Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bear scat

Our group poses by the famous Honeycomb Rocks, high in the Monongahela National Forest, last Thursday. Bill Thompson, Rachel Davis, Mark Garland and myself led a trip to Cranberry Glades and vicinity last Thursday as part of the New River Birding & Nature Festival. To say the trip was a success might be an ornithological understatement, if I do say so myself. We tallied over 100 species, including point blank views of many boreal species near their southern limits in the West Virginia mountains. The beautiful Cranberry Glades Botanical Area harbors breeding Blue-headed Vireo, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets, Northern Waterthrush, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green warblers, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Canada Warbler, and we had them all.

Needless to say, this year's New River festival has passed, but they'll be putting on another next spring. Try to make it if you can.

On the wooded slopes just up from Honeycomb Rocks, the scene looked like this. Acres of large-flowered trillium, Trillium grandiflorum, mixed with red trillium, T. erectum, and scores of other wildflowers. As in Ohio, spring is delayed by a week or so, but that worked in our favor and allowed our crews to see many spring wildflowers that are normally past by the time of the festival.

We were pleased, strange as that may seem, to run across this large pile of Black Bear scat. The dung pile is entirely - or nearly so - comprised of skunk-cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus. Black Bears are common in this part of West Virginia, and this one apparently ambled down the boardwalk grazing on the large foul-smelling leaves of the plant. According to lots of sources, bears chow on skunk-cabbage to unblock their intestinal system after emerging from hibernation. Compounds within the plant dissolve the anal plug that forms within the bear while it takes its long winter nap. At least that's what they say, and I can't imagine a more compelling reason for willfully ingesting such an ill-smelling botanical.

I'm back from eight days on the road, having led excursions every one of those days, along with a few talks thrown in. Lots of new material from these forays, and I'll try to toss some of it up here over the next few days.

StumbleUpon.com

1 comment:

KaHolly said...

Ha! I love scat!!