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Moving On

Times change and it is time to make changes here at Three Red Trees.  I have created a new blog called The Forest Wolf to better reflect my combined love of craft and Nature.  Under this new name I will continue to post pictures of tracks, plants and primitive crafts along with the stories that go with them.  I will also be sharing my craft and artwork and announcements about classes I am teaching.

I have moved all the old blog posts from this page over to The Forest Wolf as I will eventually shut this one down.  So if you would like to continue to join me in my adventures please go to The Forest Wolf and subscribe.

With thanks

Andy

A few days ago I got to go out tracking with some friends.  We came across some great stuff I’d like to share with you including ritual bear trails and moose sign.

Pine Tube Moth Larva's Shelter.

Pine Tube Moth Larva’s Shelter.

One of the first things we came across were little tubes made of pine needles like the ones above. They hold a moth larva that overwinters inside.  I had never noticed them before.

Ritual Bear Trail

Ritual Bear Trail

Kersey had been here before and brought us to this ritual Black Bear trail.  The bears walk in the footsteps of past bears, grinding their feet into the ground, leaving sometimes obvious and long lasting impressions.  It is hard to see in the photo though they were quite clear in person.

This sign is usually associated with marking trees though we didn’t find any.  We were more focused on something else.

Lee with a possibly bear damaged tree on ritual trail

Lee with a possibly bear damaged tree on ritual trail

Lee is from South Africa where he runs Nature Guide Training which teaches guides and other students about African wildlife.  He was intensely curious about everything.

Kersey and Mike exploring bear sign

Kersey and Mike exploring bear sign

Kersey runs Original Wisdom which also trains people in wildlife tracking and other Naturalists studies.  She is generously mentoring Deneen and I in trailing wildlife (the act of following tracks to the animal who made them).  More on that later.

Mike is a tracker and forager who is on his way to great renown in the world of survival skills.  He was also known on this day as Samwise sans frying pan.

One of two large Red Squirrel Middens we came across

One of two large Red Squirrel Middens we came across

We also found some of the largest Red Squirrel middens I have ever seen.  Red Squirrels store food in large amounts, usually underground, in what are called larders.  They eat this food while perched in a favorite spot leaving a big pile of scraps, in this case pine cone parts.

Red Squirrel sign on white pine cone

Red Squirrel sign on white pine cone

The other large midden

The other large midden

many ages of Red Squirrel eaten pine cones

Many ages of Red Squirrel eaten pine cones

Black Bear sign on a rotten log

Black Bear sign on a rotten log

In another area of the woods where more bear sign in the form of torn apart rotten logs.  Bears dig through them looking for grubs to eat.  I especially like the one below as the bears hind feet pushed down the ferns below the logs giving a better impression of it movements.  The destruction seems intense however I bet it is quite a deliberate act on the part of the bear, possibly even slow and methodical.

More Bear sign on logs.

More Bear sign on logs.

Bear claw marks on sugar maple

Bear claw marks on sugar maple

A bear had been up this big old maple tree leaving some claw marks.  They may eat the maple seeds up there though that is just my guess.

Unknown species of "Foxfire Fungus"

Unknown species of “Foxfire Fungus”

Another cool find was the fruiting body of a type of foxfire fungus.  There are several types of fungus that are referred to as foxfire because they are phosphorescent (glow in the dark). I have yet to determine the species here.  It is the one responsible for the greenish blue rotten wood one often sees in New England.

The main purpose of this trip was to practice trailing.  Deneen was not able to be with us this day so it was me and Mike under the tutelage of the experts.  We had found some old moose sign early in our time.

Moose stripping of tree bark for food

Moose stripping of tree bark for food

Eventually we found a trail to follow. Below is a track, one of the very few obvious to me.

Another moose track, one of the few obvious

Another moose track, one of the few obvious

Kersey helps me find the moose trail

Kersey helps me find the moose trail (photo by Lee Gutteridge)

The tracks were very difficult for me to find.  Some were clear, two or three or four in a row, then nothing.  The terrain was not what would be called easy.

Andy on a moose trail in what is locally refereed to as "shit-tangle" habitat

Andy on a moose trail in what is locally referred to as “shit-tangle” habitat (photo by Lee Gutteridge)

After loosing the trail and finding it again (usually it was re-found by one of the others) we would come across something really obvious.  When Lee called us over to this moose scat he said, in that dry humor of experienced outdoors people, “I think it may have been here.”

Relatively fresh Moose scat of one of the animals we were trailing

Relatively fresh Moose scat of one of the animals we were trailing

Moose track in the forest floor

Moose track in the forest floor

I wasn’t going to find a moose that day, the trail was a little old and really difficult to follow.  That was fine with me because I was following a trail further than ever before.  Sure in snow I have followed trails for miles, even catching up to the animal.  That’s easy.  This was challenging. I searched for occasional clear sign like the image above of crushed logs and sticks, loosing the trail again and doubling back to the certain print to start over.

