A Cow and Her Calf

I suspect that some of my friends and followers, upon seeing my title, are expecting wild things, maybe a cow elk and her calf in a remote setting. On the contrary, this is about human-modified environments where elk disappeared long ago.

I have a soft spot for farm scenes in autumn. In Central new York, many farms are relatively small dairy operations, with varied topography, cover types and substrate. Intensely managed fields are typically interspersed with small woodlots, swampy habitats, fallow fields and non-tillable sites. All of this leads to rich, colorful landscapes when the foliage changes.

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Morning fog

Over the next few weeks I plan to photograph and post some rural scenes. If I can capture and publish half of what is visible to my mind’s eye, I’ll consider the effort to be a success.

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A cow and her calf (1 of 2)

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A cow and her calf

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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A Close Look at Early Fall

Good weather and daily trail walks in a quiet natural area give me the opportunity to capture unusual images of ordinary things.

These photos from last week must be shared:

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The fruit of Cranberrybush Viburnum; these will persist into the winter

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A maple leaf suspended in mid-air by a strand of spider web; a challenging subject, as it was swaying and spinning in a slight breeze and the background was constantly changing.

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A bee on Aster

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Red-panicle Dogwood ( also called Gray-stemmed or Gray Dogwood)

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Slug feeding on a puffball

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Wildlife and People

Using the truck as a blind, a friend and I settled in along a secondary road to watch and photograph wildlife. The road is residential, unofficially defining the edge of a village. From our roadside vantage point we could see a large hay field surrounded by small, swampy wetlands, thickets and a golf course. Diverse, fragmented habitats like these, common around populated areas, function as sanctuaries for wildlife and condition wildlife to tolerate human activity.

This post features three species that were photographed during a half dozen trips to this and a similar, nearby site in mid-September: White-tailed Deer, Red Foxes and Canada Geese. All have adapted amazingly well to people and thrive in human-modified environments, to the point of becoming serious nuisances.

During the last hour of daylight, 15 or 20 deer move into the field to graze. The larger, older bucks are the last to show and, predictably, are within camera range when it is too dark to shoot.

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Mature does, grazing

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White-tailed Deer; buck, probably a two-year-old, still in velvet and socializing with other bucks in a bachelor group.

These two bucks just finished several minutes of light sparring, heads down and antlers locked. The small yearling on the right eventually retreated, acknowledging the superiority of the larger, more mature buck.

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White-tailed Deer: a two-year-old+ buck, yearling buck, fawn and doe.

This Red Fox is “mousing” in a cut hay field a few minutes drive from the field in the previous photos. The term mousing refers to the cat-like feeding behavior of stalking and pouncing on any of several species of small mammals. In this habitat the most abundant prey species is the Meadow Vole, a stubby, short-tailed vegetarian about the size of a mouse.

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Red Fox searching for Meadow Voles and other prey in a cut hay field

The late evening sun was brutal during this shoot. While trying my best to see the fox in the blinding light, my friend said a second fox had appeared from the other side of the field. It moused for a few minutes, then trotted toward the first fox.

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When they were within a few feet of one another, a brief fight ensued. Although their teeth were bared and growling was audible from a hundreds away, there was more smoke than fire. Afterwards, they stood side by side, then trotted away. The landowner, who regularly sees up to three foxes in this area, claims they are a family group. If so, the photo suggests a squabble between a parent and one of the offspring.

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Red Foxes fighting in a hay field

My final trip to the hay field was the least productive for mammals, but I had the pleasure of watching 50 grazing geese grow to a flock of over 150 in an hour’s time.

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Canada Geese

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Canada Geese

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

A Morning Ramble

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Aster (Panicled)

We’ve had several days of nice weather and I decided that a mid-morning walk should be priority number one. I failed to get a picture of Catbirds feeding on the berry-like fruits of viburnums, dogwoods and Multiflora Rose, but came away with a few shots worth sharing.

