Mama Bear sniffing the air. This is not at all a sign of aggression like a lot of people think it is. When watching Bears they will often raise their head and swing it back and forth. What they are doing is trying to pick up your scent. They can tell so much about whether or not you are a threat etc by your scent. The sense of smell is a Bear's strongest sense. They have a sense of smell 2,100 times better than humans!
From Monday-Wednesday this week my dad and I were on a camping trip in Shenandoah National Park. We had an awesome time and saw LOTS of Bears! I hope you enjoy my slideshow!
On Tuesday evening we found my favorite Bear, Gertrude, and her two yearlings. I've known Gertrude since she was three years old and raising her first three cubs. She is completing raising her fourth litter, now. For her first three litters she had three cubs but this fourth litter she is only raising two but she has successfully raised them both! This is the bear that I wrote about in my first book. She is such a special bear.
Piebald Fawn! Last year Denise and I found this unique young female White-tailed Deer fawn with her mom. Thankfully she made it through the winter and we saw her with her mama, and herd, several times this week in the same area of the park!
Last week I stayed with my friends Shenandoah National Park Ranger Denise and Rick Machado and spent every day volunteering in the park where Denise works. Each morning and evening Denise and I explored the park looking for wildlife. We had lots of bird and bear sightings as well as pretty sunsets and some other cool critters! Check out some of the photos I took during a fun week. Thanks so much Denise and Rick!!
A few weeks ago I found my first Bears of 2016, the earliest date I've ever seen Bears. Since then I've made four more trips to Shenandoah National Park, and amazingly, seen Bears every time. Quite a welcome surprise, but definitely a surprise, for this early in the season.
Three of my five bear watching trips this season have been of the same family that I first saw on March 10th. Other sightings have been of different mamas with their yearling cubs, plus a female that was very lethargic on a warm April 1st, I believe she had "cubs-of-the-year" (cubs born this past winter, not "yearlings" like the cubs I've seen already this year, which emerge earlier in the spring) still in a den close to where I saw her.
Through all these sightings I only had my second Bear photo opportunity of the year a few days ago when I found the mama and three yearlings that I first found on April 10th, for my third time this year, and I was able to snap off this photo.
Mama and her three yearlings all looked really good, large for this time of the year with beautiful, healthy coats. This was great to see.
I will be in the park for most of next week and hope to find some more of my Bear Friends, and hopefully get some photos too!
My friend Vic and I saw a large flock of these really awesome, unique finches along the Rockingham Co. VA/Pendleton Co. WV Line at Briery Branch Gap today. These birds are uncommon in Virginia and this is one of (if not the very most) reliable spots in the state of Virginia. We counted 18 today, up to 26 have been seen recently.
The Bears are out in full force now ... my dad and I saw five today. A mama and three yearlings and a single female we know well that was very lethargic and likely had cubs-of-the-year in a nearby den. Won't be long until she and the other moms bring out their newborn cubs. Can't wait to see the LITTLE guys but for now it sure is awesome seeing the medium and big ones.
Family shot! Three yearlings on the left with their healthy mama bear on the right. I first met these three cubs just over 11 months ago in late April, recently after they emerged their winter den. Now all three have survived their first full year and second winter! Mama will kick them out in two months from now and they will start living their lives independently. I got this photo a few weeks after this trip to the mountain, but i wanted to include it here to help tell the story.
This is the other adult female my dad and I saw today. We have known her for several years including two sets of cubs and she is expecting yet another set this year (Bears have cubs every other year). "Cubs of the year" (newborns, not "yearlings" like the young ones in the other two photos) are the last Bears to emerge from their winter dens and their mamas are the second-last bears to emerge (after adult Bears, subadult Bears and mamas with yearlings). Mamas that have Cubs of the year (COYs) go in and out of their den for a week or two before bringing their cubs out. This groggy mama is in that phase now.
The 75 degree temperatures from the last few days here in Shenandoah coupled with some very early season plant material for the Bears to eat brought a mama and three yearlings out of their den this week! I spent a considerable amount of time with this family last year and it was so great to see that the entire family of four had made it through the winter alive and healthy. Mama had lost a lot of weight as all adult Bears do in their winter dens. The youngin's on the flip side always go through a growth spurt when they turn one. Although they also, of course, lost weight in the den they are now lankier and slimmer than they were when I last saw them three months ago.
