Thursday, October 31, 2013

Walking in the woods with leaves

Taking pretty fall photos this year is more challenging than I’m used to.  I have to take photos shortly after sunrise or just before sunset to tease out much color.  For most of the day, the leaves simply look dingy, which is not typical at all.  Most years, sunset or sunrise light is too strong, and a gray day shows off the colors better.  Not this year.

Yesterday’s late afternoon light made even dingy trees look a lot prettier and more orange than I expected.  And what better color than orange to post on Halloween?

This year’s leaves will soon all be on the ground. Today a bit of a breeze is helping to bring them down. I notice that even a slight shift in the wind direction brings a new flurry of leaf drop.  Today, the direction is SSE, a direction I haven’t had for a couple of weeks, and that seems to be all that is needed to speed up the leaf fall.  Today, the wind speed is no stronger than it’s been for a week or more, but the wind direction is different than the more normal NW or westerly direction. That change means the wind strikes the leaves from a different angle, and for some leaves that’s all it takes to bring them down.

Walking through a forest when the leaves are falling is fun.  I can feel and hear the leaves dropping all around me and on me.  I have to resist the automatic urge to bat them away, like I would with an insect.  Instead, I walk into the falling leaves, feel them light on my jacket, tickle my face and then crunch underfoot.  A thousand leaves are falling all at once, and you need a whole forest to get the full effect.  Now’s the time to try it.    

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gloomy morning

Not taken this morning 
I’m not used to mornings being as dark as it was this morning, though in a few days time I’m going to have to get used to it.  This morning darkness wasn’t caused by the impending time change or by me getting up earlier than usual.  The sky was overcast and the clouds low, almost misty. The effect made the morning as dark as night. Even at 7 a.m. I needed a headlamp when I went to feed the chickens.

Likely the extra dark morning is why I didn’t hear a peep or see any forest dwellers other than Doodle, my rooster, this morning.  Baby Dog and I took our usual walk, and even the headlamp didn’t help much.  I kept remembering Robert Jordan’s description of “the Ways” in his Wheel of Time series, an underground passage where light didn’t penetrate and travelers who got too far behind the leader never found their way out.  That’s what this morning felt like.  The darkness seemed to gobble up the light from my lamp and didn’t illuminate but a few feet in any direction.  Even Baby Dog seemed subdued and hung by my heels more than she usually does. This kind of darkness is a far cry from a clear night’s darkness that is hung with familiar stars overhead to keep me company and guide my way.

October is soon coming to an end, and with it the last of the leaves will fall.  When I’m not encircled by clouds, I can see, barely, portions of the slope of Nell’s Hill to the west of my cabin.  I can see it clearly all summer whenever I walk out of the woods and onto the abandoned ski slope, but 50 yards or so of forest separates it from my view during the leafy seasons. Even after the leaves fall, the view is striped by tree trunks but that seems a minor veiling.  Certainly, it’s nothing compared with the gloomy gray blanket that covered the mountain this morning.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Time's a wasting

The only way I can make the dull fall colors of 2013 look bright is to take a photo when the sun is low during the first shining of the day. In most years, early morning light on the mountain to my west would look almost too bright, nearly hurting my eyes. Not this year.  Maybe winter will be more interesting.

And that reminds me—I’m going to have to buy new snowshoes.  The plastic on my 15-year old snowshoes finally broke and doesn’t appear to be repairable.  I haven’t had enough snow the past several years to even use my snowshoes except once or twice.  But I know how things go.  The very year I don’t have snowshoes I will get one of those rare, four foot snows and will desperately need them.  Rather than deal with that, it’s simply easier to buy a new pair. Buying a new pair is just as likely to keep a big snow away, too, which is also how things go. I’ve heard this called the snowblower effect, too. If you buy a snowblower, it’s almost certain there won’t be any snow the first year you have it.  But if you don’t have a snowblower—expect a blizzard.

