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Rescue Mission

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Will, a PA Drummer, writes about how an average day can sometimes take a turn into an extraordinary experience – you just never know when someone (or some bird) will need your help! 

An average day at the pond turned into a rescue mission. Arriving at the pond my friends and I lined up and cast out. We saw several large northern hog suckers and sunnies, but no catfish. After an hour or two of fishing for bluegills I decided to use one as bait. As I approached the pond I notice a Canada goose laying there, which was odd as all the other geese were in the water. So I cast out and approached the goose and I did a quick inspection. During my inspection I noticed fishing line wrapped around its legs.

We attempted to catch it but he spooked into the water so I called my mom. As my mom arrived he was still in the water. It looked hopeless but then he approached the far bank and slowly climbed out. While my mom tried flushing him out of the woods, my friends and I waited for him to come out. We saw him flush and we moved quickly – we threw a towel over him and got to work. We carefully cut and untangled the fishing line and finally he was free. We carried him to the pond and watched as he swam away. Moral of the story is: when fishing, throw out your line or an animal may end up like this!


The rescued Canada goose

The Sacred Grove

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Cole, a PA Bucktail and Monthly Youth Blog Correspondent, writes about his trip to the Delaware Water Gap – we can all take his advice about taking some time to step back and appreciate a moment with nature.

This summer, I went to the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey with my girlfriend and her family. It was about 2 hours away from where I live in Bucks County. We stayed at the Mohican Outdoor Center, which is a rest stop and campground that intersects the Appalachian Trail. The lake was gorgeous. We kayaked through the water lilies. There were lots of deer and chipmunks frolicking through the forest. I woke up every morning to the drink-your-tea of the Eastern Towhee. It was a paradise away from all of the struggles of normal life.
My girlfriend’s uncles thought it would be a good idea to hike a part of the Appalachian Trail. I was reluctant at first, but I thought it would be fun. Even though I got dehydrated afterwards (always drink lots of water, guys), it was so worth it. Everything was beautiful. We stopped at what was one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. A brook bubbled out of the mountain and formed a crystal-clear waterfall. There was an ancient grove filled with Eastern Hemlocks, Striped Maples and Rhododendron. The Hemlocks were very, very tall. I felt truly at peace. We all sat there for an hour, in awe and wonder. I was very glad to experience this sacred grove.

After the grove, we continued down the trail to find a bridge across this creek. There were names carved into the rotted wood, and yet somehow I was glad. I was glad that so many others experienced this sacred grove. We found an abandoned mine, and some more trails. However, we soon turned back, and ventured through the wilderness once again.
Even though it is November, there is always time to go outside and enjoy nature. There is plenty of time to go and find that “sacred grove”. My sacred grove may have been two hours away, but even the shortest trip to your local park can provide a sense of tranquility and a better connection to nature. Autumn is my favorite season, and I try my best to spend time in the woods. And I encourage everyone else to do the same.

As Summer Nods To Fall…

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Jon, a PA Drummer, wrote this piece, describing how summer fades into fall.  The imagery he uses is truly inspiring, and his photographs capture the essence of the beauty of fall!

Just as a relay-runner hands the baton and bobs his head at the next runner, so Summer nods to Fall. Summer is as breathy steam out of a bread-oven, dissipating as soon as you’ve tasted it. The verdant train of Summer’s indulgent dress trails behind her and we catch our last glimpse of the stepping stone, crisp September, as it sinks into the cold, blue depths of the on-coming brisk weather.
Leaves in the towering trees describe the transient, estival trip from bud to blade they’ve had. They tell through their piquant colors of the soils beneath that nourished them over their lifetime. As they will fully bloom into bursts of fire fading, they leave behind a fledgling legacy on their branch to burgeon forth through the next Summer-season course.
All the Maple, Sumac, Oak and many others will soon be caught up in great conflagration all across the spacious countryside. The vibrant oranges; spirited reds; and lively yellows are fires that the Fall sun sets aflame in all that formerly green. The hued fires vigorously burn all in their broad path and will leave the arboreal spheres as bare skeletons in due time.