I had one really good sequence that I had found by myself and followed a few dozen yards with confidence.  In that moment it was pretty clear that I was made for this stuff.

It was also quite humbling as I stumbled around, to be with two people who routinely track lions in Africa this way.

Imagine that… lions.

(photo by Lee Gutteridge)

(photo by Lee Gutteridge)

Changing my blog Name!

I will be changing the name and therefore web address for this blog to threeredtrees.wordpress.com.  Please change any links or bookmarks you have.  I think subscriptions will stay active though I am not sure so check those too.

With great thanks

Andy

July is bark peeling season here in Southern New England. Tree bark is an important resource for anyone living close to the land as it supplies the raw materials for many things; coverings for dwellings and canoes, string and rope and containers of all kinds.

Many species of trees bark share exceptional properties that make it so useful.  Many become pliable when wet and ridged when dry. Many contain strong fibers and some oils that lend to flammability and rot resistance.

One of my favorite things to make during this time are bark berry buckets. This July I peeled some bark for this purpose.

Gabby making stiching holes in bark bucket

Here are some images of my daughter making a berry bucket. In the future I may do a full tutorial on how to do this. For now I will hit the high points.

The bark (in this case of tulip poplar) is folded in half at the bottom in a certain way to create an elliptical cross section. Then the edges are stitched together. Gabby used a bone awl to make the holes and then stitched with hickory bark. I prefer hickory bark taken from saplings or branches (any species of hickory seems to work similarly), it is very strong and drys to a wood-like hardness).

Stiching bark bucket sides

A rim is then stitched on, in this case Gabby wanted to leave one side of the bark proud above the rim for “style”.

Finished bark bucket

We had a fun time together working on this. My daughter went right out and picked blueberries with it, nearly filling it. This and other bark projects are great for kids and beginners to woodcrafting or wilderness skills.

When I first met my wife Deneen we were taking a workshop on how to put together an atlatl and dart kit.  A few weeks later when we where courting over email I told her I had already killed a mammoth with mine, how was hers coming along?

My attempt at charm aside, atlatls and darts (spears) were what ancient man used to hunt mammoths and other very large animals.  Australian Aboriginal people used them up into historical times.  Much simpler that bows, they are relatively easy to make and fun to use.

This is a video exploration of a couple sets I have made.

While visiting in Southern Maine a few weeks ago we encountered several songbird species that I was able to capture video of.  Included are some birds I don’t often get to see such as Common Yellowthroat, Brown Thrasher and Prairie Warbler.  Hope you enjoy it!

 

As a kid I saw ant hills everywhere, even in cracks in pavement.  Since then my understanding of what a little hole in the sand could be made by has broadened tremendously.  Here are a few examples of different creatures that make holes in the sand.

Antlion Colony

Above are tiny pits in a protected spot under a shed roof.  Other than demonstrating how long ago the rototiller was used, these little pits can lead us to the amazing creature pictured below.

Antlion

Antlions dig their pits as a trap for ants.  They back down into the earth and flick sand up at any ant that enters the pit, making it impossible for the ant to do anything but fall deeper in.  The antlion, waiting at the bottom, then grabs them with those big mandibles and its all over for the ant.  Antlions are the larval form of what are known as lacewings, which somewhat resemble a dragonfly.

Solitary bee

While antions create an inverted version of an ant hill, these next examples do have somewhat of a mound around them. The biggest difference between this and the ants is a much bigger hole which is not always in the center.  Many species of solitary bees and wasps create these holes.  I find these in colonies in open sandy ground without any real protection from disturbance.

In the above picture you can see a bee coming out of the hole.  The below pictured holes are more indicative of the solitary wasps, with the sand pushed out in one direction.

solitary bee or wasp

In this picture a “pathway” was created in front of the hole.

testing depth

We tested the depth of a few of these holes and found them to be around 2 inches deep.  They could of course have changed angle and gone further down.

testing depth

Below is a closeup of one of the suspected wasp holes.

solitary bee or wasp burrow

 

Wolf spider burrow

Many kinds of wolf spiders burrow, some make these turreted holes, using twigs, pebbles and spider silk.  The wolf spider pictured below was walking amongst several of these spider holes which circumstantially indicates it may be of the borrowing wolf spiders (Geolycosa).  It is carrying its young on its back.

Wolf spider with young on it back

 

Tiger Beetle

This beauty is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle.  Its larval form digs vertical shafted, very clean holes.  The adult form (pictured above) digs this hole below, more of a shallow slot really, as a shelter.

Possibly adult tiger beetle

As a kid I was not much interested in insects and spiders until I learned they could build things.  Turns out they build all sorts of thing including these burrows and tunnels and its was all right under my feet.

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