Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bolt Hole Report, March 30, PM Edition

Took the trailer to the shop today to get it thoroughly inspected and get the wheel bearings greased up. No problem getting there as it hadn't started raining here. In fact, it was 29 degrees when I left so frost on the windshield and mirrors was more of a problem. Going down the road from the Bolt Hole was also not a big problem even if I had to do it at around 20 miles per hour since the road is terribly frost heaved. Once on the main roads and thruway things went very well and I was able to maintain the speed limit or just slightly to either side.

Got to the Aspin Haus about 20 minutes early and parked the rig off to the side while I went in to let them know I had arrived. Since it had started raining by then, I chose to stay in the lounge to read and do crossword puzzles until they finished their work. Which took nearly five hours.

Upon completion, I learned that A) the furnace did not light B) the AC did not work and C) when they turned on one or more of the interior lights it blew a fuse--over and over.

I immediately asked that they set an appointment to make the necessary repairs. Their earliest opening was for this Friday. I asked--and was granted permission--to leave the trailer int heir yard so I would not have to haul it back and forth and so I could return to PA for a couple of days.

So, the Wilderness trailer is in the shop for at least a week. Maybe more if they have to order parts. They will call with any developments.

Having made arrangements to get the trailer repaired, I headed back to the Bolt Hole in what can be described as a monsoon. Heavy, heavy rains have been falling since about 11 AM without a let up. Flood warnings/watches have been given and creeks and rivers are fast rising. All except the Mohawk, Having opened the sluice gates located at all the locks for the Erie Canal, the river is very, very low. The flow is probably scouring the channel deeper and that means better sailing once the gates are closed and the locks open next month. Just mind the buoys! For the channel may be deep, but the shoreline has many, many shallow sand and gravel bars which are currently highly visible if not dry.

I'm heading back to the Aerie where Terry says it's two degrees colder than my 36 degrees and where it is snowing. At least the propane feeding the furnace in the Aerie keeps things a little more even temperature-wise than the wood stoves of the Bolt Hole. In the last 24 hours I've had an indoor high of 71 and low of 51 degrees. The latter being what I found when I got back and after the fires had burned out much earlier.

If the weather forecasts are to be believed (remember--block of salt!), it will be sunny and high 70s from tomorrow noon through Easter Sunday. Great birding weather! Unlike the rainy, raw, mid 30's I've had here since Sunday.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bolt Hole Report, March 29, AM Edition

He's baaaack!

That's the report form Terry at the Aerie. She had a late night visitor in the form of Brer Bear. Our Bruin friend came in tot he bird feeders around 11 PM and pulled them all down before coming up on the deck to see if there was anything left up there t eat. While it may have destroyed the feeders on the side of the yard, Terry had brought the stick feeders that hang on the front deck into the house before dark so they were saved. The shepherds hooks are a different story as they are seriously bent.

Dang bear always shows up when I'm elsewhere.

Guess the area's windmills have little affect upon the neighborhood bear.

What it doesn't realize is that it just wiped out the goose that laid the golden eggs. No more feeders for awhile.


Spring weather. Who can understand it? It was raining/sleeting at the Bolt Hole at sundown with a temperature of 33 degrees. It continues to rain/mist but the southeast winds caused the temperature to rise to around 40 degrees at 7 AM and it's now 43 degrees at 10:45 AM.

I'll be hitching up the trailer after lunch so it'll be ready early tomorrow for its trip to the shop. I just hope the rain/mist slacks off while I'm doing so.


Slept with the sliding door in the bedroom cracked open last night. It's on the north side of the cabin so the rain would not have blown in unless the wind shifted--which it didn't. As a result, I woke up to the sound of a woodcock doing his thing in the early twilight. Several "peents" and the whirring of wings repeated several times as he advertised for a mate. Still the only migrant to start singing (except for robins). In a couple of weeks the song sparrows, chipping sparrows, white-throated sparrows, Phoebes, and several warblers will add their voices to the morning alarm call.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bolt Hole Report, March 27, 2010 PM Edition

Today was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Sure, it started cold (10.9 degrees at 7 AM) but it did warm up to 39.9 degrees late this afternoon under the bright sun. And with little wind, it was a pleasure to walk about outside. Early in the day, while it was still cold, the little snow that remained was frozen solid enough and crusty enough to walk on top and not get that wet stuff in the low boots I had on. There are a few limbs and treetops blown down or broken off from the weight of snow, but the main trails seemed open. And there were deer tracks in the snow from the other day; their edges still sharp and crisp.


Mark is here and we had a lengthy chat...well, he chatted, while I listened which is about normal. He says he saw a half dozen deer in my yard two evenings ago just around sunset. I must have been away from the windows at the time. He's still looking for work and trying to make ends meet with the occasional day jobs.


I went out to the barn to check the battery again and, while the charger's light hadn't come on to indicate a full charge, the battery itself was hissing and bubbling to indicate it might, in fact, be over charged. I went into the trailer and found there were still no lights on the DC circuit and, if the battery was charged, they should have come on. I then checked the circuit breakers and the fuse box but everything was in order.

Finally, Mark came over with a battery tester and we checked to see if the darn thing was indeed charged. Yep. A ful 12 volts registered on the meter. We checked the wires leading under the trailer and they were A-OK. We double checked the electric board and he confirmed that the breakers and fuses were good. Then we disconnected the battery and checked it again. Still reading 12 volts--a full charge. We reconnected the battery and stepped inside the trailer.... Lo and behold! The system was working! Although there was no corrosion visible on the battery's poles, there must have been something interfering with a tight connection when I hooked it up the first time. Our disconnecting and reconnecting the wires made that connection good.

This is a big deal not just because I didn't want to pay for a new battery, but the electronic brakes on the trailer run off that battery. Without a functioning battery, the emergency brakes on the trailer do not work. Should the trailer break free from the Tundra for any reason, the trailer would not come to a stop until it had plowed a nice big furrow in the highway...if then. Nothing worse than having your trailer pass you on the NYS Thruway!

We hitched the trailer up and pulled it out of the barn onto the lawn so it can get a bit of an air bath before it goes to the doctor for a checkup on Tuesday. I checked the tire pressure all around and found that all four were between 46 and 48 PSI. Since the temperature was still around 34 degrees at the time and the tires are rated for 50 PSI max, we decided not to put any additional air in them for now. I'll check again on Monday when I hitch it up for its little trip and, if need be, put a couple of pounds in each tire.

The interior is almost as clean as when Terry and I vacuumed out the mouse droppings and cleaned out the drawers last fall. I could find only one little collection of droppings on the couch which were easy enough to sweep up. All the stuff in the drawers and closets are still clean and there's no old magazines or valuables in there to worry about.

Once the exam is over and any repairs made, I'll be putting it back in the barn until late May/early June. Then I'll take it down to PA and rent a campground spot at the Hills Creek or Ive's Run for a couple of weeks. That will make it easier for Terry and I to pack for our trip to Alaska and points west. At least that's the plan. (Shhhh. I think I hear God laughing.)

Bolt Hole report, March 27, 2010

A very chilly 11 degrees at the Bolt Hole this morning at 7 AM. The winds have abated, however, so what you see is what you get. And the sun, shining brightly with out a cloud to block its rays, will have things warmed up in no time...right? Well, weather.com says it will get near 40 today which is a huge improvement over the high of just 32 I had yesterday.

It's not much better down at the Aerie where Terry says it was 13 degrees this AM. The snow, which was only above 1800 feet is almost all gone. She''l see the high around 50 or so today.

The long range forecast calls for temperatures to warm ever so slightly and some rain/snow showers on Monday into Tuesday. Figures. Tuesday's the day I have to haul the trailer over to Amsterdam for service.


I've had the trailer's battery on charge for two days and it doesn't seem to want to take. Three years of storage have not been kind. If that's all that needs replacing I'll count myself lucky.