Palatial Goldenrod majestically springs toward the pale, blue skies as it declares it’s goodbye for now as gradual death will prevail and overtake them. However, death cannot reign forever and their progeny will return through their apparent defeat. For now, their golden glory remains a little while longer before they must be so soon swept away into the telluric fate of their ancestors and successors.
The Geese know their boreal stay is come to an end and honk goodbye as they drive downward towards their hibernal retirement. Landing on lakes to stay the night, but never staying for long for fear that Winter will catch them too far within it’s domain. So the Geese pick their waddling feet up and take to the air to romance the September breezes.
The White-tail Deer amble through the flaxen fields, enjoying their morning and evening feasts which will later be made collations as Fall bounty runs insubstantially dry. Soon they will be on the hurry-scurry through the brown vegetation across the countryside. When the chase commences, the deer will be more wary of eating so freely. The Grouse and other game will join the deer as the Chase is soon to be afoot.
The eminent Outdoorsman exchanges his fishing gear for a gun, a bow, or a trap to join in the great Chase. We pass him by but know it only by a blazon of orange since he hides and waits, camouflaged. If he is rewarded, his table and family will be full.
Summer nods her head and Fall’s auburn hair is seen brushing the landscape into a magnificent painting. The ephemeral characters of this painting are not forever frozen however and move unencumbered from season to season; taking each in its turn. All good things end but all things true return again; the earth spins on its axis.


Adansonia digitata – The Baobab, or “Upside-Down” Tree


The Baobab tree, Adansonia digitata, is native to the African Savanna, and as you can see the tree is very interesting. The Baobab is known as the “upside-down” tree, because when it is bare, which it is just before, just after, and during the African dry season (which lasts around five months) it looks like it has, quite literally, been ripped from the ground and turned upside-down! The tree can grow to outrageous sizes, growing up to 30 meters (98ft) high and 11 meters (36ft) in diameter. Like most trees, it has growth rings, but it cannot be aged by counting them because they fade as they age and may be too small to count. Scientists use Radiocarbon dating to give an age to the tree and have found specimens almost as old as 2000 years of age.


The majestic Baobab tree exhibiting it’s “upside-down” nature

The trees are not only living history and magnificent specimens; they are also extremely useful. All of the parts of the Baobab can be used for some purpose. These trees are used for timber, and commonly are hollowed out. When they are hollowed, they are used for shelter, water reserves, storage, and even burial sites! The bark is used to make products from fishnets to clothing to seasoning for food. Their fruits are extremely nutritious, packed with vitamin C and are said to produce a lemonade-like drink when soaked in water. Glue, soap, medicine, and even rubber are made from this tree and its parts. As you can see this tree is useful in many versatile ways.

Legend holds that the African god Thora did not like the tree growing in his garden so he threw it out of paradise and onto Earth. The tree landed upside-down and still somehow grew, the legend says. Another legend says that when God planted the tree it continued to walk, so God pulled it up and planted it upside-down to prevent any more movement. These stories are very interesting ones! The Baobab has almost no resemblance to its sapling form; so, no wonder the ancient people of Africa thought that the trees just appear! The trees are almost impossible to kill, one can burn it, or strip it of its bark and it will keep growing, generating new bark. The trees rot from the inside and eventually just collapse, leaving almost nothing in its place. This makes some people think that the tree just disappears; this is the tree that appears and disappears that never dies and lives thousands of years. No wonder the native African tribes thought the Baobab was magical!

Not Very Sleepy Hollows

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This weeks blog post is written by Freya, especially for Halloween!  Read on…if you dare!

Not Very Sleepy Hollows

“There is a tree that’s standing still
though it is dead, it has its fill
of things that hoot and crawl and creep
at night, when you are fast asleep.
Inside the burnt out hole is where
you’ll find surprises… IF YOU DARE!”

Leslie Tyron – Albert’s Halloween


The spookiest tree holes I could find.

