Along the Natchez Trace

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This, That and The Other......

We had rain off and on all day yesterday...  mostly just quick showers, but the occasional downpour.  Bill and Kirk worked on the new road all day getting ready for the delivery of the culvert.  They have a pump running constantly to try to drain the area where they're working.  Kind of a losing battle at times.  Bill wears his knee-high rubber boots when mucking around in the "soup".  I went down to take photos of the progress and sunk in the mud up to my ankles....  I wasn't wearing knee-high boots.  No pictures of all those goings on yet...  those will wait for another day.

There's been a lot of activity in the nesting box that Bill put over the garage door where we're parked.
Technically, this is a bluebird box, but all the boxes here are inhabited by tree swallows.
I can't figure out if the first brood are fledging...  and flying in and out...  Or if the mated pair are setting a second nest.  I've seen 4 birds flutter in and out of the box at the same time but there doesn't seem to be any territorial fights ...  guess I should read up on their behavior.

I was driving towards Delima Pond yesterday afternoon and saw a dark spot alongside the road ahead of me.  Grabbing my binoculars, this is what I saw...
A Ruffed Grouse
Only here they are called "partridge".
I could see something in the road scurrying around closeby and thought maybe the grouse had chicks with her.  

A closer look revealed...
Two, maybe three, Spotted Sandpipers.
I wasn't sure how many because they blended in with the gravel road perfectly.
They weren't full-size adults, but they weren't fluffy chicks either.  Of course I had hoped they were Upland Sandpipers, but...  nope.... they were not.

The rain finally slacked off to just a light sprinkle...and 
we got a hint of a rainbow....
This was taken as I stepped out the door and looked over towards a couple of beaver ponds.
You have to look close to see the colors.

 I checked my game cameras this morning as usual... 
One of the cameras caught this Mama Bear and one cub.  I have my cameras set to take 3 photos, 1 second apart when it senses movement...  so there could have been more cubs that didn't get in the pictures.  

I always get a kick out of these kind of photos...

Remember the Gary Larsen comic strip, Far Side?  This reminds me of one of my favorites....
the eyeball showing up in the car's side mirror that says "Objects in Mirror are Closer than Appear"

Guess I should head down the road and attack some Spotted Knapweed...  time to get busy.
The End!

That's All For Today!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Play Misty For Me....

Nope, not a Clint Eastwood movie here...  just this crappy weather.  Yesterday was cloudy and cool.  (for me this means cold).  It never did warm up...  the sun never did shine.  It even sprinkled a little in the evening.

This morning we woke up to overcast skies and a heavy mist...
Standing in front of our motorhome I'm looking up at the fields where the Upland Sandpipers nest.  That tall spruce is a favorite perching place for the sandpipers...  they can look out over the whole area.  

Still in front of the rig, but looking west, towards the Delima Pond....  

And looking south, up the main road leading from the Visitor Center and Maintenance Shop down to where we're parked, beside the old maintenance shop.  Those barricades leaning against that sign post are from the bird festival earlier in the month.  

Overcast and misty rain...  and, did I mention 53 degrees?
We really need more sunshine if my tomato plants are ever going to produce this summer...
There are a few jaw-breaker size tomatoes on a couple of the plants, but they have a long way to go to being red, juicy, mouth-watering tomatoes.  On the right side is my flat of spinach, cilantro and basil.  We've picked lots of spinach and the cilantro is about ready to go into a batch of Pico de Gallo...  but that basil just isn't growing much.  My plans for pesto may be too optimistic.

Enough of the dull and dreary...
A young Bull Moose
Caught on my game camera last night.  I see the date is wrong...  just something else I need to take care of.

The mist turned to a downpour on my way up to the shop...  then back to sprinkles.   If I were like my friend Mitchell who lives in Spain, I'd link y'all to Johnny Mathis singing "Misty"...  but I don't know how to do that.

That's All for Today!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Just a Lot of Bull.....

I guess y'all know what this blog will be about today...

This big, beautiful bull moose was standing in a clearing between a couple of old bunkers.
It was about 5:00 this morning...  outside temps in the low 50's.  His body heat must have been giving off some steam as he was in a cloud of vapor.

