About Me

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We are known as PaWingers or just The Wingers by our Geocaching friends. When we found our first cache we had to come up with a name to log the find. We came up with this name simply because of residing in Pa. and because one of our many passions is cruising this beautiful country on our Honda Goldwing. Aside from geocaching we are passionate about most anything outdoors including hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling and biking. We are blessed beyond words with a wonderful son and daughter in law. We're also blessed with some terriffic family and friends. We consider ourselves very fortunate due to the fact that after being married over 40 years we still enjoy these things together.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's that Bruin doin'

You know the old saying, "sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you".  Well, tonight we got the bear.  What was so amazing is that we never even got out of the Jeep.  And to think of the hundreds of miles we put on our hiking boots shooting wildlife photo's and tonight we just shot right out the window of the Jeep.  We were just buzzing along taking the camera for a ride when Jeanne hollered.......Bbbbeeeeaaarrr!   I said, what!!!  And she said,  there's  a a a a bbbbbeeeeaaaarrrr. Danged if she wasn't right, there was a Bear. 

We spun around and started snapping pictures.  The big fella was kinda sour that the feeder was empty but he was gentle with it.  What an awesome night!  We not only got pictures of a bruin but we got to meet the nice people that live there.  She was pretty excited when we showed her the pictures we took.  I think it frightened her a bit.  No, let me rephrase this, I think it scared her a lot.

 Check out the size of that foot

Monday, June 27, 2011

They grow up too fast!

They just grow up too fast.  We've all heard this said a million times and  we've heard our parents say it many times.  The spooky part is that we actually find ourselves saying it now.  Oh my, how we do end up sounding like our parents.  Actually that's not a bad thing because we all end up realizing that our parents were a whole lot wiser than what we thought.  Now of course elk can't talk, but if they could I'm certain they would echo those same words, "they grow up too fast".  Now don't get me wrong they probably would have other things to say too such as.....

Enough with the cameras already!

You come any closer I'm going to scare you real bad.

Can't you just let us eat in private!

We like apples!

I can't wait until these antlers fall off!

Oh boy, I gotta crap again! Maybe I'm getting too much fiber.

Don't these people have homes!

And last but not least, "We miss Fred too".

But on a more serious, a newborn calf grows at an amazing rate.  They will be the size of a mature whitetail within 6 months.  They keep a real close eye out for their Mom and will stay right with her if she decides to move on.  It's actually quite amusing to watch them try to match the stride of their Mom.  Those little legs move along quite well in a very short time.  In the pictures below it is easy to see just how large a mature elk is and makes one wonder how a hunter could mistake one for a deer.  The calf is not much smaller than a deer at this point and is dwarfed by the mother.  A large bull will even dwarf this cow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In search of young elk calves

One thing that is certain in regard to wildlife photography is that our local elk are most cooperative when it comes to getting photographed.  That is something we can't say for fawns, fox, beavers, bears, ducks, eagles and I can go on and on.  When I say elk are very cooperative that doesn't mean that elk images don't come without challenges.  We have loads of photo's of huge majestic bulls and large herds of cows.  We have photo's of bulls in the many stages they exhibit throughout the year.  We've hid behind trees, tried to predict their route to get ahead of them and crawled through tick infested fields trying to get the desired shot.  Sounds like fun doesn't it? 

Lately we have found a new challenge in regard to elk photography.  That challenge surfaced this year when we decided we needed some nice images of elk calves.  Suddenly we found the cooperative elk weren't so cooperative. 

When calves are born it's not likely you will just see them grazing out in an open field with a large herd of other elk.  This time of the year for elk is a bit different.  The large and sprouting bulls will often hang out together.  Large groups of cows can easily be seen in the open fields chomping away on the tasty greens.  But if you are looking for elk calves you need to be looking for a lone cow or possibly two lone cows.  If you spot one or two cows in a rather secluded spot there's a chance you will see a calf or two there.  If the grass is tall you may only see the grass move from the movement of the calf and seeing the calf could be difficult.  One must also respect the motherly instinct when a calf is spotted with it's mommy.  They can be very protective.  Sure we work hard for good images but we still need to respect the animals and not cause them undo stress. 

