Sep 16, 2008

Calling Owls - Screech On Video

In the continuing adventures of calling owls, I took a break Sunday evening around 8PM and stepped outside to enjoy the growing darkness. I decide to do the whinny and tremolo call of a screech owl, to see what would happen. Within a minute, three screech owls were calling and one was bopping from tree to tree above the driveway. I decided to try the video camera out on the owl, switching to night vision mode. The results, however rough, are for all to see. I heard a screech owl last night also above the buzzing sound of a neighbor's chain saw. Tonight, I'm inside as the temperatures drop into the fifties and I work on assignments for class.

Sep 1, 2008

Stars and Owls

A warm day in the 80s with blue skies gave way to a quickly cooling night with dark skies that brought out the stars in abundance. The Milky Way was a white smudge across the sky from the south to the north. Cygnus the Swan, the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and the Pleiades were easily seen. While walking and watching, I heard a screech owl. I called back and after a few minutes, I had him on a branch not more than 10 feet away. It was dark, so only the silhouette was visible. While not time for a meteor shower, three white streaks from shooting stars crossed the sky over a twenty minute period. It was quite wonderful. After the screech owl left and was gone for 20 minutes or so, a great horned owl began hooting about fifty yards away. I returned home to work with some fond memories of owls and shooting stars. A night to remember for years to come, I'm sure.

Aug 27, 2008

Cardinal Flower

Three weeks ago, I became very excited when I found two cardinal flowers blooming in my yard. Since then, I have found almost 60 on my property or along the edge of the creek. While many people would not want to have wetland soils on their property, I've been very happy with the plant life and wildlife it brings to area. I remain a bit soggy and happy!

Owls around Home

The past week or two has been a time of increasing owl calls. Last night as I was drifting off to sleep, a screech owl was sounding off from the front yard. I've been hearing screech owls mostly after 10:30 PM and before 1AM, but two nights ago on a short evening walk at sunset, I heard one to the east of the house. There is nothing quite like the whinny call of a screech owl.

While screech owls have been heard most frequently, I have heard one barred owl to the west of the house and Monday morning, August 25th, I had a great horned owl hooting to the east. The calls of owls really bring out the wild side of the night. May they hoot and whinny forevermore!

Aug 3, 2008

August 3rd - Sounds from the Porch

This is really the first relaxing night I've had in weeks. Work on teacher institute presentations have consumed my life since early July. I'm on my porch working on finishing some university work and I've been here since my daughter went to bed at 9:30PM. The annual cicadas were first replaced by katydids. A high pitched chatter occurred on the north side of my house and something went under the porch (under my feet) to the south side of my house. I watched a shooting star briefly appear in the southwestern sky. A screech owl was heard around 10:30 to my north. Later, what might have been raccoons were heard vocalizing (fighting maybe?) to my northeast. Around 11:30PM, I heard my first ever pair of coyotes vocalizing, one almost due south and another probably a quartermile away southeast of the house. They were followed by a barred owl southeast of the house. Green frogs have barked, a bullfrog has sounded, and I can only remember one car going by in the last two hours.

It's good to be home and recharging, even if only for an evening. Tomorrow, another chapter in work begins. Tomorrow night, I'll be back on the porch letting nature rebuild me.

Jul 2, 2008

Newts and Lillies

I was able to spend the entire morning back in Game Lands 166 on July 1st. The cicadas are waining, with their buzz being much quieter than the past weeks. The rains of recent days brought the red efts - a subadult of the spotted newt - out in force. I believe 16 were seen. A rather impressive Canada Lilly (red variant) was seen also. The squaw root is up as is another parastic plant - the indian pipe. A pretty amazing morning to say the least. I've included several pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Jun 16, 2008

The Cicadas are Here!

For over a week, the buzz of the periodical cicadas have been heard throughout the area. This brood seems to be from Frankstown down into Huntingdon. None have been heard by me in Hollidaysburg, Duncansville, Altoona, or Loretto. The black stocky bodies with orange trimmed wings are spooky. The red eyes make them look positively satanic. I've attached a few pictures and a video of sound to mark the event.

May 29, 2008

Flowers and a Whip-poor-will

Today was one of the first days I’ve actually spent some time at home. While the morning was filled with work, the afternoon consisted of digging up some wildflowers and replanting them. A friend was removing excess plants at her house in Hollidaysburg and offered me some great plants. We dug up some purple cone flower, bee balm, feverfew, turtlehead, and yarrow. I started some of these species from seed, but they are so small (< .5 inches) that I don’t think they’ll make it. The rootstock of these transplants should do well. I placed them strategically in the yard with the idea that they will be the start of a meadow full of wildflowers.