Looks at that rack!
This bull is much bigger than the one I posted a photo of a week or so ago.  And look how large his rack is...  the paddles are looking quite magnificent!

I sat in my car watching him, then quietly slipped out and took these photos.  He stood watching me and after 5 minutes or so decided I wasn't very interesting after all.  He turned and headed into the woods.
The End

That's All For Today!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Not So Normal Day....

Bill and Kirk went down past Bangor on Thursday to look at a future job for FWS.  They left around 5:30 am and got back around 6 pm.  I wanted to work on painting the stairs in the shop and had a tour at 2 pm, so I stayed "home on the range refuge".  

The painting went okay...  except for cleanup.  The can said "acrylic" enamel.  I used to paint on canvas and used acrylics...  cleaned up with water.  So...  when I finished the upper landing and was ready to call it quits, I plunked the paintbrush under the faucet and started using my hands to clean out the paint.  WoooHooo!  What a mistake!  This stuff is for industrial use and definitely isn't water based paint!  I got out the paint thinner and tried to clean up the sink...  and my hands....  the brush is history and it will take a while before my hands are their normal color...  another lesson learned.

The 2pm tour didn't go much better.  It was an Upward Bound class - high school kids taking a summer class at University of Maine at Presque Isle.  The refuge manager had made the arrangements and asked me to give a 45 minute refuge tour.  When the 3 vans arrived and I talked with the woman in charge, it didn't take me long to realize we were not on the same page.  Heck, we weren't even in the same book!

She told me that the kids would be stopping at the brook and getting some water samples.  This would take about 15 minutes, then they would take a tour of the bunkers.  I didn't have to go if I didn't want to.  Huh?  Well, when a group drives through the nesting grounds of the Upland Sandpiper, the refuge wants refuge personnel (or, like me, a volunteer) to go along.  So off we went.  I was at the rear so I could close the gate.  The speed limit in the nesting area is 10 mph....  I believe the van drivers missed seeing all those signs posted along the way.

The vans stopped and the kids got out and got their water samples.  Then they all sat around in the road and discussed it.... I guess...  because after a while I just got back in my vehicle and read.  About 45 minutes later they all piled back into their vans and drove to the bunker area.  I followed....  

They all got out at one of the sites and the woman in charge did her thing.  As I was totally ignored anyway, I continued reading and waited until they were done and back in their vans.  I pulled ahead of the vans and led them...  at 10 mph....  back out of the nesting area and up to the gate.  Around 3:30 they were on their way to their next destination.

I really don't know where the communication here broke down...  I guess it's just all in a day's work whatever happens.  Good thing I always carry reading material with me wherever I go!

Yesterday, Friday, was shopping day which Bill & I do together in Presque Isle.  We go early and are usually home by 9am or so.  By 10 am we're heading over to Chapman Lake, another section of the Refuge...  me to mow, Bill to remove some trees that had fallen across some of the trails.  And by 1pm we're on our way home again.  

More rain, but just a quick shower.  Temps went from 41 degrees at 5 am clear up to 67 by 5pm.  Did I mention that summer started last week?   Oh well...  the scenery and wildlife here are terrific!

A fuzzy photo of a fuzzy Upland Sandpiper chick

A white-tail deer fawn...  caught on one of my game cameras.

I haven't seen moose calves this year and very few young waterfowl.  I wonder if the rainy weather and cooler temps have anything to do with this?

That's All For Today!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

My Splendid Columbine

I'm reading My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse, an historical fiction based on Irishman Robert Hart's life in China during the mid 1800's as an interpreter and later as Inspector General for the Imperial Maritimes Customs.

Always on the ready for puns or "play on words"...  I just couldn't resist...
My Splendid Columbine
This beautiful flower was blooming on the Don Lima Trail.  It happens to be the only one I've ever seen on this refuge.  I have no idea how it got there, or even if there are others anywhere around.   I did ask the State Ecologist if this is a native plant...  it is.  Where I lived in Ohio we have a red columbine...  it has yellow center and the State flower of Colorado is the Blue Columbine, but this is the first time I've ever seen this beautiful pink flower.  It is, indeed, splendid!

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Morning Moths...

