a rain jacket made me as though I was in a sauna.  I decided that I was better off getting wet than wearing even that feather-weight thing, but I didn’t get wet after all.

Still, rain is falling all around my area but somehow missing Roundtop.  Instead, the humidity is cloying. Rain would likely reduce the humidity.  For August, the landscape around me looks remarkably green. Usually by this time of the year, the grass is withering and the annual wild plants are looking pretty ragged.  This year enough rain has already fallen that the fields and woods retain that deep green shade of midsummer.  If not for the sudden lack of swallows and the shortening length of the days, I would guess it was July.

On clear evenings, now that darkness comes early, Baby Dog and I have been heading up into one of Roundtop’s parking lots to view the night sky.  I am an early riser and so head early to bed as well, and in the prime of summer, by the time the sky is dark enough for good star viewing, I am yawning and ready for bed.  Now, darkness comes early enough that I can enjoy the star viewing and be warm at the same time. Winter brings me plenty of opportunities for star viewing, but the early darkness also brings falling temperatures that can get uncomfortable quickly.  Now and for the next few months, I have both early darkness and balmy temperatures and that makes a good combination for star viewing.

Sometimes I take my spotting scope or binoculars, but mostly we just stand and look.  I never see too much that’s very exciting—a brief flash of a meteor is about as exciting as it gets.  Instead, I watch planes pass, look for the Milky Way on the clearest nights, look for a planet or two, watch the moon rise or set and just generally enjoy the quiet and sky above me. It’s always a beautiful show.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Charms of the season

The eastern sky no longer glows orange, even on a clear morning as this one was, when I take Baby Dog for her first walk of the day.  I need my headlamp, even when I’m not under the cover of the forest, for at least the first 15-20 minutes of our morning forays.  The buck and doe that we saw each morning are now little more than two pairs of golden eyes reflecting in my light.  Half the time Baby Dog doesn’t even notice them, especially not this morning when the breeze wasn’t favorable for a scent.

We see few birds on our morning walks now.  I still hear a few—crows, of course, and often jays. Surprisingly to me, bluebirds are another early riser. I don’t see them, but I hear their soft calls as we pass the ski slopes, one of their favorite haunts.  Occasionally, I still see an eastern kingbird near the end of our walks, but the noisy chorus of early May has fallen into near-silence now.

Earth’s seasons are long enough that the changes coming with the latest one always seem a bit of a surprise to me.  I know the mornings are quieter in fall than in spring, but the newly quiet mornings still feel unusual and a bit of a shock to me.  That bit of surprise nature brings me with each season’s change is one of my favorite things about the year.  One season stays around long enough for me to get used to it, and then the next one’s charms seem fresh and again.  I might not feel that if seasons only lasted for a month, and it would be quite a shock, I think, if seasons lasted a year.  Instead, a season’s length seems just about the right length, long enough to enjoy one and short enough not to feel panic at the onset of the next.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sunset over a beautiful weekend

The barn swallows have left the mountain.  I found two on Saturday and none on Sunday.  Last Saturday a group of nearly 30 perched on the wires near a snowmaking pond.  This week, I had to look to find even the two I did see.  The turn towards fall takes another step forward.

I’m finding that the hours of daylight just don’t cooperate with human activity.  Most summer evenings are too hot or too buggy to fully enjoy sitting outside.  But sometimes, the weather cooperated and I could work outside around the cabin, and when I was done I could sit and enjoy the long evenings. Now, the bugs and the heat are mostly gone, but by the time my outside work is done, it is dark outside.  It is, apparently, too much to ask to have evenings long enough to complete outside work and then time enough, sans bugs and heat, to sit outside afterwards into the evening. I guess I’ll just have to learn to deal with that.

I’m also noticing more goldfinches and fewer chipping sparrows, another sign of late summer, if not yet quite of fall. Robins are few and far between at the moment. Some, I suspect, are already moving south, and the northerly robins haven’t yet arrived.  Hawkwatches in the area are already starting to count migrating hawks. The numbers are still rather small, but the birds are moving out of the north.