I look forward to many more adventures with my Bear Friends this year but this was a great first one....
March is upon us and either this month or the beginning of next month I will see my first Bears of 2016. It is such a happy thing for me that spring is so near and sightings of my Bear Friends will soon become regular, again. I have missed my Bear Friends dearly all winter and can't wait to spend more time with them soon! For now here is a photo of a mama Bear and one of her two cubs that I took late last fall. This particular mama is one that I call Rascal. I have known her since she was a cub and last year at age three she raised her first litter of cubs. From what I can tell she did a great job, both cubs were large and looked very healthy at the end of the season! Rascal and your cubs, I hope you have a great finish to your time in your den this winter, and I will see you soon!
Recently I saw this Shenandoah National Park Black Bear Cub climbing down a tree after eating his share of wild grapes growing on the vines that were growing up along the tree.
In addition to up along trees, wild grape vines also grow on various other natural objects throughout the woods, such as this big rock. A few weeks ago while watching this young female bear she climbed down to this rock and started eating the grapes growing on the vines around the rock, giving me this photo opportunity.
Most all the Bears in Shenandoah have denned for the winter now and I sure will miss them until they emerge in April. I was up in the park last week and saw one family and that was my third ever December bear sighting in Shenandoah. I'll be back up to the park today but I'd be surprised if many, if any Bears, are still stirring around.
Here is another photo from my recent Yellowstone trip.
Driving through the prime Grizzly Bear habitat of Hayden Valley we found a "wildlife jam" (a bunch of cars stopped along the roadway watching wildlife).
We were hoping that they had found a Bear, but instead they were looking at this handsome large bull Elk.
I managed to get a photo of him standing next to some sticks that are nearly the exact same color as his rack. It's almost as if he took some of the sticks and put them on his head for his rack :) hahaha
Black Bears are crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk, however this means it is not always easy to have the necessary light for a good photo or video. Nonetheless, this video of two bear cubs wrestling on the side of the road is just too precious not to share. I hope you enjoy watching them as much as i did!
A large White-tailed Deer buck foraging in Big Meadows. It was so great to see this buck, one of my favorite individual deer. It was like finding an old friend.
The 5th month of 2012, the year after my Junior Big Year is coming to a close. This is not a Junior Big Year, however my birding is shaping up similarly. The trips last year are what gave me the big numbers. So far I have not flown anywhere this year and only have one flying trip planned for the rest of the year. Obviously, my list is lower at this time than it was last year at this time. Right now my "year list" is at 209 species, last year at this time that number was 302. Call it 100 below, it is very close. Although that is a big difference, the way the birds are shaping up is VERY SIMILAR to last year, only with less bird species since there have been less trips. As an example, last year from mid April-mid May I was adding more than one year bird every day, on average. Some days there would even be 5 or 8 "new ones". This is because a large percent of wood-warblers, thrushes, flycatchers, vireos, etc. winter in Mexico or South America. When the birds return for breeding, a lot of them pass through or breed here in Virginia, so the birds just "racked up". A very similar scenario happened this year. I had multiple days with 5-8 year birds and few days with none, from mid April-mid May. However, at the end of the third week in May, here in Virginia the migration turns the "off switch" with not much notice. By May 25th, Blackpoll Warblers and a few other "late warblers" are the only ones trickling through, and in very small numbers. You still have the breeders (Redstarts, Ovenbirds, Black-and-whites, Chestnut-sideds, Hoodeds, Ceruleans, Waterthrushes, and so on) however they are all fairly common and I will have likely "picked them up" by the first week of May. So come mid May last year year birds all of a sudden became few and far between. In the first half of May last year I added 21 year birds. In the second half of May last year I added 4 year birds. A very similar thing happened this year. In the first half of May I added 21 (do you see the pattern here?) year birds and so far from May 15-May 29 I have added 1 year bird.
This shows you, that even when 2 birding years are very different, same patterns can and do occur with bird migration.
Even with birds being slow I've had lots of adventures with non-new birds and bears, etc. lately and I will hope to post an update from my recent adventures tomorrow.