The inside has little to be cleaned up. Terry and I did a little when we had it down to the Aerie last September and there doesn't seem to have been any mouse infestation or other critters inside. Come to think of it, there aren't any signs of mice in the cabin either. Perhaps the presence of the fisher cat, red fox and others in the area have put a dent in the population of mice and red squirrels? Only sign of the red squirrels is the remains of pine cones in the woodshed and basement.


When I finish my (second) cup of coffee, I'll take a walk into the woods and see what sort of winter damage there may have been. Driving down the road I see lots of blowdowns and snapped trees I hadn't noticed when I was here last.

Summer Classes for Men

I decently received ths in an email from a former colleague. She sent it to several people so I don't beleive I was being singled out or that any personal message was being send.

Summer Classes for Men


by Saturday, May 22, 2010

Class 1
How To Fill Up The Ice Cube Trays
Step by Step, with Slide Presentation.
Meets 4 weeks, Monday and Wednesday for 2 hours beginning at7:00 PM.

Class 2
The Toilet Paper Roll--Does It Change Itself?
Round Table Discussion.
Meets 2 weeks, Saturday 12:00 for 2 hours.

Class 3
Is It Possible To Urinate Using The Technique Of Lifting The Seat and Avoiding The Floor, Walls and Nearby Bathtub?
Group Practice.
Meets 4 weeks, Saturday 10:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 4
Fundamental Differences Between The Laundry Hamper and The Floor
Pictures and Explanatory Graphics.
Meets Saturdays at 2:00 PM for 3 weeks.

Class 5
Dinner Dishes--Can They Levitate and Fly Into The Kitchen Sink?
Examples on Video.
Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning
at 7:00 PM

Class 6
Loss Of Identity--Losing The Remote To Your Significant Other.
Help Line Support and Support Groups.
Meets 4 Weeks, Friday and Sunday& nbsp;7:00 PM

Class 7
Learning How To Find Things--Starting With Looking In The Right Places And Not Turning The House Upside Down While Screaming.
Open Forum
Monday at 8:00 PM, 2 hours.

Class 8
Health Watch--Bringing Her Flowers Is Not Harmful To Your Health.
Graphics and Audio Tapes.
Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 9
Real Men Ask For Directions When Lost--Real Life Testimonials.
Tuesdays at 6:00 PM Location to be determined

Class 10
Is It Genetically Impossible To Sit Quietly While She Parallel Parks?
Driving Simulations.
4 weeks, Saturday's noon, 2 hours.

Class 11
Learning to Live--Basic Differences Between Mother and Wife.
Online Classes and role-playing
Tuesdays at 7:00 PM , location to be determined

Class 12
How to be the Ideal Shopping Companion
Relaxation Exercises, Meditation and Breathing Techniques.
Meets 4 weeks, Tuesday and Thursday for 2 hours beginning at7:00 PM.

Class 13
How to Fight Cerebral Atrophy--Remembering Birthdays, Anniversaries and Other Important Dates and Calling When You're Going To Be Late.
Cerebral Shock Therapy Sessions and Full Lobotomies Offered.
Three nights; Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 7:00 PM for 2 hours.

Class 14
The Stove/Oven--What It Is and How It Is Used.
Live Demonstration.
Tuesdays at 6:00 PM, location to be determined.

Upon completion of any of the above courses,
diplomas will be issued to the survivors.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bolt Hole Report, March 26, 2010

The temperature at the Bolt Hole was 20 degrees at dawn today and Terry reports the same at the Aerie. Weather.com had said it would get to the mid to low teens but, apparently, the steady rains that started yesterday around 4 PM and the cloud cover associated with them kept the temp from dropping. I didn't get more than a few flakes of snow after midnight (I was up reading Heinlein's Methuselah's Children--thanks Rev. Paul), but Terry says she had 2" of the white stuff on the ground. Today promises to be a bright sunny day with winds out of the north between 10 and 15 mph keeping the temperatures down. Could get those low teens tonight as there will be no clouds.

I'm going to try to install a new CB radio in the Tundra today. With the center console forming a solid barrier between the driver's side and the passenger side, and the fuse box stuck up under the driver's dash, the location of the unit will be a bit tricky. I hate having to screw into a perfectly good and solid chunk of plastic molded console. I'm always afraid of what might be on the other side.


There's been some reports of violence and threats in the media against Congressmen because of their votes on Obamacare. However, if this report form Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit are any indication of the media fact checkers I believe we need to take many of these with a block of salt (not grain a block!):
AN IMPLAUSIBLE REPORT IN THE SEATTLE TIMES: “A rock was thrown through the window of Driehaus’ Cincinnati office Sunday.”

Justin Binik-Thomas emails from Cincinnati that Rep. Driehaus’ office “is on the 30th floor of a skyscraper downtown.” He also says that he spoke to Driehaus’ office today and they said this never happened. Which is too bad, in a way, as the Reds could use a guy with an arm like that . . . .

But remember that the media journalists have all those layers of fact checkers so their reports are always accurate.
The Seattle Times should run a correction.
Ya think?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Look what went "missing"

From AOL News:
Rising Sea Swallows Contested Island

March 25) -- For more than 35 years, India and Bangladesh have been locked in a bitter territorial dispute over New Moore Island, an uninhabited sliver of sludge in the muddy Bay of Bengal. Now that argument has been settled by a higher power: climate change.

According to Sugata Hazra, director of the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India, the low-lying isle has disappeared under the rising seas. "There's no trace of the island anymore. After studying satellite images, I confirmed this from fishermen," he told reporters. "Climate change has obliterated the source of dispute." The 81-square-mile island is now classed as a submerged landmass.

Of course, they blame the rising seas on Global Warming/Climate Change, but anyone who reads Terry Pratchett knows what really happened!*

I'm sure that compaction of the sediments as well as erosive force of waves had nothing to do with the disappearance of New Moore Island. After all, it's never happened before to coastal islands. Long Beach Island of New Jersey would have slipped back into the sea long ago if not for the replenishment of its sand by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Idiots. The sea brought it into existence and the sea--and natural forces--took it away.

*You get bonus points if you can name the book.

I didn't say it was a warm spring...

It dropped to 23 degrees overnight. As might be expected, there's a pretty heavy frost on all outdoor surfaces and the windows of the bedroom had condensation on the inside. (Yeah, I exhale that nasty greenhouse gas water vapor as well as CO2. Sue me.)

There were robins in the trees bitching about the cold. Just proves the early bird sometimes gets the frozen entree instead of a juicy worm.

The woodburners kept the house comfortable overnight.Inside it only dropped to 60 degrees in the kitchen. (Down from 70 when I went to bed.)

The four sunny days previously promised by weather.com seem to have been as lasting as a politicians promise. They now say today will have increasing cloudiness with a chance of late day showers. Tonight those showers may become snow with a low in the teens. *sigh*

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bolt Hole Report, March 24, 2010

I left the Aerie this morning around 9:30 AM heading northeast, then north and finally northwest. Terry went almost due north to a sit-and-stitch in Horseheads, NY. I traveled through Maryland, Florida, Amsterdam, Danube, Russia, Poland, Norway, Utica, and Ohio. In case you can't guess, those are all names of New York towns and villages. (The village of Poland is in the town of Russia. Mmmmm?)

Just outside of Amsterdam, I stopped at the Alpin Haus Camping World and made arrangements to have the travel trailer inspected. The earliest they could fit me in is Tuesday so I'll be here at he Bolt Hole all week--maybe longer if there's a problem that needs fixing. The Tuesday date gives me ample time to do a little house cleaning, charge up the trailer's battery, check the tire pressure, etc.

Virtually no snow on the ground except in the shaded woods or where it got piled higher from plowing or falling off roofs. Even so, it was 43 degrees inside the cabin and 45 degrees outside when I arrived at 3:30 PM. Needless to say, I cranked the fires up in both wood burning stoves and it's quite comfortable now. With 32 degrees outside and 70 degrees inside it may even be too warm inside. (Beats the heck out of the minus 18 degree low outside that occurred sometime since my last visit. The lowest it got inside was minus 12 degrees.)

