Holiday Greetings from Central New York

Wetland in late evening; 2Nov2018

A mink, busy hunting frogs in a nearby stream and caching them in a den under tree roots; 2Nov2018

Winter arrives early, triggering a frantic search for recently buried red oak acorns; 15Nov2018

A wintry scene on the river; 23Nov2018

Shallow ponds are freezing quickly, leaving little open water for foraging muskrats; 28Nov2018

The main whitetail rut is winding down, but not over;  he’s tending an estrous doe; 29Nov2018

Eagles weathering the storm, with a watchful eye on ice-free surface water; 7Dec2018

After the storm: a red-bellied woodpecker probes dead wood high in the crown of a declining sugar maple; 9Dec2018

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

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Happy Halloween!

Vulture, about to take flight in search of smelly dead things

Dead Man’s Fingers in a dark, damp place

Whitetail buck lurking in the cover of darkness

A web ghost, guarding the entrance to its cavernous home in a hollow tree

Rare discovery of a ghost nursery, masquerading as wild, White Baneberry

Unidentified swamp creature

Chippy, guarding its Halloween feast

A human perspective

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

The Forest Floor in Early Autumn

Autumn’s answer  to Spring wildflowers is fruiting bodies! They arrive in myriad shapes, sizes and colors, often without warning and, literally, overnight. Aside from being easy on the eyes, many are mycorrhizal. They colonize tree roots, forming a mutually beneficial or symbiotic relationship.

The Spring ephemerals thrive in a narrow window of opportunity, capturing light before it is filtered and blocked by the dense, new foliage of deciduous trees and shrubs. In contrast, Autumn fungi respond to warmth, moisture and organic substrates, independent of light.

Puffballs and coral fungi are favorite groups and they’ve been underfoot on most of my walks. Other notable encounters include the Fairy Cup fungus, American Caesar’s mushroom, Amanita mushrooms, and Chicken of the Woods bracket fungus.

 

Photos by NB Hunter (late September and early October). © All rights reserved.

 

Zooming in on Early Autumn

Early Autumn. A visual definition!

The spectacular bloom of goldenrods and asters fades as plants age to drooping stalks and earth tones.Cool nights give rise to morning dew…. and wet feet. The once daily encounters with cold blooded creatures – bugs, snakes, toads and the like – gradually disappear. Birds and mammals take center stage, competing for nature’s bounty as they instinctively prepare for winter.

Nutritious acorns and other “hard mast” are wildlife magnets and a critical food source for winter health and survival.

Wild turkey hen and her young foraging for seeds and bugs in a hay field.

Antlers free of velvet and polished, this mature whitetail will soon reach his peak weight and be ready for the physical challenges of the rut, the hunting seasons … and winter

Fungi thrive in the warm, wet weather of September. Fruiting bodies are everywhere, appearing quickly and unpredictably in the moist, organic habitats of woodlands.

Happy Autumn!!!

Photos by NB Hunter (September, 2018). © All rights reserved.

The Great Outdoors in September, 2018

There are seasons, and then there are seasons within seasons. The final three weeks of summer that define the month of September provide vivid proof of the latter.

WoollyBear13Sept18#9179E2c5x7

Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar, the larval stage of a tiger moth

Sulphur butterflies probing for nutrients in the wet, trampled soil of a cow pasture

Chicken of the Woods fruiting body (fried in butter by the landowner after I captured it alive!)

Monarch caterpillar feeding on Common Milkweed

A “fresh” Monarch nectaring on New England Aster (a September staple) in a weedy meadow

A good crop of Red Oak acorns has this squirrel busy all day long!

A young cottontail, now about half the size of its parents

Gray Dogwood, a favorite fuel of migrating birds like robins and catbirds

Most bucks rub their antlers free of dried velvet during the first three weeks of September, an event triggered by decreasing day length and increased testosterone

Foraging wildlife in a hay field in fading light (September 18 – the same date and location as the previous image)

Lastly, a message from my friend’s milk house kittens: Thanks for visiting!!!

Photos by NB Hunter (September, 2018). © All rights reserved.