Peak Foliage

Peak Foliage
October on Preston Pond

Brief History of Preston Pond

Born from glaciers about 13,500 years ago, the original pond was only what is now the wider north end. Probably about 10,000 years ago, as the modern forest started to take root, beavers colonized the pond and expanded it (old dams are under the water surface).

With the arrival of Europeans in New York and coastal New England, a vigorous fur trade grew in the 17th Century. Beavers are particularly vulnerable to trapping since they are easy to find and they were wiped out by the 18th Century. With no beavers to maintain the dams, Preston Pond drained and appears on 18th and 19th Century maps as only the smaller original glacial north end.

Reintroduction in the 1920's and 1930's led to beavers recolonizing Preston Pond. By chance, they arrived the same year my grandfather bought the property in 1946. Ever since then, beavers have lived unmolested (by humans) on Preston Pond - until February 2016. They have never caused flooding problems or over-eaten the surrounding forest stand to the point that they abandoned the pond. Their population has doubtlessly had its ups and downs, but they have managed their affairs here for the last 70 years as beavers did for millions of years: on their own, despite some of their top predators having been exterminated by humans.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mesozoic Soundscape

It is fascinating to note the changing frog choruses through spring into summer. The Peepers are still at it, but not at the near deafening level they were in May. The bullfrogs are going loud and long now at various times, but their schedule is capricious (still need a confirmation recording or photos of them if anyone is that ambitious). However, an interesting shift in the higher forest ponds of late has been the change to Gray Tree Frogs. They've been an accent to the overwhelming Peeper chorus for many weeks now. However, when Bonnie and I were coming back from a walk through the abandoned beaver ponds in the saddle south of the Pinnacle (Bolton Cliffs to some), they became the only voices as we left the ponds behind and the pass narrowed, providing an eerie and evocative accompaniment as we headed home for dinner.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Looking for a Bear: Found Two Paintings (will look for the bear later)

As a wildlife artist, I tend to be a rather opportunistic hunter. Most often I just go out to see what I'll see, but even if I have deer in mind when I head out, if a flock of turkeys wanders by, I am happy to switch. After filming the Black Bear last week, I went out to see if he had a regular route or had just been wandering through (bears can be very habitual). I found his trail easily enough, but it is not heavily used. Even so, I decided to sit down for a while and see if anyone happened by.

I stayed still and quiet for over an hour. In that time I saw no large mammals, but the local bird life apparently decided I had become a part of the scenery. Hairy Woodpeckers had a nest in front of me and were busy feeding their noisy brood. 

There will be a painting out of this eventually. The nest tree has interesting color patterns and lichen and the birds have to exit the nest with a bit of a curve that could work with a composition, but they weren't first in line after all was said and done.

The hen Wood Duck zoomed past a couple times and a pair of Flickers were having a grand time. They kept at it just behind me, but being backlit I didn't bother trying to photograph them. Then, seeming to realize that if they wanted to be painted they would have to step up their game and give me some better light, they moved to a different tree more to my side. They were right: the light was good. Moreover, they struck and held various poses. They obviously wanted to be painted. I rarely snub such eager subjects. Not quite done yet, but "Forest Flickers" Bolton Town Forest 12" x 9" acrylic is below. Still some refinements to do, but on to other things for a while. I like to put paintings up for a bit when at this stage before finishing them off; gives me time to recognize at least some of the errors I've made.

Speaking of looking for bears, here are a couple shots from expeditions in Nunavik (far northern Quebec) and Labrador where we have found the bears to be very curious/tolerant of people - most likely because they have rarely if ever seen any.

Top photo by Gary McGuffin on our 2006 WREAF expedition on Mushua-shipu (George River) to Ungava Bay. I had some shots here, but Gary was our pro, so we gave him front row (we were all in canoes).

Bottom photo by Cole Johnson on our 2009 WREAF "Trans-Labrador Expedition" (I was holding the canoe steady).

Sunday, June 12, 2016

While walking around Preston Pond, we came across many Lady Slippers.  Rob managed to capture the elusive white Lady Slipper before it disappeared!  They are on the List of Rare and Uncommon Native Vascular Plants of Vermont.  

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Revised art work and more coming

"Fire & Ice" Downy Woodpecker and Short-tailed Weasel. Libbys Lookout
9" x 12" acrylic

This painting was posted a couple months ago, but I didn't like the bird's wing position and some other naggy stuff so I repainted it. Two paintings starting this week from yesterday's foray and of course I'll be working on something with the bear. Hopefully some better reference on him soon.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Looking for a Water Bottle : Found a Bear

I was helping guide a class of fourth graders from Jericho Elementary around Preston Pond and Libbys Lookout Monday. As we headed into the Town Forest I told them to keep their eyes peeled because a large bear had been seen in the area. No luck spotting it of course (21 people walking through the woods: not quiet). However, one of the students asked if afterwards I could look for his water bottle that he thought he'd dropped along the way. So yesterday afternoon I headed out with the dogs to backtrack the route. Got to our first stop where he thought he'd most likely dropped it. No water bottle, but scanning for the Wood Duck family I spotted this fellow - right where we'd been the day before. What a treat for the kids this would have been. Sending the class the video as a second-best: they were close.

Interestingly, the dogs never saw it (I have a height advantage) and the bear showed no sign of knowing we were there either. The water bottle turned out to be on the bus, but had he not mistakenly thought he'd dropped it, I wouldn't have run into the bear.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Frog songs and Deer snorts

Apparently Bullfrogs are not "officially" recorded for Bolton, so having heard a couple last night I went out to try to get some video. Little luck with the Bullfrogs; they aren't very vocal yet (I did get one, but it is faint), but the Spring Peepers, Toads, and Gray Tree Frogs were in high gear. Peepers are everywhere. Most toads were north of Preston Pond in the wetlands and there were more Green Tree Frogs singing at the Upper Pond than at Preston Pond. Green Frogs made occasional contributions on both ponds and there were quite a few Pickerel Frogs, though they were only on Preston Pond. The one Bullfrog recording I got was on Preston Pond. This is a Gray Tree Frog at the Upper Pond. Video below:
The local deer weren't happy that I was out and about when normal humans are at home with loved ones. I jumped two at very close range walking out at dusk (8:50 pm) and around 10:00 pm, while focused on recording frogs along the west shore of Preston Pond, a deer came up on me from behind along the same beaver trail I had used and scared itself. It belted out a series of warning snorts. Bit of a start for me too:-).