Webs Underfoot

A spider web in the grass, draped in pearls of morning dew:

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Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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Making Hay

Most of the photos of deer in recent posts were taken in three large hay fields, fields that had been cut earlier in the summer and were now loaded with succulent new growth. I was seeing 20 to 30 deer that were very tolerant of humans (in motion) and vehicles.

On my latest visit, I discovered a very different landscape – the fields had been cut and the hay wind-rowed. Deer were few and far between, a fraction of the normal numbers.

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The deer that I did see were nervous and spooky in a habitat that had changed drastically, virtually overnight. Even though the uncut hay had offered little cover, unless they were bedded down in it, they seemed to feel exposed and vulnerable in the stubble.

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Within a few minutes, I was abandoned, alone with my thoughts, amazed at how suddenly and unexpectedly a photo opportunity can materialize …. or vaporize!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Early Autumn Foliage

Sweeping panoramic views of fall foliage with peak colors are a week or two away. However, many plants, species and varieties within species, are ahead of the curve. Red Maple, some Sugar Maples, White Ash, dogwoods and serviceberries are in this group.

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Sugar Maple

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Red-panicle Dogwood

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Red Maple

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Red Maple

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White Ash

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Serviceberry

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Deer Update

I’m observing the local deer herd several times a week, hoping to learn more about their behavior in response to the changing seasons.

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Most of the bucks have rubbed and polished their antlers……….

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But not all. There is more variation in the timing of velvet removal than I realized, especially with respect to mature bucks like this one:

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We usually watch deer in fields, because we can, which doesn’t always tell the whole story. In wooded areas, acorns and other hard, dry fruits are a highly nutritious and desirable food source that can be critical for winter survival and fawn production. A doe and her two fawns frequent the Red Oak trees at the edge of my property at least once a day (after they’ve foraged on my wild apples!):

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“Button buck” fawn eating Red Oak acorns

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Red Oak acorn

This adult doe is an “urban” deer, feeding on Red Oak acorns at the edge of a golf course, within sight of noisy patrons:

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Avian Anomaly

Flocks of “barnyard” pigeons ((Rock Pigeon, Rock Dove, Domestic Pigeon) are common residents on most farms in the area, but I never see pigeons around our house or bird feeders.

At the start of yesterday’s morning trail walk, a gray, sun-lit object in the middle of the trail startled me. I approached, shooting as I went, thinking it might be an injured animal. Turns out it was a pigeon — but not just any pigeon.

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It was a tame bird, allowing me to get within 3 or 4 meters before it flew. The flight was graceful and swift, leaving no doubt as to its health.

Just before lift-off, the legs became visible and I was able to capture an image of the legs bands, one with the codes “1F” and “NWC”……

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If anyone can elaborate on this sighting, particularly the meaning of the band colors and codes, your assistance would be greatly appreciated!

An answer just arrived: IF = International Federation and NWC = Northwest Club (based in Massachusetts/USA). The blue band is a microchip/flight recorder. It’s a racing pigeon!

Photos by NB Hunter. All Rights Reserved.

Cabbage Whites

The Cabbage White is our most common butterfly. They’re active throughout the summer and can be seen in just about any habitat – lawns, fields, vacant lots – with flowers in bloom. Plants in the mustard family (including cabbage) are the preferred food of Cabbage White caterpillars.

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Cabbage White butterfly nectaring on asters 21Sept14

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

September: Summer’s Grand Finale

September in central New York is a story that must be told — and illustrated!

The weeks leading up to the autumnal equinox are an exclamation point on the summer season that will soon yield to autumn. Landscapes near and far showcase a pleasing blend of the best of two seasons.

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Fields of corn and goldenrod

Humid days and chilly nights lead to early morning scenes that sparkle in a heavy coating of dew .

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Asters in morning dew

Diurnal wildlife activity and viewing opportunities are at peak levels. Birds and mammals, adults and juveniles alike, are foraging on the ripening fruits of wild trees and shrubs in preparation for migration, or leaner times.

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Red-panicle Dogwood

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Autumn Olive

This flock of Cedar Waxwings was swooping back and forth between spruce tree perches and a large Autumn Olive shrub that was loaded with fruit:

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Part of a flock of about 20 Cedar Waxwings perched near wild berry food sources in a brushy meadow

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Immature Cedar Waxwing feeding on the fruit of Autumn Olive (1 of 2)

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White-tailed Deer survive long winters in the snow belt by foraging around the clock on high quality foods like acorn mast and the succulent new growth in cut hay fields.

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The weeks leading up to the autumn equinox are transformative for White-tails. Fawns lose their spots; a darker, insulating winter coat (with hollow hair) replaces the reddish brown summer pelage; antlers stop growing and the dead, outer skin of velvet is rubbed off; and males, often in bachelor groups, begin to spar and establish a pecking order.

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Family group of White-tails: matriarch with her 2 fawns and a young doe, probably a yearling

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Mature buck in velvet; 13Sept2014

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Mature buck with antlers rubbed free of velvet; 14Sept2014

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White-tails bucks sparring lightly; the small, immature yearling initiated the friendly contact and received a valuable lesson; the mature buck could be his father.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.