Rural System's

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Welcome to Sights. Enjoy them all, or to search for an observation of special interest, tap the Edit tab in the top of the screen, upper left, and then enter one or a select series of a few key word when it says "To Find (on This Page)..."

  1. Remembering a great field observer...

    The first NatureSeen memorial is to Dr. Burd S. McGinnes, leader of the Virginia Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, Blacksburg, Virginia for over 20 years. He was a person of great good humor.Some of his students worked in ecological analyses and evaluations of the coalfields. He addressed in his dedicated career many natural resource topics, especially those of the forests and wildlife. He completed a part of a five-year cottontail rabbitSilvilagus floridanus study for his PhD degree at the Unit in December, 1957. He had accepted a job in the wild turkey management program in Pennsylvania but in January, 1958, he resigned from this position to return to Virginia as Leader of the Unit (May 15, 1958). He continued his special interest in the cottontail but his interests were very diverse. He had a blooming landscape painter's ability. Crippled by arthritis, stress was added by the loss of his son the single combat fatality from Blacksburg in the Viet Nam war. Dr. McGinnes died in 2002.

    In relation to questions about deer swimming, in New York City Parks we had seen a deer or 2 in the Bronx that had come down from Westchester County, but found out about a rescue that had to be made on Staten Island. A deer had apparently forged the river from New Jersey to Staten Island. It was amazing to hear, in part because of the distance the deer swam against strong currents and because this was happened in New York City.
    email Oct. 28, 2000 from Vicki Hornbostel,
  2. E.T. Seton in The Lives of Game Animals (1929) wrote: "Richardson, in his overland journey, 1848, relates that on June 26, at Buffalo Lake, "a Canada Lynx was seen swimming across a strait, where the distance from shore exceeded a mile. We gave chase and killed it easily. This animal is often seen in the water" and elsewhere he remarks: "It swims well and will cross the arm of a lake two miles wide." Seton is citing Dr. John Richardson, author of Fauna Boreali Americana (1829).
    reported by Christopher Hoving via email, November 2, 2000
  3. I know of two other accounts of lynx swimming: one on a lake, and the other crossing a river.
    HAM, E. 1963. I remember...the Allagash lynx. Down East Magazine. 9(10): 87.
    DARLING, J. 1896. A lynx family. Forest and Stream 47(4): 64. (July 25).

    When considered in light of more recent studies of lynx ecology, an explanation for swimming behavior emerges. Kim Poole (JWM 61:497-505) has shown that lynx can disperse up to 930 km in the Northwest Territories. Given the number of lakes and rivers in boreal Canada, I hypothesize that lynx have evolved to disperse through water.

    Dispersal probably does not explain the orignal post of a deer swimming in Lake Erie. My guess is that the deer was frightened into the water, and simply continued swimming away from danger. In the nineteenth century, some hunters in Maine used dogs to chase deer into lakes where they could be shot from canoe.
    from email by, Department of Wildlife Ecology,University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5755

  4. In a thorough study of 9 techniques of estimating forest overstory cover, Vales, D. J., and F. L. Bunnell. (1985. Comparison of methods for estimating forest overstory cover. Research, Ministries of Environment and Forests. IWIFR-20. Victoria, B.C. 117pp.) tested for precision and accuracy. They concluded the most precise instrument was the spherical densiometer (analogous to a fish-eye lens), although the estimates obtained by this method were strongly biased. Techniques that projected wider angles resulted in higher mean estimates of canopy cover. The moosehorn was the most precise instrument among unbiased techniques. They concluded the 10 degree arc of the concentric grid from hemispherical photographs provided the most precise, unbiased technique.

    If projecting vertical canopy cover is your goal, you may wish to use a longer lens rather than a fish-eye, and sample from a grid of stations within your plot. Also, consider using a digital camera instead of film. Analyzing percent cover with digital photos doesn't require dot-grid overlays.
    email (Sept, 2000) from Matt Kirchhoff,, Research Biologist, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Box 240020, Douglas, AK 99824

  5. Yellowjacket note from Bob Jacobson, ( July 24, 2002 who had seen Dr. Ken Stein's chapter in Peculiar Manor: I thought you might be interested in knowing that Vespula acadica (called "forest yellowjacket" by Akre) occurs between Grayson Highlands SP and Mt. Rogers (Virginia). It has been found in Pendleton Co., WV, so it is likely to occur on the VA side near US 33. Whitetop Mt. would be another possibility but I haven't seen it there. It is also found in a few localities in western North Carolina.

    The name "hybrid yellowjacket" was given to Vespula flavopilosa by Akre; no one probably ever called it anything but a "yellowjacket" before its description. Some people apparently feel that a common name must be tagged to every species (a practice perhaps encouraged by USDA?)whether or not anyone but the person assigning the name ever uses it!

