August has been hot and dry. The last few days of the month brought some relief after 8 weeks of zero rain. We recorded 1.8 inches of nice gentle rain allowing it to soak in rather than run off. Each spring we pull 600 gallons of water from the stream and store it in totes on the hill above our house for emergencies such as this. We are using those to keep this spring’s tree plantings alive. So far only two of 40 have died. One of those had been ripped out by a bear and was too far gone when we discovered the damage, the other never took off.

The birds of the forest have generally gone quiet. We hear a couple of barred owls each night and the cooing of a cuckoo during the day. Only random twitters from other birds are occasionally heard. Several juvenile towhees are entertaining us by practicing their jump forward scratch back routine under the feeders. The hummingbirds continue to be bountiful and vicious with each other. Olivia put out several more feeders to try and spread the feeder defenders out, but a new feeder produces a new defender. I would hate to be at the bottom of their pecking order. I am informed that my Dr. Martin’s Pole Limas need bumblebees to pollinate them. As we encourage all pollinators here, that is happening, but I have also watched the hummers go flower to flower. Perhaps those beans will be sweeter.

As we prepare to open our hike-in camping sites, I spent a lot of time designing and building two footbridges on the trail to the sites. The first bridge is 18 feet long and crosses our main stream. The second bridge then crosses a small tributary just above the confluence of the two streams. As we contemplated the site of the second bridge it occurred to us that it is in a very nice shaded spot with a great view of the confluence. Olivia suggested that I incorporate a bench on the bridge so people could enjoy the view of the two streams. That took more wood and time, but the result is very pleasing and comfortable. We believe it was worth the extra effort. Now we just need some water in those streams to sit and watch!

We are noting acorns falling earlier than usual. They seem fully developed and the squirrels seem pleased with them. I’m sure the heat and drought are responsible for the early drop. Raccoons have been enjoying the easy pickings in the dry stream bed. We can hear them flipping rocks each evening. During the day we can see where they have dug in the gravel and small seeps to get at the crayfish and surviving minnows. The deer seem skinny and hot with flies chasing them as they browse. At least one local bear continues to tour the neighborhood. Turkeys stroll by occasionally and the crow family checks out our compost bin each day, adding an additional bird call as the young squawk and complain indignantly if they are not being constantly fed.

Despite the green on the trees, it is so dry out there that we have had several wildfires recently, including one at the same place two days in a row caused by fireworks. Some people just don’t learn. This is not typically a wildfire time of the year. Spring before leaf out and fall after leaf drop are usual. It amazes me that people do not realize you should not burn when conditions are dry and windy. After 76 years you would think Smokey Bear’s message would get through.

PFA continues to work. Tree Farm has picked the PA Tree Farm of the Year, so tune in to the virtual Annual Symposium to hear who the winner is. Nominations are open for the Sandy Cochran Award, the Mira Lloyd Dock Award and the Joseph Rothrock Award. See the PFA Facebook page or the summer issue of the PA Forests magazine for information on nominations. Reserve the dates of October 26-30 from noon to 1 to enjoy our speakers and hear the winners of these awards. The Forest Heritage Committee is hard at work in conjunction with the Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art on a video series on the various historical aspects of PA forests. Tentative subjects include Wildfire fighting and Smokey Bear, Pioneers of PA Forestry, Forest Resources and the CCC. We look forward to the fruit of this labor.

The Walk in Penn’s Woods has gone to a month of activities rather than a focused day of organized walks this year. See their website for more information and to donate to the cost of their activities. Please wear a flame orange jacket, vest and/or hat so you will be easily recognizable by hunters during your October Walk in Penn's Woods.

The Annual Conservation Dinner Committee is looking at what we need to do to have a virtual Dinner and Auction with the drawdown to the Grand Prize of $10,000 in March of 2021. We hope to have this event live, but will be prepared if it cannot be in person. Please consider buying a ticket to this, our largest fundraiser, when they become available. As ticket seller extraordinaire John Laskowski notes, you have better odds than the PA lottery and it supports a great organization.

I hope you enjoyed the Summer issue of PA Forests celebrating PA Bureau of Forestry’s 125 anniversary. The Fall issue will celebrate another agency Milestone, the 125th anniversary of the PA Game Commission.

Stay safe.

Mark Ott
PFA President