Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Long-tailed Duck

The Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) is a duck of the Arctic Tundra.  They are not a common migrant to the West Virginia mountains; but it does seem appropriate this "Spring".  They normally spend the winter on shallow ocean waters.  I saw them regularly, when I lived on Tangier Sound.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to get some photos of this species yesterday evening at Davis, in Tucker County, WV.

Darkness was quickly approaching and I just happened to have my worst lens for the conditions attached.  That is usually the case isn't it?  The frigid temperatures did not help much and was slowing down an already slow setup.   I took about 25 shots, this is the only one that I had time to work on this morning, but I wanted to post something.
It would have been nice if one of the stunning males would have been present.  I did not have time to check out the much larger sewer treatment pond downstream from this location.  Hopefully; I will be able to check it out for others today.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Big Dog Is Gone

Twelve-year old Tommy passed on this week.  He was the gentle giant; if there ever was one. Kind, caring and gentle.  He looked forward to visits by the neighbors dogs; after they overcame their fear.  In his prime he weighed 122 pounds, as arthritis took its' toll he began to wither away.  The last year was rough, he couldn't go on his beloved walk, couldn't make the hills anymore.  Cancer took him away.

When I moved back here, I had my turkey dog: Bonnie Blue.  For about 5 years Tommy would never let me touch him.  If I tried to pet him, he would just walk away.  The day after Bonnie died, he came up to me and wanted to be petted. Dogs Know.. Goodbye Tommy.  You will take up residence on the mantle; soon.

Bad Eagle Photo

I was driving through Canaan Valley yesterday and this adult Bald Eagle was trying to catch something at one of the ponds north of the state park entrance; along Rt. 32.  By the time I could pull off and get stopped, this was all that I had a chance to get.  It flew over and perched in a tree about 300 yards away.  This is the first adult Bald Eagle that I have even had any chance of photographing; during the past 4 years.  So; I guess that a bad eagle photo is much better than no eagle photo.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wildflower of the Month/March

The Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is one of the earliest blooming wildflowers.  This species was introduced from Europe.  It was first seen in Monongalia County in 1933 and has spread southward and statewide.  Coltsfoot is now a common plant of roadsides and waste areas.

The bright yellow flowers are a welcome sight after months of brown, white and gray.  When you see the Coltsfoot bloom, you know that the Spring Peepers and Spring is on the way.

This photo was taken near Mingo, in Randolph County, WV on March 17, 2011.

Spring Wildflowers In West Virginia

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mountain Trout This Week: 3/14/11-3/20/11

It looks like this will be the best weekend of the year for the trout anglers of High Virginia.  Water levels are returning to normal conditions and there isn't any major rainfall in the forecast.  We should also have tolerable temperature in the near future.  Overall, it is looking good.  The smaller streams all seem to be in good condition.  Shavers Fork at Bowden is still fairly high.  I believe that the best bets will be Anthony Creek, Knapps Creek or the upper reaches of the Greenbrier River system.  If you're lucky, you should be able to get some trout and ramps for a weekend meal.

I caught these trout in Glady Fork this morning.  I forgot to check the water temperature and I did not see any insect activity.  The rivers should be full of trout from the high water stockings.  It is now time to get out, walk a little and catch some trout.

A Celebration of Spring

Spring used to be my favorite time of the year, but I haven't had time to enjoy it; recently.  I heard the first Spring Peepers of the year yesterday evening.  I thought that I may get up early this morning and go fishing.  I got up early, but the wind was roaring at about 25 mph.  At 8 0'clock, I decided to ride over to Evenwood and get some skunk cabbage photos.  I looked on Wednesday and they were just emerging.

I rode up Shavers Fork at Bowden, the river is still too high for my tastes.  The fish truck was pulling out, along with its faithful followers on its way to Gandy.  It picked up more of the entourage at the top of Shavers Mountain.  There were 8 vehicles at Evenwood and all but two joined in the merry chase.  The anglers who stayed were fishing at the bridge, soaking dough.  Joey and I went downstream about 300 yards and I caught my limit on about twenty casts.  It took all of thirty minutes.  Then it was on to the skunk cabbage.

 It turned out to be a quite pleasurable morning.  this was the first limit of trout that I have caught in about 5 years.  This was also the first Spring morning that I have been able to enjoy for about 5 years, without the worry of being in phone range.  I became unexpectedly unemployed yesterday and for the time being, I intend to enjoy a few Spring days.  Having been on call for 365 days during the last 5 years, I think that I deserve a couple of nice days.  Enjoy Spring Once More !!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


That is how I feel right now; just like these poor crocus.  Sitting there, hoping for just a few rays of sun.  Hoping for a chance to once again bloom; before they die. Blah.  I would have some pretty flowers to photograph; but it doesn't appear that the chance will arise, before it is too late.  The snowdrops were pitiful; killed by the snow.  They never had a chance.

It appears to me that; by the time we can get anything accomplished around here that it will be so late in the season; that everything needs to be done at once.  The maddening rush before it gets hot and dry is not enjoyable to me; anymore.
I had several articles in mind; but need photos to go with them.  The weather just doesn't cooperate.  If it isn't cloudy and dreary; the wind is howling.  Not the most photogenic conditions.  Of course, it is supposed to be reasonably nice tomorrow, but of course Thursday is my tied up day of the week.  Maybe someday.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bird Houses Ready ?