After many years of photographing elk we decided this year we needed to concentrate on getting some good pics of calves.  The window of opportunity for this is quite small.  Bear in mind, calves will be as big as a mature deer within 6 months of birth.  This year we walked lots of miles in a effort to see some calves within shooting range.  Several evenings were spent walking and no calves were located.  One night we spotted one but the combination of darkness and distance made a good image impossible.  After many days and nights and lots of hiking miles we were beginning to give up hope of good pictures this year.

  Last weekend we caught a break.  We had planned on calling it a night earlier than usual when we caught a glimpse of a couple cows tucked away in a deep ravine.  We decided we'd sneak back in and take a look.  This was to be our lucky night because there were 3 young calves with their mothers.  One calf stayed back in the trees with mommy.  One beat feet when we got close.  The third calf seemed to be insistent on staying in his bed and we weren't sure we would get pictures of that one.  Just as we were giving up hope this young calf rose from the bed, stretched for a second and then took off for the trees.  I only had maybe 20-30 seconds to snap away and hope for some good images.  Just before entering the trees this calf stopped and looked back at us giving us a golden opportunity.  Finally our determination paid off and the night was a success.  This is what we love about wildlife photography.

Hmmm, it's brown and has ears and appears to have spots, but is it an elk calf?

Yup, it was!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Pa Wilds is at our doorstep.

One thing about wildlife photography, it’s like reaching into a grab bag because you just don’t have a clue what you will end up with.  There are days that all the conditions seem to be perfect and you have high expectations only to have those expectations fade away just like the setting sun.  Then there are days that absolutely amaze us.  Yesterday ended up being one of those days that remind us once again that we are so lucky to reside in the Pa. Wilds.

Our travels and hikes all took place in Elk and Cameron County and we really never got further than 45 minutes from our home.  Now how cool is that!

Our first photo opportunity presented itself when we spotted a huge bull taking a nap in the shade of some hemlock trees.  That bull was doing some serious snoozing and most likely dreaming about some cute little cow that made his big old heart go pitter-patter.  We snapped several pictures before he finally awoke and lifted his head and really showed off that giant set of antlers.  He’s got some time to grow yet but seems to have the makings of a 8 X 8 or 7 X 8.  We’ll be watching for this big fella in the future.  We were actually looking for newborn calves but this guy sure held our attention for awhile.

After deciding to move on we decided to explore the Porcupine Hollow and Bell Draft area.  This turned out to be a good plan because as we moved up Bell Draft we spotted movement to our left.  Sure enough, there was a big Black Bear looking right back at us.  It’s difficult to estimate a weight but probably 250-350 lbs.  By the time I had the camera fired up and pointed in the general direction that guy was heading for the hills.  To our surprise there was a little cub trying his best to keep up with Momma.  That cute little guy wasn’t much bigger than a large porcupine but he sure could move.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a picture but it was still awesome.

Next wildlife encounter was just minutes away when a Chipmunk decided to do a little modeling for our photo shoot by perching himself on a stump for several minutes while we snapped away.  Minutes after that we came upon a Momma turkey followed closely by 7 or 8 little chicks or poults that had to be less than a week old.  These little poults were about the size of my fist and at this point weren’t able to fly making them a very easy meal for their many predators. 

So far it sounds like quite a day but it got better.  Before the day would be done we got a good look at 2 Fox pups but they weren’t going to hang around for the photo session.  We think we know where the den was so we may get another opportunity to see them again.  For now the image will have to be viewed in our memory.  Would you believe that we ended up seeing another Black Bear that was probably last years bear.  Once again no pictures….Dang!!

We ended our day by hiking back into the saddle area once again in hopes of spotting some calves.  That didn’t work out as planned but we had elk all around us and got some great pictures of a Momma with two cute little fawns.  Apparently our silence and concealment paid off because we got some pretty good pictures before they finally got our scent. 

All in all it was an exceptional day in the Pa. Wilds.  Is there any better way to end a day then by standing high up on a hill with sheer beauty for 360 degrees, surrounded by elk and watching a beautiful sunset drop down over the distant horizon.  For us, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

This picture really turned out to be priceless.  This litle fawn was very annoyed by the flies buzzing around and continually flung it's head around and flicked it's ears.  It was making it difficult to get a good picture but as it turned out, it is really a funny picture.  It kinda' looks like a dog.