  6. A follow-up note to the above note from Vespula acadica can occasionally be found at lower elevations. I've been in western North Carolina for 7 years, and the first year I was here, I saw a queen here (Lenoir, at 1350') but was so skeptical I didn't take it seriously. This year, I managed to collect one here! However, I suspect it's a "stray" that doesn't get established this low. In Virginia I've found workers, and at high elevations of NC (5500' +) queens, a worker, and a male.Bob Jacobson, July 26, 2002
  7. A note from Bob Jacobson, On 7 September 2002

    I discovered a colony of Vespula acadica in the Pisgah National Forest along the bridle trail close to NC 128, a short road which runs from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell State Park. The nest, located at perhaps 5800 feet elevation, was slightly exposed above the mossy ground in which it was located. When collected the following day, it turned out to have over 250 inhabitants, including many males and new queens along with the workers and foundress. Including the fragile gray envelope, the nest is about 8 inches wide but only 3 inches deep, its downward expansion having been restricted by gravel. The combs are very irregular in shape, being somewhat a collection of small pieces, due to this gravel.

    A couple weeks later, males and a worker of this species were found near the Black Balsam Trailhead (off the Blue Ridge Parkway S of Mt. Pisgah) visiting flowers of what is probably

  8. Aster lateriflorus. This aster consistently attracts workers and males of various Vespula and Dolichovespula species. Thu Oct 31 19:09:55 EST 2002
  9. Response of Dr. Ken Stein 03/25/03 to Brian Johnson 23 Mar 2003

    I am looking for a vespula vulgaris nest I am willing to buy one. I am a hornet nest and yellowjackets nest collector

    I am not sure that you could find a nest of Vespula vulgaris that you would like to keep. Unlike the genus Dolichovespula that has very tough papery nests, the nests of the genus Vespula are papery, thin, and very brittle. If you do find one, I'd be curious to know how you obtained it. Stein

  10. An email note from Brad Rimbey, Temple Terrace, Florida, July 7, 2003
    I saw my first Florida Coyote today. It ran across the road ahead of me this morning on S.R. 60 near Yeehaw Junction (appropriately enough). I had read that they had migrated into Florida. There have even been reports that a pack of Coyotes lives at Tampa International Airport. I also read about local coyotes eating cats.
  11. Chipmunk food - Chipmunks (Tamias?) ate seeds of Japanese barberry in the fall. I watched one clear off a bush last November. Charles Lubelczyk, Field Biologist, Maine Medical Center, Vector-borne Disease Lab, 13 Charles St. 3rd Floor, Portland, ME 04102, phone: 207-842-7142, email:
  12. From Moumar Gueye student of Giles, Senegal, 1990.
    After setting up a tent-blind or similar hiding structure for observing wildlife and leaving it for a while, two observers then go into the blind and one then exits. The folk belief, still practiced, is that animals (elephants, large cats, etc.) cannot "count" and do not realize that an observer is still present.
  13. From Carol, November 5, 2003
    I have been at the International Institute of Rural Reconstrution in the Philippines for the past month. There are small groups of trees that make a "food forest," papaya, banana, gauva, avacada, orange, lime, tangerine, and others for which II have no name. I have read of tropical food forest, now I have experienced them. Some of the birds here are the same as home (Tennessee USA) but others are very different. I have eaten blooms, leaves and veggies that are unknow to me. I have seen big tall trees, huge trees that would take 3 people to reach around and georgous scarlet-topped trees. Palms, pines, hardwoods all are here. People use many products of the forest locally for building homes, making furniture, and carvings. People, at least in the rural area's, are living close to the land and the resources of it. The sea is close also, but the corals are dying from the pollutants. I think the seas here are in the same sad shape in which clear cutting leaves the mountain forest.
  14. A rare Not-Seen Observation: April, 2005, an official investigation confirmed, after repeated failure of tourists to sight a tiger, that in the Sarishka Tiger Reseve in Western India there are no more tigers left. No one knows when and how the last tiger vanished from the reserve. Calcutta, India, August 2005. - Bhaskar Sen, Calcutta, India , August 17, 2005
  15. A major conflict between wildlife and people is the elephant invasion ofcrop fields, the consequent chaos among the villagers, and even a few accidental deaths. In West Bengal, every year in winter herds of elephants from the adjacent hills come down to raid crops and get engaged in a "bullying" conflict with the villagers, each seeming to try to "push" the other off their ground. Over many years possible measures have been suggested and tried, namely:
    1. Creating an "extra" patch of green on the traditional migration route of elephants (called buffering in the wildlife literature)
    2. Radio collaring the matriarch of the herd and following herd movement through radio and computer maps
    3. Tranquilize the "errant" elephants and relocate them.
    4. Shooting and killing the "rogue" elephant.
    5. Using tame elephants to guide wild elephants away from crops and graneries
    6. Improving elephant habitat and developing corridors
    Losses continue. Over the last few years, the elephants are breaking up in smaller herds and raiding the crops in fields spread over a large area. Some of these "satellite" herds are pushing their way even into thickly populated towns. Recently, using the Hullah party (groups used to drive away elephants with drums, torches, and fire), has failed. That has been the only feasible option for the Forest Officials. Elephants seem more determined than ever to "push" their way in. - Bhaskar Sen, Calcutta, India , August 17, 2005

