Along the Natchez Trace

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What's That? Yet Another Rainy Day?

Yes, that's right... the rain is still coming down.  It's kind of funny because at 5:14 AM this morning, as Bill & I were eating breakfast, there was this strange light coming through the windows.  We'd kind of forgotten what it was...  it was bright and cheerful....  but by the time we remembered it was the sun, it disappeared from view not to be seen since.

Bill has spent most of his day doing inside work...  there's still some vehicle maintenance to do as well as getting some signs ready to put out.  I think he drove into Caribou to the hardware store....  just doing some of those things they tend to put off for days like these.

There was a brief period when it wasn't raining and looked kind of promising, so I took the Gator out to finish picking up the debris left over from the manhole removal.  It was mostly pieces of PVC pipe but also some bits of flagging I'd put out to mark the manholes.  It started raining again before I got done...  I didn't get drenched, but the wet was starting to soak through my clothing.

While out I came across a patch of this....
 Sheep Laurel

It's in the Kalmia  or Laurel family...  the Heath family that the azalia in your garden belongs.  The color is striking...  sure grabbed my attention!

This pair of Ring-neck ducks were taking a morning swim.  Look close....  it's no wonder I keep wanting to call them "Ring-billed ducks"....  

This guy paused to check me out....  decided I wasn't worth bothering with and moved on....

I moved on too...  changed out the memory cards on my game cameras...
This young bear was ambling by...

But he decided to stop and take a closer look at the camera...  gave me a great profile shot!  You can see how wet HE got while out and about!

And then decided to check the camera out even further...  that's a REAL close-up of his nose... and you can see a bit of his left eye over there on the upper right....

That camera caught a whole lot of critters last night....
Got these 2 moose...  that smaller one on the right is growing a nice rack...   I was kind of surprised that he looks so small...  but I suppose if I were standing next to him, he'd sure look a LOT bigger!

One of those guys decided to check out the camera later.  This was taken at 9:12 pm last evening...  so maybe the red flash caught his eye....  Kind of funny to see that BIG nose, huh?

This shot is from a few days ago in a different location.  I think it's a young porcupine...  But since it's blurry, I'm not totally positive.  But look at the shape and the stance...  and it's a night (nocturnal) shot....  Anyway, I   think that's what this little guy is...

Last Photo of the Day...
I had 2 cameras set up...  one across from the other.  Here's me and Bill setting up the second one.  Notice that the top line of the photo shows the date, time and even the moon phase.  Note also that it shows the current temperature.  Now...  Note that it is 75 degrees F...  and I am wearing jeans, boots, a polartec lined jacket and a hat.   I spend the winter somewhere in shorts, sandals and sleeveless tees...  and the summer trying to get warm...
I have to laugh at my topsy-turvy world!

That's All For Today!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

And Even MORE Rain.....

It's been raining here for about 5 days now. Our rain gauge is in the garage, so we don't know exactly how much rain we've gotten....  but I saw 2 bears and Bill saw 2 moose yesterday, so I guess Noah is calling all the critters to board the ark.

Why is the rain gauge in the garage... you ask?   Well, last week we invited the SCA kids over for dinner and it was too buggy to eat outside.  We pulled the picnic table into the garage, and even leaving the garage door open, the bugs had more trouble finding us.  So...  what about the gauge?  Oh yes...  the gauge is attached to the end of the picnic table as there aren't very many other places to put one outside here.

The rain has been serious today...  so much so that I finally got my buns in gear and finished...

The Dastardly Deed!!!!
That photo blind that I started painting last week is finally finished!
Ta Da!!!  
(UhOh... I see a few spots that I missed...)

I'm going to interrupt this blog to tell a story....
A few years ago, Bill & I were volunteering at another refuge.  Another couple were also volunteering there and one day a week the female half of the couple and I worked the visitor center together.  Our RV sites were about 20 miles from the VC so we rode together.  One day, as we were driving home, the woman started complaining rather angrily that our "boss" wanted her to write grants.  Now, this is a very specialized field, and I was rather surprised.  As she talked, she went on to say that even with her experience, it took weeks to write a grant and she didn't want to spend all her time doing that while here.  So...  I asked her how in the world the refuge even knew she wrote grants.  She  then went on to tell me that she'd put it on her resume.

Well....  duh!

I thought anyone with common sense would omit a detail such as that if they didn't enjoy doing it....

