About Nick Hunter

Formerly a Professor of Enviromental Sciences at Morrisville State College in New York State, I retired to pursue interests in outdoor activities such as natural area management, hiking, hunting, fly fishing, nature study and outdoor photography. I chose to blog as a means of networking and sharing my passion for the natural world with kindred spirits.

Knapweed and Pollinators

The status of knapweeds (Centaurea spp.) as invasive species is very interesting and widely documented. However, it’s a topic that I’ve chosen to bypass in order to feature some of the many pollinators that swarm the knapweed bloom in the hot, muggy days of summer. I mow (brush hog) several sites once a year in order to arrest succession and maintain herbaceous habitat for wildlife. Grasses, goldenrods and knapweed dominate these managed openings. The knapweed bloom precedes the goldenrod bloom and appears to fill a void in the natural sources of nectar for pollinators.

A managed meadow habitat colonized by knapweed (in full bloom)
Honey Bee on knapweed (1 of 2; knapweed honey is a local product)
Virginia Ctenucha moth (a diurnal moth that appears dark gray or black in flight)
Bumble Bee
Monarch butterfly
Leafcutter bee
Tiger Swallowtail butterfly
A meadow buzzing with pollinators would be incomplete without predators like the flower spider!

Photos by NB Hunter (July). © All Rights Reserved.

Woodlands in Spring

Walking on a woodland trail in Spring is magical, especially in the month of May when hundreds of millions of birds are migrating. Early morning is the best time, and I’ve decided to share a few images from Central New York that illustrate my point!

A little old barn near home that always made me smile
The fresh, new leaves of a Sugar Maple tree
The resident Wood Thrush on his breeding territory, repeated his beautiful music from the tree tops
A small, native tree and one of the earliest to bloom, Serviceberry is a precious gift of Spring
Openings in woodland habitats often attract Tree Swallows, especially when nest boxes are available

Enjoy the season!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

A Colorful End to Winter!

We were blessed with a vivid rainbow on the last day of Winter, 2022. I was a little late to the party, but managed to catch the remaining half of the bow behind one of the large Red Oak trees at the edge of the property. Enjoy!

Photo by NB Hunter (19Mar2022). All Rights Reserved.

Whitetails in Winter, 2021-2022

Late fall and winter are really good times to observe and photograph whitetails. During the autumn rut, deer are active throughout the day, often preoccupied and reckless. In winter, the availability of food declines sharply, forcing deer to throw caution to the wind and feed whenever and wherever they can. They’re apt to forage in broad daylight and in close proximity to humans.

A young buck searching for does (and persistent wild apples) in early December
A mature doe and one of her fawns foraging during a mid winter snow storm
A fawn browsing Northern White-cedar, critical habitat for deer, grouse and other wildlife in the snow belt. At the time of this post, these cedar trees were bare below 5-6 feet – the browse height of deer
Unharvested corn is a wildlife magnet in winter; over 50 deer visited this site daily
A fawn in early February that appears to be in excellent condition, with a heavy coat and good body weight. In severe winters with persistent, deep snow, fawns account for the highest deer mortality.
Backyard wildlife in winter!
A mature, “trophy” buck, looking rather pedestrian after shedding his antlers on/about January 1, 2022.
A clear view of the pedicles where antlers were shed – and new ones will soon develop

“If we allow ourselves to be enchanted by the beauty of the ordinary, we begin to see that all things are extraordinary” – Dean Koontz

Photos by NB Hunter (December, 2021 – February, 2022). © All Rights Reserved.

Backyard Birding in Winter

When winter birding in the snow belt, observing backyard bird feeding stations is often more enjoyable, and more productive, than fighting cold temperatures and blowing snow. Several well-spaced feeding sites, maintained with grain, Niger seed and suet cakes, attract dozens of birds throughout the day. Early morning, mid day and mid afternoon are prime times and feeding always intensifies when the snow is falling. These are some of my favorite captures from January to the present (since my last post on the subject).

Northern Cardinal, male
Northern Cardinal, female
Slate-colored Junco
Black-capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Mourning Dove
Tufted Titmouse
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Purple Finch, male
Purple Finch, female
White-throated Sparrow
Cooper’s Hawk

Photos by NB Hunter (January and February, 2022). © All Rights Reserved.

Reflecting on 2021: Birds in Winter

This winter season in the snow belt has been very unusual, with little to no snow cover. We must be a couple of feet below normal. Snow is finally arriving, but I must back pedal to January and February 2021, to tell this story.

Much of my winter bird photography occurs around the house and along adjacent trails in managed wildlife habitat.

Northern Cardinal
Common Redpoll, an erratic northern visitor
Red-breasted Nuthatch
“Slate-colored” Junco
White-throated Sparrow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-capped Chickadee
Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Central New York region has a rich variety of natural areas and bird life, so there is much to see beyond the backyard. Weekly excursions on the back roads that crisscross rural areas and wetlands can be a challenging, but rewarding, winter activity. Nesting eagles and visitors from the far North – especially snowy owls and snow buntings – are always subjects of interest.

Bald Eagle, one of a mated pair, circling an active nest in February
Snow Bunting, one member of a large flock of about 100 northern visitors
Snowy Owl, hunting open fields for meadow voles

Photos by NB Hunter (January and February 2021). © All Rights Reserved.

The Partial Lunar Eclipse and Blood Moon

Rarely do all of the stars align, literally and figuratively, as they did around 4:00 AM, EST, last night.

In Central New York, cloudy skies usually hide major celestial events, but, last night was the exception. As if on cue for connoisseurs of astrological phenomena, a clear, pitch-black sky revealed brilliant, sparkling stars overhead, with an amazing event unfolding in their midst: the longest partial eclipse and blood moon in 580 years!

At its peak, the spectacle was fleeting, less than 30 minutes to be sure, but the image of the night sky of November 19, 2021 appears in great detail every time I close my eyes.

Photo by NB Hunter, 19Nov2019 @ 3:45 AM, EST. All Rights Reserved.

Summer Meadows: Blooms and Visitors

The wildflower sequence of bloom in summer meadows is a daily reminder of the wonders of nature and, as Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”.

This gallery of favorites features a Monarch caterpillar on milkweed and butterflies on knapweed, Joe-pye Weed and goldenrod. The bookends are a bumblebee on goldenrod and New England Aster.

Photos by NB Hunter (Late July – early September, 2021). © All Rights Reserved.

A Great Egret in Central New York

Every now and then a Great Egret wanders into my viewing area in Central New York during the late summer/early fall migration. We are blessed with abundant surface waters and wetlands, ideal habitats for wading birds like herons and egrets. This year, a solitary egret chose the shallow waters and wetland habitats of a small mill pond to feed and rest. I set up in the morning light to observe and photograph this beautiful bird behaving naturally and must share the story. The gallery is a rough sequence of events as the egret left a log perch to hunt and forage in shallow water. It relocated once, hence the flight sequence. Enjoy!

Photos by NB Hunter (Madison County, NY; September, 2021); © All Rights Reserved.