This August is shaping up to be one of the coolest ever in the local area. Augusts this cool are not unheard of, but they only occur about once a decade or perhaps a bit less. I could get used to having a cool August more frequently, that’s for sure!

Today’s sunset photo was taken last evening and made for a beautiful show.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Morning sights and delights

The time when Baby Dog and I take our morning walk grows ever darker.  On mornings like this one, only an hour past an early morning thundershower, the overcast sky further glooms the morning.  The night creatures stretch their forays later into the day.  A screech owl calls as we leave the cabin.  Later, we see six deer, two of which were the ubiquitous buck and doe we see virtually every morning.  A less seen resident also appeared on our walk this morning, a red fox.

It was still too dark for me to tell much about the fox, other than that it was a fox.  Even that I knew only by its size and eventually by its black-tipped tail as it turned and sped away from us.  I couldn’t tell how healthy it was or how its coat looked.  Was it fat or thin?  Mangy or healthy?  I couldn’t tell. It seemed of good size, which is about as much as I can say.

Baby Dog saw the fox, too, much to her delight.  She is much intrigued by foxes.  When she was still quite young we once spied a fox in daylight. It stood stock still. She looked at it. It looked at her. This went on for some seconds before the fox disappeared. For a good two years afterwards, Baby Dog stopped in the exact spot every morning where she had first seen the fox and gazed up to where it had stood.  Who knew a dog could have a memory like an elephant? So she knew right away this morning’s sight was a fox, and after it disappeared, I let her trail it for a bit, finding it had scurried underneath the paintball mesh and crossed a paintball field to disappear into the woods. We didn’t go further than that, to her disappointment.

Our way led down a different path.  My day was just beginning, and the fox's was already ending.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer is winding down

Blue moon over Nell's Hill, 6:15 a.m. 
I’m having a “normal” day here atop Roundtop Mtn.  Normal means Baby Dog and I scared the same buck and doe from earlier in the week. This time they weren’t at the paintball fields but over on the abandoned ski slope.  Poor deer probably think they can’t go anywhere without running into the two of us.

We don’t usually walk that way in the mornings, but I wanted to see the setting full moon, so this morning that is where we walked.  The deer were not amused. I took today’s photo with my phone because:

Good camera  + Baby Dog = Does Not Mix

Signs that summer is winding down are suddenly everywhere.  The barn swallows congregate in big numbers on the wires over the snowmaking pond. Congregating is what they do as they get ready to move south.  I haven’t seen this many at once all summer.  They will be gone shortly, within the week if they hold true to their pattern. Oh, I will likely see a few beyond that time, but those, I believe, are not my resident barn swallows but those heading south from further north. The ones from here tend to leave around August 26 or 27.

They are perhaps the earliest of the summer residents to leave the mountain. Certainly, they are the earliest of the most visible summer residents to head south.  In the early spring I often see tree swallows and sometimes rough-winged swallows. But those don’t stay and move on within a few days.  Rough-winged swallows sometimes do stay, though none seem to have done so this year.

Swallows are fast and not easy to see in binoculars, so identifying the others species can be difficult if the light is less than perfect. Male barn swallows have a nice long tail that makes them easy to identify.  Tree swallows are quite white underneath, making them the second-easiest to identify.  Rough-winged swallows?  Well, if they are sitting, they are easy enough to identify.  Swallows don’t sit very often and seem to do that most often at dusk or when I’m blinded by the glare of the rising sun.  On the rare occasions when that doesn’t happen, I still have more barn swallows than any others.

Soon enough, I won’t have them at all until next April.  Summer is winding down.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Waiting for the piper

Summer is now two-thirds over, though most in the U.S. probably equate the end of summer with the Labor Day holiday and kids’ return to school.  I tend to view the Labor Day holiday as the end of summer, too, mostly in the hope that it really does mean summer is over.  I am not a fan of hot weather, which means I don’t much care for summer, my least favorite season of the year.  So I am always glad to see it go.  It’s just that it doesn’t always go when I’d like it to.

