Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Consturction Continues At Gilbert Farm Viewing Area

I arrived in Elk Country last week to find construction going full bore on the new parking lot atop Winslow Hill at the Gilbert Farm Viewing Area.  Thanks to photos posted on Facebook by Tom Dorsey and others and verbal reports from Ron, "Buckwheat" Saffer and Billie Cromwell, what I found was not a great surprise..  The first photo posted below is taken from Winslow Hill Road going north up the hill.  I was standing in Winslow Hill Road at the point where the new Dewey Road branches off from Winslow Hill Road.  Where the equipment is parked is just in front of the old parking lot.  At the time this photo was taken, construction netting was across the new section of road at both ends and also along the entire frontage with Winslow Hill Road.

New Dewey Road And Parking Lot Construction
Billie Cromwell reports that he was there on the day the hard surface was torn up.  A big dozer arrived with a scarifier attached to the blade and in a short time the blacktop was removed.  This section of Winslow Hill Road is now a narrow gravel road for the time being.  Below is the view looking up the hill with the old parking lot being on the left.

Winslow Hill Road
In the photo below I am standing in old Dewey Road and looking up the new portion of the road which was fenced off at that time.

New Dewey Road
 I was somewhat surprised to find that the old portion of Dewey Road was still there and was still being used  when I arrived, but I suspect that situation will change soon if it has not already as by Thursday the workers were spreading a coat of gravel on the new portion of the road, which seemed to indicate they were getting it ready to use in the near future.

Old Portion Of Dewey Road Still In Use Last Week
Spreading Gravel At Winslow Hill-New Dewey Rd Intersection
Below is a photo of the intersection of the old portion of the road with the new.  As I understand it the old portion will be covered over and landscaped into the new viewing area.

Intersection Of Old And New Portions Of Dewey Road
Spreading Gravel On New Portion Of Dewey Rd
It will be interesting to see what this all looks like when it is completed and how it impacts the elk viewing experience.  An important concern to many is whether parking will still be permitted  along the portion of Dewey Road that will travel along the meadow to where the old farm house used to be.  If parking is not permitted it is at least hoped that people will still be allowed to stand along the side of the road where the current parking strip is.  If this is not permitted and one must remain in the viewing area at the top of  the hill if they wish to watch this portion of the meadow it will effectively ruin elk photography at this spot.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Calves And Bulls In Pennsylvania Elk Country

I spent most of the past week in Pennsylvania Elk Country with the primary focus of the trip being the photography of elk calves and bulls in velvet.  A large herd of cows was seen most mornings and evenings along Dewey Road.  At times it was possible to see calves with them and sometimes there were many of them.  Mostly the calves were seen either very early or very late when the light was less than ideal for quality photographs.

Elk Calf

Many of the elk were very shy and calves especially usually didn't linger near the road.  It is common for them to be more spooky at this time of year as the cows are especially concerned about protecting the young from danger.  Many of the calves were fitted with ear tags.  This is done by workers capturing the calves and fitting them with the tags and collecting biological data and it seems likely that this also contributes to the animals being especially shy at this time of year.

Extended Family Group
No ear  tags are visible in today's photographs, but I have quite a bit of video of calves with tags and will hopefully be posting a short video of wildlife seen on the trip in the near future.  As usual, I took mostly video as it works better in very low light conditions or at long range. 

Most of the bulls seen from the road on Winslow Hill were small, but one 5x5  was of respectable size, although it is still a young bull and far from realizing its' maximum potential. A few years ago this meadow provided an excellent background of wildflowers and tall grasses, but now it is kept mowed.

5x5 Pauses From Grazing In Short Grass
The largest bull of the trip was seen well over 100 yards away in Cameron County  one morning and I took a few photos of him. hand-held with the  70D and the new model 100-400mm as the animal was very edgy and seemed likely to flee at any moment..

Cameron County 6x6-Canon 70D-100-400mm IS II
Although he acted very nervous he did not leave, so I cautiously set up the 600mm and the 7D MK II on a tripod and took a few frames.

