Furry Little Creatures

 

waterfall

A few weeks ago I took a little trip to Ricketts Glen State Park in Pennsylvania. The park is just west of Scranton on PA 487. Here is a blurb from the park brochure:

Ricketts Glen harbors Glens Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark. Take the Falls Trail and explore the Glens, which boasts a series of wild, free flowing waterfalls, each cascading through rock-strewn clefts in this ancient hillside. The 94-foot Genoga Falls is the highest of 22 named waterfalls. Old growth timber and diverse wildlife add to the scenic area. Ricketts Glen State Park is one of the most scenic areas of Pennsylvania. This large park is comprised of 13,050 acres in Luzerne, Sullivan, and Columbia counties.

It was a long drive from my house in western NY so I only had time to hit the main attraction – the Glen. As advertised, there were a heap o’ waterfalls here. Of course this is a state park so it isn’t a wilderness experience – the trail is wide and groomed, the falls all have little name plates screwed to them, and there is a fair amount of traffic even on an autumn weekday. Still PA went relatively easy on the “improvements” – no concrete or snack bars (in the glen anyway) and the signage was not too conspicuous.

The falls are pretty and the number of them in one small area is amazing. I’ve sprinkled some photos from Ricketts in this post and in a post a couple three back from this one. From the parking lot off route 118 around the full loop and back is only about seven miles and even with stopping to take photos I was able to do it in a long afternoon.

Now what about those furry animals…

Up ahead of me along the trail I saw something moving along the ground. As I got closer I saw that it was a mouse foraging along the path edges. He seemed to sense my approach rather than seeing me because he never turned in my direction. He just ran across the trail and hid on the hillside. I came up to where he had disappeared and found him sitting just inside a little depression so that he was plainly visible if anyone cared to stop and look that way. He seemed to think he was quite invisible.

waterfall

In a few seconds he scampered down the hill past my feet and went about his little mousey business. As long as I stood still, he paid no attention to me at all – mostly he had his back to me. When I started to walk on, he sensed the movement and again ran for his hiding spot without ever looking. I walked backwards for a bit to see what he would do after I passed. Sure enough in a few seconds he headed down to the path and started rooting around again. I think that he has become so used to people walking past that he just feels someone approach, jumps aside for a few seconds to let them pass, and then heads back out. He doesn’t bother to check if the intruders have indeed passed or if they have stopped like I did – they always pass – just count to ten and go back out.

Along this trail I also spotted a squirrel which might not seem too interesting – squirrels are a dime a dozen in the woods. Ah, but this one was a red squirrel. I haven’t seen a red squirrel around my home since I was a kid. I distinctly remember one day my father and I were in the woods behind our farm and we saw a rare (at that time) grey squirrel. My dad said that it was a bad sign for the red squirrels and that they would eventually all be pushed out. Sure enough these days we are lousy with greys, but nary a red is to be seen.

There is a post at Flandrum Hill about the squirrel situation in Nova Scotia. I actually saw both red and grey squirrels around Ricketts – I wonder how long that will last? Maybe there is enough space and diversity among the trees to hold them both.

My final tidbit about furry animals is about bats. You might not think of them as being furry, but they really are (except for the wings) and they actually aren’t bad looking in a kind of “so ugly their cute” way. We have always had small brown bats around the farm. We kids would often find them hanging comatose in the barn rafters on cold mornings. Our grandmother (of course) sternly warned us about getting rabies and told us to stay away from them – we (of course) ignored her.

water

One evening a few weeks ago I decided to sit on my deck and watch the sky for a few minutes before going inside. It was a warm night for October. The east of the world was falling into darkness, but the western sky still glowed softly.

The first thing I noticed were bats – three or four of them black against the sky. The next thing was a flock of geese flowing past low and close to the house. Here was a contrast.

The geese flew in tight formation with strong wings beating in measured unison. They came so close that I could hear the buzzing sound made on each down stroke as they stiff armed their way through the air. They kept up a constant chatter among themselves that could be heard for a long time as they flew straight true and level to the horizon and beyond.

On the other hand, the bats are silent. Their ears might be filled with the sound of buzzing insects and their own sonar pings, but I could hear nothing. They spoke no word to me and their wings did not disturb the air in the least. Their flight is frenetic. Each one moves independent of the others. They zig and zag up and down side to side – they seem to be flailing around totally out of control and yet they never falter. Their wings are not stiff like goose wings. They are supple and loosely fitted so that the bats can twist and turn them at need. I’ve read that bats often use their wings like a basket to scoop insects out of the air and into their mouths.

I thought to myself that it must take a lot of insects to provide the energy for such wild movement. I found from a little research that a bat’s heart rate may go from 300 beats per minute at rest to 1000 during flight. They can eat 1200 insects an hour which can increase their body weight by 50 percent during a single feeding. Yikes!

MDW

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3 Responses to “Furry Little Creatures”

  1. Aaron Campbell Says:

    Beautiful exposures from Ricketts Glen and interesting post!

  2. eyegillian Says:

    I’m a sucker for waterfall photos, and these are gorgeous. This looks like a wonderful park to visit.

    That’s quite humourous, the way the not-so-timid mouse went about his/her business. I think of it as being a very practical creature, and now I’ll think of it as being brave, too.

    I haven’t seen bats for a while, but when they are flitting out and about at twilight, I love to watch their erratic flight. I almost always hear them, they make a kind of short nasal buzz, although I’m not sure whether it’s from their sonar or their wings.

  3. forestrat Says:

    Thanks for the comments, folks.

    Ricketts is a pretty cool place. I’ve always found the rock formations and forests of Pennsylvania to be very pretty – even as a kid I loved going on family vacations through PA.

    MDW

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