As you can tell, now that the leaves are falling, I’m already looking ahead to the winter. My bird feeders are in place and are used by the local chickadees, titmice and nuthatches.  I’m already starting to plan how to winterize the chicken pen, and I’m picking up and putting away various things around the cabin that have been outside since April—chairs, a bench, that kind of thing.  I’ve already seen snowflakes once this year—briefly for about five minutes or less.  The next batch of those are likely to be more sustained and then are likely to be followed by actual flurries, perhaps then a dusting and before I know it, there will be snow on the ground.

I’ve been fooled before by autumns that seem to last forever.  I can get lulled into thinking that this season will last for at least another week or two, only to suddenly come face-to-face with winter’s first wrath. This is not the time to procrastinate!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Dull fall colors

Franklin Township, York County PA
No getting around it; this fall just isn’t producing much in the way of pretty fall colors. Some individual trees are showing half-decent color, but the overall appearance of the mountains is pretty drab. A fair number of  trees have lost their leaves entirely, so the chances that the remaining leaves will suddenly brighten up seems highly unlikely.

The deer that were living next to my cabin and growing tamer by the minute seem to have moved on.  I don’t know why, though two possibilities jump to mind.  One is that they may have exhausted the supply of acorns and hickory nuts in that patch of woods.  The other is that now that leaves are falling and the forest understory is opening up, perhaps they are skittish of being seen in the more open forest.  Perhaps all this time they thought they were hidden when they were perfectly in view, and now they know they aren’t hidden.  Whatever the answer, they were not around this weekend.

Despite the wind and chill temperatures over the past week, this October will be warmer than average.  Those 10 days of very warm weather at the beginning of the month were the cause of that.  With the more seasonal weather of the past week, October 2013 will still be warmer than average, but it will fall into the once-every-five-years or so level of warmer instead of the warmest ever.

At the cabin, the heat is now on, though I still keep the indoors fairly cool.  58-60 is a good comfort range for me.  I wear a sweater and sometimes a beret or a knit cap.  As long as my nose and fingers aren’t cold, I’m comfortable.

Friday, October 25, 2013


This weekend I will be forced to turn the heat on in my cabin. This morning it was 54 degrees in the cabin, and frost covered the plants outside.  Even though my artificial start date of November 1 to turn on the heat is still some days away, I am going to break down and do it today. 54 is just a little too frosty as an indoor temperature for me.

I was toasty enough under my covers, protected by a thick crazy quilt covered with several cats. They cuddle with a vengeance, to the point where I feel as though I’m caught in a strait jacket and can’t move a toe.  Perhaps I’ll have more room when it’s warmer inside.

I do find I am comfortable if the inside temperature is 60 or 62.  The trick, if there is one, is to slowly adjust to the cooler temperature.  If you are used to the higher temperatures that utilities tout as “comfortable,” walking into a room of 60 degrees won’t feel comfortable.  However, if you resist turning on the heat when the temperature inside drops below 70 degrees, you’ll soon find that the human body is quite capable of feeling comfortable at a lower temperature.

One time when I felt hot enough to expire was when I’d been winter backpacking for a week or so and on my way home visited a diner for a good meal.  Even though the other customers kept their coats on, I was sitting by the door peeled down as far as decency would allow.  And I was still sweating like the proverbial pig.  I’d quickly gotten used to living in below freezing temperatures, and a return to a normal temperature seemed terrible.  That said, 54 inside is still too chilly for me. The heat goes on tonight!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Full moon setting

The race is on! Will the leaves show some pretty colors for a day or so or will the breeze knock them down before there’s much more to see? Leaves are falling without much help from a breeze, so it won’t take much of one to bring them down by the thousands.

Every evening when I return to the cabin, more leaves have fallen and the views overhead and into the forest are a bit more open.  Tonight, I may well get a freeze as my first frost of the season.  Typically, I have several frosts before a hard freeze, which is often called a killing frost.  This year I will apparently head directly into freezing territory.