This doe sure had a strange looking face.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Take a gander at Quicky and Poky.

Should it be Quicky and Poky or would the proper spelling be Quickie and Pokey?  Who really cares anyhow.  Just take a gander and you'll see I'm referring to a hare and a turtle.  Just recently we were pedaling our bikes along the Peninsula in Erie enjoying the beautiful trail when we came upon these two critters. 

The turtle is a big old snapper and if he clamped down on your fingers with those powerful jaws I'm pretty sure you would never make that mistake again.  There is really no mistaking a Snapping Turtle.  The tail is long and jagged and the claws are long and sharp.  Snappers aren't able to hide within their shells like a Painted Turtle can.  They have long flexible necks and if you think you would be safe by grabbing the shell midway you might get a nasty surprise.  The Snappers can reach around and latch on to you even if you are back as far as the hind legs.  At least this is what they claim so if you discover it to be true send me an e-mail.  Oh that's right, typing could be difficult with a missing finger.  Seriously though, this big fella had a shell as big as a hubcap.  She was most likely looking for a nice spot to lay her eggs when we came along so after "snapping" a few pictures we moved on down the road.

We hadn't pedaled more than a couple hundred feet when we came upon this little "bunny wabbit".  Just thought it was kind of funny that we ran into a turtle and a hare within a couple hundred feet of each other. The rabbit was just too cute and cooperative to not take a couple pics.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Keep eating big fella!

We hope those that follow this Blog don't become bored with the countless pictures of Elk.  This evening our mission once again was to capture images of newborn calves.  Sometimes the best laid out plans don't work out as we had hoped but it wasn't because of a lack of effort.  We got up on the hill perhaps an hour before the sun was to go down for the day.  Our plan was to head to the west end of Dewey and walk the saddle area.  The info we had was that there were several newly dropped calves in the area. Well, we don't doubt there were but we didn't get to see any tonight.

As we walked the saddle and actually circled the backside we came upon several cows that were acting suspicious.  By suspicious I mean they seemed to be guarding certain areas but yet there were no calves there.  As we walked through grass that was 3-4 foot high we were surprised several times when suddenly elk would pop up right in front of us.  This also meant that spotting a newborn would be extremely challenging.

So this night didn't produce the subject of our attention but it sure wasn't a total loss.  We did sneak close to this beauty of a bull.  He is awesome looking in velvet and looks to be on track to be a real nice 6 X 6 at least.  He was cooperative but yet still kept an eye on us.  We shot several images of him and then moved on.  My partner in life was a bit unhappy with me because I forgot to mention what the plan was for the evening.  She had sneakers on and wasn't really prepared for the hike that I took her on.  I guess I thought she would have noticed I had my hiking boots on.  I guess I should have mentioned that.  I also should have mentioned that we would be bushwacking and tick spray could come in handy. (lucky for me, there were no ticks this night) 

 Actually all things considered she was pretty patient with me up until the point that I mentioned that we needed to pick up the pace if we were to make it out before dark.  It was at this point that she wasn't worried about darkness because we could just walk the trail back to the truck.  It was also at this point when I mentioned we wouldn't be taking the trail and we weren't heading right back to the truck.  I wanted to swing around the back of the hill and that meant more bushwacking.  Just recently Jeanne learned about Spittlebugs as I introduced them in my other Blog, "Whoda' Thunk".  Well, let's just say that by the time we had made that last little swing around the backside we definitely went through the Spittlebug capital of the world.  I suppose she was happier before she learned that the foamy spittle comes out the anus of these little nymphs and her bare legs were now covered with spittle.  Oh well, another fun night in the bowels of nature!

As I said, the night wasn't a complete loss!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another day winds down on Winslow Hill

As the last light fades in the west we rushed to grab a few photos of the local elk herd.  We enjoy photographing them in their many stages.  At this particular stage they are awesome to look at.  The bulls are sprouting new growth and at this point their antlers are rounded and covered in velvet.  Each week the growth is quite noticeable.  Also at this stage the elk's coat is beautiful and smooth and quite different than the heavy winter coat.  One thing is for certain, they are amazing animals irregardless of the time of year.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Another colorful Woody!

