Mountain Lions – Revisited

Received a comment from Brian in Sparta, NJ on my post about mountain lions - and I still have no doubts that mountain lions could be roaming around portions of NJ – or KY.

As a matter of fact, I was visiting a neighbor last week (going to be banding on his property next season, but that’s another story) and he showed me a plaster cast he made of a mountain lion print found near one of the rock shelters.  Seems to verify the local tales of “black panthers” and other “wild cats” that supposedly inhabit this area of the DBNF – at least according to the locals.   I think I’d rather have bears roaming around than lions, but it is pretty cool…. I think.

Cold Sleep and Sunshine

I was tending nets on a chilly, foggy morning a few days ago when I noticed several bumblebees on the underside of the goldenrod flowers.  These particular goldenrod plants were still in the shade, and a bit frosty. The bees were pretty frosty too.  Apologies for the blurry photo, but it was pretty difficult to get a good macro shot of the underside of a goldenrod swaying in the breeze – but if you look closely, you’ll see the beads of frost on the flower – and on the bee – especially its legs, wings and butt end.  Of course I know that lots of insects find shelter and go dormant on cold nights and I’ve often watched butterflies in particular, but this was the first time I’d found bumblebees on goldenrod.  It was sort of fitting.

As I watched the sunshine sliding down the field and the flowers beginning to warm, little bee antennae began waving, ever so slowly.  Then first one leg, then the other, in slow motion, but moving nevertheless.  In no time at all, both bees and flowers were nearly thawed.  It never ceases to amaze me the way Nature takes care of its own.  This is fast becoming my favorite field ever – can’t wait for spring!

What I Learned Today

That you don’t watch a documentary on the Kentucky Bigfoot the night before you go banding alone before sunrise in a foggy misty field.  That squirrels cutting walnuts from trees are potentially dangerous monsters.  That howling coyotes and vocalizing barred owls are creepy when it’s dark and foggy.  That you have to have a sense of humor and real dedication to be doing this…or be a little bit nuts.

The day warmed quickly and more birds started moving after the fog lifted.  A new species for me was this lovely yellow-throated vireo.

Also banded a nice hermit thrush, easily separated from other thrushes by the noticeably reddish tail.

The colors are beginning to show and I’m enjoying the changes taking place in the field where I’m banding.  I set up the feeders at home and I’m getting the first regulars – Carolina chickadees, white and red breasted nuthatches, tufted titmice, and red-bellied woodpeckers.  Waiting for the goldfinches.  They are in the fields, but haven’t hit the feeders yet.

Beaches and Birds

You have to admit, there are some pretty strange-looking sea and shorebirds out there, especially when you’re more accustomed to the beautiful little songsters we’ve handled and featured here in the past.

For instance – I went out to do some birding yesterday near Honeymoon Island, which is very close to where I live now – and one of the first birds I found was this American Oystercatcher.

American oystercatcher

American oystercatcher

The photo doesn’t do it justice though.  Remember now, I’m reduced to taking photos of birds at a distance, at least for now.  Until I get a better camera, these will have to do.

Black, brown and white plumage is actually quite lovely – but what gets your attention is the long, bright red-orange bill and the yellow eyes on the black head.  Shades of Halloween.

Well, yes, you say, doesn’t my new favorite bird, the black skimmer, also have these Halloween colors?  Yeah, but skimmers have a lot more character

Honeymoon Island is a state park and the beach is condo-free and breathtaking.  This particular section has a lot of rip-tide currents, and is not recommended for swimming, so there are few people.  I suppose that the winds are ripping today and the water temp has dropped into the mid-60s also kept folks away.  Fine with me, I had the beach to myself.  Dressed in warm layers, I enjoyed exploring this beautiful place.  I’ll share more of it with you another day.  Life is good.
natural beach

natural beach

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