There was a woodcock peenting his love call from the field behind the garage (that's the Phase One apple orchard recovery area) when I got back from making a trip down to Wally-World for a few staples. A good sign that all is well in the world. (Except having to use dial-up! Grrrrr!)

Yeah, I've had days like that.

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Funny you should ask

Shelley (Who is spoiling her Scout like crazy! Poor Marvin! AND Greg too!) wrote: (Previous posts comments) P.S. How are those kitties of yours?

Funny you should ask.

Yesterday, Julie made a break for it. Terry swears Julie was all the way across the room when she slid the door open to step out on the deck when swish! a lightening quick streak of orange and brown went shooting out the door and down the steps on to the grass. Luckily, there were no critters around and Julie is a grass junkie. Terry was able to get close enough to her on the third or fourth attempt to corral the scamp and tote her back inside the house. Julie didn't even try to bite or scratch as she sometimes does when she hasn't had her fill of the wild outdoors.

And last night, Chester got himself shut in the hall closet when he snuck in while Terry was getting a replacement light bulb for her bedside lamp. We never noticed he was missing until this morning. Shadow woke us as usual and Terry was putting three food bowls down when she noticed only two cats and off in the distance a faint "meow!"

Other than that they are cats: One aloof (Shadow); One regal and (sometimes) demanding attention and table scraps--especially venison! (Julie); and one plump, royal lover who's purr sounds like a (slightly) muffled chainsaw (Chester)

And they are all shedding as the days get longer. A great deal.

Aerie Report, March 23, 2010
My Turn

I'll be heading up to the Bolt Hole tomorrow morning. I need to see if any snow remains in the yard and if I can get the trailer out of the barn. If the answers are "none" and "yes" then I'll drive over to Alpin Camping World (I think that's it's name) in Amsterdam to see if I can bring the trailer in for a checkup and a lube job. I know the water system needs to be flushed, the heating and AC units checked out, and a few other things done before our Big Trip. Hopefully the tires are in good enough shape--they've only been to Colorado Spring (twice) and Atlanta (once) since I bought the trailer. I'll need to price a spare tire and rim for the trailer anyway.

If the answer turns out to be "too much" and "no" then I'll just have to clean the inside of the trailer as best I can and get it ready for its run to the shop. From the latest pictures that Mark sent, however, I do not think that will be a problem.


It was a foggy, foggy day today at the Aerie. Cloud ceiling was somewhere below 2000 feet and the winds were nonexistent, so we were in the clouds almost all day. Occasionally we would get rain but it was mostly drizzle and mist, mist and drizzle all day long right up to 5:30 PM when the northern wind kicked it up a notch or two and blew the clouds up the hillside and high into the air. It's still not clear, but the clouds are now above us where they belong.

It IS supposed to be getting clear and sunny for the next three or four days both here and up at the Bolt Hole. While it will be comfortable during the day (40s and 50s) it might get down right chilly at night up north with a low on Thursday night in the mid to low teens predicted.


Fishing season is right around the corner. In NYS it starts on April 1 regardless of what the weatherman says. Often it's during a snow storm. Might be this year too. Snow is predicted for the 30th and 31st of March. Only an inch or two but still...

In PA the trout season starts on April 17th in the Northern Tier. (There's a split starting date that lets some southern counties open on April 3rd. Must read the regs.) Hopefully it won't be snowing then. Last year it wasn't snowing but there was some still on the ground.

I mention this because, although my tackle boxes are here at the Aerie, the poles are in the back room of the Bolt Hole. Neither is very good without the other. I do have one light backpacking pole and small pocket tackle box up north for use on the local streams and a similar set up could be cobbled together from what I have in the Aerie...but there's a lot of gear up there that should be here or visa-versa. (Must remember to bring pieces together!)


From an email Terry got this morning:

If my body were a car, this is the time I would be thinking about trading it in for a newer model. I've got bumps and dents and scratches in my finish and my paint job is getting a little dull ... But that's not the worst of it.

My headlights are out of focus and it's especially hard to see things up close

My traction is not as graceful as it once was. I slip and slide and skid and bump into things even in the best of weather.

My whitewalls are stained with varicose veins.

It takes me hours to reach my maximum speed. My fuel rate burns inefficiently.

But here's the worst of it --

Almost every time I sneeze, cough or sputter, either my radiator leaks or my exhaust backfires!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Aerie Report, March 22, 2010

Back to more seasonal temperatures here at the Aerie. That's 40s and 50s during the day and near or just below freezing at night. That's after a 70 degree day yesterday (Sunday). Of course, yesterday was a sunny day, unlike today. Foggy, cloudy, unpredictable rain showers during much of the day with heavier, steadier rain heading into the night. It's supposed to rain much of tomorrow as well. So much for going out to photograph more birds and plants.


I did have a new lens for the Sony Alpha 350 delivered today. It's an 18-55mm zoom that, coupled with a 10x macro, should allow me to get great photos of flowers and bugs about the size of a rice grain. By itself, it gives me a nice overlapping set of lenses when combined with the Tamron 28-80mm and the Tamron 75-300mm lenses. All three are auto focus lenses which cuts time between shots of moving objects considerable. A relatively inexpensive manual focus Opteka 500mm reflecting mirror lens I also purchased works fine in bright light but is a little iffy in the twilight. Now I'll need to get a bigger, padded bag to carry them in when I'm out in the field.

(HA! That will teach Terry to go gallivanting around with her stitching groups! I can't wait until the conventions start again in September! I've been eying a new hunting bow, or maybe its time for a new handgun...or two.)


Now that the Iditarod is officially over, I've been spending some time planning our own trip to Alaska. Terry and I will be going with the Good Sam Club on a guided 43-day Caraventure that starts in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, loops through interior Alaska as far a Denali, Anchorage, Homer, Seward and Fairbanks before ending at Prince George, BC. There are lots of activities planned for participants and several interesting optional trips that we will look into. And they've built in free days in the largest of the tourist towns along the way.

I figure the distance to be around 4800 miles. We'll be towing our 27-foot Fleetwood Wilderness behind the Tundra. Of course, we have to get to Dawson Creek on our own and will be on our own again once the party breaks up in Prince George. So I look at this as a three stage trip: 1) To Dawson Creek, BC; 2) On the Caraventure up the Alcan around Alaska and back to Prince George, BC; Getting there will be a 2800 mile task in itself even taking a pretty direct route. Coming home will be even longer because we'll head down to Portland, Oregon first so as to visit with our son and his wife. (Rough estimate of 3500 miles for that.) So--a little traveling music if you will--about 11,100 miles or more over a ten week period. By far the most ambitious trip we will have undertaken.

I've got a thousand-and-one things that have to be done before we set out. Everything from having the truck and trailer serviced, getting a cap for the back of the truck and a spare tire for the trailer, and so on. All the food planning I'll leave up to Terry. Since I'll be doing all the driving, it's only fair she do the cooking when it's needed. Anyway, like in war, the best laid plans often go to the wayside as soon as the first shot is fired. Still, it's comforting to have a plan of attack before you start out.


I light of yesterday's happenings I remind you all"

Illegitimi non carborundum (Don't let the bastards wear you down.)


Nil Desperandum (Never despair)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

At The Muck

Another stop on Saturday was The Muck and IBA (Important Bird Area) along Route 287. The Muck is a marsh in every sense of the word. The area I visited is overgrown with cattails and various other marsh reeds. It's home to muskrat and beaver who are constantly altering the water levels to meet their needs. Several species of rails, herons and ducks make the area their home while trying to avoid the ubiquitous and contentious Canada Geese!

Since birds were at a premium on Saturday, I looked around for other things to photograph. The muskrat I saw was too quick to duck under the reeds and the turtles were not out sunning themselves. That left the plants.

