Along the Natchez Trace

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mostly Photos...

We've been working a lot lately...  Bill's working on building a new road.  
Now they are hauling old asphalt to build a road bed, but eventually there will be a new culvert, a new gravel road....  and a new way to access the old Weapons Storage Area.
I seldom go into the area while they are working....  too much big equipment and it's too easy to get in their way.  But the other evening I drove up... had to laugh when I saw where Bill had left the excavator.  Made me think of a kid with his Tonka toys....

I was giving a tour yesterday, and of course, always hope to see some wildlife.  As it happened, the woman was interested in bears...  even been to a bear study some place in Minnesota and got to hold a baby bear in the den during the winter months (mama bear was either asleep or tranquilized).
This little guy obliged us by wandering through a field fairly close to our truck.  I might add, that the field is also fairly close to our motorhome...  I think we had some bear activity in our yard during the daylight hours recently.  I now have a game camera set up to view our bird feeders.

Bill & I were doing some trail maintenance yesterday...  one trail goes through some rather dense woods...
 I caught sight of this Hermit Thrush....
We hear the Hermit Thrush and the Veery all the time...  and the Wood Thrush, my favorite, is here, but I've not heard it yet.

A lot of folks think they're seeing a Monarch Butterfly when they see this guy...
The Viceroy Butterfly is quite clever...
Birds don't eat the Monarch because it's noxious....  the Viceroy is so similar in color and design that birds leave it alone.  

 The Purple Finch has been visiting the feeders quite often...
 It truly is this gorgeous color...  looks like it's been dipped in a lovely wine...

I've been seeing Mama Moose and her twin calves fairly often...
 This is a Game Camera photo...
Not very clear, but shows that the little guys are growing and look healthy.

I got lucky the other morning...  
 Just happened along as these Hooded Merganzers were leaving their nest...
There were at least 4 in this Wood Duck Nesting Box....  (Merganzers use them as well as the wood ducks, but they are designed to accommodate the wood duck).....  Anyway, they looked fairly large to be leaving that box for the first time...  I think that may have been where there hatched.  I've seen photos of tiny little guys popping out that hole and sliding down the box into the water (there is actually a little ladder built inside to help them get a toe hold)....  Whatever...  I watched 3 leave and one stay on top.

It gets into the 40's at night...  
 Looks like ice, but is really just the sun shining on the dew covered trees.  The sun comes up around 4am here...  it's lovely to see it light up the land!

Another photo of Mama Moose and her twin calves...
 I saw them at Dilemma Pond ....  and obviously, they saw me.

Also at Dilemma Pond, the Flags are blooming...
 My Mom called Irises "Flags"....
These are very much like the ones she had...  not the huge showy Irises that folks grow in their gardens, but slender, almost delicate flowers.  So Beautiful!

When I was mowing on Thursday I saw a commotion in the trees alongside the road...
 At first I thought it was a goshawk that swooped across and through the trees...  
But soon realized that it was a Cooper's Hawk...  and the neighborhood wasn't pleased that he came for a visit.  

I have seen the Bull Moose quite a few times and his antlers are growing to be big paddles.  I will have to feature him soon.  Not only are his antlers getting large, he's shed that ratty-looking coat and now is sporting deep brown hair.  

I simply am not able to get on the internet everyday...  I am so far behind on reading my friends blogs..  and when I am able, I'm seldom able to comment as I get knocked off-line.  So, I'll catch up when I can...  I try to read your blogs even if I can't comment.  we do finally have a phone land-line, and while we bought some cell phones that supposedly have service here, it's still very "iffy". We've been here one month already...  guess I can live with it for a couple more.  But for now....
This is...
The End

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Alice Rumphius, The Lupine Lady

My children grew up with a love of reading and a love of books.  They had their favorites even as little kids.  I can't remember how old they were when we got "The Lupine Lady", by Barbara Cooney, but it quickly became one of their favorites.  We read it many, many times.  I remember that we bought lupine seeds and tried to grow them in our little garden.  But Ohio weather wasn't agreeable and we never did succeed.  When I had grandchildren, they, too were read about Miss Rumphius, the Lupine Lady.  Now I have a great granddaughter and am sure she's already heard about Miss Rumphius.

