30 July 2016

How dry is It?

We have had very little rain in the neighborhood for the past 7 weeks and a storm went just south of us yesterday. I have been watering our garden for the last month and this is a photo of the ground between our lawn and the garden. The ground is so dry that 1/2 inch cracks have formed in the soil.

29 July 2016


I went to the pond at our cabin today looking for wildflowers but the dry weather has reduced a lot of the flowers that prefer damp soil.

The water level at the pond was down and I found a bullfrog that was willing to pose for me. Notice the little flies on top of each eye.

The water level at the pond has been so low, for so long, that grass is starting to grow in the "mud flats" that were once the bottom of the pond.

28 July 2016

Why My Corn Won't Grow

We've had less than 2.5 inches of rain in the neighborhood for the past two months and my corn crop behind our barn has been struggling. Since the dry weather has effected other crops, the local deer have been stopping by my corn to check it out and have lunch. If you look close at the deer on the left you'll see it chewing on a corn stalk.

The corn at the bottom of this photo has been chewed off.

26 July 2016

Bullfrog in the Rain

For the past month we have only received 0.58 inches of rain in the neighborhood, until today when we received an additional 0.74 inches of rain this afternoon.

The water level in our pond has dropped about a foot and I noticed this bullfrog in the pond appeared to be mesmerized by the falling rain as it hit the water around him.

The bullfrog looked very satisfied to see the rain.

25 July 2016

Bears in the Neighborhood

I've heard some rumors of bears in the neighborhood this summer and think they may have raided our blueberry patch, but I did see Mama bear cross Joyce Road, not far from our cabin driveway.

Close behind Mama bear there two cubs.

24 July 2016

Wildlife Wrangling (Continued)

I started out trying to trap a woodchuck at our barn and within a week I had trapped 4 raccoons and no woodchuck. I checked the trap this morning and found the door closed. But still no woodchuck and no raccoons. This time it was a possum (A.K.A. opossum) in the trap.

While this possum wanted to show me its bright smile, they are not aggressive. When threatened they will growl deeply and show their teeth to scare away predators. If the scare tactic (bluff) doesn't work they will "play possum", mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. This possum was relocated to another wooded area miles away from the barn.

I checked my game camera that is aimed at the trap and see a large woodchuck stopped by to visit the possum in the trap. The time-stamp on the woodchuck photo was 10:47AM, I arrived at the trap and was photographed at 10:49AM. Not only are the woodchucks at the barn annoying me, they are also poking fun at the raccoons and possums in the trap.

23 July 2016

Bath Time

Mommy Doe washing her fawn's face.

Need to clean behind the other ear ...

One last spot ...

All clean ... Time to meet some relatives ... "Sweetie, this is your 'Uncle Buck'."

22 July 2016

Praying Mantis

I was mowing the hay field next to our house when I noticed this Praying Mantis escaping from the path of the mower. While they look like a creature from a science fiction movie, they are a beneficial insect and many people keep them as pets (although they only live about a year).

21 July 2016

Wildlife Wrangling (Part 3)

After catching 3 raccoons last week in a trap at our barn I thought I'd seen the last of raccoons in the neighborhood, but I found another raccoon in the trap this morning. This raccoon was released in a wooded area 5 miles from the barn.

So far I've caught 4 raccoons and still haven't caught the woodchuck.

20 July 2016

Bull Thistles and Insects

I was driving along our cabin driveway and noticed some Bull Thistles (Cirsium vulgare) were starting to bloom. I started taking photos of the thistle flowers but found many different insects on the flowers.

A close-up of a Virginia Ctenucha (Ctenucha virginica) moth.

A Hummingbird Moth (Hemaris thysbe) hovered within inches of my camera.

A Skipper Butterfly.

17 July 2016

Wildflower - Toadflax

Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris), also known as butter-and-eggs, is native to Europe but is another wildflower that has naturalized its self into most of North America. Toadflax hasn't become an invasive wildflower since it prefers dry banks, roadsides and sandy/gravelly soil.

The Toadflax plants are between 1 and 2 feet tall with flowers that are similar to those of the snapdragon.

16 July 2016

Japanese Beetles

The Japanese Beetles have returned for their annual raiding and pillaging of neighborhood crops. The Japanese Beetle was first discovered on nursery stock in New Jersey almost a century ago. It is now found in most states east of the Mississippi River.

Japanese Beetles feed on a large range of hosts, including leaves and fruit of my raspberries.

When the Japanese Beetles aren't raiding and pillaging the neighborhood crops, they are engaged in debauchery to create next year's ravenous horde.

15 July 2016

Wildlife Wrangling (Part 2)

Another day and another raccoon in the trap. This is the third raccoon from this spot in back of the barn. The first two raccoons were very passive and easy to deal with, this one must have been part Tasmanian devil. This raccoon was released at the same location as the second raccoon.

