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.

Breeding Bufos!!!

The highlight of recent walks has been a frenzied spring chorus emanating from dozens of American toads in shallow waters. Breeding season! The toads are extremely active in the late morning sun and warmth, perching, calling, chasing and breeding. Sometimes the water is “boiling” with breeding activity as several males battle over a female. The mating calls,  loud trilling sounds lasting several seconds, are one of the more distinct and pleasing sounds of spring.

This is their story, as I’ve observed it, among emerging cattails in the shallow water of the Chenango Canal in Central new York.

Toad26Apr17#6354E7c4x6

Toad27Apr17#6556E2c8x10

Toad26Apr17#6388E2c8x10

Toad26Apr17#6391E2c8x10

Toad27Apr17#6547E2c8x10

Toad27Apr17#6546E2c8x10

Actual breeding, referred to as amplexus, involves the male grasping the larger, more colorful female and fertilizing her double strand of gelatinous eggs as they are extruded.

Toad26Apr17#6331E2c3x5

Toad26Apr17#6346E2c8x10

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

A Butterfly that Hibernates

The last thing on my mind when I’m hiking this time of year is butterflies…it’s cold and there are few flowers in bloom.  But, I pass through a sunny clearing in the forest on my daily walks and invariably have my day dreams interrupted by the flutter of a Mourning Cloak butterfly. Males emerge from hibernation this time of year and “perch” in a sunny opening to attract a mate and breed.  I’ve cut firewood nearby and the sap oozing from stumps is a likely food source.

MourningCloak18Apr17#6078E2c8x10

MourningCloak18Apr17#6083E2c8x10

MourningCloak18Apr17#6073E5c8x10

Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

A Different View for Wildflowers

Cold weather has delayed the arrival of traditional, early spring wildflowers. This has led me to look up rather than down, searching for the lesser known flowers of trees and shrubs. They can be stunning, but often require magnification to be appreciated.

ShrubWillow18Apr17#6084E2c8x10

One of the many species of shrubby willows (Salix); a critical food source for bees in early spring

 

RedMaple18Apr17#6109E3c8x10

Red maple (Acer rubrum) in full bloom

Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

 

Photoperiod and Signs of Spring

Spring: the first 20 days!

Gray skies, cold rain, snow and flooding have slowed down the arrival of spring but photoperiod will rule the day. Increasing day length is a powerful force that insures the necessary progression of life stages, regardless of the weather.

Many aquatic species, including this Great Blue Heron, arrived to find traditional wetland habitats still covered in ice (23March2017).

GBHeron23Mar17#4236E2c4x6

Snow geese were reported throughout Central New York during the last week of March. They were refueling on waste grain in corn fields and spread manure before continuing their journey to summer range in the Arctic (27-28March2017).

SnowGeese28Mar17#5051E2c4x6

SnowGeese28Mar17#5032E2c5x7

SnowGeese28Mar17#4974E2c8x10

Wild turkeys were foraging on waste grain too, but increasing daylight was also triggering the mating urge in males; many were observed in full display posture, strutting for uninterested hens (1April2017).

Turks1Apr17#5268E5c5x7

Breeding populations of ring-necked pheasants no longer occur in this region, but some are occasionally released into the wild for recreational purposes. This cock pheasant is crowing and flapping his wings in an attempt to attract a hen (6April2017).

Pheasant6Apr17#5485E2c8x10

Pheasant6Apr17#5488E2c8x10

Red-winged blackbirds arrived several weeks ago and are defending their breeding territories aggressively, despite the elements (7April2017).

RWBlackbird7Apr17#5544E2c8x10

A sure sign of Spring is the transformation of male goldfinches as they molt into their bright breeding plumage (7April2017).

Goldfinch7Apr17#5517E2c8x10

Groundhogs emerged from hibernation in March to find a snow-covered landscape. In the days ahead they faced yet another hardship – the flooding of burrows in marginal habitats. This one seems to have weathered the storms well…but is grazing in the middle of a hay field, a long way from the nearest burrow. Can it outrun an eagle, fox or coyote? Survival is still questionable (8April2017).

Groundhog8Apr17#5577E2c5x7

Photos by NB Hunter, March 23 – April 8, 2017. ©All Rights Reserved.