    A few years ago during one regulation drive against the tresspassing elephants, an elephant calf fell inside a ditch. It could not get out and the mother would not give up. Somehow, the Forest Officials rescued the distressed cub and brought it back to Calcutta Zoo for veterinary treatment.

    The mother elephant was driven back into the wilds by the hullah party but only for a few days (7-10), then, a strong herd of around 25-30 elephants started a determind journey towards Calcutta across paddy fields and human habitation,nearly a 500km journey. With much difficulty, the herd was intercepted half-way and driven back. Later the calf was released to her mother back in the forest. Coincidence? Purposive? - Bhaskar Sen, Calcutta, India , August 17, 2005

  16. I studied jackals in the suburbs of the city, Calcutta, concluding it in November, 2003. In December, 2003 the same Jackals hit the news. Two men were allegedly (no confirmation for that) bitten by jackals and died of rabies. A section of residents raised an alarm, and there were protests and outrage. Luckily the People for Animals came forward along with the Forest Department. For the time being the issue is smothered . Later I talked to many senior people who really care for animals. They, as I, refuse to blame the jackals but, there is a cross-section of local people who do not want it. Most people take the presence of Jackals for granted. Jackals are shy and diminutive creature. They avoid humans as much as possible. Still, they live in closest possible proximity of humans and are accustomed to subsisting on kitchen refuse and garbage, much like the feral dogs. They are, after all, wild animals. with evident wild instincts. Perhaps prreventing will be better than curing the problem. Why not keep an eye on the population, its dynamics and behavioral changes, if we really want to secure the existence of both Jackals and humans? Then we can select best methods for prevention, perhaps later, control. In a growing, populous city, it is critically important to pay attention to these satellite populations of urban fauna than implement management as essential. - Bhaskar Sen , August 17, 2005
  17. In the city of Mumbai (Bombay) leopards inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park which is located close to Bombay have made repeated attacks on humans. People in that part of this populous city were, for months, afraid to move around even on broad streets. A large population of leopards was fed by wild dogs that were feeding on garbage and domestic animals of slum dwellers encroaching at the Park edge. Such human-animal conflicts may de-stabilize years of wildlife conservation efforts in India. - Bhaskar Sen, Calcutta, India , August 17, 2005
  18. The city of Calcutta still holds in some of its forested patches isolated populations of non-domesticated mammalian fauna. Small Indian civets (Viverricula indica), common mongoose (Herpestus edwadrsi) and jackals (Canis aureus aureus) are the most significant of them, apart from palm squirrels, fruit bats and rodents. As masters of unique adaptive flexibility, these animals have till now managed to survive in the face of growing urban pressure. While the civets have made the ruined dilapidated houses and hydrants their safest retreat, the jackals still holds on to the few, fast vanishing green patches, scattered across the city. - from a report "Jackals of Calcutta" by Bhaskar Sen, 2004, Calcutta, India , August 25, 2005
  19. My study aimed to assess the magnitude of conflict (if any) between humans and jackals and the general public attitude toward jackals. It seems to be a bottleneck situation for them in their fast-vanishing strongholds across the thriving city. - a report "Jackals of Calcutta" by Bhaskar Sen, 2004, Calcutta, India , August 25, 2005
  20. With little poultry available in the neighboring residential areas, the jackals ... now have to rely heavily on the ground itself for food. There are rodents, toads, frogs, insects, lizards, and other non-vertebrates on the Greens and in the groves surrounding the ponds. Scat analysis reveals these jackals' dietary components (percentage abundance of important finds, n = 25:

    Plastic and polythene particles, a recurrent find in most of the Scat samples analyzed on the field confirm these jackals' offal and garbage -feeding habit. ... - from a report "Jackals of Calcutta" by Bhaskar Sen, 2004, Calcutta, India , August 25, 2005

  21. Fishes, crabs, and turtles were once in plenty in these ponds ... Rodents are plenty on the field ... Yet jackals have to face a steep five-fold competition with owl (2 species), kraits, rat- snakes and cats for rodents. Substantial amount of rodent hair and small pieces of bones in the scat samples confirm that these jackals still manage to find and hunt rodents. Toads are still abundant on the field, particularly in monsoon days. The trees whose fruits these jackals have been documented to eat or forage for are Ansh fruit, date palm, palm (tal)...- from a report "Jackals of Calcutta" by Bhaskar Sen, 2004, Calcutta, India , August 25, 2005
  22. Jackal pups seen in late June 2003 ... were 2-3 months old at that time, ready to be weaned. If the Jackals ... follow the general biological pattern of their counterparts in the wild, these pups must have been born between early March to early May 2003. Considering a gestation of 63 days (2 months appx.), the breeding season should be around November - January. The avg. liter size is 3-5 pups/ pack.( at 2.5 months age).