Along the side of the boardwalk heading out to the blind, there are several patches of alders. Line the pines, they produce a small cone--if the beaver lets them live long enough.

Alder cones.

There are also thick patches of wild roses (Multiflora Rosa). Surprisingly there were still some rose hips on the ends of the canes. Normally, these are eaten by the birds. I've seen flocks of grackles, robins and starlings strip the plants bare in an hour or two. I've also seen turkeys leaping into the air to snatch the last few hips on the tippy-top canes. Like most rose hips they are chock full of vitamin-C, but these are too small for me to go nibbling on. Only the size of a raisin, there's only a thin skin of "meat" surrounding a large, hard seed.

Wild Rose hips.

And, being a marsh, there are Cattails. These are a little further gone than the ones I photographed up at the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge earlier in the week. Perhaps, the birds have started to shred them fro nesting materials. They are also a bit plumper.
Cattails at The Muck

White Pine

Birds were not my only subjects on my day out and about.

Colton Point is nestled amidst the Tioga State Forest and has lots of oak, hickory, mountain laurel, white pine and hemlock.

There are many White Pines along the western rim and they produce an abundance of cones. White Pine cones are not my favorite. In fact they are far from the top of my list. First, they are very loosely arranged. That is, their scales are widely spaced and hardly the tight spirals of most pine cones and they are hardly symmetrical usually forming a small arc. Second, they are very, very resinous. Pick a few up off the ground and you'll be all afternoon trying to get the gummy resin off your hands unless you've ready access to lacquer thinner, rubbing alcohol and/or gasoline or kerosene. You do NOT want to park your car beneath a White Pine tree! That resin drips when it gets warm.

White Pine Cone with resin on the tips of the scales.

Third, the White Pine produces a prodigious number of cones, often in huge clusters.

Clusters of White Pine Cones on branches.

Oh, and White Pines also shed enormous amounts of needles--almost a third of their full compliment a year--that carpet the forest floor directly beneath them. Virtually nothing can grow where those needles accumulate. Call it chemical warfare, if you will.

If the pine cones do not give away the identity of the White Pine, here's a simple key to identification: The White Pine is the only pine having its needles bundled in clusters of 5. Five needles joined together at their base spells out W_H_I_T_E Pine.

Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania
Viewed from Colton Point State Park

I mentioned one of my stops yesterday was at Colton Point State Park on the west side of the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. While there is no real park headquarters, there are several picnic areas and overlooks as well as the West Rim Trail and the trail head of Turkey Path which leads down to Pine Creek far below. When the water is low enough, you can wade to get to the other side and climb the Path back up to Leonard Harris State Park. I'm not yet that adventuresome. It's one very steep climb.

Still, the views from the rim are spectacular; especially in the fall when the trees are in full color. Even now, before the leaves appear, they are quite nice.

View upstream from one of the Colton Point lookouts.

(I admit to cheating a bit with the blue sky. A little Photoshop enhanced the blue.)

Tales of the Sea (sorta)

Dudley posted a story today about his son Frank's harrowing experience on a river camping trip that barely lasted one night because of high winds and rising waters. I recommend that any who wish to venture out in iffy weather go and read the whole thing.

It was this line: "Franks said for every three feet they moved forward, the wind and current would push them back two and one half feet." that reminded me of an outing of my own back in New Jersey that provided its own scary moments.

I went solo canoe fishing at Round Valley Reservoir on what appeared to be a nice enough day but turned out to be anything but. Now, Round Valley is a pump/storage reservoir built on the top of a hill in otherwise pretty flat farm country in western New Jersey just south of I-78. It is nearly circular and about 1 mile in diameter. There's a nice public beach and a fine boat launch facility on the northwest side of the water.

It was there that I launched borrowed 17-foot fiberglass canoe to do a little bass and bluegill fishing along the shoreline. Being a careful boater I donned my life vest and lashed a spare paddle to the thwarts of the canoe...just in case. I made my way slowly along the northern shore of the lake catching a few fish in the weed beds as I drifted. Then I came to the dam and cut across the 100-150 yard expanse of open water trolling in hopes of catching one of the large trout in the deeper waters. No luck. Back in the shallows, I continued to drift along with the aid of a very slight breeze until I was on the side of the lake opposite the boat launch where there's a state run campground.

Suddenly, as it often does at Round Valley*, the wind really picked up and I was being blown into shore. I stowed my gear and, deciding to attempt to get back to my car at the boat launch, started paddling for all I was worth--right into the wind.

Have you ever sat in the stern of a 17-foot canoe when there's no one in the bow? First, the bow rises out of the water and the keel (if your canoe has one) may not even rest in the water. Second, that bow acts as an uncontrollable sail to pick up any wind and thrust the front of the canoe to the left and right. Third, if you're heavy enough, you can not see where the hell you are going.

With the wind blowing in my face, I got down on my knees closer to the center of the canoe so as to cut the amount my body was exposed to the wind and to bring the bow down. And then I paddled and paddled and paddled some more. As hard as I could, I shoved that paddle into the water and pulled for all I was worth. Like Frank and his buddy, every time I lifted the paddle to reach forward the wind drove me back. Still, I attempted to move against the wind, staying close to the shore--just in case--until I got to the dam where I had no choice but to hit the open water. The yards...twenty yards...I was almost half way--fifty yards--across that stretch of open water when the canoe paddle snapped just above the blade leaving me with nothing but the useless handle.

In the time it took me to unlash the spare, the wind had blown me back across the open water and up on the shore. if I had been on the west side of the dam, I could have easily walked the one-half to three-quarters of a mile to the car and carried the damn canoe, but, alas, the wind had put me on the east side of the dam.

What to do? Should I attempt to battle the wind and perhaps break the second paddle? Or was there any other option?

There was another option. I would let the wind blow me to the campground and hope that there was someone there who could help me out. So, I turned the canoe around and made my way back to the point furthest from my car using the spare canoe paddle to keep the wind driven canoe going in the right direction.

Luck finally worked in my favor as, upon pulling up to the campground I found a Samaritan willing to give me a lift back to my car at the launch site. It was a three mile drive to get there. I was able to retrieve my car and then the canoe.

I never again went out on Round Valley Reservoir in a canoe alone. But I always 1) had a spare paddle and 2) if on my own, either a big rock or a 5-gallon bucket of water sitting in the bow of my canoe.

*Round Valley Reservoir is known for its sudden changes in weather and conditions. Being isolated as it is with no hills to its west or north for many miles, the winds can kick up boiling thunderstorms a squalls that have sunk boats and drowned fishermen. In at least one instance divers have spent days searching the depths to retrieve the bodies of two men who's boat was found overturned and blown up on the shore. The Wiki entry has more on Round Valley Reservoir.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Iditarod: Fini!

Celeste Davis crossed the finish line minutes after 8 PM AKDT becoming the 55th and final musher to do so this year. She and she alone gets to extinguish the Red Lantern which remains lit until the final musher is in.

One heck of a race.
Fifty-five finishers out of 71 at the start.
Second fastest victory.
Fourth consecutive for Lance Mackey.
NO doggie fatalities.
Fastest Red Lantern ever.
And everyone gets to attend the awards banquet tomorrow!

One heck of a race!!

Iditarod Report, March 20, 2010 10:40 PM EDT

Well, Jane Faulkner has crossed the finish line in Nome leaving just Scott White and Celeste Davis out on the trail and they should be in Nome in an hour or two.

White had all sorts of difficulty getting his 7 dogs to head out of Safety for the final 22 miles. He finally had to walk them out after spending over 12 hours at the checkpoint. They followed his lead and finally realized it wasn't that bad an idea to head for Nome and the end of the trail.

Davis is now some three miles behind White and both are on the final approach. If it were night time, they could see the lights of Nome ahead. Even during the day, they can probably see the town in the distance.

This is on course to be the fastest Red Lantern in Iditarod history. The previous fastest Red Lantern was 14 days 5hr & 38 min.