If you've never read the story, below is what I took off the internet:

The Lupine Lady is little and old. But she has not always been that way. I know. She is my great-aunt and she told me so. Once upon a time she was a little girl named Alice, who lived in a city by the sea…
In the evening Alice sat on her grandfather’s knee and listened to his stories of faraway places. When he had finished, Alice would say, “When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” said her grandfather, “but there is a third thing you must do…You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right,” said Alice. But she did not know yet what that could be.
She grew up into a lady who worked in a library, who helped children and grown-ups find books to answer their questions and take them to faraway places with the turn of a page.
She traveled, just as she told her grandfather she would.
And she came to live beside the sea, just as she said she would. But she still did not know what she could do to make the world a more beautiful place. So she planted some flowers and waited for inspiration.
It came in the form of a backache that kept her indoors in her bed. From her window she could see her garden, brimming with lupines of blue and pink and purple.They brought her such comfort.
And she was even more overjoyed when the next year, feeling much better and happily out walking the hills, she spied lupines that grew from seed blown from her garden. And then she knew what she could do to bring beauty to the world…
All that summer Miss Rumphius, her pockets full of seed, wandered over fields and headlands, sowing lupines. She scattered seeds along the highways and down country lanes. She flung handfuls of them around the schoolhouse and back of the church. She tossed them into hollows and along stone walls.
My great aunt Alice, Miss Rumphius, is very old now. Her hair is very white…Now they call her the Lupine Lady…Often she tells us stories of faraway places.
‘When I grow up,” I tell her, “I too will go to faraway places and come home to live by the sea.”
“That is all very well, little Alice,” says my aunt, “but there is a third thing you must do..You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
“All right,” I say.
But I do not know yet what that can be.  
 (Author.... Barbara Cooney)

I never saw wild lupines when I lived in Ohio...  it wasn't until we began to volunteer up here in northern Maine that I saw them in their natural setting.  They are blooming in profusion now...  on the hillsides and along the highway.  I cannot look at them without thinking of my son and daughter and remembering how much we all loved reading that book and its wonderful illustrations.  And I still believe that we must all do something to make the world more beautiful.

That's All For today!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

First Day of Summer.... Longest Day of the Year

Day begins early up here in Northeast Maine...
One of my game cameras...  catching me heading towards it to change out the memory card....
Note...  the time is 5:37 am...  today....  first day of summer.  Early, right?  But then...  look over on the left...  temperature...  41 degrees F.  What the heck?  You might remember that I spent the first day of winter in Costa Rica...  temperature was around 95 degrees.  You might also see that shorts and sandals have been replaced with jeans, boots and a winter jacket.  

It's been raining here...  Wednesday was a total washout for me as far as work went.  I had plans for trail maintenance in the morning...  then starting a paint job in the afternoon.  Haven't gotten to either of those jobs yet.

Yesterday, Bill & I drove out the back way of the refuge to Williard School Road...  Bill took the weed eater and tidied up the various Aroostook NWR signs and kiosks denoting the various entrances to the refuge.  Then on to Ouillette Additon (probably spelled wrong, but pronounced "Will-ette"...  we're in a French Canadian area... lots of French names here).  That kiosk is one Bill designed and built a few years ago.  It's still in good shape; holding up well.  And, of course...  that's Bill knocking down some of the fast growing weeds.

On the drive over we had to stop for some pedestrians crossing the road...
No photos of the road-crossing...  but here's Mom, Dad and the 8 goslings.....
While they aren't tiny fluffs of feathers, they are grown enough that they might make it to adult-hood.

Lots of critters have babies...
This cow (Mama Moose) and her calf were in one of the ponds yesterday.  Kind of caught baby in an awkward position, but that's pretty mucky stuff they're walking in.

