Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reflecting, Naturally

[Get a cup of coffee, or a bag of potato chips, because this is going to be a long entry. Special thanks to anyone who actually finds it interesting enough to hold their attention past the first few paragraphs!]


The shrill whine of my alarm pierced my very being at 7 o'clock in the morning. I was disgruntled, and somehow managed to emit a groaning "noooo!" in the midst of my groggy state. I was pissed at the speed of which morning had come.

Seven o'clock in the morning is rather early for us 'second shifters', so I was completely hostile to the idea of rousing. While I laid there in my dishoveled sheets, reality tugged at my eyelids, warning me of the upcoming meeting at 8 AM in a nearby town. I had to go and fill out an assessment of my managers behavior, and job skills with a group of co-workers (and fellow bitches owned by "the man").

Scruffily, I skipped a shower, and went to the mundane, but [thankfully] brief meeting, where we were scared into carding MORE people than we already do. (We're already famous for carding 40 year olds for cigarettes.) I filled out my managers performance assessment, and shot back to good ol' T-town like a stone from a slingshot.

Back into the air-conditioned house (it's insanely hot here) I sat, poised on the computer before my grandfather called.

"I need your dad's help fixing this belt on the truck. Think he can come out?"

"Sure. I'll tell him."

Never resisting the opportunity to get out of this stale house, I grabbed my backpack, binoculars, and digital camera for a few hours worth of nature-snooping, and bounded off to the Suzuki with my father.

The Hike

I walked across the field in unseasonably warm sun, shuffling through the new tall green grass, and huckleberry plants.

The Field

As I walked along, I picked around with my eyes to find where the highest concentration of blackberry plants were growing, so that in late summer I could collect the delicious berries. They're berry delicious! (Excuse me being a dork.)

This time of year [pre-season] is a great time to scout for these taste-bud delighters, because of the plants pretty white flowers.


The berries have yet to develop, so sitting pretty is all these thorny plants will do until around August me thinks. By late summer, the berries will have appeared and matured.

At long last, I'd reached the end of the field, where I caught an old powerline that has long been consumed by a young forest.

Within the canopy of a large birch, just inside the forest, I heard a bird singing sweetly. Screened by a barrage of branches and foliage, I had trouble identifying the bird by song alone, so I fumbled around under the tree for a good look.

I used a little "birdwatchers magic" and coaxed the bird out onto a bald branch, where I managed to scope it over. Within the binoculars, it became a she, and she became an Indigo Bunting, a small blue member of the finch family. Not nearly as bright as the Indigo male, the female shows drab blue coloration, some gray-brown, and a white belly. Forget looks though, this girl could sing!!!

The buntings distance made a picture improbable, and I never did get one, so I trotted off down a mossy path to see what else I could find.

Wing feather (Wild Turkey)

I came across the wing-feather of a wild turkey along the way, and more cheerful birds singing merrily in the canopy of the forest, including Red-Eyed Vireos, Solitary Vireos, and a Scarlet Tanager. None of the birds would reveal themselves though, and the high sun made canopy-scanning from most angles very difficult!

Mushrooms and More!

At this point, I remembered I had a camera in my hand, so I went picture hunting. On this particular trip, I was hunting for mushroom shots. Mushroom hunting is actually rather popular, although I'm thinking MOST (if not all) the species I found today were rather deadly!

Mushroom 3

The above mushroom was a dainty little thing, and I can't wait to get my grubby mits on a plant, tree, and fungi field guide so that I can properly identify my plants with the ease of my birds and animals! In any case, I saw beauty in them and got on my belly to take a picture of them.

Having done that, I beat the dirt off my shirt and pants, and headed to where the old logging road forked. Either fork brings you to a field, one to a gate, and one right out into the open field. This field is different. The small strip of forest seperates the field I was just in, and the field I was coming upon by a good 10 minute jaunt.

I snooped around, looking for mushrooms in their usual hang-outs (one being right dab in the fork of the road in a patch of silky grass). My eyes scanned every detail, when suddenly a sharp white gleam caught my eye.

It was a deer shed.

No, deer don't have gardening sheds, but rather, lose their antlers each year in late winter and early spring to grow another pair. This is an annual occurance, and summer is a time for the antlers to grow.

Sunbleached, and nibbled at by rodents (high in calcium) this particular shed antler was that of a buck who had been frequenting the edge of the logging road, raking saplings with his antlers all autumn, and into early winter.

My father had seen this buck while hunting back in October. He was with a group of three other bucks, and believe it or not was the smallest! If it is indeed the same buck, his left antler was snapped off in a battle over a doe around the same time. Judging by the antler size, and mass, I'm guessing this deer was 2 and a half when he shed this antler, which means Pennsylvania's "three points to a side" hunting regulation is doing it's job quite well!

Finding shed antlers is EXTREMELY RARE unless you are an extremely dedicated horn-hunter!

Shed Antler

The buck was probably laying in the snow, chewing whatever food he managed to scrounge up in the early March weather when the antler just fell to the ground. One minute it is a weapon and woman-attracter, and the next it's a lifeless boney growth, laying on the ground.


If it isn't the same buck with "one antler" as previously stated, the other antler is likely to be somewhere within 100 yards of that point. The awkward weight of one antler usually drives a larger white-tail buck like this to 'knock' the other off with a kick of his hind leg, or the side of a tree.

In all my nature jaunts, this is only the SECOND I've ever found. The other was found by me and father, about 250 yards to the side of this one, and was much smaller by comparison.

More Fungus Amongus!

Enamored by the uniqueness, and story behind my new antler, I trekked forth, searching for the other antler, and actually came across mushrooms! How funny is it to find an antler when mushroom hunting, and mushrooms while antler hunting! As rare as a find as the antler was, I pretty much resumed "normal" mode, and began taking pics of these beauties:



mushroom 2



Mushroom 1

GOD!! I can't wait to get a field guide to identify these things. If only I knew plants and fungi as well as I did animals!

Dr. Strange Plant

Also seen frequently around the forest, is this strange little plant. It's apparently parasitic, but the stem is leafish, not spongey. I've nicknamed it "Dr. Strange Plant" for whatever queer-ass reason, but I'm not sure of it's real name.

? (spider on a twig)

Note the spider on the twig. I didn't notice he was in the picture until I got home! Hollywood, here he comes!

I think it's a subspecies of Wolf Spider. For some reason, I think it's called a Ferocious Wolf spider, but I could be wrong. They scamper along the leaf litter on warm days, and seemed to be hunting everywhere today! ICK!

Call It A Day

After some of those delightful shots, I scampered back to my grandparents house, where I took some lovely pictures of what I think is called "Field Rose". It's a wild rose, with less petals than it's famous domestic relative.

Wild Rose

And a few more shots of other flowers around her house, including what I now know as "Daisy Fleabane".

Daisy Fleabane<br />

Oh...and the flower below seems to attract hordes of ants, earning it another nickname from me; Ant Plant.


Actually, it's a Peony.

And this...isn't this an Iris?


And last, but certainly not least is the magnificent Rhodadendron! Also known as Greater Mountain Laurel, it's a wild shrub-like plant that LOVES water, and lots of it. It frequents streamsides, and mountain sides...and as you can see, blooms in late May and into June.

Rhodadendron (Greater Mountain Laurel)

After admiring it's beauty, my father called for me, and it was time to dissipate. Antler in hand, I tossed my bag into the back of the Suzuki, and sped off with dad back to the world that we created. The false world...not the real world.

For with me, the real world is the one with no buildings or cars. It is one with deer antlers, and mushrooms, singing birds and the waving branches of a black walnut tree.

Get with the real world. It's a nice place.