Tioga County Birding:
Other (usually) Hot Spots

My second stop was at Darling Run at the northern end of the Pine Creek Gorge. There has been an active Bald Eagle nest across the creek from the parking area and I was hoping to find someone home. No such luck. They had two nests in a pine tree (always with the renovations!) but two winters ago one had been destroyed by high winds and ice. Last year a mated pair of eagles fledged three young out of the remaining nest. But this year, it didn't look like they were back again.

Worse, there were no birds along the creek either. No geese, no mergansers, no ducks. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Time to move on again.


The next stop was at The Muck along Route 287. The Tiadaghton Audubon Society has built and maintained a boardwalk and blind on the south end of The Muck for several years. Usually it's a good place to see lots of Wood Duck, Mallards, Egrets, Herons, Kingfishers and Rails. Usually. Today: three or four Red-winged Blackbirds, an Eastern Bluebird, one Great Blue Heron, and several pairs of Canada Geese.

A pert little Eastern Bluebird greeted me to The Muck

The Great Blue Heron wasn't as friendly.
First he hid amongst the reeds...

...then he headed off for a more distant location.


One more stop before I headed back to what were sure to be some angry, hungry pussycats. Hills Creek State Park.

I knew they were having an open house at the sugar shack so, even if there were no birds around, I could visit with my friend, Ranger Patterson who is the Maple Syrup Queen of HCSP when she's not leading nature walks at Leonard Harris SP.

First thing I noticed when I drove in was the lack of ice on the lake. It was there just three days ago. And a small raft of what looked like Ring-necked Ducks were sitting just far enough out that pictures were out of the question. Same for the small number of Tundra Swans at the other end of the lake.

As for Ranger Patterson, she was giving a demonstration to a family on how to tap a maple tree and hang a sap bucket on one of the trees in the parking area near the beach. The park's little sugar bush is some 110 or so trees and she uses tubing and plastic spiles on that hillside, but for the small timer a dozen metal buckets and spiles in the trees closest to the house are easy to maintain.

We talked for a bit after the demonstration was over. The campground areas of the park are still closed and she couldn't open them on the weekend for me to go down and do some birding so I was restricted to the area I could pretty much see unless I wanted to do some hiking.

Then, just as I was about to give up and head home, I spotted an immature Bald Eagle over the northern end of the lake and though I'd walk down to the shoreline to see if it would come closer. As it turned out, there were three immature eagles circling one another and tumbling in the air. They broke up and started to gain altitude prior to slipping over the hillside. I managed to snap a few pictures before they disappeared. This one turned out the best.

Immature Bald Eagle

Tioga County Birding:
The Turkey Vultures of Colton Point

So, about birding today. After feeding the cats and picking up the mail at the post office, I headed west down Route 6. The weather just drew me out of the house and into the field. (Although I could have stayed home to rake the yard and turn over one of the garden beds. Nah. No fun in that!)

I planned to head up to Colton Point State Park on the west side of the Grand Canyon of PA (aka Pine Creek Gorge). The sun hits that side of the gorge first and I was hoping to catch some Turkey Vultures soaring right in front of me. This (and Leonard Harris State Park on the opposite side of the gorge) is a great place to go birding. Later in the spring there will be hordes of warblers and other song birds making a stop here for a day or two. Get the time right and you can have a ball getting a crick in your neck! This is also a great place to look down on Turkey Vultures. Often they begin to soar right off the steep slopes of the gorge and you can watch them gain altitude until they are at eye level and then above your head.

They didn't disappoint me today. At first there didn't seem to be any activity but then the hemlock branches down the slope from the lookout point shook and two vultures launched themselves into the air. They were having a difficult time with the lack of an updraft and had to flap their wings often--something a Turkey Vulture seldom does. They even gave up at one point and landed in the trees again, but not in a spot where I could get a good photo of them.

I snapped a couple of dozen photos before they and I opted to move on. Here are some of the best:

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

There wasn't much else happening at Colton Point. Looking down toward Pine Creek I saw some Common Mergansers fly up river. Along the paved road to the point I saw American Robins, Blue Jays, Dark-eyed Juncos and White-breasted Nuthatches. But that was it. In late April or May a list of twenty species will be a disappointment. But today it would have been a God-send. So I moved on to other sites in search of birds.

Iditarod Report, March 20, 2010

I just got back from a sojourn out through the Northern Tier of Tioga County, PA. I was looking for birds--apparently in all the wrong places. I'll post more about that later. Right now I want to focus on the final hours of the Iditarod.

There was one more scratch today. Scotsman John Stewart had to pull out after nursing his team all the way to White Mountain, just 77 miles or so from Nome. He had been having bad luck with injuries to his dogs and illness amongst the team--including himself. When he arrived at White Mountain he was down to just 7 dogs. Rules say you have to have 6 in the traces so perhaps attrition finally did him in. A story in the Alaska Dispatch from a few days ago chronicled some of his difficulties: Scotsman struggles to keep dogs happy.

That leaves just 55 mushers likely to finish the race with just five remaining on the trail. The good news is that all five have left White Mountain and look to be on schedule to finish their trek well before tomorrow night's awards banquet. (One is likely to reach Nome before I get to post this. Rookie Dave Decaro is just a few miles short of the finish line as I type.)

Rookie Scott White is at Safety, the final checkpoint 22 miles from Nome. He's been there for quite some time with just 7 dogs listed as being on his team. Hopefully for him, they will be able to continue after sufficient rest.

Heading to Safety is Ross Adam, and rookies Jane Faulkner and Celeste Davis. Davis has been running with 9 dogs and has been consistently slower than her girlfriend Faulkner who now has 10 dogs in harness. Of course, Celeste is also recovering from a broken nose she suffered back in the Alaska Range in the Dazel Gorge when she got tossed face first into a tree. She was sporting a lovely pair of black eyes in a photo from one of the checkpoints.

To qualify to run the Iditarod is no easy thing. That's why there are only 70 or so mushers who manage to do so each year. To make it all the way to Nome is quite a feat. To do so without having to drop one dog out of the team of 16 that you start with is as rare as pitching a no-hitter. Yet that is what Scotsman Wattie McDonald did this year. Although he officially finished in 45th place, he managed to bring every one of his dogs to the finish line in Nome. Way to go Wattie!

And in 47th place was Newton Marshall of Jamaica. In some of the checkpoint photos from the interior where it got to minus 30 degrees F, he did not look happy. Still, he was proudly waving the Jamaican flag as he crossed the finish line.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chalice from the Palace

This sounds like the Obamacare debate.

Makes as much sense too.

Then there is the Gibbs Press Briefing.

Aerie Report, March 19, 2010

Beautiful spring day today. We started off around 40 degrees at the Aerie (cooler down the hill, natch, since cold air sinks) and got up to almost 70 degrees under a cloudless, sunny sky with not a wisp of a breeze blowing. The only clouds that appeared during the day were the contrails of the jets passing high over head.


Terry left this morning to go to The Jersey Shore. Not the town just down the highway, but Long Beach Island where a stitching friend has a beach home. About half a dozen ladies will be gathering to walk the boardwalk at Seaside, dine out at one of the year-round joints on the island and generally have a good time talking and stitching.

Me? I've got the cats. They will let me go to bed early and, maybe, won't wake me until 7 AM if I'm lucky. (That's an hour more than Terry gave me this morning. The alarm is on her side of the bed. It was set for 6 AM to go birding on Thursday. She forgot to turn it off, so it rang at 6 AM again today. Grrrr. Would have been okay, except once it goes off, so does Shadow...and Julie...and Chester. And they don't have a snooze button.)


Saturday is supposed to be another glorious day so I may head out to the Grand Canyon to see if I can get some pictures of Vultures. I haven't seen a one around the Aerie so far. I'd wonder if the windmills are scaring them away, but I've only seen one as I drive around the Northern/Southern Tier area.