I have been resisting turning on the heat in the cabin, with the result that it was 59 when I woke up this morning.  I broke down and lit a fire in the fireplace.  That’s not the same as turning on the heat, is it?  I’m still going to hold off on that one for a while.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Too close an encounter

Full moon rising
Last evening I came close to hitting the young four-point buck that has taken to living around my cabin.  I was returning home after a late meeting and turned off the lane and onto my driveway.  At that point, the lane continues up the mountain, and my driveway dips down for a few feet before leveling off.  While I’m in the dip I can’t see too far on either side of the car, so naturally that’s where the buck was. He jumped up and ran across the driveway right in front of me.  Fortunately for him and me, I missed him.

I’ve enjoyed watching the deer up close when I’m outside the cabin.  They ignore me and I pretend I’m ignoring them while I’m really watching them.  I just hope they soon learn not to ignore the car.
My western view is starting to return. I can now see the top of the mountain to my west, though as of this morning, not the rest of it.  It’s a start.  This fall is definitely not turning into one of the pretty ones, as far as the leaf colors go.  It may, in fact, be the least colorful fall I’ve ever seen.  It’s certainly the least colorful I can remember.  I just hope this is the bottom of that barrel and for the next 50 years or so the colors are a lot better than they were this year.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October colors

Taken at Pinchot Lake October 20, 2013
This autumn is one where the only way I can get the fall colors to show up in a photograph is to take a photo at sunrise when the low angle of the sun could make green leaves look golden.  It certainly makes drab color look pretty spectacular, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’s not this pretty in real life.

I am hoping that a bit of predicted frost later this week will improve things, assuming the leaves don’t fall before then. At my cabin, even on days without a breeze, the leaves are still falling. One by one they drop to the ground without any help from even the faintest breeze.  A little breeze sets them to falling by the hundreds. Leaves litter my decks by the thousands, and will even after all the leaves are down, until snow or a wet rain pins them to the ground. Until then, they swirl all around the forest but always manage to end up on my decks.

For all that many leaves have fallen, I haven’t yet regained my western vista. I can see the sky above the mountain to the west, but not the mountain itself. I check at least once each day for the first glimpse of the mountain—so far no joy.  It won’t be long, though. I can hardly wait!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

No improvement in fall color and nearly invisible deer

A foggy morning isn’t improving the lackluster autumn colors this morning. To my eye, the leaf canopy is already starting to look a bit thin, so I’m even less optimistic that this fall might produce even a day or so of pretty colors than I was before.  That’s what a dry August and September will do, even when the temperature isn’t overly hot.

At the moment acorns and hickory nuts are dropping everywhere and anywhere.  The big nuts hit the ground with a thud and hit my car with a sound that makes me wonder if they will dent the top of the car.  When the nuts hit the roof, they roll down with a clatter, which usually sets Baby Dog to barking in warning—she has no idea what the warning is for, but she is sure she doesn’t like the noise.
Can you see the deer?

The deer seem to grow bolder by the day, and considering how bold they were three to four days ago, that’s saying something.  This morning I turned after feeding the chickens and found the big doe standing in the middle of the driveway, just in front of where I park the car.  She couldn’t have been more than 30 feet away, watching what I was up to. She disappeared before I could snap a photo.

This morning three of them stood at the end of the driveway, nearly invisible among the leaves and tree trunks even though they were close.  When the deer stand still, they are easy to overlook.  They bolted across the driveway in front of me as I pulled the car out of the driveway.  At this rate, they will be eating out of my hand before next week is through.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall colors on a dreary day

Gifford Pinchot State Park

On a dreary fall day, the autumn color looks even more drab and less advanced than it does in sunshine. I took this photo on Sunday, mostly so I could better notice the change from then to the upcoming week. To me, photos help me notice changes that I can’t remember from day to day. Were the leaves on this twig yellow yesterday?  Are they more yellow today?  A photo lets me compare the two in a way that my memory can’t.