    This season the birth of jackal pups ... was so timed that when they were weaned by late June / early July, annual Monsoon brought in a sudden spurt of activity (chiefly reproductive) on the field and inside the groves, thus giving the adults and sub-adults a better chance for an easy hunt. This they needed to feed the fast-growing pups. Then by the time these pups started having their first hunting lessons, late monsoon yielded a rich harvest of sprawling fresh lives on the field. Tiny baby frogs and toads, out from their nursery pool, hopped and skipped around in hoards. So did the numerous kinds of slimy arthropods, lizards, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, ants, skinks, mollusks, millipedes, helminths, and annelids. - from a report "Jackals of Calcutta" by Bhaskar Sen, 2004, Calcutta, India , August 25, 2005

  23. Observation on territorial behavior : Though to any stranger these jackals may appear to have no definite territory for each of these packs, critical observation shows it up distinctly. Each of the packs has well-defined footpaths that at various places do crisscross each other. These jackal-thoroughfares are frequently used by the members of all these packs. These paths are so chosen that each individual family still manages to have a small part of the field as their own private zone. Most interestingly, there are certain areas and Greens which are common feeding ground for these jackals. There they gather regularly to forage for offal and kitchen refuse. However each family has different access to these common feeding grounds, never trespassing into another's private territory. Interestingly, members of different families frequently meet each other on the way but prudently and deliberately restrict their movements to avoid running into one another. There are several 'sign-posts' where these jackals have frequently been observed to leave their scent message through urination. To any stranger, these jackal sign-posts are quite easily detectable because of the characteristic strong jackal-smell that whiffs through the air around these landmarks. - from a report "Jackals of Calcutta" by Bhaskar Sen, 2004, Calcutta, India , August 25, 2005
  24. My survey findings reflect the public attitude to these jackals: - from a report "Jackals of Calcutta" by Bhaskar Sen, 2004, Calcutta, India , August 25, 2005
  25. The intensity of human-jackal conflict ...[in areas of Calcutta] is not alarming enough till now for any immediate concern. These jackals, living in the closest possible proximity of humans, are well aware of human activities and have learnt how to reap the best benefit without getting involved in direct conflict. At the same time they are seemingly aware of human whims that often lead some to capture or kill jackals for "fun." Hence these jackals are habituated to humans, allow them to approach up to a certain distance but keep alert of their movements and intentions.

    These jackals are heavily dependent on the garbage dumps and throwaway refuses for sustenance. This is not a good or healthy sign for these jackals. Tomorrow if in a "drive for better and cleaner Calcutta" these vats and dumps are cleaned up for good, these jackal populations will be severely hit. Besides, more often than rare, jackals involuntarily consume toxic and non-biodegradable substances from these garbage dumps like plastic particles and may even contract or spread disease.

    People in this part of the city have accepted these Jackals as part of their environment and most are tepidly enthusiastic about their presence. The question rises, if tomorrow the situation suddenly aggravates (outbreak of disease, rabid jackal bites, frequent and unprovoked attack on children or simply a "clean-up" drive) and the odds go against the jackals, what role will these people play to protect these few remaining urban populations of Jackals?

    These are highly stressed jackal populations and need management.- from a report "Jackals of Calcutta" by Bhaskar Sen, 2004, Calcutta, India , August 25, 2005

  26. A note from Brad Rimbey, April, 2006 - I was bike riding the trails April 12, 2006 in Flatwoods parkand saw 2 sandhill cranes in flight were chasing a small deer. I'm guessing the deer came too close to their nest so they took action. After they chased the deer into the woods, the cranes continued to squawk in unison in the deer's general direction for at least another half hour. We could hear them from a quarter mile away.
  27. Brad Rimbey's note (October, 2008) in a blog on the Sherman's fox squirrel and comment from an observer.

Note on the dynamics of this web site

Last updated XXx, XX, 2005. Maintained by the NatureSeen administrator at the Woodland Community Trust, Clairfield, Tennessee, USA, a unit of Rural System, at Blasksburg, Virginia, USA.

Rural System
Robert H. Giles, Jr.
August 12, 2005