Are you a procrastinator?  I tend to be with some things; especially taxes.  But, I'm proud to say that my bird houses are ready for occupation.  I actually had them cleaned out and suitable for winter roosting late last fall.  The February and March winds, combined with the heavy, wet snow took one to the ground.  I just came in from putting it back up and stabilized.  I use a combination of turnbuckles and wire to keep them erect and usable.  They are on PVC pipe; which I have found to be a reliable cat deterrent.  This particular bird house is normally used by tree swallows (shown in photo), after the swallows leave in June there is usually a nest of house wrens to follow.  The houses are up, clean and ready for action.  So; if you haven't already prepared for your nesting friends, now is the time to do it.  A pair of bluebirds are checking out on of mine; as I write this.
Birdhouses You Can Build in a Day (Popular Woodworking)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Glimmer Of Hope

There may still be a glimmer of hope; left for those real turkey hunters who once enjoyed the winter turkey season.  Yeah, that pleasurable time from long ago that many looked forward to; that was abruptly taken away from us by those of the WVDNR.  Why this was done; I haven't a clue.  I guess nobody was generating any revenue from the season.  Maybe because it was a season of walking in the snow covered wonderland.  I don't know.  I do know that the "hunters" of today are afraid or unable to walk anywhere.  I remember no opposition to the elimination of the winter season.

I learned about turkeys by hunting in the snow.  The winter turkey season was once my favorite time and no matter where I was living, you could bet that I would return to the WV mountains for a week of Decembers' finest and coldest turkey hunting.  I never, ever in my lifetime came to WV to deer hunt.  The winter turkey season had the perfect excuse built right in; always near Christmas.  It was always a great time to show others the wonders of the winter highlands.  Many would leave the state impressed.  But alas, it was taken away.  I just saw that the WVDNR is proposing a turkey season for the first week of January.  I sure hope that it passes and I can't wait to once again go turkey hunting; the way that it was meant to be.  Now, I am only hoping that the beech crop will be noticeable in the highlands once more.  Maybe, just maybe some new people will get some gumption and possibly go out and learn something about turkeys.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mountain Trout This Week: 3/7/11-3/13/11

Rain, rain, rain and then some snow.  It seems that we have a pattern established.  Unless you are one who is satisfied with soaking some play dough in a fish pond; there isn't much to look forward to.  High and muddy is about all that can be said.  The fish truck was finally able to get into the West Fork of the Greenbrier this week. The trout trucks in both WV and VA were out in full force once again.  If we are ever able to get out and fish; there should be plenty of fish available and they will be spread out.  I am starting to believe that we may be in a race for time to get out; before the rivers dry up.
  I was able to make about a dozen casts into Dry Fork on Monday.  There were some very small black stone flies crawling around on the rocks the adults were size 18 or smaller.  At least there is some life down there in the underwater world.  I made about the same number of attempts in the Blackwater River on Tuesday.  I did see one sculpin  swimming around there.  There isn't much else to comment on; until this stupid weather pattern breaks.  It isn't any better over in Virginia, but at least they probably will not get the snow that the mountains will be receiving over the next couple of days.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I was laying in bed this morning at 4:30; trying to talk myself into going fishing for the first time this year.  It is sad when you are laying there and figuring on how many gallons of gas it will take.  I knew that this morning was going to be the only time that the water levels would be down and in good fishing condition; with the next monsoon on the way.

My biggest problem is that I don't like to fish anywhere close to home.  The nearest stream that I find tolerable is 45 minutes away; therefore I have an hour and a half of driving time, just to fish for a couple of hours.  It just doesn't make good sense.  I really wanted to go; but I sure didn't want to go to Bowden or Glady and sure didn't want to fish the Middle Fork at Ellamore. Then it happened; I heard a piece of someone's metal roof blow down the road.  The deal was sealed; I went back to sleep.  It turned out to be one of those good decisions.  We had sustained winds of twenty-thirty mph all morning.  That would have resulted in wasted money, wasted gas and wasted time.  I'm getting to old to waste any time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Quack Is Back

The quack of the Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) can now be heard throughout the High Virginia's. These small terrestrial frogs are late winter breeders.  They lay their egg masses in small vernal ponds, as soon as the ice melts.  The adults will soon leave the breeding ponds and spend the rest of the year in moist, wooded upland areas.  They are difficult to locate during the non-breeding season, so you need to get out and listen for the quacks in the wet bottom lands, now.  The frog with the robber's mask is fairly small; about 2-2.75 inches in length. The colors of the Wood frog can range from shades of brown to almost black, so you need to be observant.  They are much larger than the well known Spring Peeper.  The Wood Frog's range extends farther North than any other reptile or amphibian.
A Wood Frog's Life (Nature Upclose)
A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Eastern & Central North America (Peterson Field Guide Series)

March 1

The pussy willows are opening up.  This is the first thing that I noticed this morning; when I looked out of my window. These poor little catkins are fortunately unaware of the weather extremes that they will endure over the next month.  They have a long way to go; until they are fuzzy and full of pollen.

The yard cardinals are chasing each other around, robins are fussing.  I noticed that one robin which has nested on a neighbors porch post for the last 3 years has apparently returned again.  I can hear a killdeer right now.  One of my carolina wrens is upside down in the window, searching for one more cluster of spider eggs. The fox sparrows are still digging away underneath the rhododendrons. Snowdrops are finally getting a chance to fully open and more crocus bloom each day.