Of all the ducks that we have photographed none are as brilliantly colored as the Wood Duck or Woody. 

Nocturnal critters pose challenges!

For quite some time I've been trying to get decent pictures of the 2nd largest rodent, the beaver.  They are very uncooperative and the fact that they are basically nocturnal adds to the complications.  Nocturnal means active after the sun goes down, which means low to little light, which translates to "difficult to photograph".  We have spent countless hours sitting quietly alongside beaver dams hoping to capture images of beaver that prefers day shift or 2nd shift as opposed to hoot owl shift.  We have a beaver dam near to our home that is home to a couple beavers.  These beavers are wise to us and will only show up when the light is to low to capture decent images.  It's a mental game and they are winning.

Recently we lucked out and found a beaver that was apparently afraid of the dark and showed up well before dark.  We spotted him coming from quite a ways and he ended up swimming right toward us.  He was still a good distance away but we still got some decent images.

The term "busy as a beaver" means just what it implies.  These large rodents are workers for certain.  A beaver can chew through a tree 10" in diameter overnight.  Their teeth continually grow so the chewing has little affect on their chompers.  These teeth are also self sharpening due to the growth pattern.  Their dam building skills are amazing. By the way, only the back feet are webbed on a beaver. The longest dam was spotted by satellite imagery in Alberta.  This dam was twice the width of the Hoover dam at over a half mile wide.  Even their lodges are amazing which normally have at least two chambers.  One chamber is actually a drying chamber for when they exit the water and enter the lodge.  The other chamber is the living area.  Sometimes they share this room with a Muskrat or two.

Baby beavers will stay in the lodge for the first month of their young lives before they venture outside.  They will stay with the parents for about 2 years. They mimic the behavior of the parents and become the same busy little beavers like their Mom and Dad who mate for life.  Beavers don't hibernate during the winter but stay primarily in the lodges and will chew a stick for nourishment.  Beavers can stay underwater for 15 minutes but are careful to leave a small air hole in the top of the lodge for breathing purposes.  Maybe someday we'll get better pictures but for now these will have to suffice.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The North American Fish Eagle

Okay, this raptor is more commonly known as an Osprey but some refer to it as a Fish Eagle or Sea Hawk.  They are a relatively large bird of prey but only a fraction of the size of an eagle.  I mention this because we've heard many times when someone had claimed they were looking at an eagle when in reality it was an Osprey.  These birds of prey are predominantly fish eaters and can spot their next meal from 125 feet in the air.  When they spot the fish they hover for a moment then dive feet first into the water and grab supper.  The Osprey and Owls share a common trait in that their outer toes are reversible and that makes it possible to clutch a slippery fish with two toes around the front and two toes around the back of their prey.  All toes are the same length.  I suppose that also helps them to hold a hammer when they build those awesome square nesting platforms that they always seem to have.  On a more serious note, they do make a call that is similar to a eagle.  Cool birds for sure!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A new life begins in the forest.

This is the time of the year that the forest welcomes the birth of tiny fawns.  There isn't a cuter critter than a little newborn fawn.  Just recently we pedaled our bikes down through the Grand Canyon of Pa on a beautiful 90 degree day.  As we rounded a corner we looked ahead and noticed what appeared to be a thin little dog drinking out of a puddle.  As we got closer we realized this was a tiny newborn fawn that was still quite wobbly on his new little legs.  Once he spotted us he tried to hide right next to the trail in the tall grass.  We didn't want to scare him and cause him to run into the nearby raging Pine Creek as that would mean instant tragedy for this little fella.  We did manage to get a couple pictures of him and then continued on our way.  Hopefully he reunited with his mommy as that is very important for his survival at this critical time in his young life.  This was certainly a treat though!

Can't mistake the fragrance of the Dame's Rocket

We visited a huge wetland near Wellsboro recently with the hopes of photographing some new species of ducks.  While that didn't seem to happen for us, we were treated to the fragrance of a large patch of nearby flowers.  These flowers are called Dame's Rocket and are one of my wife's favorite wild flowers.  They are often confused with Phlox but there is one major difference.  Phlox has 5 petals while the Dame's Rocket is always 4.  The smell of these small fragile flowers is something you will look forward to every year and means nicer weather is upon us.