Readers’ wildlife photos

May 4, 2020 • 8:00 am

How do you feel about some of our non-animal relatives today? Reader Leo Glenn in Pennsylvania favors us with some plant photos as well as a variety of animal groups, including amphibians felids. His captions are indented:

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed wildlife photos. With everyone on lockdown, I recently shared some “virtual walks” on our property with my Facebook friends and thought your readers might also enjoy seeing some of the photos.

We own seven acres of mostly wooded land in western Pennsylvania. Fifty-eight percent of our state’s land area is forest, around 16.9 million acres, fitting for a a state whose name means Penn’s Woods. But by the turn of the twentieth century, the majority of Pennsylvania’s woodlands had been clear-cut to feed the burgeoning timber industry and to make way for over 120,000 family farms (only a fraction of which still survive), leaving only a few tiny, protected patches of old-growth forest. Forests have been allowed to return, but they are mostly managed as cash crops rather than habitat (97% of Pennsylvania’s forested land is classified as timberland) and bear little resemblance to the deep, dark, old growth forests that once covered much of the state.

Today’s Penn’s Woods are mostly young, open woodlands, heavily browsed by white-tailed deer, frequently timbered, and plagued with many invasive species, showing the signs and scars of centuries of mixed management. Evidence that our little woods was once farmland remains in the piles and lines of stones that still mark what were once the boundaries of fields. There are so many invasive species—multiflora rose, bush honeysuckle, garlic mustard, Canada thistle, Japanese barberry—that it’s disheartening sometimes to walk here and imagine what it must once have looked like. Previous owners timbered our land 20-30 years ago and also ran cattle on the property, which further impacted habitat and the relatively few native species that remain. Nevertheless, we have tried to be good stewards during our time as caretakers of this patch of earth, reducing invasives and restoring diversity where we can, and otherwise leaving the land, as much as possible, to its own devices. On my walks, I try to focus on the beauty, and photograph what catches my eye.

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum). Another common name of this species is American Mandrake, as the roots were once thought to resemble the Old World mandrake plant (Mandragora sp.) which was believed to have magical properties.

Northern White Violet (Viola macloskeyi):

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia):

Partial skull of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus):

Bark Beetle markings (I don’t know the species) on Bigtooth Aspen log (Populus grandidentata):

Grass inflorescence. I don’t know the species. Maybe one of your readers will. It was in a small, narrow-leaved clump. I love the flowers of grasses; they are so often overlooked.

Hole in Black Cherry tree (Prunus serotina) made by a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). I should have put my hand next to it for reference. The hole is over 6 inches in length.

Closeup of “wand” or fertile leaf (the part containing the spores) of Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea). This could also be a “Spot the Insects” photo, albeit a fairly easy one.

Cinnamon Fern fiddleheads (Osmunda cinnamomea):

Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus):

Gray Spring Moth (Lomographa glomeraria):

Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa), one of the earliest butterflies to appear in our area.

Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus):

Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens). The berries are edible but tasteless.

Yellow-fuzz Cone Slime (Hemitrichia clavata):

The very aptly named Pretzel Slime (Hemitrichia serpula):

Brown Cup, also called (appropriately) Pig-ear Cup (Peziza phyllogena):

Juneberry blossoms (Amelanchier lamarckii):

An “artistic” shot:

American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) Full disclosure: he came in to our back yard to get to our bird feeders, and I chased him into the woods and took this photo. I did not happen upon him while on my walk.

And finally, Felis catus, boxed set:

They’ve slept in these since they were kittens, and still do, despite the fact that they are considerably bigger now, especially our long-hair, Miso. Snug, but she still fits, and is somehow comfortable enough to sleep. The liquid nature of cats…


54 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. I suspect a neighbor is feeding him; he acted more like a dog than a wild bear. He very reluctantly left when I chased him, and kept turning back to me as if his feelings were hurt.

  1. Some very nice photos. The picture of the woods shows an area that has been left alone for a long time – with lots of dead trees on the ground.

  2. Wonderful to see such an assortment of life where you are. Great photos!
    I really enjoyed this post…and I loved seeing the two cats folded into a box.

  3. A masterful series of photos! Wow, I really enjoyed that. May apples have an interesting fruit. When ripe their juice can have a wonderful smell. But of course these are not safe to eat. I would love to find a mourning cloak like that.

  4. Lovely stuff! I love to see mayapple when they come up in the spring (as they are doing right now in south central PA). Also glad to see the salamanders!

  5. Thanks for sharing your nature walk and cats with us, Leo. The fiddleheads are ready for picking, yes? Your prose and photos are excellent. I’ll never again look at violets in quite the same way.

    1. Thank you! Yes, the fiddleheads are prime for picking. We don’t have that many on our property, though, so I harvest sparingly.

      1. I know what you mean. I have a tiny property and only a few fern which I leave alone, though it’s tempting to pluck. It would be great to find out if that pig-ear cup fungus is edible. That aspect is unknown, says Wikipedia. I do enjoy eating wood-ear fungus.

        1. My Audubon field guide says it is edible when cooked, but I suspect it would not be very appetizing. I’m not tempted to try it. I love wood-ear also, and have grown it on hardwood logs.

  6. Lovely, although, coming from Sussex, I think I would always feel a little uncomfortable on a countryside walk if bears were roaming wild!

    1. Black bears tend to be quite shy and retiring, unless you get between a mother and her cubs. And our woods are quite open, making surprise encounters pretty unlikely. I’m more concerned that some local person is feeding this bear. He behaved more like a tame dog than a wild animal.

    1. I always thought that it was an atavistic behavior related to safety and shelter, but I began to doubt that when our cat seemed equally interested in lying on a flat piece of cardboard. One of life’s great mysteries, I suppose.

      1. Cat’s have well developed imaginations. Perhaps they imagine the flat piece of cardboard has “sides”.

        1. My cats like to lie on anything remotely “new”, like a piece of clothing on the bed or thrown down the stairs to go in the laundry.

          1. That suggests, if they’re lying where you don’t want them to. Like the keyboard. You could offer them a new pair of socks.

  7. Love these! Especially the salamanders, the bear, and the boxed set that were locally grown. The water drops made good pictures terrific!

    1. I was also very excited about the salamanders. Those have disappeared long ago where I grew up (Wisconsin.

      Great slime mold pictures too (and interesting names!)

      1. Thanks. We have no running water on our property, so we don’t get the semi-aquatic species, but we are lucky to get several of the terrestrial salamanders.

  8. This was an enjoyable set. I like the wide array of subject matter and your commentary. Thanks!

  9. Lovely photos. I’ve seen those Mourning Cloak butterflies around here as well. May apple fruit make a lovely jam! They are all through the woods around here.

    1. Thank you. When I see the first Mourning Cloak, it feels like spring has officially arrived. I’d be curious to try mayapple jam. I’ve foraged for and sampled many wild edibles, and I’ve tasted the ripe fruits raw, but have never made anything with them. The toxic nature of the plant and of the unripe fruit have always put me off.

      1. Yes, it can be dangerous if you eat at the wrong time I guess. Sort of like in the category of mussels & mushrooms.

    1. I agree! Although I have to be careful of where and with whom I share my enthusiasm for them. I knew I would be in safe company here.

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