I drove past Hammond and Tioga Lakes today to see if the ice was out. It has melted near the dams and along the northern shore of Hammond Lake which is usually the first to melt. All the gates are still closed however, so you can't even get into the parking areas near the boat launches or the campground areas along the south shore. Even the boat launch area on Tioga Lake and the road to it are still gated. I could walk it but that's close to three miles...one way.

I did see quite a few water fowl on the lakes but they were w-a-a-a-y over on the other side. Too far for good identification. I believe there were Common Mergansers in the mix, however. There were two immature Bald Eagles flying along Route 287 on the northern shore of Hammond Lake. They were right up close and personal making identification easy.


Quite a few Robins in the trees around the Aerie at sunset today, but not one plaintive "Peent" of a Woodcock to be heard. They must be chasing the Snow Geese. No Spring Peepers either.


Speaking of Saturday...It is the first official day of Spring. Yep. The Vernal Equinox. Twelve hours of sunlight and twelve of dark. Enjoy the day.

Mouse & Mousetrap

Tell the cats to watch out for this guy. (Be sure to watch all 1:29.)

Farm Wars: Conflicting Nature Signs

Running around to do some things this morning I happened to notice lots of plastic tubing running through the sugar bushes capturing sap for maple syrup. Syruping requires lots of luck in that there's a definite benefit from warm days and cold (below freezing) nights. The warmth draws the sap up the tree during the day and the cold forces it to run back down at night. (If it stayed in the smaller twigs, they might burst from expansion of frozen water in the sap.) So these contrasting temperatures are a boon to the person tapping the trees. They get a heavy rush of sap into their tubes (or buckets if they are old school) when the sap goes up and another rush when it comes back down. If the night time temps aren't cold enough, that night time rush doesn't happen and the next morning there's no big flow going up since it's still up there. Plus, when the sap stays in the twigs and buds long enough, they start to bloom and the sap flavor changes for the worse.

Anyway, my main chore this morning was to visit a place in Millerton, PA, that sells fishing licenses. Not only did I need to purchase mine for 2010, but the Tiadaghton Audubon Society has had some posters printed up for the eel project and we've been trying to get to all the license vendors in the county. Along the same road and in the next town over is Draper's Super Bee Apiary and I was asked to stop and get some Orange Blossom Honey. (I also picked up some Pure Clover for myself. Delicious stuff!) I commented about the spring-like weather and said something to the effect that the bees would be active soon. The clerk told me that they already are active and that they are working some of the red maple flowers appearing in the trees across the yard. That is NOT a good sign for the maple folks.

Watching the dairy cows milling around the barns and feed piles of hay, I got to thinking about something Threecollie of Northview Dairy said the other day. She was wishing mightily for the pasture grass to start growing so they could turn the herd loose amongst this "free" food that is better than stored hay. Of course her wish for fast growing fields of grass might not benefit the syrup man working the sugar bush on her property, but if they got some bees....

Pictures from Montezuma

Here are a few of the many photographs that I took while out birding on Thursday at the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge and the Montezuma Audubon Center.

I like the look of cattails and phragmites flower heads in early spring before they begin to be torn apart by age and birds looking for nesting material. The cattails in particular remind me of the old fashioned fireworks rockets and seem to be celebrating the rapid growth that is about to happen in the marsh. The little bit of fuzziness present in these two photos can be attributed to the slight breeze that was blowing.

Cattails Montezuma Wildlife Refuge

Phragmites Montezuma Wildlife Refuge

The carp from the Seneca Canal really, really wanted to get into the shallow ponds of the refuge. Unfortunately for them a wire mesh gate will make their attempt futile...tiring, but futile just the same. They were whipping the water into a froth.

Carp Montezuma Wildlife Refuge

A muskrat popped up on the edge of the mass of carp. It seemed unperturbed by the presence of the photographers only a few feet away and swam around the edge of the boiling mass of carp.

Muskrat Montezuma Wildlife Refuge

Finally, decidig the shortest distance between two points was indeed a straight line, the muskrat walked over the backs of the carp to get to the other side. As one on-looker put it, "It looks like a logger on an old-fashioned river drive walking a mass of floating logs."

Muskrat walks on Carp Montezuma Wildlife Refuge

Finally, two shots of flying birds that came out relatively well. First three Tundra Swans that flew past us at a reasonable altitude--twice--while we were at the Audubon Center. It was nice of them to give us a second chance!

Tundra Swans Montezuma Audubon Center

And finally an immature Bald Eagle that wasn't so kind. Once we got out of the truck to start taking pictures, it and its partner, headed further and further away. It would have been better if it had circled once over the truck before heading out across the ponds, but, alas, it was not to be.

Immature Bald Eagle Montezuma Wildlife Refuge

This was the first time I attempted to photograph flying birds and it's damn tough! Just trying to get them in the view finder is difficult enough but the the auto focus kept whirring in and out trying to latch onto some image. Still, that's what we went to the refuge for. Gary's giving a talk at the combined meeting of the Photography Club and Audubon Society about bird photography and he wanted to add to his slide show. With the Snow Geese already headed north and even Canada Geese somewhat low in numbers, we didn't get many chances. Perhaps if we had brought some duck calls....

Iditarod Report, March 19, 2010

The Current Standings show that 40 mushers have now crossed the finish line in Nome with 16 still on the trail. The 40 include the oldest (Jim Lanier at age 69 finished late on the 17th AKDT/early on the 18th EDT in 24th place with a time of 10 days 5 hours 21 min 10 sec) and the youngest (rookie Quin Iten, age 18, finished in 38th place with a time of 11 days 5 hours 23 min 34 sec).

The first rookie to finish this year was Dan Kaduce in the 21st slot with a time of 10 days 0 hours 50 min 0 sec.

The two Scotsmen (McDonald and Stewart) are still on the trail as is Jamaican Newton Marshall. McDonald and Marshall should be finishing their race later today.

At the tail of the pack are two rookies who seem to be egging one another along. Jane Faulkner and Celeste Davis have been leaving the last few checkpoints together (although, since Davis has two fewer dogs, she's been arriving a half hour to an hour after Faulkner). It looks like they've made a pact to finish this thing together.
The winner may have crossed the finish line but the race is far from over.

Montezuma Bird List

First yesterday's bird list. I've listed species only since the numbers of each ranged from a countable one or two (the Robin, Bluebird, Great Blue Heron, Grackle, Starling, Killdeer, Pileated Woodpecker) to an impossible thousands (many of the ducks). Most were seen at the Refuge proper. Only the Pileated and Great Blue were unique to the Audubon Center some miles north.

Location: Montezuma NWR--Auto Loop
Observation date: 3/18/10
Notes: Nearly windless, cloudless, warm spring day with temperatures in the 50s and low 60s.
Number of species: 27

Canada Goose X
Tundra Swan X
American Wigeon X
American Black Duck X
Mallard X
Northern Shoveler X
Green-winged Teal X
Green-winged Teal (American) X
Canvasback X
Redhead X
Ring-necked Duck X
Bufflehead X
Hooded Merganser X
Common Merganser X
Great Blue Heron X
Bald Eagle X
Red-tailed Hawk X
Killdeer X
Ring-billed Gull X
Herring Gull X
Pileated Woodpecker X
American Crow X
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

Some pictures are coming. (Not many--it's surprising how you can shoot 70-75 photos and find only half dozen keepers! Thank goodness for digital!) I've been experimenting with Photoshop Elements 7 and have still to learn how to use it properly. Getting those immense RAW photo files down to manageable size has become one of my immediate needs! With both Photoshop Elements 7 for Dummies and The Photoshop Elements 7 Book for Digital Photographers on hand (as well as the online help sources from Adobe), I may be able to figure out all the editing and resizing by this evening. Life, as always, will interfere, however, as I've got a couple of chores I need to do that will take me out of the house for a few hours today. So be patient.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Birding Report:
Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

Back from Montezuma. A 200 mile round trip from Mansfield. Gary and I had a pretty good day although it wasn't the one we expected.

