31 May 2016

Baby Robin

I was working behind our barn today when I heard this strange squawking sound behind me. As I turned around to investigate, I saw this UFO (Unknown Flying Object) heading toward me. I reacted by putting my hand up and had a baby robin fly into my hand.

I think this little guy (Orville) was out for its first solo flight and hasn't fully figured out the flight control systems yet. This young bird could use a little more wing span for lift, and a little less beak would reduce aerodynamic drag.

Some of the robin's flight problems are related to its first set of feathers which aren't fully developed.

After a short rest on the stone wall Orville was ready for another training mission.

28 May 2016

Wildflower - Bird's-eye Speedwell

The more I analyze what's growing in and around my lawn, the more varieties of small, dark blue wildflower (weeds) I identify. This time the wildflower is Bird's-eye Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), also known as germander speedwell.

Bird's-eye Speedwell is native to Europe and is invasive, carpeting an entire area. Bird's-eye Speedwell is a hardy turf weed when it invades lawns. It creeps along the ground, spreading by sending down roots at the stem nodes. It is propagated both by seed and stem fragments.

The dark blue flowers of Bird's-eye Speedwell are less than 1/2 inch across, but it makes up for its small size with large numbers of blooms. For a size comparison, the flowers are so small that the small white dots on the flower petals in this photograph are grains of pollen from the flower.

27 May 2016

Algal Bloom

Today's temperature got to 86°F and I found some of the neighborhood deer standing in the pond at our cabin.

At first I thought the deer were cooling off but then I noticed something hanging from the mouth of the one deer...

I soon discovered the deer were eating the algae from the pond.

Some nesting geese have been staying at the pond and combined with the recent warm weather may have caused the algal bloom.

24 May 2016

Wildflower - Ground Ivy

What starts out as a project to have a better looking lawn sometimes becomes a never-ending challenge of fighting invasive weeds. While looking for wildflowers to photograph I discovered an abundance small blue flowers growing around and into our lawn. I identified the wildflower as the invasive weed Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea). This weed is also known as creeping Charlie, gill-over-the-ground, alehoof, tunhoof, catsfoot, field balm, and run-away-robin. Ground Ivy is native to Europe and southwestern Asia but has been introduced to North America and is now common in most regions.

Ground Ivy is a member of the Mint family (Lamiaceae) and spreads by forming a low-growing mat of stems and leaves across the ground. This plant is competitive in lawn situations because it creeps along the soil surface and can establish roots at each node (where the leaf attaches to the stem).

The flowers are bluish violet to reddish purple and about ½" in length.

Ground Ivy was also widely used by the Saxons in brewing beer as flavoring, clarification, and preservative, before the introduction of hops for these purposes; thus the brewing-related names, alehoof, tunhoof, and gill-over-the-ground.

23 May 2016

Wildflower - Bugleweed

With the warmer spring weather here, we are now into lawn mowing season. There was a light rain today and I couldn't mow the lawn, but I did watch the grass grow. I did notice some type of sprawling, flowering plant was taking over large areas of the lawn.

I've identified the flowering plant as Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans), also known as bugle, blue bugle, bugleherb, carpetweed, carpet bugleweed and common bugle. Bugleweed is native to Europe and is an invasive plant in parts of North America (and our lawn).

21 May 2016

Wildflower - Fringed Polygala

I was doing some work at the edge of the woods on our cabin property and found a couple of patches of Fringed Polygala (Polygala paucifolia) This native wildflower also goes by the names Bird-on-the-Wing, Flowering Wintergreen, Fringed Milkwort, Gay Wings and Gaywings. The bright magenta or pink-purple Fringed Polygala is one of our more curious-looking local wildflowers.

This small, 1 to 1.5 inch, strangely shaped flower might fool someone into thinking that this is a member of the orchid family, but is part of the Milkwort family.

There are three petals. Two of them are outstretched, like wings. The third forms a sort of cylinder around the stamens.

Fringed polygala often grows in large colonies and particularly favors mossy sites.

The Fringed Polygala is an endangered species in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio.

20 May 2016

Wildflower - Blue-eyed Grass

The recent damp weather has produced an abundance of Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium). I found this wildflower growing in several locations at our cabin property.

This wildflower is native to the Northeast and is found in moist open woods, fields, meadows, marshes, the edges of swamps and grassy roadsides.

This beautiful member of the Lily family has grass-like winged stems frequently growing in clumps. The 3/4 inch blue flowers with yellow centers are at the end of the grass-like stems.

19 May 2016

Red Velvet Mite

I was working in one of my wildlife food plots and noticed a bright red dot on a rock was moving. Closer inspection identified the "red dot" as a Red Velvet Mite (Trombidiidae).

Red Velvet Mites are only 1/64 - 1/8 inch long (round ?) but easy to see due to their bright red color. The adults have four pairs of legs, but the larvae of red velvet mites have only three pairs of legs.

The velvet mites are predators and they feed on other invertebrates like small arthropods and their eggs. They are absolutely harmless to humans.

They are not eaten by any predators, simply because they taste very bad, but the adult mites sometimes eat each other.

18 May 2016

Wildflower - Wild Geranium

The Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) is in bloom along the edge of our lawn. The native Wild Geranium is a common plant of woodlands and prefers light shade to partial sunlight and moist, loamy soil. It is one of the easier woodland species to cultivate.