A few days ago I was unlocking the Visitor Center door and noticed this guy clinging to the door jamb...
Cecropia Moth
This giant silkworm moth had been attracted to the night security light and was still hanging around the next morning.

And, much to my surprise... 
A second moth was a couple of feet away from the door.
I let it crawl up on my hand so I could place it in a safer place, as well as doing the same with the one in the door frame.
I wish I'd placed something next to them so you could see just how big they are...  about 4" more or less across the top of their wings.
Just Gorgeous!

I went about my morning jobs and when I came out an hour or so later they were both gone.

That's All For Today!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Red Skies in the Morning...

My Mom always said this when the skies were red in the morning...  followed by...  "Sailor take warning...  Red Skies at night, Sailor's Delight".  An old saying, yes, but so often true...
The sky around 4:30 am this morning...
The forecast is that the rain will start sometime after noon today.  
If you look closely, you can see the shapes of 3 of the bunkers that held nuclear bombs during the Cold War.  While this refuge is gradually turning to real habitat for wildlife,  its history and the fact that the USA was prepared for war is evident throughout.

I wanted to get an early start this morning as my jobs today would be outdoors.  I took my morning drive a bit earlier than usual, but was not disappointed...
I saw my favorite moose in Bucky Beaver's Pond.
This bull is probably 5 years old or so.  I'll estimate his weight at 700 pounds.  He has a few years on him, but has a long way to go.  Each year his rack will grow bigger and wider.  No small feat since they shed their antlers every winter and start all over in the spring.
I don't see many bulls that reach their fullest weight and antler growth.  Many hunters are after a trophy and those big guys are a real prize.  Of course I'm always hoping bulls like this live long enough to be truly majestic.

A better view of his rack.
Of course it's all covered in "velvet" now.
The rack will continue to grow and develop...  then in the fall he'll start to scrape off the velvet-like covering...  revealing smooth, shiny antlers.
Breakfast is over...
He pulled his head out of the water...  dribbled all down his chin like a messy child...
waded back out of the pond and headed into the woods.
He was aware that I was around but wasn't concerned or nervous.  I was in my car several hundred feet away...  zoom lens are wonderful!

I still have my game cameras up and I trade out the memory cards each day.  One camera site seems to be the best of the 4 sites...
I have it located on a tree that overlooks what seems to be a major crossing.  All 3 of these shots were snapped within a 24 hour period.  I think it's interesting that all of these critters are crossing in the same direction close on the same path.  I've also picked up fox, coyote, raccoons and groundhog here, but not in this 24 hour time frame.

Well, I started mowing at 5:15 this morning...  my plan was to get a lot done before the rains come.  It's nearly 9:30 now and I've done the Visitor Center and just finished the Maintenance Shop, so it's time to get busy again.

That's All For Today!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Morning Moose

Just a couple of photos today...  I never know what I'll see on my morning drive...  these I took this morning....

The big Bull Moose was in the far pond behind Bucky Beaver Pond...

Same photo...  just a little closer....

A better shot of his growing rack as he heads into the woods.

That's All For Today!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Morning Drive

Sunday Morning...  First Day of Spring.....  Father's Day.....  It's Going To Rain.....  I work the Visitor Center from 11:00 until 3:00, but go in at 10:00 to clean before opening it for the day.

There...  That's today in a nutshell....

So...  Here's what I saw on my morning drive..
This cow and bull moose were in the Bucky Beaver pond.
I've seen them together fairly often.  They aren't real big (bigger than a horse but not as big as they will eventually get) and I'm thinking they are moose that were born last year...  possibly the twin calves we frequently saw.

Okay...  they may not look REAL big...
But if this guy was charging, you can bet I'd be terrified!
He wasn't charging me...  and while I was probably about 50' from him I was in my car safe and sound.  He and his companion aren't as nervous when they see the car as they will be when they get older.  Those antlers look rather round in this photo, but they are actually kind of flat... paddles are forming a few inches from his head.

You can see the shape a little better here.

I had just left the pond and was heading home when I saw...
Uh Oh...  I'm being watched!
This white-tail deer heard me coming and checked me out before ducking back into the bushes.