August 2013 is going to be one of the cooler ones on record in my area, despite the upcoming days in the upper 80’s.  So as Augusts go, I am not finding much to complain about this year.  I just know, however, that I will pay for this nice August weather.  And that will probably mean payment will come due in September or even October.  In central Pennsylvania, one warm or cool month is very often followed by one that’s just the opposite.  So I am already anticipating a fall month with warm to hot weather.  And that I am not looking forward to.

I should, of course, leave well enough alone and simply enjoy a cool August, but I can’t. It’s like having this little storm cloud over my head that constantly drones, “you will pay, you will pay.” Part of it is simply that I love fall and fall weather, so I don’t want it to be a moment shorter than it should be.  Partly, it’s because it’s not much fun sitting on the rocks of a hawkwatch when it’s sweltering.  All things considered, I’d rather have a normal, hot  August if it meant fall weather would begin in early September and last until early December.

Of course, perhaps this year I’ll “hit the lottery” and have a cool August followed by normal fall weather. That would be truly novel.

My photo today was actually taken yesterday. This morning was totally fogged in. I’ve noticed over the years that August sunrises and December sunsets tend to be the most impressive of the year here in my neck of the woods. I have no idea why.

Monday, August 19, 2013

It’s headlamp time again.  I’ve reached the day when I need my headlamp when I walk Baby Dog in the mornings. I didn’t need the headlamp for the entire walk this morning, but I did need it until we walked beyond the edge of the forest. The morning was overcast again, as so many August mornings have been this year and that didn’t help.

I will have to take back my claim of last week that if I kept Baby Dog off lead, she would not be interested in chasing a deer. This morning we walked up onto a nice buck in velvet and a doe.  The doe bounded off without incident, but the buck ran into a high mesh “fence” that’s supposed to keep paintball pellets from flying beyond where Roundtop wants them to go.  I know of a golf driving range that uses a similar containment fence, so you might have seen what I’m talking about at one of those.

The buck kept leaping into the fence and being bounced back. I was starting to fear he would break a leg.  The edge of the mesh wasn’t far from the deer, so I moved to my left, hoping the deer would move to the right where it would soon run out of mesh and could escape. That worked!  The buck leapt away, white tail flagging.  He leaped like a gazelle with every step, no simple running here.

Well, all this was too much for Baby Dog.  She pulled like a plow horse, and I could barely hold on to her.  I’ve never had her pull so hard, and I didn’t know just how strong she could be when she is determined.  So, it’s not just rabbits that make her take off, it’s deer, too.  Sorry, Baby Dog, the leash is going to have to stay on.

My photo today was taken on Saturday in the little town of Wellsville.  I went to their annual fireman’s carnival for a good dinner of a hot turkey sandwich.  I parked a good distance from the crowded festival and walked through the town to it.  I found this swallowtail butterfly amongst the flowers in this person’s yard.

Friday, August 16, 2013

purple blooms

Camp is over for another year.  My last session was yesterday, and a nicer day simply wasn’t possible. The weather was super, and camp had fewer kids than it had for most of the summer, so I was better able to interact with them one-on-one.  The kids were well-behaved and had a great time catching lots of crayfish, water striders (truly, I don’t know what the attraction is with them) and several minnows.

A yellow longtail salamander provided a lot of excitement, but the kids never could catch it.  That’s just as well, as I’m sure it survived the escaped, and who knows what might have happened to it if it had been caught.

So camp is over—another sign of the impending fall.  Also, the thistle is starting to bloom, another late-summer event.  Notice the bee in the center of the one photo.  The bee was still alive, though certainly wasn’t very lively.  I’d like to think it was the cool morning that was keeping it drowsy and not some soon-to-be fatal event.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Ah, the weather is glorious today—cool with a breeze from the northwest and no humidity. It would have been a good early season day to play hooky and go to a hawkwatch. Alas, I did not do that. I am saving days for when migration really gets under way in another 3-4 weeks.

Unfortunately, the weather did not clear in time to observe the Perseid meteor shower. Hopefully, there will be another year for that.