I certainly hope the color improves before the leaves fall. Autumn can be such a gorgeous time of year.  I don’t like to think it may be another year or three before I get to see nice color again.  365 days is a long time to wait for something and to hope that it or me will still be around to see it.

Nature provides a lot of “big events” throughout the year, some of which simply aren’t repeated until the next year.   Autumn leaf change is one of those.  In addition to hoping for good color, I also hope for that color to stay on the trees for a while. Sometimes one day of great color is all I get. Other times the color hangs around for a week or 10 days, which at least reduces the wait time until the next year by a tiny bit.

Unfortunately, here on my mountain, snow has been one of those rare events the last few years.  I am no longer guessing or taking bets on what will transpire with that anymore. The 11 inches of rain I had last weekend is also a rare event, but one that I hope doesn’t become any more common it is now. Other natural events are often less showy. The 36 hours that the bloodroot blooms is one of those. If you don’t look and don’t know where to look, you’ll miss that pretty spring flower.

I probably miss a lot of other natural events, those both big and small.  Each year I try to add to my stock of events to pay attention to.  I chew them over, compare this year’s event with those past and wonder about their differences. Each small change affects the wheel of the season’s turning in some way.  Things change all the time, but the wheel of the seasons still turns.        

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October sunrise over Roundtop

October sunrise at Roundtop Mtn.

I suspect this fall will not produce great leaf color here on Roundtop this year. So far it certainly isn’t much, though the leaves still have a ways to go before they reach their peak here.  The color will certainly improve, but how much?

The rain last weekend brought down most of the leaves off the trees stressed by six weeks of no precipitation. That amounts to something less than half of the total leaves (unofficial guess). The remaining leaves vary from green to dull yellow with a few red areas thrown in.  Green still predominates.

The recipe for good fall color is a warm summer and a moist fall.  Roundtop really fails the moist part this year, but how much will the heavy rains of last weekend improve the situation? Is it a case of too much too late?  Or, was this rain just what the remaining leaves needed to bring about some nice fall color?

I don’t have a crystal ball, so at this point I can’t say.  I do know that I will enjoy seeing what transpires as the next week or so progresses.  If the color turns out to be a dud, I will know that a rain after weeks of no rain in early fall isn’t enough to produce good color.  If the color turns out to be pretty nice, I’ll know that rain was just what was needed.

Whatever the answer, the result will be one more piece of nature information I will have to make guesses about future years.  Nature has more lessons to teach than can be learned in a lifetime, though each new piece of knowledge deepens my understanding and my connection to the world around me.  That’s the best, I think, that any of us can hope for—that we just keep learning nature’s unending lessons.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Got him!

Finally, the rain has stopped!  In the space of just 36 hours, I picked up somewhere between 10.55 and 11.74 inches (yes, you read that right) of rain.  That much rain is usually reserved for the remnants of hurricanes, not your average autumn low pressure system. Because the area had been so dry, my basement didn’t get wet until the rain total was somewhere near 10”, and then I only got about half an inch of water down there, which was easily pumped out.

The roads were bad on Friday, and the creeks were high enough to make me wonder if the bridges were safe to cross, but overall it could have been worse.  Still, I’m glad it wasn’t.

Grumpy, the giant snapping turtle I photo’d on Friday reappeared in the same spot on Saturday morning.  I don’t know if it commutes from one side of the road to the other, or if it still hadn’t found a way across the road in the first place.  If this keeps up, that turtle will soon get run over.  The spot where I find it is right along the edge of the road on a curve, and for cars coming in the opposite direction, they may well not see it in time to avoid it.  It does help that the road is one where it’s not uncommon for 20-30 minutes to pass between cars.

The deer that are feasting on various nuts around my cabin grow ever bolder. This young buck watched me for a good minute before moving out of my driveway.  The photo isn't great because at 6:45 a.m., it's still pretty dark--too dark for a clear photo.  I try not to look at the deer when I see them, as being stared at makes them nervous. It also helps if I don’t pay much attention to them. In this case I was feeding the chickens, except for the moments when I was snapping the shutter.  The deer always seem curious about what I am doing, but they don’t show much fear.