The showy pink to lavender flowers of the Wild Geranium are 1 to 1.5 inches across. Wild Geraniums grow from thick rhizomes that are generally not far under the soil. Over time, a single plant can produce a clump of 2 to 3 feet in diameter.

17 May 2016

Relocating a Skunk

My neighbor has been trying to trap and remove some red squirrels from his property but caught a larger animal in the trap and needed help to remove it. I got a call Sunday morning that he had caught a skunk in the trap and it had sprayed his dog while in the trap.

I gave him some time to "de-scent" his dog and let the skunk calm down. It was a young skunk in a small trap so it didn't have much room to maneuver (aim). Skunks are fairly easy to deal with under these condition IF some basic rules are followed.
  • Stay calm and do not scare the skunk.
  • Skunks have poor eyesight. Start talking slowly and softly before approaching the skunk so it will know of your presence.
  • Do not make quick/sudden moves near the skunk.
  • Continue to talk softly once the skunk makes eye contact with you and slowly move closer to the skunk while talking.
  • Assess the skunk's temperament and behavior. If the skunk is moving frantically in the trap, continue to talk to the skunk but don't move closer.
  • Once the skunk has calmed to your presence you can slowly open the door of the trap and lock it open to release the skunk.
  • If you want to relocate the skunk, cover the trap with an old sheet or tarp and then slowly move the trap. With the covering in place, you should be able to place the trap in the back of a pickup truck and transport it to a new location for release. Covering the trap will calm the skunk and limit spray if the skunk becomes defensive.

  • Once you have opened the door to the trap it may take some time before the skunk will leave the trap.
  • If the skunk doesn't want to leave the trap, DON'T FORCE IT OUT. Leave the area for 5 to 10 minutes (or longer) and the skunk should come out when it is ready.

Skunks are wild animals, but if treated correctly, they can be enjoyed and not feared.

16 May 2016

Snow !!!

Just a few days ago, on May 12th, the temperature was 82°F and on Sunday the 15th at 11:30AM the temperature 49°F and we had ice pellets falling from the sky. Where's the spring weather?

Photos of the ice pellets on our deck railing.

15 May 2016

Bald Eagles

I've seen a Bald Eagle at Wysox Creek several times this spring, but today there were 3 eagles in the trees. There were 2 mature eagle with the white head and tail feathers, and 1 immature brown eagle. One of the mature eagles few downstream and landed before I could get a shot of all three.

One of the mature eagles. This eagle is at least 4 years old since it has the full white head and tail feathers.

The immature eagle. This juvenile Bald Eagle is about a year old since it has a dark beak and dark brown plumage with some white or pale mottling.

14 May 2016

Growing new Antlers

The new antler growth of some of the neighborhood bucks is becoming more apparent.

Antlers are made of true bone that is fed by blood which is carried in the outer velvet covering. Velvet antlers are hot to the touch, with brushy hair and a waxy feeling coating. Deer need both protein and minerals to grow their antlers and whitetails must grow a new set of antlers every year.

A close-up view of developing antlers and the velvet covering.

12 May 2016

Geese on the Pond

About a week ago I posted the news of new goslings on Miner's Pond. Since that posting, the adults and goslings of two pairs of geese have been taking a daily walk between Miner's Pond and the pond at our cabin which is over a 1/4 mile away.

The geese at our pond.

08 May 2016

Wildflower - Dogwood

The wild Dogwoods (Cornus florida) are starting to put on a showy display of white in the woodlands. It may appear that dogwoods have large white flowers, the true flowers are small, yellow-green, insignificant, and clustered in the middle of the four white showy bracts ( "petals" ).

While the true flowers of the Dogwood may be small, the large white bracts make the Dogwood stand out against the dull background of early spring.

Wood from the Dogwood tree is hard, strong, heavy, fine-grained, and shock-resistant The wood is used for tool handles, tool parts and golf clubs.

07 May 2016

Wildflower - Downy Yellow Violet

Mixed in with the thousands of blue violets blooming in our lawn, I have found 3 Downy Yellow Violet (Viola pensylvanica) plants.

Also known as Hairy Violet, Smooth Yellow Violet, Yellow Violet, these flowers are about ¾ inch across, 5 yellow petals with several purple or brownish lines on the lower petal.

06 May 2016

Wildflower - Common Meadow Violet

The cool/damp Spring weather has caused thousands of Common Meadow Violets (Viola sororia) to bloom in our lawn. It is known by a number of common names, including common blue violet, purple violet, woolly blue violet, hooded violet, and wood violet.

The flowers and young leaves of violets are edible, and can be added to salads in small amounts.

04 May 2016


Some young geese have hatched on Miner's pond and the proud parents are showing them off.

The young geese are getting some lessons on finding food.

03 May 2016

Western Conifer Seed Bug

I was checking on my tomato plants and had this large bug land on a tray of plants. This insect is the Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis) and as the name implies, it was looking for Pine trees, not tomato plants. Adults may wander indoors late in the season looking for shelter to spend the winter. In spring the bugs move to conifers and feed on the developing seeds and early flowers.

The Western Conifer Seed Bug is unable to bite/sting/infect people or pets, damage property, or even reproduce indoors. It does give off a pungent odor as defense if molested.

Western Conifer Seed Bugs originated on the West Coast of the U.S., but have migrated east all the way to Atlantic states and provinces. They typically prefer warm climates and attempt to survive the cold northern winters by entering warm homes and buildings when the seasons change.