Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Last Day of Spring Gobbler Season

Last Day of the Season

The alarm clock sounded at 2:45. The plan was to leave an hour early and get back into the head of a particular hollow in the black dark. Hopefully this tactic wouldn’t spook some turkeys which had been roosted along an access road. The only way in. At 4:50 I awoke. Way too late. I think I may just pass on the mornings hunt. No, maybe I’ll go over to another place. No, I don’t want to deal with the owl hooters and four-wheelers, Maybe I’ll go over on the hill. Hate hunting there. Talking to myself, running options through my head.

In the truck ay 5:05 headed to the original destination; I know that I’ll get there too late. It is a mile or more into the head of the hollow; where I want to be. I hurry up the road and reach the top of the first hill, it is 5:32 and one is gobbling already. I hurry on towards the next ridge. I can hear two other gobblers in the distance, as I close in on the nearest bird. At 5:55 I settle in above the gobbler. It now sounds as if there are two there. Silence, more silence, I yelp softly. They double gobble and are all ready on the ground and headed my way. I yelp a few more times. Silence.

I look down the ridge and here they come; three big gobblers. For some reason, I was expecting jakes. They are closing in fast and I’m in a super uncomfortable spot. Safety off, gun pointed in the right direction, one arm wrapped around a sapling, this spot really sucks. No time to change. Yelp, gobble, boom. It is over; the other two gobblers attack the downed bird. They jump in the air and come down upon their fallen comrade, spurs digging in in fury. One struts around the deceased, the other picks up the dead gobblers head and slams it on a rock. I stand up and everything is once again quiet. I look at my watch, it is 6:26. Two gobblers are gobbling in the distance as I walk back to the truck. A nice way to end the 2011 spring gobbler season. There are good days and bad days; but you will never experience the good ones, if you don’t go.

Posted by High Virginia Outdoors

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Caterpillar to Butterfly

The one Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus troilus) chrysalis that I saved from the Carolina Wrens last fall; became a butterfly today. I had 3 chrysalis' placed around my deck. Before I knew what was going on, 2 disappeared. I took the one that was formed on my chimney and placed it in a little wooden box. I filled the box with leaves and placed a rock on top of it; to keep the wrens out. The box was outside on my garden table all Winter.

One day, last week I noticed that some Spicebush Swallowtails were beginning to fly, so I put the chrysalis in a plastic plant pot and put an onion sack on top. Again this was wren protection. Today 5/18/11. the Butterfly emerged from its chrysalis. It is apparently to cold for flight and as of 8pm the butterfly is still holding on to the little wooden box.
I am glad that at least one out of last years brood that fed on my sassafras tree completed its cycle. The photos in this article are all of the same caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly. I actually saw this caterpillar climb to the corner of the chimney and begin the process.

I wish that I could have saved the other 2; but they were consumed, before I knew what was happening. I have 8 Promethea Moth cocoons in the same sassafras host tree. I know that the woodpeckers and chickadees got a few of them over the winter. Some of them feel as if they are still all right. I guess that I will find out; if it ever warms up.

The Butterflies Of West Virginia and their Caterpillars (Pitt Series in Nature and Natural History)

Posted by High Virginia Outdoors       Photos by High Virginia Images

Waterfowl Babies

Wood Ducks
This is the hatching season. Our world is now being blessed with new feathered inhabitants; everyday. I found this Wood Duck, with sixteen curious youngsters to keep track of in Canaan Valley; yesterday. If it is the same one that nested there last year, she only had 6 little ones. Five of those survived by October. I just wonder what the survival rate of this brood will be.

On Sunday, a Canada Goose pair marched their 4 young through my yard, in route to the Tygart River. They had a tough time making it down the road; because too many people are in a big hurry to get nowhere. I just cannot imagine what the big rush is and why people cannot see a pair of 3 foot tall geese walking down the road. I've been about everywhere you could go; around here, and believe me when I say that there isn't anyplace that you need to be in a hurry to get to. I am happy to say that there were not any squished goslings in the road; when I went to look.

