Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Birds of the Forest

If you have a bird feeder in your yard, you may have become familiar with some of the common birds of the open habitat, like the Bluejay, the Northern Cardinal and the Robin here in Pennsylvania. These birds can be seen at the feeder all year round and are easily identified by their bright colors and distinct calls.

But some of the most common, colorful and musical birds in Pennsylvania are almost never seen. These are the birds that inhabit the big forests, away from the edges where people live. These birds perch in the large oaks, maples and birches that make up the big woods, hidden high up in the summer foliage. The only way some of these birds can be detected is by their colorful and lyrical songs. This post will describe four common big woods birds, with links to sound files so you can hear what they sound like. Click on the bird name to hear the sound, each courtesy of the USGS.

The first bird is the most colorful bird in Pennsylvania, the Scarlet Tanager. Male Tanagers have the brightest red of any songbird in North America, but the females are pale shade of yellow/green designed to look like any one of the leaves growing in early June. The pattern of their song is very similar to that of the American Robin, with just a touch of raspiness.

The Ovenbird is a ground dweller, but his small frame and plain brown plumage make him difficult to see. Their loud call goes "Teacher, Teacher, Teacher". These birds will build their nests on the ground, so be careful where you step when you're close.

Next is the Wood Thrush. These birds have a distinctive lilting quality to their call. These are plain birds as well, with colors that make them tough to spot. The Robin is a type of thrush, and once you are familiar with the Wood Thrush's song, you can hear the family resemblance.

Finally, there's another type of thrush that makes my favorite call of all: the Veery. This bird has the same musical quality to its voice as the Wood Thrush, but sings in a descending "Whew Whew, Woo Woo" pattern. These move through the forest quickly, never pausing to sing in one place for very long.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A New Law

I was reading the Law in Exodus today, in chapters 21-23ish. This is my take on what God might have said if Mount Sinai was actually in the middle of Clearfield County in 2008:

If you install a pool at your house, or a lake on your summer property, then you need to build a railing around or it at least watch it so that the neighborhood kids don't fall in and drown.

If you borrow your neighbor's helicopter or yacht and it is stolen, then you must go before the judge and show that you did not steal it. Otherwise you need to pay your neighbor its value plus the time he lost in using it.

When you cash in stock options or any other investment, round down to the nearest ten-thousand so that the poor can have something as well.

Make sure to put a little aside each year for six years, so that you and your family can take the seventh year off from work.

More Dents Run Treasure Links

Here's two more links on the Dents Run Treasure. Both tell the story of the lost shipment up to the mid 20th century.

Check out this prior post for more links, including the homepage of the treasure hunters who made the find.

The Dents Run Treasure in the Progress Part II

This is part II of the Progress' article on the Dents Run Treasure. Original author is Josh Woods, and original run date was Monday, February 4 2008. This is part two of two: part one can be read here. The Progress hosts this article at:

Dennis Parada of Clearfield anticipated fame and fortune after believing he, his son and some colleagues had discovered buried treasure, the lost gold of Dents Run, valued in the millions of dollars, in the Elk State Forest area. However, issues with contradictory reports, state law and lots of confusion has left Mr. Parada with a daunting problem: knowing the possible location of the largest treasure find in Pennsylvania's history and not being able to do anything about it.

In the last issue of The Progress, it was explained that Mr. Parada had unearthed several small objects which he turned over to the state Department of Conservation of Natural Resources after he was told to cease all digging at the supposed treasure site. DCNR's Minerals Section then tested those items to determine their authenticity. This is part two of the story.


A letter dated June 8, 2005, from Chief of the Minerals Section Ted Borawski to Mrs. Jeanne Wambaugh, district forester, was received by DCNR's District No. 13 office in Emporium and contained disappointing news: The artifacts found by Mr. Parada were "junk."

