Risky Business

Black bear in Michaux sneaking up on the cameraI have a trailcam, a camera you strap to a tree in the woods and record what comes by. It is a pretty cool way of staking out an observation point without actually having to sit there for three weeks — which is how long the camera was in it’s most recent position.Read more

Some of our family died last week

Observations on the human condition.A set of glass panels hang in the Newseum in Washington, D.C. etched with the names of 2,323 journalists killed around the world while doing their jobs, some in accident of war, some deliberately target, like the five Capital Gazette reporters slaughtered last week for no more reason than they were doing their jobs.Read more

While you were attending to other matters …

Crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River coats a flock of Canada Geese.Melania Trumps jacket was, one must admit, a bit tacky. She wore it to see the refugee kids, but her jacket said she didn’t really care – didn’t care about what was left unclear. But she definitely made an impression. The First Lady and her sartorial splendor had starring roles on at least two days news cycles, plus late night television comedy and talk shows.Read more

Build it, and the storms will wash it away

Storm clouds sliding over southern PA farmland.Build it and they will come.”

Daughter rendered the verdict upon discovering our back yard is home to a family of Eastern Bluebirds, another of English House Sparrows, and a third of House wrens. And those are only the ones occupying houses we have set out for their use. There also are American Robins and Northern Cardinals, a ton of blue jays and an equal number of Goldfinches. We also have hung several feeders, which we keep supplied with mixed birdseed, and another screened version filled with thistle seed.Read more

Smoke on the mountain

Naturally or manmade, fires will happen.On a recent wander through a portion of Michaux State Forest, I found the road winding around a large parcel of blackened ground and trees. The question arose what good the burn, clearly a controlled burn of which I had read, would do for the wildlife that lived there. So I asked Fire Forester Philip Bietsch to explain the process.Read more

On backroads driving slowly

Still hidden after all these yeas.Another week has passed and Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird are still hanging around. He has built a new nest, in a different bluebird house mounted about 12 feet from my window. I presume it’s the same pair that nested in the house farther out – before the English House Sparrow evicted the Blues family. The Blues have yet to lay any more eggs.Read more

Bluebirds vs Sparrows

Even in too-early spring, the House Sparrows fight off intruders.Saturday morning I saw something amazing.

We have been trying to get a pair of bluebirds to take up housekeeping in a bluebird house in our backyard. The trouble is, we have been unable to convince the House Sparrows that cloud the local air to give the Blues family a chance.Read more

The world is alive …

Daddy cardinal feeds his son.Every spring I sit mesmerized as, in the space of just a few days, the mass of quarter-inch buds inexorably spread their petals in a real-time slow motion exposition of pink and white four-petaled flowers, each bloom more than two inches across.

The petals will shortly fall off, leaving behind next years buds, and life goes on.Read more

Real cheese (mostly) ain’t yellow

Real cheese is white.Mystification surrounds the identification of the person who came up with the idea cheese would be prettier yellow, but it wasn’t someone who lived on a farm. In it’s natural state, cheese is white – or bleu, as in bleu cheese, which is laced with mold.Read more

A Hope-ful story

On becoming a scientist.I sometimes receive emails, and now and then a letter, from readers who say they like what I write. Recently, a reader sent a book that was extra special because it related a story near to my heart.

“Lab Girl: A story of trees, science and love,” by Hope Jahren, is a memoir of a woman who became a scientist before women could be scientists. She was born into a scientific family. Her dad taught introductory physics and earth science in a community college in Minnesota. Hope got to hang out in her father’s laboratory, where she “played beneath the chemical benches until I was tall enough to play on them.”Read more

Who will clean up after us?

Great Blue Heron and Canada Geese like the river, but parts are becoming risky for life.I watched a movie Tuesday night, along with more than 100 of my closest friends, many of whom I’d never previously met. It was about global warming, and about a preacher and his daughter and their disagreement over whether our home planet really is getting dangerously warmer.Read more

More than just a pretty leaf

Sometimes a tree begs to be climbed.I feel badly for anyone who has never climbed a tree. there is some thing special and wondrous about the feeling of being up there in the small branches atmost where the birds fly free. Of course, sometimes that is a scary place to be.Read more

Why?

Observations on the human condition.Tuesday morning a young woman walked onto the YouTube campus in San Bruno, Calif., and shot three people before turning her 9mm pistol on herself. If one has been paying any attention to the news the past few weeks, two points should have stuck out.

The weapon was a pistol.

The shooter was a woman.Read more

It was an eagle

What at long distance looked like a hawk became a Bald Eagle on the nest.L ast week I reported finding a hawk’s nest. Or maybe an eagle’s nest; I had not been close enough with the camera I had in hand to get a good enough look.Read more

Searching for nothing in particular

Bald Eagle on the nest.I met a hiker on the Appalachian Trail Sunday. Actually, he was on the AT. He had been on the trail since Binghamton, NY, heading for a family gathering in Tennessee. I was on a woods road that crossed it.Read more

Go outside and play

A Red-winged blackbird sings for his lovin' at the edge of a swamp.A male Northern Cardinal is snacking at the window feeder. It’s fun watching him chase off the House Sparrows. I dislike them, strongly, for the way they force every other species away. They don’t, mostly, actively attack interlopers. Mostly, they just crowd out any species that isn’t House Sparrow.Read more

Geese another indicator of warming environment

Tens of thousands of Snow Geese pause in PA every year on their way to the nesting grounds.I’m looking out my window at a killer snowstorm. Snowmageddon, it was supposed to be. The governor has declared a state of emergency for a large portion of the state, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike has banned several types of trailer-trucks.Read more

Land of Opportunity

We spent billions to get others to tear down this wall, now propose billions more to build our own.A deputy sheriff straps on a gun, pins his badge over his shirt pocket, and goes on patrol. Probably, he will return home to his family. Millions of law enforcement officers do the same thing every day.Read more

Are you a hunter?


Sometimes the world seems small, and getting smaller. A young woman sat on her front step watching the baby play. I stopped to say hello. During our chat, we discovered she and her fiancé  had been to visit a friend of hers and his in a state where I once lived. We chatted awhile.Read more

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