I haven't filled out a volunteer application in years, but if I did, I probably wouldn't add painting as my favorite activity.  
But...  you know what?  If that's what needs to be done, I do it.... and even though I complain, I'm starting to like painting. 
(Did I really say that?)

Hey... look what was looking at me when I got home yesterday...
Black bears have bad eyesight, but have very good hearing.  This guy heard my car coming down the road and was checking me out.
He/she hung out in that field for over a half hour then finally crossed the road....  heading for a different area.

I've posted several photos taken with one of my game cameras...
This is one of them...  it's got a steel cable hugging it to the tree, and the metal box housing the camera also has a lock.  This should prevent it from theft...  or even damage from a bear.  
I love seeing what happens when I'm not around!

The other morning there was a lot of fog, and the trees were just dripping with dew...
As the sun was breaking through, the light on the trees looked almost like ice.  It was so beautiful I just had to stop for a few minutes and savor it all.   Truly Awesome!

That's All For Today!

See where we are.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Heat Wave? Wildfires? Nope... Rain and More Rain

Like the title of this post says...  we're getting a lot of rain.

It started last week with a real crash-banger.  Knocked out the electric for several hours.  In fact, it must have hit one of the transformers up at the Visitor Center because only parts of the building had electric when it did come back on.   And wouldn't you know...  it was the part that controls the phones.

Actually, it isn't a real big deal.  We manage pretty well, even with limited power.  In fact, our motorhome is totally self-sufficient as we can use either battery power or the generator if necessary.

I haven't been seeing many critters lately...  don't know if they've changed their eating habits or maybe they're hunkered down from the rain.  But my game camera picked this up a day ago...
Mama deer and her young fawn
The doe looks kind of "moth-eaten" around her neck.  Wouldn't doubt but that the deer flies have been munching down there.

I was thrilled when this guy came to my feeder..
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
I hope I get a better shot of him...  that rose colored breast is just beautiful!

Another bird we've been seeing a lot of is...
The Purple Finch
I bought this collapsible feeder in Texas...  now it's filled with black oiler sunflower seeds and getting a lot of use.

Not at the feeder, but fun to see...
Two families of Canada Geese
Out on the marsh for a morning swim.

There are lots of wildflowers blooming now...
This Ragged Robin is really pretty....  growing among the white daisies and yellow buttercups, it provides a lovely contrast in color.

We've been doing some trail maintenance...  Bill used the bushhog on some trails that hadn't been mowed yet this year.  There were some trees blocking parts of the trails...
Here's Bill...  using a bow saw to cut through the trunk of this spruce.  
Notice he's well covered with a "bug" jacket and veil...  the mosquitoes and moose flies really come out in this rainy weather!
And yet another tree...

Hauling it off into the woods...

Oh No!  Not another one!  At least they don't require a chain saw.  

All that Rain...  but a little sunshine now and then...
I can't even get the ends of this rainbow in my picture.
I took this around 7pm last evening.  Isn't there something about when the sun is low on the horizon, the rainbow will be arched higher...  or do I just think that?
I don't know...  I only know that I love seeing rainbows and have no doubt that that pot of gold is always there just waiting for me to find it.

That's All For Today!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Saturday... Time to Catch Up

It's been a busy week here on the Refuge.  We don't get a lot of visitors here, but this week was an exception.  Not tourists this time...  not even people who got lost and found themselves out here in the boonies...  not even people just stopping by to use the restrooms...

This week we had SCA workers.

SCA stands for "Student Conservation Association".  It's an organization where college students or recent graduates can work at various jobs that involve the environment.  Although we've volunteered in other refuges that have had SCA workers for the summer, this was my first "up close and personal" experience working with any of them.
This is what Bill & I saw when we arrived at the Visitor Center around 6am on Wednesday morning.  Two tents set up and occupied.  Ryan and Katie, the SCA workers had arrived around 11pm the night before.  Their job is to go to about a dozen Refuges and other gov't facilities in the northeast US states and GPS trails - both established trails and those in progress of being built.

My job on Wednesday was to take them to the various parcels of the Refuge that have trails.
Katie and Ryan had flown from Boise, Idaho to Bangor, Maine on Monday.  On Tuesday they had gone to a Fish Hatchery a couple of hours outside of Bangor and mapped the trails there, then driven up to our Refuge that evening. (that accounted for them arriving so late).  We got off to a late start, but still managed to map all of Aroostook NWR's trails by evening.  They have GPS equipment that I'd give anything for!  Actually, that's not true...  fact is, it would take me too long to figure out how to use it all!  But I loved watching them take waypoints...  elevation...  whatever...  and enter it in on this mini-computer.  