A copy of the letter was provided to Mr. Parada and obtained by The Progress. The letter states: "There exists no credible evidence, either from materials excavated from the site or from stories long-circulated in the local area or media, to support any conclusions that a lost Federal gold bullion shipment from the Civil War was ever located on state forest lands in the vicinity of Dents Run, Pa., at the location Mr. Parada insists is the resting place of the lost gold cache.

"The materials Mr. Parada excavated and were analyzed by the Pennsylvania Historical Museum staff may be returned to Mr. Parada as they have no cultural or historical significance and have been deemed ‘hunting camp debris' and therefore worthless in the estimation of the Commonwealth experts."

Disappointed by the news, Mr. Parada immediately sought a second opinion of the materials; however, he ran into a roadblock.

Upon contacting the DCNR District No. 13 office, he was told that the materials would not be returned to him, despite the Minerals Section's permission to do so outlined in the letter's excerpt above. Without the artifacts, Mr. Parada cannot send anything away for carbon dating or DNA testing that may help prove his find.

According to Mr. Parada, approximately 18 items were sent to the Minerals Section. A memorandum and analysis from Douglas C. McClearen, chief of the Division of Archaeology and Protection, to Mr. Borawski was attached to the aforementioned letter. The analysis outlines findings for 11 items, though it adds that other "loose items" were submitted, including pieces of an animal trap of an undetermined date, a few metal objects that are not dateable and a corroded nail, which appears to be a "cut nail." Cut nails, it says, originated in the 19th century and were still in use well into the 20th century.

"The final landmark was our main case," said Mr. Parada. "They didn't talk about the final landmark in the report, they didn't do a carbon date on the stones that we found and they didn't say anything about the man-made structures that we found.

"There is a lot of important information that was given about what we found at the final landmark location, but they only talked (in the letter) about what we found nearby. We called the state five months before we found artifacts nearby. I thought we had enough evidence with what we found at the final landmark site to file a claim without the artifacts."

Mr. Parada was further frustrated by the analysis of the bullet found at the site and because "neither the Minerals Section or Museum Commission sent anyone to investigate the site."

In the analysis, Item No. 8, labeled "tin cans and bullet," reads, "the bullet is a brass shell casing which is far later than the Civil War. It is probably World War I Era or more recent."

George Gill, a former employee of Hubler's Gun Room and Grice Gun Shop, Clearfield, trekked to the DCNR office on Jan. 14 in hopes of adding credence to Mr. Parada's finds by analyzing the bullet.

In a letter from Mr. Gill, a gunsmith with more than 40 years of experience, received by The Progress, he states that he believes that there is credible evidence that the bullet shell is from the Civil War Era. Mr. Gill based his opinion on the book "Cartridges of the World," authored by Frank C. Barnes and published by Follett Publishing Co.

In the letter, Mr. Gill includes drawings and measurements of the bullet shell, noting the following dimensions: rim diameter, varying from .496 to .519; cartridge base diameter, .470; rim thickness varying from .064 to .070 and primer pocket, approximately .180.

"The earliest cartridges that are reasonably close to the dimensions are the 38/40 and 44/40 Winchester, introduced in 1873 and 1874," Mr. Gill wrote, adding that, after taking into consideration the manufacturing tolerances of the time and the condition of the cartridge he examined, the original manufactured cartridge dimensions of rim diameter .525, cartridge base diameter .471, rim thickness .065 and primer pocket .175 "are a pretty good match." He also noted that "these were very popular cartridges in their era."

Because of this and other unspecified beliefs, Mr. Parada says he is certain he has found the location of the gold. Now his challenge has become coming up with enough money to obtain a digging permit and lobbying local legislators for their support. Mr. Parada is also exploring his legal options.

Mr. Parada has sought to obtain a permit to dig up the gold, which he originally thought would cost $15,000. That figure, he said, was based on a survey bond estimate from Ron Mardaga of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers in Baltimore, Md. However, by the time Mr. Parada submitted an inquiry about obtaining a digging permit, the cost was much higher because, since Mr. Parada was searching other alleged buried treasure sites, the state labeled him a "professional" treasure hunter. As such, Mr. Parada said, representatives of the Museum Commission indicated that he might have to pay $500,000 to obtain the permit.