I have a great dentist, but he is over 2 hours away in Fredericksburg, Va. I love going to the dentist! Afterwards I get to go birding over in that area, which always yields some birds that are not around/rare in this part of the state. A trip to the dentist got me my life Greater White-fronted Goose and # 368 for my Junior Big Year last year.
Yesterday my trip to the dentist yielded a wonderful day of birding with a day list of 79 species. The highlight was a Black Tern, a rare visitor to Virginia. It had been reported by other birders and my dad and I stopped off to see it on the way back from the dentist. Other good birds for yesterday included Yellow-breasted Chat (I had heard it before but yesterday was the first time I saw it), Ospreys, and more.
it's been a little while since I've posted..I've been very busy as I think every nature-enthusiast has been because this is a busy time! Here's why: for one, it's MIGRATION. I've posted about this before..warblers, vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks, and all the other neotropical migrant birds are returning..passing through and arriving to breed. And also it's EMERGING time..well, a little past emerging time...Black Bears, my favorite animal are coming out of their winter sleeps and the new cubs are enjoying the world for their first times.
Since May swung around 5 days ago I've ticked 7 new birds for my 2012 year list: Chuck-will's-widow, Canada Warbler, Bank Swallow, Double-crested Cormorant, Least Sandpiper, Warbling Vireo, and Blackpoll Warbler. The first 6 were added on May 1st when I spent all day birding around my local county in Virginia: Augusta with my good friend Vic Laubach. That day we found 106 species in the county alone! The Chuck-will's-widow was a life bird for Vic.
The 7th year bird of may, Blackpoll Warbler was one that I ticked this morning. The Augusta Bird Club had it's annual birding and brunch picnic and I attended, and there we found 57 species including my FOY Blackpoll, which is my favorite warbler. The first warbler I ever saw was a Blackpoll Warbler (at least 3 years ago) and then it was the first bird that I ever held, at the Kiptopeke Songbird Banding Station. With these 2 things, it makes since Blackpoll is my favorite warbler and one of my favorite birds...
Tomorrow the Augusta Bird Club is having it's annual Big Spring Day and many teams will be out around the whole county. My mom and I have a lot of territory and I can't wait. I will post an update.
Moving away from the birds topic, I've also seen 4 special bears in May so far. The first 2 were both young (1-4 year old bears) that I saw while birding on May 1st with Vic. The third and fourth were a mom with a yearling, while looking for bears in Shenandoah yesterday. There's a long story to go along with that that I will post sometime but not right now.
Happy wild times,
I've been very busy lately and haven't found time to post until now.
I'll review this past Saturday through today. On Saturday I went on a bird walk at Ivy Creek Natural Area over in Charlottesville with the Monticello Bird Club. We had some nice birds including some of my best-ever looks at Pileated Woodpecker but no too unusual birds. On Sunday I guided James Fox from Front Royal around Augusta County. We had a TERRIFIC day spotting Lark Sparrow, Red-headed Woodpecker, Rough-legged Hawk, 3 Bald Eagles, and my year and fairly out-of-season Brown Thrasher.
Early week was rather uneventful but yesterday was a great day. We went on a morning bird walk with the Rockingham Bird Club. We saw lots of great birds, 23 species in all, with the sure highlight being my year Fox Sparrow which gave great looks! After that we went out to our friend's property. She has an amazing property chock full of great birds! I was very pleased to find Rusty Blackbirds and my first-of-year Pine Siskins.
Today I did day one of a feeder watch count highlighted by goldfinches returning to my yard after a few weeks of absence. Welcome back goldfinches!
With recent additions of Brown Thrasher, Fox Sparrow, and Pine Siskin my 2012 year list is 95 species.
Sometime in the near future I'll post some photos from recently.
To start out February, my mom and I went birding in northwestern Augusta and Rockingham Counties today and we could not have asked for better weather or better birds!
On Badger Road, a location familiar for being one of the few spots in the area where you can reliably find Red-headed Woodpeckers, we found them as well as a PEREGRINE FALCON! Those were both new "year birds".
We also found American Tree Sparrow, Canvasback, and either a Common or Red-breasted Merganser as new 2012 year birds for me. My 2012 year total is now 91 species. I will update when I get an ID on the merganser from some more expert birders.
