Coyote chorus


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Plummer’s Hollow coyotes are a pretty silent bunch, for some reason, so when I heard them calling tonight around 11:00, I rushed outside with my video camera — my only portable audio recording device — to record what I could. They sounded like they were right above the barn.

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Black bear videos

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.

Pileated woodpecker

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.

Walking the point count

We are counting birds for science, my mother and I. Plummer’s Hollow is part of the Bald Eagle Ridge Important Bird Area (IBA 32). We walk without words through the dawn forest — screech owl, worm-eating warbler — as the sky changes guard, our stops carefully measured: one minute to wait for our arrival to quit sending out ripples, then three minutes of counting every song and call and scanning holes in the canopy for wings: American kestrel, red-tailed hawk, chimney swift.

My job is to jot down the names as Mom whispers them: Hooded warbler. Scarlet tanager. Acadian flycatcher. Two red-eyed vireos. I watch the second hand come around, call time, and we walk the 500 feet to the next spot, taking three and a half hours to circle our mountaintop farm, ridgetop to ridgetop, half-way down the hollow and back. There are 16 points in all, the last on my parent’s front porch. Brown thrasher, ruby-throated hummingbird.

As I walk, I jot down notes for another list, one I know I won’t have the heart to finish: 25 things that make me sad. The oil spill in the Gulf, climate change, mountain-top removal, white nose syndrome, poverty and over-consumption… The way the land looked just 30 years ago, when I was a kid. How many more invasive species there are now. Our shrinking population of wood thrushes, the loss of that incomparable music, which this morning’s numbers should help document.

If we can’t learn to save, at least we can begin a more accurate accounting. Blue-gray gnatcatcher, red-bellied woodpecker, cardinal, common crow. This is our fifth year walking the point count. We hope to continue for decades, and find others to keep it going after we’re gone.

A Walk up Plummer’s Hollow

I took my camera for a walk up Plummer’s Hollow Road this morning, starting at the end of the country bridge over the Little Juniata and ending just below the houses, a distance of a mile and a half. View the slideshow or browse through the photoset.

The “green” house in Plummer’s Hollow

The new house

I have been remiss in not posting something about the newest residence in Plummer’s Hollow, which was completed a little less than a year ago. But my procrastination has paid off, and now you can read the whole story, and look at the photos, in my mom’s latest Pennsylvania Game News column, The Green House.

As you’ll see, we had the house built over at the old McHugh place to minimize its footprint. “Green” features include passive solar design, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and insulation made from blue jeans. We are delighted to have Troy and Paula Scott as neighbors, caretakers, and — as noted in the previous post — fellow naturalists.

Game cams offer tantalizing glimpses of wildlife on Brush Mountain

Starting late last summer, some of the hunters on the property have been using game cams to better track deer and other wildlife. Game cams are motion-triggered, sturdy, outdoor cameras increasingly popular among outdoors enthusiasts, and sometimes scientists, too. Troy and Paula Scott, Jeff Scott, and Troy Scott Jr. have all been involved in this project, but Paula has been the most persistent. A few days ago, her efforts were rewarded in a big way when a game cam she positioned near a bobcat scat and baited with venison caught a full-grown bobcat in the act at 7:36 AM, 1/21/10.

game-cam bobcat

Another hunter had already seen a bobcat from his tree stand during deer season in December, and we’d seen other sign of it, as mentioned, so this wasn’t a huge surprise, just really nice to document. Another game cam capture from January 18 was a little more surprising because it showed that at least one gray fox is still resident on the mountain. After a rabies epidemic swept through two summers ago, we had our doubts.

game-cam gray fox

We don’t permit any predator hunting or trapping on the property, so the game cams offer a neat way for the hunters to pursue this kind of quarry without harming it — and help document wildlife populations in the process. We’re grateful to Paula and the others for taking the initiative. It also seemed as if they were especially persistent in their deer hunting this year in part because they had a pretty good idea from the cameras of how many bucks and does were present — important knowledge on a year when deer numbers were down generally.

One game cam snapped some cute photos of a black bear cub back on September 15. Here’s the best of them:

game-cam bear cub