That same pond has been the hang-out for this bull...
If you or I were caught doing this, our Mom's would have had our hides!
He had just pulled his head out of the water and water runs off everywhere!
It was raining when I took this photo, so maybe I could have gotten a better picture...  but...  heck, I'll take what I get.

Today, I caught a bull...  probably the same one...  just past the beaver dam....
No rain today...  well, maybe a few sprinkles now and then...  but for the first day of summer, it hasn't been too bad.  Right now, at 7:45 pm it's 61 degrees....   no sun, of course, but no rain.

I would have included a photo of myself this evening...  I look like a teenager with zits...  but those aren't zits.  I have dozens of mosquito and black fly bites on my face,head and neck .  I've scratched them until they bled...  then scratched off scabs because they still itch.  I wake up in the night hearing the bzzzzzz of the damned things...  I pull the sheet over my head hoping to avert more bites.  But when I get up in the morning I have a dozen or more new itchy bites on various body parts.  When we enter or leave our motorhome we hurry...  we never leave the door open for any longer than we have to.  We spray some bug repellent...  but, having lived here several times in the past we know what we're in for.  We also know that in a week or so these critters will be gone.  Nevermind that the moose flies or something else will be out to get us then.  

What more can I say?  First day of Summer!  We'll see when summer actually arrives here and I'll be sure to note that day in my blog...  and when I write "that day", I'm serious....  one day might be all it is.  And, you know what?  We don't care....  we love it here!

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Trail Maintenance

Of all the things to do here at this refuge, my favorite job is trail maintenance.  There are over about 10  miles of trails in all....  the main 2,500 acres, where the refuge headquarters/visitor center/nature store is has over 3 miles of trails currently in use, and the Chapman Lake area, just a couple miles away has 7 trails (some connecting) that consist of 6 miles.    There are new trails under construction - another project this summer.

During the winter months some of these trails are used for cross-country skiing... snow mobiles are not permitted in the refuge.  The winter weather takes its toll on the trails...  so one of the first things I do is take the Gator over every trail to clear fallen trees or remove other debris that would damage the mower.
 Geared up and ready to go...
Steel-toed boots, Hard Hat and Ear Protection.  What a fashion statement!...  the safety goggles got left off for this photo.
Actually, I'm on the mower here...  the sequence of these photos may not be in order.  The gator has a bed where I carry loppers, a bow saw and whatever I think I'll need.  
 The trails wind through woods...  no mowing needed here, except along the edges....
 Of course I have to stop and investigate what's going on along the trails.  These tiny lady slippers have the longest stems!  Guess the lady has tiny feet but long legs....  and what a beauty!
 There are lots of interpretative signs along the trails.  Sometimes they need some work, but mostly they just need wiped down...  clean off bird droppings and other crud.
 Some of the trails lead through grassy areas.
This particular trail is the old railroad bed....  when this was an Air Force base, this spur brought bombs and bomb components into the facility.

 What's this?
How did this tree get scraped 8' or more high? I think I've written that this area got a total of over 10' of snow last winter.  Porcupines still wander around during the winter...  on top of the snow.  They'll strip the bark off these trees for food.  Looks kind of odd after the snow melts, doesn't it?
 The trails wander past several ponds....  these ponds were created by beavers.  After a few years the flooded area kills the remaining trees, so the ponds look kind of desolate.
But the beaver have created a habitat for other wildlife...
This black duck with her two ducklings are some of the many critters that love the water.

 Because of the ear protection, I really don't have much opportunity to hear what's going on around me.  But I think my eyes work even more.  Seeing the new growth on the spruce trees shows lovely patterns of the old and the new.
 This dead branch has 3 kinds of lichen on it.  
My favorite lichen are the "British Soldiers".  They'll be showing their red coats soon.

Wildflowers and shrubs bloom in profusion!
Bunchberries cover the forest floor....  lupines are all along the roadside and in the fields.  Yellow, purples, whites, pinks...  the Veronica's bluest of blue is lovely.