Now that the latest rainstorm is over and the clean-up I needed to do around the cabin because of it, my big ongoing work over the next few weeks will be brooming the leaves off my front and back decks.  The rain brought down so many leaves they were ankle-deep.  As many leaves are still on the trees, that scenario will repeat several times until all the leaves are off.  It’s work I don’t mind, as it keeps me outside and gives me a chance to surreptitiously watch the deer as they are watching me.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Surprises, even on a rainy day

 For a while, I thought my photos today would all look like a Monet painting.  I know I said I liked a dreary October, but 6 inches of rain goes well beyond dreary.  What I have now is flooding around the area, with roads closed, and the rain still falling, if a bit diminished over the torrents that dropped overnight.  Baby Dog did not get much of a walk this morning.

Even a dreary day can have lots of surprises, though.  I hadn’t gone far this morning when I came across these deer.  Apparently for them, breakfast is more important than being completely soaked.  And that newly awakened and moistened grass probably tasted a lot better it did the day before. They didn’t much care for me to stop and look at them.

Then, when I reached the bottom of the mountain I found a huge snapping turtle. I’d bet the shell was at least 15 inches long, and if someone wanted to disagree with me and say it was 18 inches, I wouldn’t call them a liar.  I wasn’t about to get close enough to measure it.  That head was as big as a softball, and those claws must have been going on 2 inches long.  The edge of the road is 3 ft. wide, because I remember that’s how much the township widened it last year. Normally, I try to shoo turtles off the road, and I’ve done that with smaller snapping turtles, but I wasn’t going to fool with this fellow.

Who would have thought a morning like this one would provide something other than rain on a windshield?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's finally October!

It’s dreary and rainy, and the air is chilly, if not quite all the way into raw, today. I love it!  This feels exactly the way October should feel.  Of course, if the weather was like this for the entire month, I wouldn’t love it so much, but after the first week of the month when  temperatures was in the 80’s, I’m relieved to have everything back to normal again.

This is the kind of weather that gets all kinds of waterfowl moving south.  This is the kind of day when flock after flock of Canada geese will feel the urge to fly, the kind of day that reminds me the juncos will arrive soon. Winter is coming, after all.

This year I have a bumper crop of beech and hickory nuts, as well as acorns, around the cabin. They are falling off their trees, now.   When the big beech nuts land on the cabin roof, they land with a pop and then more noise as they roll down the pitched roof.  The noise always sets Baby Dog to barking.  Apparently, she thinks we are being attacked.  The nuts make quite a racket, and I’m awfully glad none have landed on my head when they fall.  At least not yet.

Most years I gather up the hickory nuts to eat, though sometimes the squirrels get to them before I can, so I don’t always end up with many that are fit to eat.  Right now, the deer that are living just off the edge of my driveway are enjoying their bounty, too. The oaks are providing plenty of acorns for the deer, though I can’t honestly say any of them look fat from them.

Activity at my feeders is picking up, too, with nuthatches, titmice and chickadees the most regular visitors.  That, as much as anything, is a sure sign the weather is turning towards cold weather.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Coming out of the bubble

Yesterday’s storm brought down virtually all the leaves that had dried, withered or changed color, so the forest looks almost green again. That won’t last as now is the time when the fall color change really takes off. Many of the leaves that came down were off tulip poplar trees and smaller saplings of almost any species.

My forest is mostly white and red oaks, with hickory and beech thrown in for variety.  The oaks are usually the very last tree to change color, and sometimes I even have a three-phase color change, with those trees hanging onto their leaves past the first killing frost. This year I am assured of at least a two-phase color change. Some years everything works together, and all the leaves change color and drop at more or less the same time. That hasn’t happened in a while and won’t happen this year either.

