Category Archives: Videos
“If I were a mole in the ground,” the old Appalachian folk song says, “I’d tear them mountains down.” This hairy-tailed mole (Parascalops breweri) seemed to be trying to do just that on Monday morning, August 29, in the lawn adjacent to the veranda of the main house. This is the video I shot, pretty much unedited, except for the inevitable loss of detail that goes along with rendering it into a format small enough for upload. (I used a couple minutes of the footage to illustrate a poem by a friend of mine, and since it’s a much shorter video, was able to upload it in high definition — “The Last Brave Ship” by Dale Favier.)
The hairy-tailed is one of two mole species resident on the mountain, the other being the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata), which on very rare occasions over the years has appeared in the basement. Neither is common, probably because our soil is a stony, heavy clay with a chemical hardpan about a foot below the surface. The hairy-tailed mole, according to this very detailed webpage on a site devoted to Adirondacks wildlife, prefers sandy loam, in which it excavates a series of tunnels 10-22 inches down. It’s not necessarily nocturnal, as we discovered: “Although daily activity rhythms are little known, the species appears to be more active during the day, somewhat less at night.”
Earthworms make up 30% of its prey, insect larvae and pupae an equal amount. Adult insects, snails, slugs, sowbugs, millipedes, and centipedes provide the remainder. The hairy-tailed mole uses its highly-developed sense of touch and smell to locate prey, catching some of these animals on the surface — a feeding strategy it is more likely to adopt at night — and the rest in the top layers of soil and plant debris.
Another website says, “When food is scarce they will feel on small roots as a supplement, but cannot live on roots alone. They can consume an equivalent of three times their body weight in one day.” It was hard to tell for sure, but we got the impression that this mole was eating mostly roots.
Being nearly blind, it didn’t seem to notice the three of us watching and filming. The sounds are especially endearing — check out all the panting and snuffling noises it makes. The Adirondacks site says only “Vocalizations include a variety of harsh, guttural to quiet ‘squeaks’, their context and function largely unknown.”
The motion-triggered, infrared trail cam which the Scotts baited with a couple of venison rib cages really brought video pay dirt this month: coyote, bobcat, raccoons, opossum…
and a very hungry fisher (or possibly two different fishers — can anyone tell?).
March has been an active month for wildlife — especially after dark. The woodcock returned, and I heard a saw-whet owl calling, too, along with another creature of unknown identity. I captured it all on my portable digital recorder and included it as the first part of a podcast episode I called Creatures of the Night:
Another great game cam moment from Troy and Paula. We’ve had fishers on the mountain for at least seven years now — here’s Marcia’s column about the first sightings — but this is the first video footage (there was one blurry still photo from another game cam earlier this year). The fisher seems simultaneously frightened and fascinated by the swinging deer carcasses that the Scotts used as bait.
Fishers, of course, had been extirpated from the state for over a hundred years, and were reintroduced by the Pennsylvania Game Commission in 1994. Wildlife biologist Tom Serfass, who consulted on the reintroduction, told our Audubon chapter at a program last spring that Blair County fishers were more likely to be from a southern population started by a smaller reintroduction effort in West Virginia a decade earlier.
The West Virginia reintroduction project came to halt due to public concern about fishers carrying off children, something they have never been known to do. The Pennsylvania program, by contrast, was hugely popular, possibly in part because the PGC did a better job in selling it to the public in advance, saying that fishers would help keep the porcupines under control, and thus protect trees. In fact, we did find several porcupine carcasses the winter and spring after our first fisher sighting… but we do still have plenty of porcupines. We are more anxious to see them kill off the feral housecats, which are continually restocked here by barn cats in Sinking Valley. Between the fishers, the coyotes and the great-horned owls, it’s a wonder any cats survive at all, but one or two always do.
Troy and Paula say their next goal is to get footage of a bobcat or a coyote. But who knows — someday maybe they’ll get a cougar on film, too!
In Paula and Troy Scott’s latest trail camera experiment, they positioned an infrared video camera at the intersection of a couple of trails in Plummer’s Hollow and stationed a deer-shaped archery target as a decoy for whatever might come along. I think they were hoping for footage of bucks attempting to spar with it, but instead they got three, 30-second videos of a young black bear having his way with it.
Black bears often attack things that people leave behind in the woods, such as hunters’ blinds and large pieces of trash.
A mother bear with two cubs on Laurel Ridge, along Guest House Trail, around 10:30 this morning. (Read all about it at Via Negativa.)
Last year around this time, I got a shakey video of a big male that Mom and I ran into on Dogwood Knoll when we were doing our IBA point count, so I called it Bird Count Bear. (What are the chances it’s the father of this morning’s cubs?) Here’s that video:
Finally, back in April 2008, I got a video from my porch of a mother with yearling cubs crossing the road. I didn’t have a video camera at the time; this was shot with the video setting on my regular camera, so the quality isn’t great. Note the cinnamon color of the one cub.
I’m going to try to do a better job of posting wildlife (and possibly other) videos shot on the property. I’ve created a Videos category and added the link to the menu in the header.
I shot this video from my front porch on Tuesday morning, June 8. Pileateds are common here because we have an old forest with lots of standing dead and dying trees full of their favorite food: carpenter ants. They’re really neat birds, and I end up mentioning them often in The Morning Porch. This video doesn’t capture their oddness in flight, but it does show calling, drumming, and excavating.
For more on their life history, see the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s page.
See Via Negativa for more.
My sledding video from last winter was such a success, I thought I’d try it again this year. The conditions were pretty icy and scary last winter, so I stopped at the half-way point, not wanting to risk the video camera any farther. (I hold it in my right hand as I ride — this isn’t a helmet cam.) But this winter, given all the wonderful cold weather and regular snow, sledding conditions have been exceptional, and with the January thaw imminent, yesterday afternoon I went ahead and shot this video of a sled ride clear to the bottom, a mile-and-a-half-long run. It isn’t quite non-stop, as you’ll see: there are two places, slight uphills on the way down, where I had to get out and walk for a few yards. The first is the half-way spot where I stopped in last winter’s video.
Since I was on hard-packed snow rather than ice this time, the ride was relatively quiet. It’s the quiet that I love about sledding, as much as the speed, so I decided to dispense with rousing music in the soundtrack and go for straight realism. (Actually, a little less realism might’ve been nice, but unfortunately my camera doesn’t have image stabilization. I also apologize for all the sniffing — but that too is the sound of winter, isn’t it?)
Blogged at much greater length at my personal site, Via Negativa.