Since they were going to have to stay the night and head out for their next assignment (in New Hampshire) the next morning, I invited them to our place for dinner that evening.  As it happened, Steve, our Refuge Manager, had arrived from Moosehorn NWR late that afternoon, so we were all able to get together over dinner and talk about their days work.

Katie was such a delight to work with.  In fact, after dinner, Bill took her on an extended tour of this refuge, hoping to encounter a moose or bear...  but with no success.  The most exciting critter we saw was a coyote....  darn!

Those SCA workers left on Thursday morning...  later in the morning, the two biologists arrived from Moosehorn NWR.  Moosehorn is located about 150 miles south of here, near Calais, ME.  The manager there is over both that and this refuge.  Steve is the ass't manager of both, but is the main person here.

Here's Maury...  he's playing a recording of a snipe...  trying to get a snipe in the marsh to answer.  Maury and Ray, biologists at Moosehorn came up here to do some surveys.  They brought a SCEP intern (student who is employed by the refuge system...   is in training for permanent employment) and two SCA summer interns.  Those 3 did mostly invasive plant studies and butterfly identification.

They were here Thursday and part of Friday.

Friday morning this is what I saw on my early morning drive....
YES!  A Bald Eagle!
He was sitting on top of this old utility pole, just checking out what tasty tidbit he could find for breakfast.
But I came along..... so off he flew.
I'll have to take some time to check out the shoreline around E. Loring Lake...  I'd love to get a better photo of him... or her.

I saw this family of black ducks yesterday...  I count 10 ducklings....  hope mama can raise them all...

I haven't had much action on my game cameras lately...
Here's a fuzzy shot of a cow moose....  maybe things will pick up soon.  

Teri asked me if I keep a log of my "sightings" this year.  I do...  in fact, this year I keep a notebook in my car and record the species of critter, the place I saw it and the time of day.  Not really for any scientific findings but just for my own curiosity.  

This last photo is for my daughter, Donna...
Yep!  That's the RIB TRUCK!  We make it a point to stop and indulge in their fine fixin's....  my favorite is the pulled pork parfait. Donna and Glenn came up here to visit us a couple of years ago and of course we stopped to partake...  Donna suggested they take their business to some of the festivals and outdoor concerts that are held in NY.  I wish I could remember their names, but the guy asked about you Donna (by name!) and I told him you were busy being a Grandma now ;-)

We woke up to rain on Friday morning...  it cleared up for a while, then started in again...  and we had rain, heavy at times, all afternoon and evening.  The electric on the Refuge went out...  and while our motorhome still has lights etc...  we don't have the internet.  Probably wouldn't have done us much good anyway, as the satellite was unplugged due to all the lightning.  The electric was back on when we got up this morning.

Soooooooo......  I haven't really had much time or ability to be on-line since last Tuesday.  Such is life...  thank goodness for the local library!

But...  if anyone needs to get in touch with us, we can be reached at:  207-328-4665
This is a Refuge Phone... but it is located in our motorhome for the summer.  So don't hang up if we answer as "US Fish & Wildlife Service"......  

Rain again today...  and more forecast for next week.

That's All For Today!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hanging Out With the Guys...

I was going to paint this morning.  Painting is real close to the bottom of my list of things I don't like to do.  I started painting the new photo blind last week, and that went pretty good.  But I missed some places and some places need a second coat...  stuff like that.  I am not usually a procrastinator.  In fact, most often I do the dreaded deeds first just to get them out of the way.
This is the job I started last week and should have finished today.

But no, I did a few other things like pick up the mail at the Post Office in Limestone.  And while in town I also went to the Chamber of Commerce to pick up fliers about the upcoming 4th of July festivities.  Then I thought I might as well head on to Caribou.  The Chamber of Commerce there also has fliers about upcoming events.  

Sometimes we get visitors who ask what there is to do in the area and I like to have that information on hand.

Got back to the refuge by 10:00.  Too early for lunch...  too late to start painting...

So I took a little walk to see what I could see...

I'm thinking that this killdeer might be planning on building a nest in the area beside the diesel fuel tank.  She was playing the "injured bird" game...  spreading her wings and hobbling along.  This is a ploy on her part to distract me from her nest.  When I say building a nest I'm exaggerating.  Killdeer just sort of brush out a circle of dirt with their wings and lay their eggs right on the ground.  I looked around a bit but didn't find the nest.  I didn't want to disturb her but I'll keep a watch to see what happens.