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Mature doe feeding on wild apples; her two fawns are nearby

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One of the doe’s fawns; has just spotted me

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Not satisfied with the visual, it’s trying to pick up my scent

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I’m close, but downwind, which requires a pretty serious evaluation with the olfactory senses

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Leaf of Red-osier Dogwood

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Chilly Nights and Morning Dew

Characterized by chilly nights and wet, dewy mornings, the seasonal transition from summer to fall has unique qualities that create both excitement and anxiety. The photographic opportunities resulting from dramatic changes in plants, animal behavior and landscapes are exciting. The need to follow the example of the resident chipmunk and prepare for winter, in my case chimney cleaning, equipment maintenance, weather seals, etc. – can cause anxious moments.

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Chipmunk

If asked for a visual summary of the special days on either side of the autumnal equinox, I would sort through recent images and present the content of this post:

A Red Admiral nectaring on one of many species of wild Asters in full bloom at this time of year. This is a migratory butterfly that is widespread across North America. I’ve only seen two on my property this year, well below normal.

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Red Admiral on Aster

Most outdoor enthusiasts are familiar with Jack-in-the-pulpit, a unique spring wildflower. However, the brilliant red-orange fruit often leaves hikers guessing because most of the vegetative portion of the plant has withered away.

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Fruit of Jack-in-the-pulpit

An Aster drenched in morning dew.

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Aster

In late August and September, bucks are often seen together, feeding in bachelor groups. This is also the time when the velvet covering of the antlers is rubbed off (look closely at the antlers of the young buck on the left). Their behavior will change dramatically in another month or so when the breeding season arrives.

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White-tailed Deer, yearling bucks.

Red-panicle or Gray-stemmed Dogwood is a native, thicket-forming shrub and a fall favorite. The combination of reddish- purple leaves; a branched, red fruit stalk and ivory-white berries is a visual treat, made even more delightful with a coating of morning dew. Migrating birds are devouring the fruit.

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Red-panicle Dogwood

Backlighting transforms the brown, dead foliage of ferns in a wetland into a point of interest. This is the leaf of Sensitive Fern.

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Sensitive Fern

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Fun with Fungi – Finale

A major goal of this blog is to provide personal images and text that encompass a wide array of environmental subjects. Deer and foxes are in my radar now, as are the increasingly rich landscapes of autumn. I’m ending the series on fungi with no specific theme, other than beauty. The images cover several of the major taxonomic groups of fungi, including the shelf/bracket, teeth, puffball and cup fungi. These are all late summer – early fall photos taken in Central New York, and are among my favorites.

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Hericium, in the teeth fungi group; Lion’s Mane (unofficially, I call it the icicle fungus!)

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A Varnish Shelf Fungus on a rotting log (hemlock I believe)

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Unidentified mushroom or bolete

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Shelf/bracket fungus

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Puffball

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Shelf/bracket fungus on a rotting log

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Yellow Fairy Cups. This tiny cup fungus has colonized the end of a 15-year-old, 12-inch diameter log (aspen).

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Yellow Fairy Cups — macro.

Photos by NB Hunter. ©  All Rights Reserved.

Fun with Fungi – II

I was invited to join a hiking group for a day on the Finger Lakes Trail in Central New York and promised to post some trip highlights. I’m not a regular distance hiker so, with a 5-hour hike ahead of me, I decided to travel light. I regretted that decision about 5 minutes into the adventure. There was a photo opportunity at every bend in the trail, but the forecast for a bright, clear day was dead wrong. It was overcast and misty and I really regretted not having my good macro and a real tripod in my pack.

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Red Eft, land form of the Red-spotted Newt

The group, including the Outdoor Recreation Club from Morrisville State College and the Bullthistle Hiking Club, was interested in all things natural, but the theme of the hike was the overwhelming variety and abundance of fruiting bodies!

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Jelly Fungus

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Coral Fungus (Crown-tipped)

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Coral Fungus (Orange Spindle)

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Mushroom, unidentified

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Chicken-of-the-woods

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Chicken-of-the-woods

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Coral Fungus (Crested)

I’ll finish the post with this image because it was new to me, the color is quite unusual, and — the common name begs to be published!

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Green-headed Jelly Club

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.