Saturday, April 23, 2016

Getting Serious (An Earth Day Celebration One Day Late)

"The great pulsation of nature beats too in my breast, and when I carol aloud, I am answered by a thousand-fold echo. I hear a thousand nightingales. Spring hath sent them to awaken Earth from her morning slumber, and Earth trembles with ecstasy, her flowers are hymns, which she sings in inspiration to the sun... "
- Heinrich Heine

Mama Gaia is finally getting serious about Spring in these parts. The daylight temperatures seem to have settled into the mid 60s to mid 70s (18º - 24º C), with no more freezing or sub-freezing nights. And the non-domestic, native flowering trees have finally started to bloom, most notably Redbud and Dogwood. And as yesterday was Earth Day, the timing was perfect. Unfortunately I was working yesterday, so today's walk through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park is my annual post to celebrate the glory of our planet. Enjoy!

Branch Creek by McLean House; note the Dogwood to the right
Entering the park on the Dykeman Walking Trail
A view of the Dykeman Walking Trail
The newly lush forest floor along the Dykeman Walking Trail
A view across part of the Dykeman Spring wetland, with blooming Redbud
A Gray Catbird merrily nattering away in the Dykeman Spring wetland
The creek in the Dykeman Spring wetland
My favorite corner of the north duck pond, with some visiting Canada Geese
A forest floor scene in the woods by the upland meadow
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Visit to the Rail Trail

Today was a repeat of yesterday's gorgeous weather, so I decided to pop up to the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail to see what Spring was up to there. There were lots of birds, especially Woodpeckers, flying around and singing and generally doing things birds do in the Spring. Plus the early wildflowers are blooming and the leaves are popping out on the trees. It was a fine day to be walking, and the sights were worth walking to see. 

An old tree overgrown with vines and Ivy near the entrance to the Rail Trail
Apple blossoms along the trail
There were a lot of White-throated Sparrows foraging on and along the trail
There were also large swaths of Spring Beauty flowers growing along the trail
This male Northern Flicker kept sticking his head out of his nest , yelling at me
This farm along the trail is getting ready to start the season
And now it's time to follow the trail back home to eat lunch
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Oh What a Beautiful Day!

Ahhhhh! Now Spring looks to be busting out all over here in Central PA! I've slept with the windows open the last two nights, and daytime temps are getting into the upper 70s F (around 25º C). And the green is increasing and flowers blooming. Not to mention birdsong, Spring Peepers, and lots of critters of all sorts showing up all over. Here are some scenes from this morning's walk through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park. (By the way, if you want to hear a Soundcloud file of the Spring Peeper chorus going on in the wetland this morning, come visit my Facebook timeline).

Branch Creek at King St. is looking appropriately Springlike
Redwinged Blackbirds are all over the place in the Dykeman Spring wetland areas. Here's a female...
... and a male objecting to my presence in their nesting territory.
There were several Painted Turtles out sunning on this gorgeous morning!
Meanwhile, the Violets are blooming on the upland meadow
And here's a Carolina Wren singing his territorial song at me as I invade his turf
Large patches of Black Mustard are springing up on the meadow
A look across the meadow to the mountains to the north from the Meadow Trail
I haven't done this in a while, but today's gorgeousness got me thinking of two particular songs, so here we go into the YouTube archives to dig up the best music videos. Enjoy!

Photos © 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


It's still chilly in the mornings, but Spring is advancing nonetheless and the Spring and Summer birds are starting to show up and the year-round residents are molting into their Summer finery. Walking through the Dykeman Spring Nature Park on the way to the grocery store this morning I heard and saw a greater variety now that the season is setting in. The songs of Cardinals, Redwinged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, White-throated Sparrows, and Nuthatches made a gorgeous chorus in the woods and the wetlands. I was patiently waiting for a White-throated Sparrow, a male Eastern Towhee, and a White-breasted Nuthatch to settle down long enough to get a shot, but no luck. I did manage to catch a Song Sparrow and a male Eastern Bluebird, though, as well as a shot of some sleeping Mallard drakes. 

Back home, I've switched the food in my feeder station in an attempt to get rid of the crowds of House Sparrows who had taken over the place and kept a variety of other birds at bay. I seem to have been mostly successful; I'm using seed and nut mixes that don't have millet in them, and include safflower seed, which House Sparrows hate. So now I'm getting a multitude of Finches (House and Gold) as well as Nuthatches, Chickadees, Blue Jays, and Cardinals, as well as a Redwinged Blackbird the other day. I'm also making my own suet these days in hopes of drawing more Woodpeckers and Wrens, and hopefully a Bluebird or two.

In any case, here are the birds I managed to capture with the lens today, both in the woods and at the feeder station. Enjoy!

A Song Sparrow singing away in the Dykeman Spring wetland

A pair of Mallard drakes sleep-drifting on the north duck pond

A male Eastern Bluebird along the upland Trail in the Dykeman Spring Nature Park

Goldfinches and House Finches at the tower feeder

A male Goldfinch at the tower feeder

A Blue Jay chowing down at the flat feeder

© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Friday, April 08, 2016

Spring Is Progressing... Sort Of

To all appearances Spring is moving right along; flowering trees are blooming, leaves and grass are greening the landscape, and flowers are blooming in the local gardens. But the weather seems to be saying the opposite. In March we had May weather, but now in April we're getting March weather - freezing nights, blustery winds, and threats of frost and snow. The blooming and greening occurs because of the angle and intensity of the Sun now that it's passed north of the equator, but that blooming and greening is threatened by the freezes and the snow. Here's hoping everything survives the next week or so!

Branch Creek at King St.; despite the green and the blooming Forsythia, the temperature was a chilly 37º F
Fungus on a burned tree trunk along the Dykeman Walking Trail
A male Redwinged Blackbird in the Dykeman Spring wetland. I'm wondering if he's regretting having come north too early!
The creek in the Dykeman Spring wetland, all greened up for the season
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger 

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Walking the Rails

After all the seasonably warm weather lately, suddenly last night Winter came back with blustery winds and cold temperatures. The walk to the grocery store today was kept to places that weren't exposed to the full force of the wind, so I decided this was a good excuse to walk along the railroad tracks again. Here are some sights seen from there.

The Dykeman Spring wetland area seen from up on the tracks
An old, ramshackle barn off Penn St. seen from the tracks
The Queen St./Baltimore Rd. overpass
© 2016 by A. Roy Hilbinger