Thursday, October 27, 2011

So Bizarre As To Be Nearly Unbelievable

 A white-tailed buck in the natural area fitted with a radio collar
For the last three years, we have been working cooperatively with a wildlife biologist at a local college to track the movement of radio-collared white-tailed deer inhabiting the natural area preserve.  We provide the land and part of the financial support, and the college provides the know-how and labor (in the form of students).  It's a nice synergistic relationship because we get to learn about the movement and population size of the herd, the biologist gets publishable research data, and the students get some exciting hands-on experience tackling deer (in a trap) and fitting them with the collars.

Over the three years, the college has trapped and monitored 33 deer.  Each collar transmits data for about three months until its battery is nearly exhausted, and then the researcher drops the collar off electronically.  Once retrieved and fitted with a new battery, the collar can then be placed on a new deer.

Yesterday morning, I came to work and found one of my employees gutting a newly-killed doe in preparation for taking the deer to a butcher for processing.  Though a little disconcerting first thing in the morning, such a scene is not at all unusual here.  What was unusual was that my employee told me that the deer had been found dead in the parking lot that morning, and that it had been shot with a 22-calibre handgun.  Although we're in the midst of hunting season, it's not legal to hunt with a handgun.

Later in the day, the wildlife biologist telephoned to fill me in on details.  It seems that around midnight, the biologist and his students captured a deer.  After fitting the animal with a collar, they released it and it sprang away into the woods (as they all typically do upon being released).  Then, before the biologist and students could even clean up and get ready to go home for the night, they head a shot that came from the direction of one of the roads adjacent to the woods.  The group turned on its collar-locating electronic device and soon found the just-collared deer, dead in the parking lot.  The unfortunate animal, traumatized by the capture and collar fitting, had been shot dead minutes later by some yahoo (a kind term) with a handgun cruising along the road after midnight.

On a personal note:  I used to run along some of these same roads, and my runs were often after dark.  This incident made me realize that some yahoo could just as easily have shot me, left me to die alongside the road like this deer, and no one would ever have apprehend the perpetrator.  It gave me pause.   

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Creek (for Grizz)

Yesterday was the quintessential perfect autumn day here.  I had a chance to spend the afternoon assessing the survival rate of 1,000 white ash trees planted 21 years ago, and I didn't have to pushed out the door to do the survey work.  (I did end up with four black-legged [i.e., "deer"] tick bites, though, which itch like a son of a gun today.)  During the survey, I chatted with three good friends who were walking the trails, taking advantage of one of the last good days left this season; it might snow on Saturday!  One friend had just returned from a week's trip to western and central New Mexico, which is "Mecca" for me, so I especially enjoyed seeing him.

The afternoon was so spectacular that, upon her arrival at home from work, I immediately told Kali to put on her walking shoes because we were going for a stroll before dinner.  I guess I was a bit too forceful in my proclamation because she became a bit put off and cranky.  Once we were among the golden prairie grasses, though, all her gruffness evaporated.  By the time we got down to the creek, the light was going out of the world, but I managed to make this image, which I'm dedicating to Grizz because I know that all this image would need to make him happy would be to PhotoShop himself sanding in the water casting for trout.

By the way, though the survival rate of the white ashes I was assessing was high, I know that they're all doomed once the emerald ash borer gets here to the Mid-Atlantic Piedmont.  Their only hope would be if we treated them perpetually with a systemic insecticide--something we just can't afford. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Along Harper's Run

Kali didn't have to go to work yesterday, and I took left work1-1/2 hours early (hey, I had to work three hours on Saturday) in order to enjoy a late afternoon walk on a beautiful autumn day with bright sunshine and temperatures in the upper 60s.  We decided to walk at the county park downstream of the preserve for a change of scene.