I loved that poem when I was little, because it was “spooky” and my parents would say it with me in funny voices. But tree holes are a lot more than just Halloweeny atmosphere; they are crucial nesting spots for a host of animals. In North America, we have 85 species of bird that nest in tree cavities. Fifty-eight of those, woodpeckers, sapsuckers and flickers, actually do all the excavation work; they make ¾ of the tree cavities in North America, while the rest are made by decay. On this continent, because we have lots of birds making holes in trees, we have lots of critters who use ‘em. Interestingly, Australia has no species that make cavities, so there are hardly any animals that use them for nesting.


This tree shows cavities made by both woodpeckers and decay! Animals prefer to nest in live trees because they don’t rot, and aren’t as likely to fall. A nest in this tree is probably worth competing for.

Lots of different mammals and birds who can’t make cavities for themselves still depend on them. They are nests for species of owl, falcon, vulture, other birds of prey, lots of ducks, and some songbirds. They are also the preferred nesting sites for squirrels, of the grey, red and flying varieties. Sometimes an animal without the beak and brain-armour to excavate, will get so desperate for a cavity that they’ll bully a woodpecker out of it’s current nest!


We got to take a closer look at an old tree cavity in this fallen log.


Though woodpeckers make 77% of all tree cavities in North America, they are certainly not the only ones to use them. Check it out, this one was a pantry!

And, of course, because it’s October, we have to talk about the bats! We think of them swirling out of haunted houses and church belfries, but their primary, original roosts are tree holes. There are around 1,000 species of bat worldwide, about forty species in the U.S., and nine here in Pennsylvania. Though some roost in caves or for the winter, they all like to use tree cavities during the summer. Bats roosts shift during the year; in hibernation roosts in the winter, and females gather in maternity roosts in early summer to raise their young. In a year, each mother bat has a single baby, called a pup. Only some tree cavities will make suitable roosts. Maternity roosts are often higher in the canopy to take advantage of rising warmth, while hibernation roosts tend to be lower, in more insulated cavities, and any bat roost must get a certain amount of sunlight. As tree cavities have been made more scarce, bats have needed to make adjustments. They’ve come to rely on attics, eaves, barns and haunted houses.

Unfortunately, here in the US, when people find they have bats the first reaction is to call bat control, get the bats out and bat-proof the building. People are afraid of rabies, but, it turns out that rabid bats are rare: out of all the weak, sick bats brought in for rabies testing, only 6% test positive.

Our aggressive approach can really hurt local bat populations. As with so many things, the Brits do it better. Before someone in the UK can cut down a large tree, they’re encouraged to call the Bat Helpline and make sure there aren’t any current or potential bat roosts in it. If they think they have bats in their house, they can call to get advice and information for roost-owners. (Living With Bats is from the British Bat Conservation Trust and you can find it online; it’s a great resource).

We don’t have a Bat Helpline to call, but there is something we can do to help Pennsylvania bats! A bat box, mounted in a sunny spot 10-15 feet off the ground has very good chances of becoming an annual roost. You can buy a bat box, or make one yourself! Here’s how:
How cool would it be to have your own bat colony? A bat box kit is at the top of my Christmas list now!


Big brown bats roosting in a tree cavity.

All these cavity-nesting species evolved in the enormous tree cavity rich old growth forests that once covered great expanses of North America. For a long time the value of old trees, dead or alive, to wildlife wasn’t recognized. The same big trees favored by these species are favored by the timber industry and after being logged, it can take a forest 150-200 years to develop old growth characteristics, including tree cavities. Even in our parks, until the 1970s, dead wood would often be removed for fire safety. Understandably, lots of cavity-nesting species are in trouble. Greater awareness of the value of large and standing trees, along with strategies like nesting boxes can help the situation, but his isn’t a conservation success story yet.


There are seven species of excavating birds in Pennsylvania, and this line of dead walnut trees along my road is home to one of them. We can spot red bellied woodpeckers almost every time we take a walk. Once we watched a pair doing a little head bobbing courtship dance together! Seeing their nesting holes and behavior is what first got me thinking about tree cavities.