If August's meteor shower isn’t an indication that summer is on the wane, perhaps my photo today will convince you.  It’s a milkweed plant.  The pods are fat and fully formed but still green, which means they have weeks  to go before the pods open and the seedlings dissipate.  Still,  the fact that the pods are already this large is itself an indication we are on the backside of summer.

When I was a kid I loved to play with the pods. If they were just at the perfect point of dryness, I could press them at the seam, and they would open perfectly, like a little treasure box. Inside were the white, fluffy seedlings that released into the air with a breath.  Of course, part of the fun was that not all of them opened perfectly, so I would have to go to the next one and try another.  Sometimes, it’s amazing what we considered fun in the pre-internet years.  Or perhaps I was just easily amused even then.  I would say opening milkweed pods was not as much fun as catching fireflies, but each season had its own natural charms to investigate and something about it to turn into a plaything.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Raining cats and dogs

Baby Dog
This morning it was raining cats and dogs and probably frogs, too.  I was awakened at 3:15 a.m. by thunder and lightning, and the storm never diminished enough for me to go back to sleep.  A flash flood warning was announced, though on radar the rain looked even worse half a dozen miles south of my cabin.  It was plenty bad enough where I was.

The good news is that once this rain clears, it should take all the cloying humidity with it and bring me clear weather for a few or several days. I missed the height of the Perseid meteor shower last night because of the overcast sky.  Perhaps a few of those meteors will still be left for me to see tonight.

The rain has already washed out my lane, leaving deep ruts.  The paved roads were puddled with rain this morning as well.  It’s been some time since I’ve had a gullywasher quite like this one. I had two inches of rain in about 4 hours and it was still raining when I left the cabin this morning.

I had to wear my Wellies to feed the chickens this morning, who were Not Happy with the weather.  A large tree branch broke off near my front door but was caught by the branch of a tree underneath it.  I will have to see if I can’t pull that down somehow, as it looks as though it could fall without warning.  I am parking my car elsewhere until I accomplish that task.

As a result of the extreme rain this morning, my photo of Baby Dog was not taken this morning but last night as we dodged puddles on our evening walk. BD does not like to have her picture taken and did everything she could to avoid looking at the camera.  She whipped her head from side to side as though I was trying to give her a pill. A profile shot is the best I could get. At least her head was still momentarily.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Something foggy, something new

I am tired of the fog and overcast that is the month of August in 2013. Fog has worn out its welcome, as far as I’m concerned. Photographically, fog can be interesting, but I’ve come to suspect that it’s only interesting if you don’t have to look at it every day.  Partly as a result of the fog, today marked the first day of the waning part of the year where I needed my headlamp on my morning walk with Baby Dog.

Around the cabin, the Joe Pye weed is blooming, a sign that summer is waning.  It’s too early to say I can see signs that autumn is approaching, but I can tell that summer is past its peak.

This weekend for the first time I heard three yellow-billed cuckoos calling at the same time. Two were quite close to the cabin. I even saw one as it flew away, though if I hadn’t been able to pinpoint where it was by its call, I never could have ID’d the bird from the momentary flash of wings that I saw. The second bird wasn’t much further away but on the other side of the cabin.  I only heard the third bird because I stopped what I was doing to listen to the calls of the two near me. The third bird was so distant, it may well have been on the neighboring mountain.

I’ve always assumed there was more than a single cuckoo around, but I never heard them calling back and forth like this.  Usually, I hear one and after a pause, I’ll hear another call a bit of a distance away, and then perhaps I’ll hear another call from even further away, but that could easily be explained as a single bird moving through the forest.    I’ve never heard three separate birds calling at the same time before.  
Something new like that really makes my weekend.  Much that happens during a natural year is a repeat of what happened the year before and the years before that.  As much as I enjoy the ordinary progress of a year, catching something new to me is always much appreciated.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Dreary August

Who ever thought the words "dreary" and "August" would go together?
I find it hard to believe, but I only have one more session of camp this year.  That means the summer is nearly over, at least the unofficial summer that most in the U.S. define as Memorial Day to Labor Day.  The equinox, which marks the actual end of summer, is still six weeks away.