Closer to home I saw the family of Killdeer...
I don't know how old the chicks are before they trade in their downy plumage for "adult" clothes.  This has the double neck ring of an adult, but has the clean, crisp plumage of a young bird.  No worn feathers...  I didn't see any others close by to compare size.  In one way they are nice to have around, but I hate that they hang out in the driveway.

My morning drive lasts anywhere from a half hour to an hour.  I may not always see big critters, but I always see something of interest.
I believe this is a female Ring-neck duck with 2 ducklings.
The End, The End, The End

That's All For Today!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Bear With Me.....

We had already had dinner, I'd done the dishes and we were just sitting in our motorhome relaxing yesterday evening.  Bill spotted this up the road...
 There was a Mother Bear and her cubs up in the field.  At first we saw 2 cubs, but when she was bringing them across the road, we saw 3 babies.  They are about 2/10 of a mile away from the rig, and I took these photos looking through the window.  Even with the zoom lens, clarity isn't so good.
 They stopped in the middle of the road...  2 of the little guys stood up and checked things out.  The 3rd little guy is behind Mom.  What are they looking at?
A 4th cub came out of the weeds and joined his Mom and siblings...  Only 3 cubs are (bearly barely) visible here, but as soon as she had all 4 together, they continued across the road into the field.

As much as I'd like to have gotten in the car and driven up to see them I know how much energy they'd use up running off when they saw me.  So I'll enjoy my long distance wildlife sightings, even though the photos leave a lot to be desired.  Maybe I'll see these guys again along the road when I'm driving...  I may get good shots yet.

That's All For Today!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Honeysuckle, Lupines and a Big Surprise....

I spent nearly all day yesterday riding around in the Gator, looking for honeysuckle bushes.  This particular species of honeysuckle is not native here and it's one of those things that can (and will) take over if not kept under control.

This bush is huge...  it consists of a clump - maybe 5 or 6 shoots all growing together.  I've come across some shoots bigger around than my wrist, but many times I can cut the shoot with pruners or loppers.  I take Bill's Makita reciprocal saw (battery operated) with me and can cut the larger shoots with it.  But it's heavy and I soon wear out.  So I use flagging to mark bushes that need cut down and I'll either get back to it later or Bill will go with me to help out.

It's kinda funny about invasive plants....  we all work hard to eradicate things like that honeysuckle, and soon we'll be pulling the spotted knapweed.  Nobody wants those to take over....  But yet...

This species of Lupine has been determined to be non-native....

It grows in the fields where the Upland Sandpiper makes their nests.  It blooms only for a couple of weeks in June so everyone enjoys its short-lived beauty.  I look forward to seeing it each year, and am always in awe of the various colors.  Over the years I've come to know where to look for the deep purple ones...  or the burgundy ones...  or where along the highway I'm likely to see these flowers.

So...  it's an invasive plant...  why don't I go full-out attack on it like I'm doing with the honeysuckle?  What happens when we make "exceptions"?  

While out on the Gator I stopped along a pond to see if the yellow lady slipper was still blooming.  I shut the vehicle down just for the silence.  But instead of silence I heard what I first thought was dogs barking.  Not really sounding like a dog... but what?   And then... an answering call....

Oh Wow!
This Great Horned Owl swooped down over the pond and then up into this tree.
He continued to call...  not the "hoot" one would expect, but more like a gutteral hacking sound.
I watched him for a while, attempting to get the perfect photo.  This one was my favorite shot.  He got tired of me looking at him and he flew away.  I never did locate the other owl he was talking to.  But seeing him was the highlight of the day!

That's All For Today!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Bugs? Insects? Whatever... they bite or sting!

I know, I've complained a lot about the bugs this year.  My face looks like a teenager with severe acne....  I have so many bites all over!  Probably the first thing we learned in my entomology class was proper terminology...  all bugs are insects, but all insects are not bugs.  Well...  true bugs.  Anyway, all that aside...  this is what I look like these days...

Game camera caught me on my way to retrieve the memory cards...
Dizzy commented yesterday that I looked like I was armed for war with my new camera straps.  Well, here I must look like I'm armed for germ warfare...  or maybe I look like I've just got off a flying saucer from an alien planet.  Oh well...  fashion has never been my forte.