Slow down, be observant and give our new wildlife a chance.

Posted by High Virginia Outdoors  Photos by High Virginia Images

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10, 2011- A Fine Spring Morning

The alarm clock sounded again at 3:45am. A quick look outside showed cloudy skies. The temperature was 45. I headed to the mountain. A whip-poor-will was calling in the middle of the road. It flew, as I was digging for the camera. I parked a little farther up the road; at what used to be one of my favorite turkey hunting spots.

I hear a second whip-poor-will in the distance; as I climb the hill. I wonder if there are still any turkeys here. Daylight comes and one gobbles down the ridge. I move about 200 yards closer and stop to listen. Whoosh, then a scream. A Red-tailed Hawk nearly takes my hat off. I look up and another is headed my way. To my left, I see their nest. The gobbler sounds off again. I move away from the hawks nest and try to find a place to set up. The tangle of green-brier make that difficult. I call, he answers and flies down. He moves up the ridge and I circle to the head of the hollow and set up. I call one time and here he comes; on a dead run. One problem, he went by me so fast that I couldn't shoot and he is now straight behind me, about 15 yards away. I can't see him through the briers. He gobbles and struts. Every-time he gobbles, I can feel it.

He clucks several times; trying to find the hen. I have to do something. I carefully slide around the tree. Still can't see him. He gobbles and gobbles. Then he clucks for a location. I cluck back. This goes on and on. We can not see each other, so close; but seemingly so far away. I slowly and carefully stand up. Gun ready and he gobbles again. I still can't see him. Twenty minutes later, arms aching. Same deal. Gobble, gobble, cluck, cluck back on and on; we just plain and simply can't see each other. Two hens come in and I can hear them walking up over the hill. Silence, a black and white warbler lands on my shotgun. It goes down the barrel; searching the joints of the ventilated rib. It makes it down to my hand and sits there for a little while. Black-throated green warblers are active all around, several gorgeous hooded warblers join in. I see movement from the hilltop. A hen walks by me in perfect view; apparently headed for her nest site.

The gobbler sounds off once more in the distance.  I move to where I think he was and settle in. Something on the ground about 20 yards away catches my attention. It looks like the leaves are slowly coming toward me. It is a woodcock, feeding along; probing for worms. The turkey gobbles; he is on top of a high-wall. I call, he gobbles on and on for about twenty minutes. I can't go up; he will not come down. We call it a draw. The woodcock passes by at about three feet; probing away and very content. So was I. It is now 8:30; the gobbler quit gobbling and we will take up where we left off: Tomorrow.  I bet that I will not sit down anywhere near a brier patch.

Posted by High Virginia Outdoors

Friday, May 6, 2011

Butterfly of the Month/May

Juvenal's Duskywing
The Juvenal's Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) is the most common dark skipper that is found in our region, in early spring.  This butterfly is normally found in association with oak woodlands. The adult butterfly feeds on vetch, autumn olive, blackberry and spring beauty. The larval host plant is members of the oak family; most often white oak.

The Juvenal's Duskywing can often be found in moist areas and mud puddles are a great place to look. This species can be found from April -June.

The Butterflies Of West Virginia and their Caterpillars (Pitt Series in Nature and Natural History)

Posted by High Virginia Outdoors    Photos by High Virginia Images

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wildflower of the Month/May

Wake Robin
May is trillium month in the mountains. Members of the trillium family grow in rich moist woodlands. The Wake Robin or Ill-scented Trillium (Trillium erectum) is not the showiest member of the family; but it is the most common and can be found throughout our region. When the trilliums bloom, spring is officially here. My favorite trillium has to be the Large Flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum). The large, creamy flowers are stunning; when in peak bloom. The Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) is a beauty of the higher mountain regions and can usually be found at elevations above 2500 ft. May is the time to get out and enjoy the spring woodlands. Do not overlook some of the more inconspicuous wildflowers.

Posted by High Virginia Outdoors    Photography by High Virginia Images