Families of Geese

My initial post on a family of geese featured fuzzy little goslings exploring a brave new world in the shadow of their parents (“Geese, Geese and More Geese” on May 24).

Grazing Geese 24May2015

Three weeks later I discovered another, larger family (parents and 8 goslings) loafing and feeding along the shore of a private pond. The goslings are growing like weeds, but still cute, comical and irresistible!

One of the few times that I intentionally went for a butt shot!

I think I know who will be the lead bird when the flock flies in formation

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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Bald Eagle Longevity

A headline in today’s Syracuse Post-Standard read “NATION’S OLDEST BANDED BALD EAGLE FOUND DEAD NEAR ROCHESTER”. He was 38 years old, with a numbered aluminum band on his leg to prove it. Wow!!! I had no idea that a wild and free eagle could defy such odds and survive for nearly four decades.

This amazing, record-setting bird was reportedly hatched in Minnesota in the late 70’s, banded, then transported to New York for the state’s Bald Eagle Restoration Program. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says old Number 03142 was apparently struck and killed by a motor vehicle while feeding on a dead rabbit.

From my archives (not #03142):

Bald Eagle scavenging a deer carcass

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Swallowtail Delight

It wasn’t all that long ago that I walked late summer meadows, mesmerized by the colorful show of monarch orange on goldenrod yellow. The event was predictable, and I took it for granted. The monarchs are mostly gone now, the curtain nearly closed. In later years, I read of the threatened status of Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies in a more southern state but, this time around, I did not take my frequent personal encounters with the species for granted. I captured everything – food plants, caterpillars, perching adults, feeding adults, and mating adults. A lesson had been learned. Butterflies are indicators of environmental health, particularly habitat degradation and loss, and many species are vulnerable. I now feel a sense of urgency when observing butterflies, and am compelled to seize the moment with a visual recording.

Currently, Tiger Swallowtails, a common butterfly in areas with deciduous trees and shrubs, are actively feeding on the nectar of Dame’s Rocket, a garden escapee that has become very prominent and widespread in natural areas. I searched the bloom for butterfly activity in mid to late morning (prime time), trying to capture elements of the erratic, fluttering flight pattern and vibrant coloration of these beautiful butterflies.

Click on an image and let’s go nectaring!!!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Late Spring Highlights, 2015

This post is for the eye specialists of Central New York, the surgeons and their wonderful supporting cast who I have gotten to know all too well over the past 6 months. I must be nice to them, because our journey isn’t over yet.

Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota)

The month of June began with Dave and I disconnecting from the outside world, tent camping and fly fishing for trout in a “dead zone” in the mountains. We’ve been doing this for a long time. The destination, campsite and length of stay haven’t changed, but the journal entries are never redundant and each trip is better than the last.

Destination: a freestone trout stream in a mountainous, forested watershed

Camp life is a trip treat in and of itself, but the main objective of these adventures is to float a fake bug high and dry so it drifts, bobs and skitters with the current, drag-free….and fools a trout. Fly fishing is a repetitive process, a fluid continuum of false casting, presentation, catch and release (on the good days). The rod becomes an extension of the arm, and the stream an endless source of pleasant sights, sounds and expectation.

Mayfly5June14#362E4c5x7

Green Drake mayfly (Ephemera guttulata) drifting along on the surface film; a favorite in the diet of trout

A parachute dry fly, one of many imitations of the Green Drake. To the human eye, an insult to the fragile beauty of the real thing. But, it works, seriously.

We fish for hours on end, especially when the trout are “looking up” and can be tricked into taking one of our flies. However, there are also windows of opportunity for exploring and photographing.

In this part of the world, Wild Columbine thrives in the moist soils and partial sunlight along forested mountain roads. Rocky woodlands, rock outcrops and ledges are also suitable habitat.

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Late spring marks the onset of butterfly season, and in these extensive deciduous forests the activity can lead to a sensory overload. Virtually everything in bloom is visited by nectaring butterflies, and swarms of puddling butterflies are a common sight. Damp, sunlit sites with exposed mineral soil – such as roadside mud puddles – sometimes attract dozens of butterflies. Swallowtails are the featured attraction, but a half dozen or more species may be involved. The visitors are mostly males, searching for soil minerals that might enhance reproductive success.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) nectaring on Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

Tiger Swallowtails (and other butterfly species) puddling on on a muddy site

A Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) searching for a suitable place to puddle. The iridescent hindwing and spoon-shaped tails are diagnostic.

Spicebush Swallowtail probing damp soil for minerals

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Fleabane (Erigeron)