While doing my "reconnaissance" run on the Gator, I remove fallen limbs and use the bow saw on the smaller trees.  I lop off overhanging branches and trim shrubs that encroach on the trail.  When I get back to the maintenance building, I tell Bill where the ones are that are too big for me to deal with.
While Bill is certified to use a chainsaw on the refuge, his preferred method is to cut even the big stuff with a bow saw.  Notice the bug net he has over his head.  The black flies and mosquitoes have been particularly bad this week.  

I seldom see any big critters - I think the mower and Gator are so loud that you can hear me coming quite a way off.  Sometimes I see Snowshoe Hare, squirrels, mink or weasels as they scurry across my path.

We all wear a lot of hats when volunteering at such an understaffed refuge, but my hardhat is my favorite...
keeping the trails in good shape is my idea of a good time.

That's All For Today!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fishing Derby

One activity that many National Refuges host is a fishing derby.  Aroostook NWR, way up here in northern Maine held their annual fishing derby yesterday.  The small pond just up the road from where our rig is parked is just the right size...  the banks aren't too steep and there's plenty of room for folks to stand, put up lawn chairs or fish in any manner they are comfortable.  Most of the work we resident volunteers do is actually before the derby....  mowing grass, putting up signs, setting out barricades on roads that are off limits, getting trash cans ready and the such.  A local company sets up a Port-A-Potty in a nearby location prior to the big day.   And, the most important thing...  the fish!  The Refuge buys 200 trout from a fish hatchery...  to be delivered the day before the event.
They are brought in holding tanks...  dipped into a bucket and tossed into the pond.
The timing is important...  delivered too many days in advance and the otters are likely to discover this bonanza and have a very expensive meal.

It rained much of Friday, and was still raining Saturday morning.  Registration for the derby opens at 8am and the kids can begin fishing at 9am.  Bill & I were still setting things up when the first family arrived before 7:30 am.
 This is Ron, a member of the Friends group.   His wife, Barb, is tying down the banner that is in back of the registration table.

 Registration started promptly at 8am.  As I wrote, fishing starts at 9am and the kids can fish until 11:30, or until they catch their 4 fish limit.  Each kid is issued a plastic bag to keep their fish in.  
That's Betty on the left.  She's the president of the Friends group and is instrumental in its success.  On the right is Sharon H., another resident volunteer, and that's Bill, taking a break.
Betty had snacks and drinks available at no cost throughout the morning.

 While technically the event is for kids 16 years or younger, this is a family affair.
 Parents and grandparents bring the kids...  they often bait the hooks and help the little ones hold the fishing poles.  They usually are the ones who take the hook from the fishes mouths.  It's a great experience for the kids to learn about fishing, but even better that they participate as a family.

Looking across the pond.....
 Groups of folks...  lined up along the bank.
I think over 25 children were registered to fish.  With the cold rainy weather, the Friends group had hoped for at least 10 kids, so were very happy with the turnout.

 Baiting a hook...

 A very happy boy with his catch...

Travis, a Friend of the refuge, brings his niece and nephew each year.
We became friends with Travis a couple of years ago and were happy to catch up with him again.

 Barb, doling out snacks to a hungry fisherman.

 A little help means a lot....

 Hey!  Look at what I caught!

 Did I say it rained all morning?  These guys got tired of fishing and had a blast playing in the mud-holes.

 Weigh in time...
All four (or less if they didn't catch 4) fish are in the kids bag.  Barb has a digital scale that records the weight.  The total weight of the entire catch is recorded next to the kids name.  At the end of the derby, the top 3 winners will receive a prize.  The prizes are at the end of the table...
Very nice prizes, too....  a camp chair from Cabela's, a fishing rod and a package of fishing gear.

 Oops!  This guy got a fish hook stuck in his finger....  
No surgery was needed...  just some pliers and a band-aid.