Last week he saw reports that there were in the neighborhood of 15,000 snow geese on the ponds. A day later the report was that nearly half had moved on. Today we didn't see one damn snow goose! Clearly my fisherman's luck ("You should have been here yesterday!") has been extended to birding.

There were, however, lots of ducks on the water. Black Ducks, Redheads, Canvasbacks, Green-winged Teal, Widgeons, Mallards, Common and Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Shovelers, and Ring-necked Ducks were there. But we nearly didn't see many of these since when we first arrived the gate to the viewing road was closed! A hundred mile drive was nearly for naught because they were working on the road and had closed it to the public.

After a short stop at the (closed) Visitors' Center and the restrooms (blessedly open!) adjacent to the parking lot we headed up state Route 89 to the Audubon Center north of Savannah where we took a short walk around one of the ponds. Then it was back to the Wildlife Refuge to see if they had opened the gate. Nope. So we ate lunch on the Visitors' Center deck hoping some birds would fly over so we could get some birds-in-flight shots. When we finished lunch we were resigned to calling it a day. One more stop at the restrooms and ---HOLY COW! They had opened the gate! You still couldn't drive all the way around the loop and out to Route 89, but you could get to the distant ponds and almost to the road that parallels the NYS Thruway. So off we went--along with about half a dozen other vehicles that happened to be there.

The viewing road has the ponds on one side and the Seneca Canal on the other. While the water levels in the ponds were much lower than they had been last spring (they had been drawn down over the winter in an effort to combat purple loosestrife, an invasive marsh flower species), it was still higher than the canal water. As a result the slightly warmer water of the shallow ponds was pouring through the drain pipes to the canal.

And the carp in the canal wanted to get into those warm ponds in the worse way! Hundreds and hundreds of two foot long fish were trying to jam through a one foot wide pipe. They can't get through since there is a wire mesh grate in the darn thing but it didn't stop them from trying! It was a seething mass of fish flesh! It was a hell of a spectacle rivaling the migration of spawning salmon except think fish built along the lines of sumo wrestlers instead of sprinters.

The canal held the carp. The ponds held the majority of the ducks I listed above in equally huge numbers. And over head wheeled two immature Bald Eagles.

Opening that gate prevented us from having a very disappointing day.

I'll post some pictures after I've gotten to "fix" them a little. The birds, although numerous, were still very far away even for a 300mm lens. Hopefully I'll have a few I deem worth posting. I'll also post the entire species list from today's outing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Aerie/Iditarod Report, March 17, 2010

What a glorious spring day it was today. A fitting day for St. Patrick if there ever was one. You could almost see the grass turning green under the bright, golden sunshine. Although it started near freezing here at the Aerie (and even colder down in the valley) it warmed nicely in to the mid-60s in the afternoon.


Tonight Terry and I attended the Tiadaghton Audubon Society where we had guest speaker Bill Russell from Penn State. Dr. Russell is a physicist by trade but a mycologist by habit. He is the author of Field Guide to Mushrooms of Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic. He is considered an expert in identifying mushrooms and this must be true for he also claims to have eaten over 200 different species and (although not liking all of them) he is still alive and kickin'!

His talk was extremely informative and aided immensely by slides of the more common edible mushrooms (and some not so edible!) that he has taken over the years.


I spent some time this morning trying to catch up on all the events happening in Nome and points east along the trail. You saw some of the over night stuff in this morning's post. Well, it's now just after 10 PM EDT and there have been a total of 22 men and women and their dog teams across the finish line on Front Street. The 22nd was DeeDee Jonrowe who is quite a remarkable woman. Most of her story is here on her Wiki page. She's been running the race almost every year since1980--including one year when she was still recovering from an auto accident that hospitalized her and her husband and killed her grandmother and another when she was just completing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She holds the record for the fastest race run by a woman. Her 9 days, 08:26:10 run in 1988 was good enough for second place. While she has never won the Iditarod, she has finished 2nd three times and been in the Top 10 fourteen.

One thing that is not there is the fact that just as the race started this year, she learned that her elderly mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and would undergo surgery while DeeDee was on the trail. Another item not mentioned is that by the time she left Cripple (about 1/2 through the race) she was down to just 8 dogs and had nearly 500 miles to go. When she crossed the finish line this evening (afternoon in Alaska) she had all 8 of those dogs stepping proud.

Like I said, one heck of a woman.


With 22 racers and their teams in Nome, there are still [does some rough calculations, with scratch pad, pencil, calculator--why doesn't this damn computer have a calculator any more?--and comes up with] 34 mushers and their teams heading to Nome. Lots of action yet to come in the days ahead. You can follow the leader board here.


Well, that's about it fro tonight. I've got an early date in the morning to go up to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge on the north end of the Finger Lakes. The ducks and geese are making their way north and congregating on the ponds. Supposed to be great weather so we're hoping to get some good pictures.


Whew! Busy day yesterday with the safe driver course given by AAA (anything to help lower the cost of insurance!), the Photoshop Elements workshop given by a member of the photography club, and the Iditarod. The former two certainly interfered with the latter! Big Time!

I just managed to miss viewing the live feeds of Lance Mackey crossing the finish line at 2:59 AKDT (6:59 EDT) for his fourth consecutive victory by about 40 minutes. (KTUU story here.) I had to leave the Aerie to get to Wellsboro for the workshop and waited as long as I could before packing up the computer to go. "His time of 8 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, 9 seconds is the second-fastest on record, behind only Martin Buser's record of 8:22:46:02." If he had gone just a little faster, I could have seen him win and he could have set a new record.

I had to explain to people all day what the Iditarod was and just how momentous a fourth consecutive win in this endurance race was. I mean, it's comparable to an NFL team winning the Super Bowl four consecutive years. Maybe tougher.

Second place went to Hans Gatt who arrived in Nome a little more than an hour later. Four time winner, Jeff King ran the fastest time in his career, yet managed "only" to come in third.

As I type this, there are 7 mushers in Nome--just one tenth of the starting field--with two more rapidly approaching. The race is far from over, however. Once Dallas Seavey and Hugh Neff come down Front Street, there will still be 47 mushers out on the trail. Some will surely scratch as they are down to so few dogs remaining active in their teams, but most will continue on. This is not a race just to see who can come in first--it is often a race within oneself to see who can come in at all.


Then there were 56....

Over night, there was one more scratch. Rookie Hank Debruin (Bib #45) pulled out of the race at the Nulato checkpoint. He had been running alone many hours to the rear and, though he had 13 dogs in harness, he opted to pull out since they were no longer competitive. (That sometimes means the dogs just won't go any more.)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And they're into the home stretch!

Lance Mackey pulled into White Mountain (mandatory 8 hour rest) last night at 20:43 AKDT (that's 43 minutes after midnight EDT). Hans Gatt arrived at 22:40, nearly two hours later. Mackey will have a two hour head start this morning as he makes the last 70 mile run to Nome.

Could be a close finish as Mackey tries for an unprecedented 4-pete.

And I have a full schedule today, dang it!

AAA safety course this morning runs until 1 this afternoon and then a Photoshop Elements workshop this evening just as the lead mushers pull into Nome.

Still 57 mushers and their teams on the trail. No new scratches during the night.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gattout of Elim, King stays.

Hans Gatt left Elim after a brief rest. He's some 2 hours and 41 minutes behind Lance Mackey. Four-time winner Jeff King continues to rest his dogs and seems to have conceded this years top spot to Mackey. ADN story Here.

(Updated 3:40 p.m.): Hans Gatt has just pulled into Elim and will keep right on going, which means he's about to take over the second position from onetime leader Jeff King.

King, who has been in Elim for just under an hour, says at this point, the race is leader Lance Mackey's to lose. Unless Mackey makes a serious mistake, King said, it looks like he'll be this year's Iditarod champion. King said he's not willing to exhaust his dogs in a bid to reclaim the lead.