"Unless someone will back us up that the gold is there, they won't issue us a digging permit," he said.

To date, Mr. Parada has contacted several local and state government officials, but to no avail.

"We have been in contact with Dan Surra, John Peterson, Rick Santorum and Bob Casey," said Mr. Parada. "What we've found is when we talk to them the first time, they are willing to help us. But, as soon as they talk to the state's museum commission, they don't want anything to do with us. A few places we've contacted won't even return our phone calls."

State Rep. Dan A. Surra, D-75 of Kersey, responded to an e-mail inquiry sent to him at by The Progress in regards to his correspondence with Mr. Parada, in which he said that he had met with Mr. Parada, but was unable to help him because "it is DCNR's call, not mine." Mr. Surra furthered the statement by writing "State lawmakers do not run DCNR, DOT (the state Department of Transportation), DEP (the state Department of Environmental Protection), etc. We often try to intercede for people when they run into issues with these agencies, but in the end, it is their call."

Mr. Surra suggested that what Mr. Parada needs to do is whatever DCNR asks of him, and noted that Mr. Parada does not live in his district.

E-mail inquiries placed by The Progress to U.S. Rep. John E. Peterson, R-5 of Pleasantville, and U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr., D-PA, were unanswered as of press time.

"We just want to get this resolved," said Mr. Parada. "We've been waiting a long time for something to happen with this, and we would be satisfied with just knowing what it is we may have found."

The Dents Run Treasure in the Progress Part I

This is part one of the Progress' article on the Dents Run treasure. I have copied it here verbatim because I do not believe that the Progress archives their material for very long on their site ( The author of this piece is Josh Woods, and the article was originally published February 2, 2008.

This article is part one of two. Part two can be read here. This article's original home on the web is at:

Dennis Parada of Clearfield, his son Kem and close friends Scott Farrell and Mike Malley anticipated fame and fortune after believing they had discovered buried treasure in northern Pennsylvania that may have an estimated worth of millions.

The year of the alleged discovery was 2004, and three years later, the quartet is no more rich nor famous than it was prior to its findings. Contradictory reports, state law and lots of confusion has left Mr. Parada in a unique quandary - knowing the possible location of the largest treasure find in Pennsylvania and having no immediate means of doing anything about it.

Mr. Parada's journey to find the treasure, the lost gold of Dents Run, began in 1975 when he and a few of his co-workers had gained interest in amateur metal detecting.

While working at an area furniture store, a gentleman gave Mr. Parada a map he alleged would lead to the gold. The map lined up with other maps Mr. Parada already had in his possession and contained several landmarks, including a fire pit that would mark the location of the gold. The map, coupled with local legend, piqued Mr. Parada's interest.

A search of the map area by Mr. Parada turned up several landmarks; though, ultimately, the claim was left unfounded at that time. It was not until Mr. Parada, who had been telling the story of his search for years, was given the encouragement of friends and relatives that he made a successful return trip to the site.

According to a story written by Michael Paul Henson that appeared on page 24 of a 1983 issue of Lost Treasure magazine, a shipment of 26 partially refined gold bars lost by a Union Army patrol in 1863 was believed to be located in the vicinity of Hicks Run and Dents Run in Elk and Cameron counties.

The story reports that during the Civil War, a Union lieutenant, known as Lt. Castleton, read orders at Wheeling, W.Va., to proceed north with two wagons equipped with false bottoms and partially loaded with gold.

His orders, the story states, were to proceed northeast to avoid the possibility of running into Confederate patrols - Gen. Robert E. Lee's Gray Army had advanced northward and would eventually commence in the battle of Gettysburg.

When the lieutenant reached a point where he believed it was safe, he was to turn southeast and deliver the gold, which was brought from the West, to Union headquarters in Harrisburg, where it would then be moved to the mint in Philadelphia.