The recent rains means the creek where the kids from adventure camp get to catch crayfish and minnows is flowing decently again, if not at full bank.  Yesterday, the kids caught more than three dozen crayfish, three or four minnows, a nice mud puppy perhaps four inches long and saw the small water snake again.  The snake took one look at the kids and disappeared into a hole for the rest of the day.

I was glad the weather was no hotter than it was, which was about 80 degrees. It was so humid yesterday down at the creek that if it had been any warmer, it would have been unbearable.  As it was, it was nearly unbearable. I came home as soaked in sweat as if it had been 95 degrees.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Foggy morning walk

Baby Dog enjoys her morning sightings of deer, which happens nearly every morning.  Still, no matter how close they are, they are not as exciting to her as a rabbit. This morning we nearly walked up to a small, young deer. It stood and watched us as we approached.  It twitched its tail but didn’t seem inclined to move.  When we finally got too close it bounded away, but not too far, stopping to look at us yet again.

Baby Dog saw the deer and watched it carefully.  Her ears were up.  When the deer eventually went into the woods, she watched it go and we kept walking.  And then she saw the rabbit, which was further away than the deer, and that’s when she nearly pulled my arm out of its socket.  This is the reason why I don’t let her off lead.  As long as we didn’t see anything, she would stay right with me.  If we saw a deer, she would probably stay with me, but I’d need to tell her to stay.  With a rabbit, I would have no chance.  She’d be gone before she heard me say a word, and who knows where she’d end up?

She forgets everything I’ve taught her when she sees a rabbit.  Baby Dog is a mix-breed dog, which is the polite way of saying she’s a mutt.  I know she’s part Chow-Chow because she has a black tongue and the one photo I have of her mother looks like she might be half-Chow.  What her other parts are is a mystery.  I’m guessing those parts must have some kind of rabbit-chasing dog in them, perhaps a spaniel or a small setter.

She is coming up on her eighth birthday, which never ceases to surprise me, as I still think of her as young dog without a lot of sense. She definitely doesn’t have a lot of sense, but she certainly no longer qualifies as a young dog.  She’s a sweet thing, most of the time, though she does think of herself as the house cop in charge of cats.  Whenever a cat is bad, she’s right there to agree and sometimes to punish. People who’ve never seen her in punishment mode can’t believe she has that streak in her.

This morning the fog made our early-morning walk darker than usual.  Still, I know the time when I will need my headlamp when we leave the cabin on our walks can’t be far away.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Night visitor

Clouds moving in ahead of rain - 7:30 a.m.
August is starting to feel a lot like early September to me.  At the moment August 2012 is running at a pace that would make it the third coolest August in Harrisburg’s years of weather records. That’s fine with me.  I just hope this doesn’t mean September 2012 brings August-like temperatures, because that would just be cruel.

Last night as I was running Baby Dog outside for the last time, I watched a bat twirling among the trees near the cabin. It favored the open spot where my driveway meets the lane.  It was a surprise to see one there. Usually, I see them around the one or the other of the ponds that are out in the open. My cabin isn’t very far from one of the snowmaking ponds, though, especially in bat-distance.

I don’t know for certain what species it was, but it was a small bat, so it was very likely the Little Brown Bat, which is the most common on the 9 species found in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has several species of small bats, and if you have one in your hand you could certainly identify the species from its color or tail shape.  But since it is dark enough that I can’t see any colors, differentiating the species is impossible for me.
Bats are good neighbors, since they eat thousands of nasty bugs during a summer. I’m sure you know that they eat mosquitoes but they also eat those infernal stinkbugs.  As far as I know, which might not be much, bats are about the only predator of those things, so that alone gives them high marks from me.  Bats have a bad name, and I’m not sure why.  From horror movies, maybe?  I often heard the words bats and rabies muttered in the same sentence but that connection is pretty much a misnomer.  Although any mammal can contract rabies, the incidence of rabies in bats is low, less than 0.5%, though something like 2-5% of sick or dead bats that people find do have the virus.