For now, I’m just glad to have some of the leaves down so I can see the sky over my cabin again.  The thick forest canopy of summer helps to keep the air around the cabin cooler than when I’m out of the forest, but even knowing that, I weary of living inside the “green bubble” of summer.  But today, I can see the end of this year’s bubble, and I know I will soon have the expansive view of winter around me instead.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Fall returns

Tree tops still lit by  the last light of the sun 
Ahh, Fall has returned to the mountain. October feels like October again, courtesy of former Hurricane Karen.  An inch of rain can’t make up for a nearly 6” deficit, but it sure did help, and the storm cleared out those warm temperatures, too.  I can’t see the mountain a mile to the west of my cabin yet, but I can see the sky overhead again.  I’d guess that something less than half the leaves have come down, perhaps not that many.  It’s quite an improvement.

What’s odd is to see the forest as green again.  Now that the colored leaves, mostly yellows and browns, were knocked down by the wind and rain, the leaves remaining on the trees are those that haven’t turned color yet.  So fall will be a two-phase color change this year.  The next and final phase is likely a few weeks away.  

Baby Dog seemed to like the new temperature, too, if her racing around for no reason is any indication. The cats seem to think the constantly falling leaves are birds.  They race to the windows and bat at them or “chirp” at the falling leaves.  The leaves flutter to the ground, apparently in birdlike fashion.  The cats eventually seem to get that a leaf isn’t a bird, and they look disappointed until the next leaf falls, when the entire game starts again.

Yesterday I saw a flock of geese, high overhead, that may well have been a flock of migrants heading south.  With geese, it can be difficult to tell if they are migrating or not. They move around a lot, and this time of year even the local birds pretend they are actually going somewhere important. If this was a flock of migrants, it was an early flock, the leaders of the pack.  Once I see a day with multiple flocks I’ll know the waterfowl are on the move south to the Chesapeake Bay.  For now, this flock was maybe migrating, but it was certainly a sign of things to come.    

Monday, October 07, 2013

Visiting the Apple Harvest Festival

A steam engine at the National Apple Festival, near Arendtsville PA
 October is the month of fairs and festivals in Pennsylvania, and this past weekend was the first weekend for the National Apple Harvest Festival, one of my favorites of the year. Perhaps what I enjoy the most is the festival’s location—nestled at the foot of a mountain surrounded by rolling hills of apple orchards.  Tall pines dot the festival grounds.  Nothing is paved, nothing is new and the food is outstanding.
Of course I eat too much at these events.  And I buy too many things, but that’s what you’re supposed to do.  So I bought a loaf of iced apple cinnamon bread, brought home some venison sticks and elk jerky, ate apple crisp and drank homemade soda.  I always say I’m going to buy Christmas gifts, but this year I didn’t buy any of those. I think I spent too much on food to have any left over money for a holiday that’s still more than two months away.

This year the weather was sunny and verging on hot.  Weather for this festival hits at a time of year when almost any meteorological event can occur.  I’ve been to festivals when it was cold enough to snow and now I’ve been to one that felt more like July than October.  I prefer the colder years, but then I always prefer colder weather to hotter temperatures.

The festival runs this upcoming weekend, too, and I’d love to go back, but I think I’ve managed to spend all the money I need to for a while.  It will be safer (and cheaper) if I just don’t go again this year. But don’t let that stop anyone else!

Friday, October 04, 2013

Colors of fall

 The sunlight this morning was especially nice, making even dry and withered plants look more golden than brownish.  In the bright light of midday, the mullein is more the color of a cigar.  The goldenrod still looks golden, though.  About the only flowers left are the tiny fleabanes that are nearly lost in the yellowing grasses.

 This isn’t a true fall color change. It’s more a drying of the forest from lack of rain. Perhaps that lack is forcing the leaves to change sooner than the temperature and hours of daylight would indicate.  I just hope some leaves are left to produce the prettier fall colors.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Where's my dinner?

So the other night I heard first a cat and then Baby Dog scratching at the front door.  I ignored them for a minute or so, but the scratching continued and grew more intense, so I was forced to stop my dinner preparations and go to investigate.  And what do I see? 