Lt. Castleton was eventually struck by fever and he and his men became lost in the wilderness while searching for the Sinnemahoning River. They had planned to build a raft and float to the Susquehanna and onward to Harrisburg.

Due to Lt. Castleton's condition, the group decided to separate. A man identified as Connors and two other men were to proceed on foot to Sinnemahoning and get help. Lt. Castleton and the rest of the men were to transfer the gold to pack saddles and go southward as fast as his condition would permit.

Castleton's party was never seen again. Connors arrived 10 days later with a rescue party from an Army post in Lock Haven and found only abandoned wagons. After several days of searching the rescue was called off.

Pinkerton Detectives, the main source of Army intelligence at that time, were then given the task of locating the gold, posing as prospectors and lumbermen as they canvassed the area.

Pinkerton's search also came up empty.

In November of 2004, with this story fresh on his mind, Mr. Parada returned to the Dents Run location he had searched years ago.

This time it was at the urging of Mr. Farrell, who thought Mr. Parada should continue his search for the final resting place of the gold.

Armed with only his recollection of the site and a metal detector, he and Mr. Farrell made a startling discovery: his map's final landmark. The two quickly became intrigued, because the site was located at the foot of the mountain where, according to Mr. Henson's story, surveyors of county lines found human skeletons in 1876.

Unfortunately the duo faced a big problem: the final landmark was located on state property.

"We first found the site in early November during bear season, on a Friday, and we called DCNR (the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources) on Monday to report that we thought we had the location of the lost gold," said Mr. Parada. "I was told to call back on Wednesday, because Monday was the start of deer season and Mrs. (Jeanne) Wambaugh (the district forester) would be back then.

"On the third day of deer season, I called back and talked to her and she said to stop digging until she could talk to someone in Harrisburg. DCNR didn't think we had enough information to prove my find, so we waited until spring to do surface digging to look for artifacts."

Surface digging, digging that occurs no farther than two inches below the ground's surface, is allowed by law. The challenge here was that Mr. Parada was not allowed by law to do any "deep" digging.

Under Pennsylvania's consolidated statutes, Title 37, Historical and Museums, a person who conducts a field investigation on any land or submerged land owned or controlled by the Commonwealth, without first obtaining a permit from the state's museum commission, commits a third-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, one could pay a fine of not more than $2,500, face imprisonment or both.

Because of this, the gold, if it is in fact located where Mr. Parada's detectors have monitored it, had to remain underground.

Mr. Parada said that in the spring of 2005, he found several objects and unearthed them via surface digging - rock samples, a whiskey bottle, knives, animal traps, tin cans, a zinc mason jar lid and a bullet shell.

Fragile bones that appeared to be dragged away from the site by animals were also found.

According to Mrs. Wambaugh, DCNR had been seeking to contact the individual digging at the property at that time.

"We made contact and met up together," said Mrs. Wambaugh in a November telephone interview. "Once contact was made we notified Dennis (Mr. Parada) that digging on state property was illegal.

"He was very truthful and honest with us and told us that he was the person digging and did not realize that he was not allowed to do it. At that time, he ceased digging and gave us the items that he had found. We still have them here."

Mrs. Wambaugh followed up on the finds by placing a phone call to DCNR's Minerals Section in Harrisburg, which instructed her to inform Mr. Parada to cease digging and that they would test his finds for authenticity at his request.

"We thought we would be heroes," said Mr. Parada. "Instead, we ended up feeling like we were criminals."

Part 2 of Mr. Parada's story will continue in Monday's edition of The Progress.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Dents Run Treasure

The Progress has picked up on Finders Keepers USA's claim to have located 1300 pounds of gold lost by the US Army during June 1863 in the Sinnemahoning Valley. You can read their story here. For more information from FKUSA, check out their Dents Run site. For the background on the story, you can look at Pete Bennett's site. Part two of the Progress article is due Monday.