Cameron County 6x6-Canon 7D MK II-600mm F4
It was a good trip on the whole and I hope to post more about it in the next few days, which will include photos of the relocation of Dewey Rd and the construction of the new parking lot there.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Widlfie Sightings Abound As June Arrives

Whitetail Buck In Velvet
Here in southcentral Pennsylvania late May and early June is an interesting time to be afield as the fawns are  born and the bucks grow velvet covered antlers.

Velvet Covered Antlers Grow Rapidly
 With that being said, it is not the easiest to see either at this time.  Most of the larger bucks are traveling in bachelor groups and are seldom seen, but it makes for great photography when they do appear.

Fawns are often seen soon after birth, but then they are seldom seen for a few weeks as the doe hides them in the woods or tall grass and leaves them while she  feeds elsewhere.  Sometimes fawns will come into the meadows after them, but this is not commonplace until they are a few weeks old and it is sometime in July or August before the fawns are almost always with the does.  I have seen fawns as early as mid-May, but it was the 24th this year before I saw the first one.  I was driving a back road and saw a doe and fawn cross the road.  I got off a few quick frames with the still camera and then set the video camera up and got much better material with it.

First Fawn
I got the first good still photos of a doe nursing a fawn this year on the evening of May 29th when a fawn stood up from the edge of a meadow where it was hiding in the grass and began feeding.

Doe and Fawn Nursing
The mating season of the Eastern Wild Turkey is really winding down by the end of May and one seldom sees them strutting by mid-June.  Now it is more common to see them feeding or moving through the countryside.

Mature Eastern Wild Turkey Gobbler
 I seldom see rattlesnakes in this area, but I have probably seen more in late May and early June than at any other time. This year I photographed one that was hanging out at an old back country barn over a period of two days.  In the first instance he was lying on a pile of posts outside the barn while in the second he was lying on the barn floor and peering out of a hole in the siding of the barn. The 5D MK III with 100-400mm IS II was used for the first two photos, while the 7D MK II and 600mm F4 was used for the last one.

Eastern Timber Rattle Snake: Coiled For Action

Eastern Timber Rattle Snake Peers From Barn

Eastern Timber Rattle Snake

While opportunities such as the rattlesnake encounter are always welcome, most of my spring and summer photography is of whitetail deer, wild turkeys and Pennsylvania elk.and I look forward to filming and photographing them as summer nears.

Pregnant Whitetail Doe
Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Saddle Becomes Restricted Area on June 1st

Paul Staniszewski informed me today that he checked The Saddle area out this morning and the signs are now in place declaring it a restricted area from the first day of June until the first day of archery season.

PGC Restricted Area Sign: Photo Courtesy of Paul Staniszewski
According to Paul,  access beyond the main road that circles the area in nonexistent. One of my favorite areas in The Saddle is the very top, which is a superb scenic overlook.  At this point it looks as though access will be denied to this area as well, although I see very few people in that spot during the summer months and it cannot be claimed that the area is overused during this period or that harassment of elk is a problem.

PGC Road To Top Of Saddle Closed To Public-Now Part of Restricted Area: Photo Courtesy of Paul Staniszewski

PGC Designated Trails Sign: Photo Courtesy of Paul Staniszewski
 Below is a  a map that is part of a Brochure Published by the Pennsylvania Game Commission entitled "Equestrian Trail State Game Lands 311. The Saddle Area is in the lower left quadrant of the map. I have indicated where I think key areas are  by placing a red dot and writing in red type so the "Test Hill", Top of Saddle", etc. notations are mine.  I must emphasize I may be mistaken about these locations.  One may download the entire brochure by following this link. and looking for SGL 311.

Map Of  SGL 311 by PGC-Designations In Red Text by W. Hill.
I will try to get more detailed information within the next few weeks and keep readers updated as more information becomes available.

A special thanks to Paul Staniszewski for this report.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.