I knew the lupines were blooming, so I headed to one of my favorite sites...
I can see East Loring Lake, Moose Marsh, and across the lake into one of the old Weapon Storage Areas.  Sometimes I'll spot a bald eagle perched high in one of the spruce trees.  But not today.

However, I did see these...
This Cedar Waxwing flew into view.  You can see the yellow on the tip of his tail, but what doesn't show...  and is really neat...  is the red "waxy" tips on the wing feathers.  Maybe I'll be able to get a better picture another time.

I really didn't know what this bird was until I downloaded my photos...
Once I saw the red "stitching" on his breast I knew he was a Yellow   Warbler.  Even with my binoculars, all I knew was that it was a wood warbler....  I love my 300 zoom lens!

Oh Yeah...  this blog is about hanging out with the guys..
Well, after lunch I put off the painting a while longer and headed up to the Weapon Storage Area where the guys were taking out manholes and filling the leftover hole full of dirt and gravel.
Bill's using the excavator to pick up those huge pieces of concrete and load them into the dump truck.  Kirk is driving the truck - and when it's full, he'll take it to an area where it will be broken up and disposed of.

My job?
Going along after them ...  picking up all the broken PVC pipe and other debris that came out of the manholes and hauling it all off to the dumpster.

 I managed to put off painting until around 3pm...  

So, who hung out with the guys?
Gracie, Kirk's golden retriever puppy.
Gracie isn't quite 6 months old.  She got very sick last week - apparently she'd got parvo.  She spent several days at the vet's, but is on the mend now.  Kirk brought her to work so he could keep an eye on her and she'd have some company.
You can see her bed which is visible in the lower window of the door.  She had a great day hanging out with the guys!

That's All For Today!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday - Mowing and More

Another great day here at Aroostook NWR.... up here in the NE corner of Maine.  The day started out with my usual drive around the refuge.  This is when I check my game cameras and trade out the memory cards.

I was pulling up to the first camera and saw these guys...
Oops... sorry...  a guy and a gal.  The cow watched me as I changed out the memory card, but just for a minute...  then they headed off into the woods.  Speaking of the woods...  look at those spruce trees!  Often I get a good whiff of their scent...  and I just want to stand there and inhale that lovely smell!

The 2nd camera yielded no photos...  I'm going to move it soon.  Just haven't gotten around to it.  And yesterday Bill & I put out 2 other cameras in a rather remote spot...  A spot that is obviously a favorite with bears.... lots of bear poop around and lots of places where bear had laid down.  I'll wait about a week before I collect those memory cards.

I had time to download my photos when I got back to the rig...
I was rewarded with this great shot of the bull and cow...  taken by the game camera about 5 minutes before I drove up.  That bull is getting some pretty impressive paddles!

I always stop at the Dilemma Pond.  Usually I see a beaver or two.. but this morning all was quiet...
This pair of ring-neck ducks were just hanging out.  You can see the fog rising in the background...  a 2nd pond is there.  I often see moose on the far bank, but not today.

I had more mowing to do today and headed out shortly after 6am.  I always carry a small camera with me...  one never knows what one might come across ;-)
This ruffed grouse was walking around in the road.  (up here in Maine, they're called Partridges).  Just after it disappeared into the weeds, I saw a chick fly across the road to be with its mama.  This is the first grouse I've come across this year...  I'll be on the lookout now for families.

Just beyond the grouse something caught my eye...
This cow moose was on the road ahead of me....  I decided to turn the mower around and head back...  I love seeing the critters but really try not to invade their territory.

An upland sandpiper
I saw one in the same area the other day...  she had at least 3 chicks with her.  It seems kind of early for them, but it's always good to see that they are producing young.

As I was mowing along the road and heading back to the maintenance shop, I had to stop for these pictures...

The lupines are just beautiful!
I know I have to get to a couple other areas soon to get some photos of them...  all too soon they'll be gone.

I love mowing...  not only does it make the edges of the roads look neater and the trails nicely groomed, but it's a great opportunity to see whatever there is to see.

I spent the afternoon manning the visitor center.  I was asked if I have to clean it.  Well, actually I don't have to... I can pretty much choose my jobs here.  BUT...  I do clean it.  It's not a difficult thing to do, and as corny as it sounds, I feel that any way that I can help while volunteering here is small considering all that I get in return. 
Where else could I see such marvelous sights and be a part of conserving the future?

That's All for Today!