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Sight-seeing gets me in touch with all kinds of nature: Woods and Waters by Tom Shank

Posted 7/19/17

When I talk about sightseeing, it’s not the normal drive to a popular destination where folks gather and the hustle and bustle of activity is all around. Actually it is totally the opposite. I …

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Sight-seeing gets me in touch with all kinds of nature: Woods and Waters by Tom Shank

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When I talk about sightseeing, it’s not the normal drive to a popular destination where folks gather and the hustle and bustle of activity is all around. Actually it is totally the opposite. I enjoy solitude and the peace and quiet of nature, where all the sights come forth on a trained eye.

Having a cabin within Tiadaughton State Forest, which is located mostly in Lycoming County, allows me thousands of acres to explore. I never know what will be seen around the next corner. Hiking on foot, especially on trails and dirt roads allows you to quietly enter the world of nature. It’s not seeing the large creatures like deer or bear, which are quite common on any excursion and are welcomed sights, but the little creatures like insects, birds and chipmunks.

My bird-watching has taken me to another appreciation of nature: the bird world around us. Now my mountain drives and hikes have me equipped with binoculars and my camera. I try to photograph any bird I can see, while listening to the different sounds that birds use to communicate.

One of my recent trips back a dirt road allowed me to see a cedar waxwing bird. I may have heard them in the past, but I never concentrated on trying to photograph one. These mountain birds are beautiful. On the same drive, I saw several Eastern Towhees, but were unable to get a picture. Towhees resemble a robin, but if you see one, they have more colors with a very distinct red eye. Towhees and cedar waxwing are both mountain birds.

Obtaining a good quality bird book with color pictures, such as the Peterson Field Guide, can really help in identifying the birds you see.

Birds abound in a mountain setting, but butterflies flock to areas in the mountains where milkweed pods grow. I have seen many varieties of these beautiful winged flappers in the yellow and orange monarch family.

Sometimes my hikes reveal a mountain creature that many would want to stay away from. Considering my cabin is right in the north-central sector of the Allegheny Mountains, the timber rattlesnake is encountered many times. This year, I had two confrontations.

Rattlesnakes in my opinion really get a bad rap. Folks will kill them without any hesitation. Rattlesnakes are a protected species and there are laws governing them. I will gently remove them off a road, which was the case just three weeks ago.

I’m no snake expert but have handled rattlesnakes in the past. I performed this activity with extreme caution. I know that if I wouldn’t have, this snake would have been run over by someone not knowing it’s protected.

Rattlesnakes are a valuable asset in the wilds of Pennsylvania. The picture I took of this black phase timber rattler was taken at a safe distance.

The majority of my sightseeing is done away from camp, but my wife, Lynn, recently had a close encounter with a critter at our camp.

One evening Lynn decided to remain at camp to read, while I took our golden retriever to look for animals. Lynn was alone and heard a noise on the porch. She got up and walked to the screen door. Looking left, she saw nothing.

As she turned to her right, there it was, only two feet from her, a fully mature black bear staring up at her.

She yelled and the bear bolted off the porch to parts unknown. Animal sightseeing as stated, can happen at any time or place.

All the pictures contained were taken on my animal sightseeing trips within the Tiadaughton and Sproul state forests.

Take the time away from urbanization to visit our state forests. Those woods and waters abound with nature’s bounty.

Tom Shank has been writing Woods and Waters for the Press & Journal for nine years. His expertise has been gained through 50 years plus hunting, fishing, trapping and exploring the full gamut of nature. The Susquehanna River and his cabin in Lycoming County are his true loves. Woods and Waters is his playground in life, and to write about it for the Press & Journal is a dream come true.