White nose syndrome has killed many more bats than rabies.  Information I’ve read puts the death toll at 6-7 million in North America. White nose syndrome is apparently caused by a fungus, and with no known treatment the mortality rate is about 95%.  The syndrome thrives in cooler temperatures, and apparently is adapted to attacking hibernating bats.  Infection wakes the bats up during hibernation and they often starve to death.

This time of year, the little bat that I saw probably doesn’t have to worry about white nose syndrome. I just hope that in another month or so, when it goes into hibernation, that it doesn’t have to worry about it then, either.

Monday, August 05, 2013

 Hawk Mountain's Common Room, now known as the Irma Broun-Kahn Education Building
I spent most of Saturday at Hawk Mountain, near Kempton PA, attending Laurie Goodrich’s annual Kittatinny Roundtable.  Laurie is Hawk Mountain's senior monitoring biologist.  The event brings together site leaders from hawkwatches in PA and NJ to discuss results from the previous season of raptor migration, hear about new research and generally give us something hawk-related to do in midsummer when migration really isn’t underway yet. (Yes, I know Waggoner’s Gap and a few other hawkwatches start their fall seasons in early August, but this past Saturday it was raining, so no one had any excuse for sitting on a hawkwatch).

This year the roundtable was held in the newly renovated Common Room.  The new Common Room also has a new name, the Irma Broun-Kahn Education Building, named after the wife of the sanctuary’s first curator.. The old Common Room was the site of educational programs for school kids and was used for volunteer parties and other events.  The new Common Room kept the lovely stone fireplace, the hardwood floor and the ceiling beams of the old one, but the rest is modernized and high-tech.

At our session on Saturday, we heard a talk about threats to the Jacks Mountain hawkwatch in Mifflin County from proposed wind farms.  The projects, which are still in the early stages, would likely end the watch there, as the proposed wind farms would likely level the top of the mountain by 100-300 feet in order to build a shelf on the knife-edged mountain for the wind turbines. More information about that is on the Facebook pages for the Friends of Jacks Mountain and SOAR (Save our Allegheny Ridges).  Jacks Mountain has upwards of 20 years of hawk count data in the national database, HawkCount.

We also heard the details of a Broad-winged Hawk nest study done at Hawk Mountain this spring where the young birds went from birth to fledging in 33 days and that the young birds were fed mostly short-tailed shrews and chipmunks, with one unidentified amphibian as their “baby food.”

The last presentation was from Dr. Michael May asking hawkwatchers to help the Xerces Society document dragonfly migration during our fall hawkwatches.  Dragonfly migration studies are so far not well documented, and Dr. May is interested in just about any information we can provide.  A sample data sheet has been developed, and using that sheet this fall is considered a pilot project to work out any “bugs” (pun intended) we may find with the process.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Friday camp roundup

Rain stopped mid-morning yesterday, so the kids from Adventure camp were able to enjoy an afternoon of catching crayfish and minnows down at Beaver Creek.  I worried that the rain would have the creek so muddy that the kids wouldn’t be able to see anything, but that turned out not to be the case. They caught many minnows and crayfish, found a water penny, saw a water snake (to much screaming) and generally had a good time.
The water penny was a tiny one, more like a water pea or perhaps a water lentil.  It was so small I don’t even know how the girl saw it but she did.  Water pennies are quite sensitive to pollution of any kind and can’t live where rocks are covered with algae, fungi or other inorganic stuff.  Finding one in this little creek is a sign of its good water quality. 
The snake was an ordinary, though quite small,l water snake.  It poked its head above the water during a time when the biggest group of the day was at the creek, prompting a lot of screaming.  I tried to get the kids to calm down, but by the time that was accomplished, the little snake was in hiding, where it remained through the rest of the day. 
The last group found a large millipede and that proved to be a huge hit with them.  I never know what’s going to strike their fancy.  Some groups get fixated on the crayfish, others don’t think their time is a success unless they’ve landed one of the lightning fast minnows.  This group liked the millipede.  The group before them liked the ebony dragonflies—some groups totally ignore dragonflies.  I’m just happy when the kids find something to catch and have a good time.