Those black specks all over this photo are black flies.
Dastardly Devils!
They actually draw blood...  and they sneak into ears, into hair onto the scalp...  and I think they even bite through cloth.
But...  truth is, I love it enough here to put up with the bugs insects.

And... this is what I saw on the way to work this morning...
One of the reasons I love it so much here.

That's All For today!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thank You, Al!

I read a lot of blogs and learn a lot about other folks....  how they live, what they like and the such.  I'm not real good about commenting, which I should do more of....  and I guess my excuse is that usually our internet is so bad that it just takes too long.  

Anyway, Al, of the Bayfield Bunch, is an excellent photographer and sometimes he comments about the kind of cameras, lenses etc that he uses.  Quite a while back he told us about the camera strap he uses...  a Black Rapid camera harness.  I usually have both a camera and binoculars with me and am constantly using either one or the other...  sometimes nearly strangling myself when the straps get tangled.  I googled Black Rapid  and found I could get one that you could incorporate a binocular strap onto it.  Wow!  

It took me at least a year to decide if the expense would be worth it to me, but after checking out the various types, I decided to get the double harness and the add-on binocular strap.  Often I'll carry my Leica with the variable zoom as well as my Canon with whatever lens I think I'll need.  I know... my hobby has turned into a little more than a point and shoot thing.

Here I am all decked out with my new Black Rapid strap....  UPS delivered it yesterday.
Weight is distributed very well...  and no more hanging myself on the straps!

I don't always carry 2 cameras, but...  what the heck... I can hook a water bottle or GPS on the other side and keep my hands free.

So...  thank you, Al, for your blog.
We sure can learn a lot from our friends!

That's All For Today!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Field Trip...

The schools here have cut back on classes that aren't required to graduate.  Really a shame because some of those classes are what makes school interesting and gives us a lifetime of pleasure.  Yesterday we had a group of middle school kids (6th, 7th and 8th grades)....  14 kids in all...  visit the Refuge for an Art Outing.  I talked with their teacher, Beth, and she told me that she teaches Gifted Children classes and also teaches art classes in the district.  She brought her Caribou Middle School kids to the refuge today...  
That's Betty, the president of the Aroostook NWR Friend's group.  She greeted the class and told them a little about the refuge.

The kids all brought their sketchbooks and had planned on a hike around the 1.2 mile trail that loops around the Visitor Center.  

This young man had a good idea....  he took a lot of photos of various plants and sights with the intention of drawing them later.

The main focal point was the Photo Blind and the ponds it overlooks.  All the kids checked out the blind.....  even with all the rain we have had one pond is quite low.  Maybe a beaver dam has broken or something like that.  I saw a few ducks but no beaver today.  I wonder how it looked to these kids....

The kids all found something they wanted to draw.  

I'm sure there was some socializing going on, but these kids were all so polite and actually rather quiet for young teenagers.  They all got busy with their project with their teacher overseeing them.  I walked back to the Visitor Center to relieve Betty, who had to leave for an appointment.

The kids came back to the VC after an hour on the trail.  
I asked if I could see some of their drawings.
This young lady showed me her drawing of a spruce branch.  They really didn't have time to do much detail work, but I had no trouble knowing what each drawing I looked at was...  a pine cone, the log jam in the pond, a wildflower....  

They had brought their lunch and after eating out on the back patio of the VC, they had about a half hour before their school bus would return to pick them up...
Their teacher told them to use that time to add detail to their drawings.
This girl was using colored pencils to enhance her drawing.  

The kids arrived just before 10:30 and their bus picked them up at 1:00.  They had time to go on a hike, enjoy the outdoors, do some artwork, have lunch, and wander around the VC exhibits and displays.  Some even visited the Nature Store.  We sell some rustic wooden pencils for $1.00 each, and their teacher bought each student a pencil....  quite generous of her and rather appropriate for an art class, huh?

Promptly at 1pm the bus arrived to take them back to school.
The school year ends here on Wednesday, so this was their last field trip.
While it wasn't at all like the tours I give to visitors, I really enjoyed this class and was glad they chose this refuge to visit.
I hope they enjoyed it as well.

That's All For Today!