Part of the walk in the park takes us alongside a modest but picturesque stream called Harper's Run.  Just after we parked and started upstream along the creek, a hawk flew in from the surrounding woods and landed smack dab in the middle of the creek, and then just sat there, tail fanned out, watching us.  We approached slowly and cautiously, and the hawk flew up out of the creek and onto the rocks alongside.  At that point, I could see that it was carrying something in its talons, but I couldn't tell what.  I pulled out the camera and cranked up the telephoto into the "digital telephoto" range, hoping to get a decent shot despite heavy shade.  I present the best of the five images I captured.  The hawk is a Cooper's Hawk (I couldn't tell in the field), and it appears to have captured a young squirrel (soggy from sitting in the creek).  As we got closer, the hawk carried its meal off to a tree and disappeared.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Green Lane

The best color we saw along the shore of the Green Lane Reservoir  
Kali and I did a 6-mile hike at Green Lane County Park in the northwest part of our county.  Though we've lived in this county for 23 years, we'd never visited this 2,300-acre park.  The parkland surrounds a large drinking water impoundment called Green Lane Reservoir, and most of the parkland hugs the shore of the lake fairly closely,  so the trail system is basically a walk along the lake shore, much of which is very steep.
The parkland is located in an interesting geological area where igneous sills had intruded into sedimentary sandstones and shales.  So, it's easy to see the juxtaposition of soft, red sandstones and shales right up against very hard, erosion-resistant black igneous diabase rock.
 The Blue Trail; despite appearances, it was very muddy, even here
Fall color was not spectacular around the reservoir, the trail was frequently muddy, the guidebook did not give comprehensive directions for the hike, and the trails climbed up and down hills a lot.  Kali and I decided that (1) the experience was 25% positive and 75% a slogging trudge, and (2) we wouldn't repeat the hike.  Nevertheless, there were some pleasant spots, especially a side trail that traversed two hemlock ravines with nice, small waterfalls.  Unfortunately, my camera battery was exhausted mid-hike and I didn't get images of the best parts of the hike.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Autumn in Miniature

The ripening Northern sea-oat seeds in my garden are a reflection of autumn, with green gradually giving way to yellows and browns.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Colors of Autumn

 Canoes brought to shore at Lake Galena
Still mostly green here on the Pennsylvania Piedmont.  I heard on the radio this morning that local prognosticators still aren't sure how brilliant our fall will be because the extreme heat of July and the endless, record-setting deluges of August and September stressed the trees.  Foliage color ought to peak in late October.
Walkers on the lake trail
 Kali and I did a 6-mile circumambulation of Lake Galena in Peace Valley County Park on Saturday.  The most brilliant colors were from the canoes lining the shore, but some leaves were beginning to color-up on the hillsides above the lake.
Canada Geese enjoying a beautiful autumn afternoon on Lake Galena

Monday, October 3, 2011

Diminished Expectations

Unless there are some unexpected surprises, I expect to retire in six years and seven months.  Because Kali and I live in a house provided by my employer, we will have to move when I retire--an opportunity to relocate to the mountainous West, we hope.  We've got many friends who are getting older and downsizing, so it's not unreasonable to begin to downsize ourselves right now in anticipation of our move; six years pass amazingly quickly.

Over the weekend, I was in the basement cleaning out files and came across a paper bag full of vegetable and flower seed packets that I had accumulated over the years.  I'm dumping the unplanted seeds into a collective paper bag, which I'll take to the compost heap when I've finished the task.  I'm recycling the paper seed packets.

I know, I know--some of the seeds may be viable, but in my experience, seed viability diminishes quickly for garden seeds, so I'm not going to bother to pot-up the seeds and then be disappointed when germination is spotty or nonexistent.  And, In fact, that's part of my point in posting this blog entry.
Some of the seed packets date back as far as 1997.  Back then, I planted lots and lots of annuals with the garden vegetables every year.  My garden was half vegetables and half annuals, and it was beatuiful, but labor intensive.

Now, I have a sad perennial garden that's overrun with weeds, into which I fit a few tomato plants each spring.  How did I ever find the time to create this extravagant annual flower garden 14 years ago--at a time when I was also still running at least three evenings a week?  I'm 14 years older, discouraged by the incessant press of weeds, groundhogs and deer, and I have a lot less physical energy (I naively never imagined this would happen to me).  It all contributes to diminished expectations in my life in general.