Spring is here!

Just stepped out on the deck and heard "Peeent....peeent...peeent," of a woodcock. Fist time this year. Several robins were also calling as it's not quite dark yet.

Rain is finally stopped although it's overcast. The winds are out of the north and are very light.

Never got above 43 degrees today so it remains quite raw.


Rookie musher Emil Churchin (Bib #53) has ended his run. The Current Standings board has him scratched at the Ruby check station. He was running well behind even the second to last musher, fellow rookie Hank Debruin (Bib #45).

At the top of the list is Lance Mackey (Bib #49) who has been in and out of the Elim check point after taking just 15 minutes to drop one dog. Lance is now running with 11 dogs.

Closest behind Mackey is Jeff King (Bib #15) who left Koyuk 2 hours 6 minutes after Mackey and Hans Gatt (Bib #20) 3 hours and 19 minutes behind Mackey out of Koyuk. neither has reached Elim yet.

Aerie/Iditarod AM Report, March 15, 2010

Rain overnight will eventually stop today--I hope. This Nor'easter has really been creating havoc in New Jersey and points north. Wind and rain have caused innumerable power outages, road closings and flooding conditions. While all the snow around the Northern Tier has pretty much melted away beneath the rain like the Wicked Witch of the West, I'm not so sure the same has been true up at the Bolt Hole where as late as last weekend there were three feet of dense, packed, icy snow on the ground. It's not been nearly as warm up there as it was here last week (Got to 67 or so here, just 40s there) and it's been down into the 20s at night every night while here it has remained above freezing since last Wednesday night.


Back to the Iditarod.

The good news is that they finally corralled runaway three-year old Whitey back at the McGrath checkpoint. He and his musher Justin Savidis are reunited and back in Anchorage with the rest of their team.

The leaderboard at 2:52 AKDT looks like this:
out of Shaktoolik and nearly at Koyuk

1 Lance Mackey Bib # 49

2 Jeff King Bib # 15

3 Hans Gatt Bib # 20

4 Hugh Neff Bib # 56

5 Ken Anderson Bib # 51

There were no additional scratches from the race over night so the total number of mushers and teams on the trail remains at 58.

Welcome Back

March 15th is a momentous day in Hinckley, Ohio. After months of winter spent in parts to the south, the most famous residents return--The Buzzards.

Traditionally, the Buzzards (or Turkey Vultures if you prefer) appear annually at Hinckley on March 15th. No one knows exactly why but some say that they gather in remembrance of the Great Hunt of 1818.
Various hunts were organized as residents came in sufficient numbers. One known as the Great Hinckley Hunt was organized at the home of Mrs. Seth Paine in December, 1818. The roundup was in Hinckley Township, Medina County. At the meeting to organize the hunt, Carey Oakes was appointed captain for Brecksville, John Ferris for Royalton, Judge John Newton for Richfield, and 'Squire FYeyer for Brunswick. This day has become historical, the day of the great hunt. The posse of men under strict discipline, surrounded the township of Hinckley and gradually drew in the line until every animal either was killed or escaped through the firing line. The net result of the hunt amounted to the following in animals killed: Deer, 365 ; bear, 17; wolves, 5.
(From A History of Cuyahoga County and the City of Cleveland, by William R. Coates, Volume I, pg 51. Published by The American Historical Society, Chicago and New York, 1924 (pdf file HERE. Caution: It's huge!)

One heck of a deer drive, guys!

Certainly with that many animals downed even the entrails would provide a most memorable feast for carrion feeders such as the Turkey Vulture. I mean seriously, I count 387 gut piles! Good thing it was December or the place would have reeked!

Anyway. March 15th is the day the Buzzards are supposed to arrive back in Hinckley and they make a big stink out of that, too.

(Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So sometimes the Buzzards are early and sometimes they are late. But you know what? THe folks in Hinckley don't really give a... hoot. After all those weeks of winter they want to PAR-TAY!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I missed it a little earlier, but Judy Currier (Bib #72) scratched while at the Galena checkpoint. She injured her back along the trail and, despite having 11 dogs remaining on her team, decided she could not continue.

Fifty-eight mushers remain on the trail with the leaders (Mackey, King, Neff and Gatt) bearing down on the Shaktoolik checkpoint.

Iditarod Letter vis-a-vis Iditaddiction

Posted on the Race Talk Forum on the official Iditarod site is a letter for all those enthralled with The Last Great Race.

Post by sandia on Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:31 am
This is a letter to whomever or whatever you may not be giving enough time and/or attention to, or are in other ways impacted by your Iditaddiction. Amend as appropriate to your situation.

it reads in part:

Letter to whomever

Dear ______________(sweetheart, child, boss, co-worker, students, dog, garden, tax forms on the desk, book club,… - fill in name here)

I am sincerely sorry that I have not been as attentive to you as I usually am. I am not sure that I can explain to you the pull that tracking this amazing race across Alaska has on me. I can tell you that I am not alone in feeling its attraction and following the urge to check GPS readings, forum discussions, blogs, official standings, on-line newspaper and TV coverage, race photos, and more.
No one questions someone’s interest in putting aside their chores to, say, follow the Superbowl or the World Cup; these are widely televised, promoted, and sponsored events. This Last Great Race, however, does not enjoy such popularity – and I do not think I would want it to! This event that has caught my heart is about honoring traditions and culture that were never part of mass culture. But because of this, time is not given for enjoying it, and I am expected to carry on with my usual obligations.

Please know that you are as important to me as always and I will be back to fully functioning in 10 days or 9, or, well, depending on the weather conditions along the coast, soon. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

It is quite good and useful if you need it to be. Should you wish to read the whole thing, be sure to click the link above and go over to the forum.

(Do you think some of the silliness being displayed by posters to the various Race Talk Forums might be a sign that A) they are taking this whole thing a mite too seriously and not getting enough sleep B) it's now some 6 days into the race with a few more to go (the leader is still some 350 miles from Nome) C) cabin fever has been more of a problem this winter than the swine flu D) all of the above.)

Aerie Report, March 14, 2010

Another gray, wet day here at the Aerie. The temperature overnight dropped to near freezing. Enough so that there was a dusting of snow on the ground and truck this morning. That didn't last long as the rains continued and the temperature rose, though it never got above 44 degrees all day. One good thing, however is that the wind is nonexistent--as in zero, zip, nil miles per hour. For most of the day that has allowed the clouds to settle all the way into the valley leaving us in a fog. That fog finally rose above the ridge top an hour ago (5:30 PM EDT--you did change your clocks, didn't you?) so that we can once again see a mile or ten to the northwest.


I've been inflicted with Iditaritis. Following The Last Great Race on the computer is addictive and there is no known cure. I didn't splurge for the "Insider" program or I'd find myself going 24/7 or trying to mimic the cycles of one racer. (And if I had picked Lance Mackey to follow, I probably wouldn't take time to eat either. The man is a machine!) As an "Insider" there would have been more videos and GPS reports to follow. Talk about information overload! Instead, I've been checking the leader board, cruising the discussion boards, reading comments, making comments, checking the leader board, ....wash, rinse and repeat.

I'm exhausted just following what's going on and trying to figure out the head games being played.

Worst thing is, this looks like it will end (at least for the leaders) some time on Tuesday. Terry and I have an AAA Safe Driving class from 9 AM to 1 PM on Tuesday over in Wellsboro. Then Tuesday night one of the guys in the photography club is giving a workshop in using Photoshop Elements over there. My day is pretty well scheduled up so I'll probably miss the big moment as the winner goes up Main Street and under the Arch. At least I'll be able to follow the Red Lantern (the last musher) as long as he/she doesn't get to Nome on Wednesday night. (That's the Audubon meeting.) Right now, it doesn't look like that lantern will swing into Nome until the weekend. But who knows.