Several of my chickens are looking in the cabin through the front door.  The sight of chickens calmly looking in the cabin from the front porch was driving the inside animals crazy—and, if you’ll notice, their scratching soon made the glass on my front door pretty dirty.  The chickens were undeterred by the cat and dog. They knew the two were on the other side of the door and thus weren’t able to get to them.
So what were the chickens doing peering into the cabin?  They were telling me it was time for their dinner.  Chickens aren’t nearly as dumb as they are often portrayed. My chickens knew I was in the cabin, and they know where their dinner comes from. The fact that I was late getting home and so was operating a bit behind my usual schedule was not an excuse they were willing to hear about.  It was their dinner time, and they wanted it now. Since the dinner was not immediately forthcoming, they simply gathered on the front porch to find out where it was (and to remind me about it just in case I’d forgotten). 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The fern, watered

The fern I watered the other evening already looks better. I feel rather strange picking one plant out of the entire withering forest to water, but I’m trying to ignore myself about that. My instinct was simply to water the fern because it’s a wild fern I’ve enjoyed seeing for years, and I’m not going to let my intellect question why I’m ignoring the other plants in favor of this one. I favor that fern, so I watered it.

It’s a bit like life, isn’t it?   You can’t fix everything or help everyone, so you have to fix or help the one thing you can do something about.  I can’t water the forest. I can’t make it rain, but I can water that fern. So I did.  Let me try and not make it any more complicated than that.

Is it this drought, I wonder, that has the deer so close and so unwary around the cabin?  The other morning, the big doe stood not more than 25-30 feet away and watched as I fed the chickens.  She didn’t even twitch her tail.  She is a big girl, huge even, clearly the leader of the little group of a spring fawn and two small buck that travel with her. She may well be the largest doe I have ever seen, dwarfing the two four-points that are probably only yearlings. I hope she survives the upcoming deer season.  She is wise compared to the younger deer around her and knows what food can be found and where during this dry period. The other deer all take their cues from her. She calmly feeds nearby, so they are willing to feed just outside the door of the cabin as well, if not so calmly. I'd love to know how old she is. How many years does it take for a deer to become the wise one in her group?  Two?  Four?  Do many of them live any longer than that?  She seems healthy and vital, not an old one that might not survive the upcoming winter.  I will never know the answers, of course. So I just watch her and try to learn a few of her secrets.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Winter finch forecast - not good

My winter bird feeders are up again after a respite during the summer. The bird seed molds so quickly then, and the local birds are more inclined to find their own goodies without any help from me. So far, and not surprisingly, the feeders are thus far getting little action. One of the local chickadees stops by regularly, and the ubiquitous white-breasted nuthatch was the first to investigate the new food source. Nuthatches are nearly always the first bird to try the feeders when I first put them up again.

Even with the dry weather, food is still plentiful around the forest, so I don’t expect much activity at my feeders until after the first killing frost. That always spurs the local avian residents to appear on my back deck and investigate the new food source.

The winter finch forecast for this upcoming winter sounds pretty dismal, so I am not expecting to have any at my feeders. The finch forecast comes courtesy of Ron Pittaway, who’s been forecasting the arrival or not of northern finches for some years now. You can read his full report here:

The 2013-14 finch forecast shows that this is not an irruption year and that Ontario’s cone crops are in good supply. It’s only when that cone crop is poor to non-existent that large numbers of pine grosbeak, purple finch, crossbills, redpolls and the like head south in search of food. The only exception to the good crop comes from white pines. However, the crop in the Adirondacks is excellent this year so whatever finches do head south may well not go any further than there. And no movement of red-breasted nuthatches is expected this year.

So my feeding will likely be limited to the local birds, unless something from the north unexpectedly heads south. I’m not going to count on that, though. Perhaps this will be a good year for me to concentrate on finding a few unusual sparrows at Roundtop. I would be happy with that.