7/15 Unwary Bird

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Walking down the trail on one of those dreadfully humid days last week, I was lucky enough to spot this bird. Truthfully, he would have been hard to miss; his attitude of unconcern was striking. I’m pretty sure this is the same Pileated Woodpecker featured in my post from 4/9, “Big Woodpecker” – the one that persuaded me to get a better camera. Read More

7/3 Fledglings

 

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Life is exciting for all young animals – so much to learn, so very fast. Baby songbirds are on a particularly quick timeline; pop out of the nest, learn to fly and feed yourself, or be food for someone else. Bird populations are at their zenith this time of year, but will soon to be whittled down by other hungry mouths. This young House Wren seems to be thriving as it masters the art of staying alive. Read More

6/22 Where the Forest is Reborn…

 

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Elderberry in a gap near trail post #18

….is where the light is. Though I’ve spent much of my life outdoors, especially in forests, there are plenty of things I failed to notice until a forest became my workplace. “Gap dynamics” is one of them; the process by which the forest continually renews itself as old trees die. A light-filled gap is a lively place in the midst of a forest’s somber shade. Full of Jewelweed and other summer blooms, it’s a meetup zone for pollinating insects and those that prey on them. In this forest, the presence of a vigorous blooming Elderberry bush, Sambucus canadensis, always signals a gap. Many little Elderberry shoots spring up throughout the moist floodplain, but only the ones in sunlight can grow fast enough to escape the deer. Read More

6/12 Life is Busy

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It’s Browntail again, and she has a little secret. Yesterday she was acting oddly skittish, and I sensed she really wanted me to go away – probably because it was time to feed her new fawn(s). I haven’t seen them yet, but she has an udder full of milk and she’s looking skinny again.

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6/1 The Best Berry You’ve Never Tasted

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Mulberries that actually taste great, from a tree by the Louisville Nature Center

Right now the forest is alive with the “beads on a string” whistling of Cedar Waxwings. I wanted to include a pic of what they’re doing – gorging on mulberries, but mostly it’s a way-high-in-the canopy sort of party. This social, frugivorous (fruit eating) bird is here because in some parts of our forest, every tenth tree is a mulberry. Desirable as these mulberries are to birds, most of them are not the native Red Mulberry, Morus rubra. Read More

5/22 Opening Pandora’s Box

 

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Cut stumps reveal the plant diversity in this landscape has been narrowed down to nothing but “old growth” Bush Honeysuckle

Working on invasive plants is like managing the behavior of a defiant two year old. One must be consistent and firm in resolve, day after day, for at least sixteen years. Let up for even a little while and you lose a lot of ground. Of course, most two year olds grow up to be some sort of adult, but invasive plants never go away.

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5/10 The Box Turtle’s Predicament

 

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Box turtles mating; the male leans back with feet locked under the female’s carapace

And no, I don’t mean this sort of predicament. In fact, there’s not enough of this going on, and that’s a real problem for turtle populations.  Read More

4/23 Battle of Wits

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image: Fritz Rohmer Reynolds

Once upon a time, Solomon’s Seal Polygonatum biflorum, dangled its creamy bell-like blooms all over this forest. Then came Bush Honeysuckle and deep shade. Even then Solomon’s Seal bloomed along the trail where light could reach it. Then came deer and no more flowers. Like discerning foodies seeking the perfect meal, whitetails parse the forest floor and they don’t miss much. A better common name for Solomon’s Seal would be “Deer Asparagus” (it’s closely related).

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4/16 Sleepers Awaken

 

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Whether it’s the alarm clock forcing you out of bed, or the breaking dawn telling you to sing – everybody has to wake up sometime. If you’ve been sleeping for six months in the earth, I imagine it might be a little harder. But for at least one Box turtle in our forest today was the day. Look closely at the pic above, it’s more than just mud. Read More

4/9 Big Woodpecker

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“Does that big woodpecker still live in here?”, a forest visitor asked me last week. By amazing coincidence we were standing almost at the spot where, a few days later, I was lucky enough to see one up close. Though sometimes elusive, Pileated woodpeckers can be surprisingly easy to watch since they often forage near the ground. North America’s largest woodpecker is definitely at home in this forest; both bird and forest have made a comeback in the last half century. Read More