The past month has been rainy and cooler than expected. I tried to plant a small garden in what I thought was a high spot in the yard, but the soil remained saturated with water until the past few days. I scattered some wildflower seed there, but I think that area will need to be planted with wet-loving plants. I’ll gather some seeds from cardinal flower, joe pye weed, and ironweed this summer after I get some advice from a friend who knows more about wetlands than I do.

A short walk this evening yielded two deer and a distant calling whip-poor-will. The diversity of birds on and around the house is amazing. I’m including birds seen within a half mile of the place over the past three months.




Canada Goose

Blue-headed Vireo

Yellow Warbler

Wood Duck

Red-eyed Vireo



Blue Jay

Common Yellowthroat

Ring-necked Pheasant

American Crow

Eastern Towhee

Great Blue Heron

Tree Swallow

Chipping Sparrow

Turkey Vulture

N. Rough-winged Swallow

Field Sparrow

Red-tailed Hawk

Barn Swallow

Song Sparrow

American Kestrel

Black-capped Chickadee

White-throated Sparrow


Tufted Titmouse

Dark-eyed Junco

American Woodcock

White-breasted Nuthatch

Northern Cardinal

Mourning Dove

Brown Creeper

Indigo Bunting

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Carolina Wren

Red-winged Blackbird


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Eastern Meadowlark

Chimney Swift

Eastern Bluebird

Common Grackle

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

American Robin

Brown-headed Cowbird

Belted Kingfisher

Gray Catbird

Baltimore Oriole

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Northern Mockingbird

Purple Finch

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher

Brown Thrasher

House Finch

Eastern Phoebe

European Starling

American Goldfinch

Great Crested Flycatcher

Cedar Waxwing

House Sparrow

Apr 30, 2008

Leaf Out in Scotch Valley

Driving down from Saint Francis today the shades of yellows and greens against the mountains. Some trees have already flowered, like the maples, but now those are leafing out. The red flowers of the red buds and the white flowers of service berry offer bursts of bright color contrasting against the dark trees.

Scotch Valley and the Canoe Creek area offer the random placements of these trees in the untamed areas and the neatly planted rows of them in the domesticated landscaping of the homes and lawns of the tame. Give me the surprise of a splash of color. You can keep the neat and tidy landscaping.

Even the birds are coloring up. Goldfinches have their yellow and black feathers back. A male bluebird is frequenting property offering flashes of blue and orange as he flies from perch to perch. Purple finches are frequenting the yard in search of sunflower seed. Their is nothing quite like their raspberry red coloring. Even the female offers a brown and white pattern that is quite pleasing.

Apr 25, 2008

Spring Marches Forward

As April has moved along, warming temperatures accompanying some rain has brought numerous wildflowers and some wildlife to Red House. Spring peepers have been joined by the trill of toads while the wood frogs have fallen silent. April 20th in the evening after a good soaking rain, I found two mallard ducks in my yard. I watched them for a few minutes and then caught some distant movement out of my eye. A large snapping turtle was traversing the wettest part of the property, moving towards a drainage ditch that connects to Canoe Creek. I wished my daughter had been here to see it.

Other noteworthy events include the discovery of the heron rookery I had heard about. I saw 11 nests, but I am told there are 18. Also, I drove (slowly) through Scotch Valley April 17th I think, counting the deer that were emerging as the light of day disappeared. 54 deer were seen. I can't recall the last time I saw that many deer in one day, let alone 15 minutes.

Greening grass and emerging spring wildflowers have also been a pleasure to watch. While skunk cabbage was definitely an early arrival months ago, I have found trout lily, at least two species of violet, and Christmas fern up and active in the last two weeks. Beautiful to say the least.

Apr 7, 2008

Energy Bad and Good News

I came home this evening to an error message on my propane boiler, leading me to spend an hour and a half to figure out why my boiler wasn't working. I called the guy that installed it. Then after some additional attempts to get it to light, we found the problem. No propane. I had been watching the gauge for a month, trying to gauge the costs of this new furnace and the fuel it will consume, and the gauge hadn't moved. I have no experience with propane, and the boiler is an Energy Star appliance so I thought it might be what to expect. I should have realized the propane gauge was stuck. So the propane truck is on the way.

The good news is the woodburner was ready to serve and the living room thermostat is now reading 78 degrees and a fan is blowing heat into the bedroom. A red glowing fire with the occasional cracks and pops of the burning wood is very comforting.