I've had an inferred game camera aimed at the trap and I checked the photos today. It appears that while the second raccoon was in the trap another raccoon (most likely #3) was also at the trap. This game camera photo shows the door on the trap closed and a raccoon on top of the stack of cement blocks.

As I stated at the beginning, I placed the trap behind the barn to catch a pesky woodchuck. This photo from the game camera shows the woodchuck standing next to the trap while raccoon #3 is in the trap. Maybe the woodchuck has learned more about the trap than the raccoons did. As of this afternoon, the woodchuck was behind the barn playing "Peek-a-Boo" with me.

14 July 2016

Wildlife Wrangling

I've been playing "Peek-a-Boo" with a young woodchuck at our barn for the past couple of weeks. I put out a trap for the woodchuck and found something tripped the trap and moved the empty trap 35 yards from where I had placed it.

For day #2 I chained the trap to a 12 inch cement block and had some more success. I didn't catch the woodchuck but did catch a raccoon.

The raccoon was relocated to a new location several miles from our barn.

Day #3, same trap setup and same result ... Another raccoon. This raccoon was relocated to a different location than the first raccoon.

Still trying to catch the woodchuck.

13 July 2016

Small Milkweed Bug

While photographing some Orange Milkweed (Butterflyweed) flowers I found several Small Milkweed Bugs (Lygaeus kalmii) hidden within the clusters of small flowers. Small Milkweed Bug is the common name for this insect and not just a description of the insect.

The Orange Milkweed flowers are perfect camouflage for this orange and black insect.

Milkweed bugs have few predators because they concentrate in their bodies bad tasting compounds found in the sap of milkweed plants. The bugs use their bright colors to advertise their bad taste.

11 July 2016

Wildflower - Butterfly Weed

When a wildflower has a common name that includes the word "weed" it brings the connotation of an uncontrollable/undesirable plant, but Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) would be a fine addition to any garden. The bright orange flowers are hard to miss and unlike most "weeds", the Butterfly Weed does not propagate easily. I only have one clump of Butterfly Weed on our property, and I put a support cage around it so it doesn't get mowed. This plant favors dry, sand or gravel soil, and requires full sun.

Also known as Orange Milkweed, its small 5 lobed flowers glow in clusters and the small flowers are the same shape and size as Common Milkweed.

This plant gets its name from the butterflies it attracts with its bright, nectar rich flowers. This cluster of flowers was covered with small ants.

Wildflower - Common Mullein

The Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is starting to bloom. The flowering stem is erect, rigid, up to 8 feet tall, and covered with woolly, branched hairs. Leaves are densely covered on both sides with hairs giving them a frosted appearance and a flannel-like texture.

The sulfur-yellow petals form a 5-lobed saucer-like shaped flower that is less than 1 inch in diameter. An individual plant produces 100,000 to 180,000 seeds.

Common mullein is a native of Eurasia that was brought into North America by early settlers. Once introduced, it apparently spread rapidly. Common mullein is usually found in disturbed areas such as roadsides, fence rows, old fields and pastures. It prefers to grow on dry and stony soils.

10 July 2016

Wildflower - Moth Mullein

The Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria) is starting to bloom in the neighborhood. The common name 'moth mullein' comes from the curved furry stamens that resemble moth's antennae.

Flowers occur on the ends of the erect flowering stems that are produced during the second year of growth. Individual flowers are yellow to white in color, usually with some tinge of purple within.

Moth mullein is a native of Eurasia that was introduced into the eastern coast of North America and then spread west. It reached Pennsylvania by 1818.

09 July 2016

Heat Wave

Our local weather forecaster has declared our current weather as a "Heat Wave" due to 3 consecutive days with the temperature at or above 90F. My weather station recorded a high of 91.8F today.

It was hot today and at midday I watch a deer walk briskly up the road to our cabin, then disappear over the crest of the hill. I drove to the cabin and found the deer had headed directly to our pond to cool off.

08 July 2016

Wildflower - Basswood

The Basswood trees (Tilia americana), also known as the American linden tree, are in full bloom in the hedgerow behind our barn. The 5-petaled fragrant, yellow-white flowers grow in small clusters. The basswood trees in our neighborhood bloom about every other year and it's hard to miss the perfumed air when the flowers are in bloom.

Honey bees and other nectar loving insects are attracted to the fragrant flower and thousands of wild honey bees were attracted to our trees.

A distinctive feature of the basswood is the tongue-like bract (a modified leaf) attached to each cluster of flowers. This leaf is lighter in color than the other leaves and has a dramatically different shape. No other tree in North America bears anything like it. In the fall the flowers in the clusters will be replaced with with the basswood seeds and bract leaf will break loose and the wind will carry the seeds away from the tree.