The Whitetail Rut, 2019

As is often the case, the whitetail rut was the signature event of the last four to five weeks.  Typically, the primary breeding season begins in late October and continues well into November. It is a time when deer are on the move and can appear unexpectedly at any time of the day or night.

In late October I was inspired by a seductive blend of morning sun, fog and colorful foliage.  A short walk led me to an opening where a clump of golden-yellow aspen trees caught my attention. I positioned myself for a landscape shot, all the while harboring a greedy thought: in a perfect world, the scene would include one more element: deer. At that instant, a doe burst into view and very nearly ran me over. The chaotic scene was soon followed by another: the soft grunts and quick pace of a rutting buck, following the scent of the doe. He immediately filled the camera frame with a blurry, brown view and rendered me helpless. As luck would have it, he saw me twisting in a knot in a desperate attempt to record the moment, spun around, and ran.

His route was a half circle across an opening, giving me a chance to collect myself and capture my dream for all to see!

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Photos by NB Hunter (late October, 2019). © All rights reserved.

Happy Thanksgiving 2019!

When winter weather and deep snow cover arrive, chipmunks retreat to their burrows and cached food and more or less disappear from the landscape (they’re not true hibernators). This year, mild weather and the absence of continuous snow cover have kept them above ground, foraging and storing food later than normal. Chippies are a joy to watch and just one of the many things I’m thankful for at Thanksgiving.

Photos by NB Hunter (Nov., 2019). © All rights reserved.

September Meadows, 2019

September meadows showcase a lengthy sequence of bloom and the nectaring insects  attracted to the floral display. Goldenrods dominate early, followed by a beautiful palette of asters. This season, monarchs and red admirals were the most common butterfly visitors.

Monarch on goldenrod

Red Admiral on goldenrod

By mid September, the goldenrod bloom begins to fade as flowers go to seed and earth tones replace the golden yellow of fresh blossoms.

Sulphur on the fading bloom of goldenrod

The aster bloom seems to occur overnight, magically, in places where you didn’t even know there were asters. It is a fitting finale to the summer wildflower season and a timely food source for countless insects.

Aster, standing tall in a sea of goldenrod

Monarch approaching an aster to feed

Monarch on aster, with a background of goldenrods

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Dew-covered aster on a chilly September morning

An anglewing on aster

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

Whitetail Watching, 2019

This is the best time of year to observe deer, especially if quality, open habitats are accessible. Populations are high, deer are preoccupied with eating, and bucks are warming up for the breeding season.

Since eating is the top priority, mixed groups are common and warrant close scrutiny. They’re full of surprises! Variations in sex, age, condition, color and behavior soon appear.

A “bachelor group”, common social behavior in summer; note the tumor on the middle buck

Two bucks in the frame, but my attention is elsewhere!

Early territorial behavior: scent-marking an overhead branch (1 of 2)

A mature buck leaving the hay field for dessert in the adjacent brush lot: wild apples

Bucks are being bucks, while does are parenting. Fawns are weaned, but still need TLC (1 of 3)

Photos by NB Hunter (Aug. 31 – Sept. 5, 2019). All rights reserved.

Late Summer Gold, 2019

Wildflowers are the perfect bookends to the growing season! Spring ephemerals like trillium and bloodroot introduce spring, while late summer beauties like the goldenrods and asters provide a colorful transition into the dormant season.

Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) dominate fallow fields, forest edges and waste places. There are dozens of species and variations in size and form, some as tall as seven feet. In full bloom, showy clusters of tiny flowers form plumes, wands, clubs and spikes, depending on the species.

The goldenrod bloom creates endless photo opportunities as it frames, attracts and enhances subjects of interest in a single glance. These examples made me smile, and illustrate why I embrace seasons of change.

As August gives way to September, chilly nights and the approach of autumn, the uniform sea of golden yellow is enhanced by the arrival of a vivid palette of asters. And summer’s curtain call is complete.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

 

 

“Milking” Summer

Seems like yesterday that I was photographing nests, babies and nurturing parents. Now, a stroll through rural landscapes provides ample evidence of the changing seasons and cycle of life. I always feel a sense of urgency at this time of year: finish projects, prepare for winter and, above all else, capture the moment!

Bird populations and foraging activities are are at or near peak levels. Songbirds like cedar waxwings, catbirds and song sparrows are swarming open habitats in search of nutritious bugs and berries.

A close look at milkweed colonies in neglected fields and along fence rows and forest edges reveals brilliantly colored monarch caterpillars, eating voraciously in advance of metamorphosis and a red-eye flight to the mountains of Mexico.

Farm fields are full of surprises. In one, a small herd of historic American Aberdeen Angus cattle graze peacefully, as though choreographed. In another, a good whitetail buck is feeding non-stop, packing on as much weight as possible before the November rut and the long winter that follows. The fact that he’s changing into his grayish, insulated, winter coat didn’t go unnoticed.

It’s a bumper year for wild apples and deer are taking full advantage of the crop. They aren’t overly selective either, munching on fallen apples (“drops”), regardless of the ripeness or variety.

Photos by NB Hunter (August, 2019). © All rights reserved.