Apr 6, 2008

Spring Peepers & Wood Frogs

The onslaught of warm weather and rains has pushed us into spring. I have added a great blue heron to my yard list, as well as a belted kingfisher, and Canada geese. I have heard a kinglet, but I don't remember if it is a ruby- or golden-crowned kinglet. The most exciting sound in the evening is the frog calls. Wood frogs call their duck like "chucks" while the peepers scream out their peep calls from the yard not more than 30 feet from the house. The attached video is nothing but sound, so don't hope for a picture. It's dark at night and I don't want to silence the chorus with light!

Mar 30, 2008

Coltsfoot Has Bloomed

At last, the flowers of spring are pushing through the ground and opening their flowers against the chill and the wind. Driving back from church today, I spotted the bright yellow of a group of six coltsfoot flowers alongside the road near the Sternagles home. Walking from the house along the driveway to get the mail, one lone flower could be seen just above the dried leaves from last year. What a cheery sight to see after a relatively snowless, brown winter. The rains of late have been gentle enough to move into the thawing ground, hopefully replenishing the groundwater from last year's dryness. Perhaps this is the way of the future: winter rains replenishing the groundwater instead of snow. Regardless, the recent rains, lengthening days, and moderating temperatures seem to have moved us a step forward with coltsfoot emerging from the ground.

Other notes include:
  • two deer were a few feet from the porch last night, eating sunflower seeds put out for the birds.
  • walking the road today yielded a great blue heron, a very cold meadowlark on the wire, and a pair of Canada geese and a pair of mallards on the pond near the house.

Mar 26, 2008

First Spring Peeper and More

I stepped outside around 11PM and heard several feeble peeps from a spring peeper. I've been hearing them in Osterburg on and off from March 15th on. Of course, Friday night March 21st produced four inches of snow and created several cancelled Easter Egg Hunts on Saturday. It also produced a tremendous fallout of ducks on Canoe Creek which I missed. I was called about it and was told the entire lake was covered with perhaps 10,000 ducks. I was in Clearfield so I drove to Curwensville Dam where I found the ice has not yet gone out. Not a single duck was seen.

As spring moves forward, spring beauties are up but not flowering yet. I popped several daffodils in the ground for my daughter to watch emerge. I also dropped a red trillium, white trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, and maidenhair fern bulbs in the ground hoping to start a shade garden. First, I'd like to see some temperatures above 60 degrees and hear the chorus of peepers and some wood frogs croaking soon. Come on spring!

Mar 17, 2008

A Chilly Day at Canoe Lake

Today was spent in church and assembling a shelf for the daughter. A brief stop at Canoe Lake yielded 87 ring-necked ducks, probably 5 canvasbacks, and 2 mallards. The highlight was a muskrat swimming by at less than two feet distance. The rhythmic wiggling of the tail propelled it silently forward while I watched.

I also planted several daffodil bulbs along my sidewalk and created an experimental shade garden with a jack-in-the-pulpit, a maidenhair fern, a white trillium, and a red trillium purchased at Lowe's. I'll be very interested to see how they do.

Tested the pH of the soil also. An even 7, which is very sweet and will provide some good growth, I hope.

Mar 15, 2008

Spring is moving in!

I drove south to Osterburg to pick up a few essentials. Osterburg is perhaps 20 miles south of here and west. A smile came to my face when I heard spring peepers there. None are peeping at Red House yet.

Also, an eastern phoebe graced us with his arrival today. The first I've heard this year.

Birds on Canoe Lake include: ring-necked ducks, redheads, 4 ruddy ducks (a first for the year), some buffleheads, and perhaps one old squaw.

A New Home

Last night was the first night my daughter and I stayed at Red House. I purchased it in December of 2007, but installing a central heating system and upgrading the electricity has taken much longer than expected. I hope to add some furniture in the next few weeks, but that will depend on my work schedule.

I'll begin with a brief overview of why I bought the house. The first reason is location. Canoe Creek State Park is just 3 miles away. A 10,000 acre gamelands is less than a mile away. The 1.5 acre property borders an exceptional trout stream (Canoe Creek) and has wetlands on it. I was watching a male bluebird this morning investigating holes in a tree where I am told bluebirds have nested before. A male and female pheasant walked from this property across the road this morning at 8AM. Numerous puddles appear in the lawn (which will be landscaped for wildlife) after rain and rabbits, squirrels, and numerous kinds of birds frequent the area. The house is a hunting cabin, thus the need for some upgrading. The fireplace is definitely the centerpiece. When the house was constructed, I am told that stone from Beaver Dam Road was used in the fireplace. Several stones have fossils from what I believe is the Devonian Period.

I'm looking forward to learning about my new home. It will be a great adventure, I'm sure.