Friday, February 27, 2009

The Sap Is A Flowin'

It is the time of year when the days are starting to warm up and the nights are still chilly. Everyone is experiencing some sense of cabin fever and they want to get out and start moving again. It is the same for Maple trees. After their long cold winter, they need to get their "juices" flowing again and when that happens, everyone knows it is maple syrup time! It is actually not very difficult to do, just a little time consuming, but in my opinion, it is well worth it. However let me warn you it can be very addicting. A couple of friends of mine who started tapping trees this year are already planning on having a bigger operation next year!

For more information on how to tap the trees, collect the sap, and make the syrup, I would suggest contacting your local county Ohio State University extension office or reading


Saturday, February 21, 2009

A New Perspective?????

As I sit here and reflect on the work that I (and others) have done over the past few weeks as a result of the ice and snow and wind storms that have hit Adams County. Anticipation comes to mind. An anticipation of what might happen as a result of these series of storms. Let me explain.

As I am writing this I am looking at a series of brush piles that I have cut and placed along the edge of my drive. Will the tangle of branches and sticks provide enough cover for the rabbit to hide and possibly nest this coming spring? Or will the tangles help keep the wrens, sparrows, and towhees away from the eyes of the neighborhood Great Horned Owl and the various hawks that fly overhead.

What about the old oak whose top was blown over in the storms. Would the snag one day be home to the Eastern Gray and Fox squirrels that I spot performing their tightrope routines in the limbs up above? Or is it big enough for an owl or maybe a raccoon to use as a daybed or even nest in? Would these storms spell the beginning of the demise of that tree? Would I see insects start to make their home there, burrowing deep in the exposed weathered wood? And would the woodpeckers soon follow endlessly pounding to find that needed nourishment? If that all happens, I know it won’t be long before other cavity nesters start moving in: the Flying Squirrels, the Eastern Screech Owl, the Opossum, and the Little Brown Bats. Would Wood Ducks, Carolina Chickadees or White-footed Mice nest in these new cavities? Is it possible that one day a Prothonotary Warbler find the cavities and sing it’s sweet song at the edge of the nearby creek?

What about the trees that were uprooted by these storms. Now they just lie like random matchsticks thrown in the air and strewn across the forest floor. How long would it be before the massive roots are invaded by a skunk trying to dig a den to have it’s kits? Maybe it will be the Red Fox whose tracks I see disappearing on the trail ahead. Would a Ruffed Grouse use a log to drum and attract it’s mate? Or would an Wild Turkey hen scratch it’s nest along a log using it’s cover to hide it familiar silhouette from the wandering Coyotes. How long would it be before the trunk is covered in mosses and fungi attracting numerous other insects and the predators that follow them? Would the salamanders and skinks that I spot scurrying along the ground and up the tree trunks hide beneath the bark which is covered by mosses and lichens?

What about the trees that fell into the pond and the lakes? Would the branches that are underwater protect the sunfish and bass fry that will hide in there? Will the numerous snapping and painted turtles pull themselves out of the water and sun themselves on the trunk on the first warm days of Spring? Would these same trunks be a fishing spot for the Great Blue and Green herons that frequent the shoreline? Would the eagles and osprey that migrate through in the Spring and Fall one day use the branches reaching out of the water as a resting place while scanning the waters for the ripple which could be their next meal? Would the Wood Ducks and Teal utilize the cover of the branches as a shield from the watchful eye of the Gray Foxes that run through here frequently? Would the Canada Geese place their nest along the root ball or the muskrat use the trunk to hide the entry to it’s den buried deep within the bank?

And then there are the open spots on the forest floor from the falling of the trees. Are these clearings now big enough for the Woodcock to perform his aerial display in the waning light of dusk and dawn? Would the seeds that have lie dormant for many years now feel the warmth of the sun and the nourishment of the rain suddenly spring forth from the leaf litter? Would trillium and hepatica suddenly appear where I have never noticed them before? Would Morel Mushrooms shoot up next to the Beech tree over there after all of these years of fruitlessly searching for them? What kind of jewels that have been hidden by these trees will now be exposed? What kind of flora will I now need help identifying because i have never seen it before?
I will admit that when I first saw the aftermath of the storms that came through the area, I was heartbroken at the destruction. But now that I look at it and really think about it, maybe these storms were a blessing in disguise. I guess it is just a matter of time and perspective!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is Spring on it's Way??????

While working on my place over the past weekend, I noticed a few signs of spring. Although the calender says the 2ND week of February, Mother Nature is broadcasting other signs. Red-Winged Blackbirds have started showing up. There have been reports of Woodcocks beginning their Spring Display Ritual around the state. Driving around the county i saw several groups of Wild Turkeys were males were strutting and displaying for the females in the group. Canada Geese are starting to pair up and stake their claim on the lakes around the area.
Around the flower front, I have seen Daffodils and Snowdrops pushing their green spears through the semi-frozen ground. Within a couple of weeks they will be blooming unless another hard cold spell delays them a little longer. The shrubs and the trees are starting to get buds and the grasses are starting to show just a touch of green at the base.
According to notes from previous years all of this seems a little earlier than normal. Only time will tell. But I am guessing Mother Nature knows what is best!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Check your Feeders

With the recent string of ice and snow that has come upon our area, it is a great time to watch your feeders for some of the more interesting migrants that might appear. Some of the commonly seen migrants include Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, Pine Siskins, and Red-breasted Nuthatches. As mentioned in some of the earlier blogs, there have been numerous reports around the state of White-winged Crossbills, Red Crossbills, Common Redpolls, and even Snowy Owls. There are even some birds that normally migrate south that have been seen around the area. Just last week on Wheat Ridge Road, at one feeder along with the usual visitors there was a Common Redpoll and a Lincoln's Sparrow. As Jessica wrote in her blog a couple of weeks ago, just keep the feeders cleaned and filled and see what shows up and start a yard bird list. You might be surprised at the results!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cute Redheads

Two Redhead ducks, Aythya americana, spent the day diving near our dock in Wrightsville today.  They were joined for a time by six Ring-necked duck, Aythya collaris.  A goose, either a Greater White-fronted or a domestic Greylag goose, has been hanging out near the dock for two days as well.   A Red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus, landed in a tree long enough to have these pictures taken.

Monday, February 2, 2009

River Ramblers

Icy weather, power outages, and phone disconnections caused many of us to hunker down last week.  The upshot was that we were able to bird-watch from our living room (we live near the Ohio River).  Here are some pictures of the highlights.