 The First Place Winner!
I didn't get his name...  but he caught his 4 fish limit fairly early and weighed in.  Off and on all morning, he anxiously checked with Barb to see if anyone beat his record.
I believe his 4 fish weighed a total of 1 pound, 7 ounces.  
There was a tie for 2nd place, but both winners had left before the prizes were awarded.  They'll be notified and given their prizes later.

Still misting rain when the event was over, folks all started to head for their cars and drive home.
By noon the parking lot was nearly empty.
We volunteers took down the tents, the banner, the signs...  we loaded the pylons in the trucks.  Betty took the leftover snacks and the tables and chairs back to the Friends office in the Visitor Center.

Bonnie and Christina had been manning the Visitor Center all morning and would keep it open until late afternoon.  

It was cold, it misted rain all morning... but the kids and their families all seemed to have a great time.
Many of them were already talking about where they thought the best spot would be to fish from next year.

That's All For Today!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Bull and Bear Morning...

Nope, not the stock market....  unless you think the critters here on the refuge are some kind of livestock.  I woke up just before 4:00 this morning...  looked out the window and saw a bear just across the road...
This one was having a breakfast of dandelions in the field across from us.

I was out on my morning rounds by 4:45 am.  That's when I usually change out the memory cards in my 4 game cameras.  The refuge does have some cameras, but these are ours.  Bill & I bought 2 Bushnells and 2 Moultries a few years ago.  Both Moultires were stolen (long story, but basically, my own fault), and we replaced those with 2 others - the brand I don't remember.  Now all the cameras are in locked boxes and secured to trees with locked steel cables.

Anyway...  one of the first things I saw was a cow moose in the swamp.  The photo I got wasn't very sharp, but about a half hour later I saw her across from our rig...
Her coat is looking much better now.  She's probably a year or so old...  doesn't have a calf with her so she's fairly young.  In the same field, but not close enough to get a photo of the two together, I saw a black bear about a hundred yards to the moose's right.  The two weren't headed in the same direction and their paths didn't cross.

I spotted a bear ambling along one of the roads I drive...
Fairly large, but not the biggest I'll see as the morning progresses.

I was heading down the main road and looked over towards the lower end of Moose Marsh...
...  Saw this big guy heading out of the marsh - towards the grassy knoll which is in front of our motorhome.  He was just coming over the rise here.

Oh...  wow...  he's crossing the road...
Look at how large his antler are already...
And now the ends are starting to form the paddles, which by summer's end, will be a huge rack.

As I watched, I saw that he had a traveling companion...
It's a bit unusual for a bull and cow to be traveling together at this time of year, but several times we've seen them hanging out together.

They gave me one last look as they disappeared into the woods behind us.

As I was heading back to the rig, this guy caught my eye...
He's at the edge of the driveway ...  just a hundred feet or so from out motorhome.  This was a fairly young bear...  he also headed into the woods behind us.  Hmmm...  I'll have to keep an eye on my bird feeders... I already take them down at night.

I thought my Bull and Bear day was complete, but apparently not.  I took a woman from Portland on an impromptu birding tour starting shortly after 6 am.  As we were quietly standing below spruce and some deciduous trees, watching for warblers... or whatever...  Lois noticed a bear behind us which was heading our way, but quite a distance off.  She got off several photos...  the bear headed in a different direction and we headed on down the road.  We hadn't walked more than 100' when a very large bear (the one in my new header) came out of the woods in front of us.  He spotted us...  we made ourselves look big and waved our arms...  he headed down towards the lake.  We headed back to the car.  It didn't have cubs with it so would probably have been scared of us, but we were more interested in doing some more birding than wondering where Mr. Bruin was.  We got to the car and proceeded to enjoy the birds.

After I took Lois back to her car at the Visitor Center parking lot I was heading home for lunch and saw a very small bear sitting alongside the road.  This one was probably a two-year old and hasn't been on its own very long.

Bill came home for lunch and reported all of his sightings so far today...  several bear of all sizes.  Looks for sure like it's a Bear and Bull day here on the refuge.

That's All For Today!