Enjoy a few photos from today. Gabriel
Post #1 for today
In 2010 I wrote a book called "Oh No, Gertrude!" accompanied by Rodney Cammauf's excellent photographs. It is about a mama bear named Gertrude and her 3 bear cubs to help keep bears safe. It is being carried by a number of national parks and I have sold over 2,000 copies. Please visit the "Oh No, Gertrude!" website: www.oh-no-gertrude.com
I am heading off now to do a book reading for the book at a Kindergarten Class in Orange, Virginia. Maybe I'll see some birds along the way!
That's about it for now.
Post #2 for today
In case anyone's interested, my book reading to the kindergarten class went great. I was hoping to see some birds along the way and I did not fail to do that. I found lots of hawks, mostly red-tails but a couple of kestrels and a Red-shouldered Hawk or two. I also found 2 Mute Swans, they were at a pond at a vineyard so they were most likely domesticated but still an interesting find.
To start out February, I'll go birding for several hours tomorrow. I'll post if I find anything interesting.
As January 2012 comes to a close, let me reflect on that month a little bit. Birding was my main focus this past month as the bears are asleep in their dens, the bucks have lost their antlers so the birds are the best right now.
I'm keeping a "year list" of all the birds I see and I have 86 so far for 2012. Most recent additions were Black-crowned Night Heron at a local pond in Waynesboro, Virginia and Ruddy Duck at a pond in Crozet Virginia, both this past Saturday. Some highlights from January 2012 include a Lark Sparrow, a rare visitor to Virginia that has been hanging around locally in Augusta County all of January. Yesterday a second Lark Sparrow was confirmed by me at the location where the one has been seen for a long time. Other notables include Cackling Geese, and Rough-legged Hawk in Augusta County and Golden Eagle in nearby Highland County. The Rough-legged Hawk in Augusta County is an over-wintering bird that has returned to a certain road for several winters.
Also, I have guided several people around Augusta County and gotten them notable birds and even life birds. If any of you are ever in Augusta County I would be happy to guide you around if we can pick a day that's free on my schedule and yours. Good birding!
Gabriel Mapel loves bears so much he wrote a book about protecting them.
The 12-year-old author of Oh No, Gertrude! will be reading at the Clearview Public Library branch in New Lowell next Thursday and at the Stayner branch next Saturday.
Mapel spends a lot of time hiking in Shenandoah Park in Virginia, where more than 500 bears live.
During a hike with his father, Mapel came across a bear and her three cubs. The bear came to be known as Gertrude.
Mapel said the black bear began to frequent a picnic ground and was getting into food left by hikers.
"We saw her and we knew she was going to get into trouble," he said.
Sure enough, the bear was trapped and moved about 120 kilometres away. This endangers bear's lives because the bears have to fight to establish territory, said Mapel.
"We decided our family would write the book to educate people how to keep bears safe," said Mapel
"It became my book," said Mapel, after his parents, Daniel and Mary (Mary, nee Ivits grew up in New Lowell, and attended Stayner Collegiate), encouraged him to try a first draft.
Oh No, Gertrude! was published when Mapel was 10 years old and it is now sold in National parks in Canada and the U.S.
Protecting bears can be quite simple -don't feed them, clean up after a picnic, bear-proof trash cans, and bring in bird seed in the summer, he says.
Mapel said he's having a great time travelling and reading his book.
"I just love teaching people how to (protect the bears), because I love them so much," said Mapel, who has seen more than 400 bears in his life and donates half his book profits to organization benefiting black bears.
The Coyotes and Bears are taking a toll on the Whitetail Fawns this year but every trip to SNP I've been able to see some good fawns and get some fairly good photos but only 2 I'm really happy with but that's ok because I also have some satisfying bear photos and for me it's really not all about the photo, it's viewing the animals and being in the park.
Today I was able to spend about 10 minutes around twin Whitetail Fawns and the fawns were off on there own 30 yards from mom so I was able to get some good footage of them without mom in the photos and videos.
Tomorrow I head back to the park and hope to find a certain mama bear with three cubs (will post more information, the bear has a long story and is named Gertrude).
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