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.

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Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

Early Autumn 2016

“Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower.”   -Albert Camus

In the fall we track the changing colors of foliage much the same way that we follow the sequence of bloom with spring wildflowers. Leaf peeping is a big event! Early autumn (late September and the first week or so in October in Central New York) is a time of excitement and anticipation, with everyone gazing into a crystal ball to predict peak foliage color and schedule outdoor activities.

A recent trip to my childhood home 400 miles southwest of here reminded me that wishful thinking has no influence on Mother Nature’s timetable! The river bottom watersheds in western Pennsylvania were still very green, leading me to explore the more detailed landscapes in front of my nose.

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Kiskiminetas River, viewed from the Roaring Run Recreation Trail; Apollo, PA

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Marbled Orbweaver spider, building a web

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A tussock moth caterpillar on the move

After returning to Central New York, I began to see a bit more color but summer greens were still dominant. Warm temperatures, plenty of sun and the absence of a hard frost have resulted in a gradual transition from summer to fall, with a pleasing overlap of the seasons.

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Woodman Pond and resting geese

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Woodland ferns and a hint of autumn

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Chenango Canal and the canal towpath trail

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Sulphur butterfly on asters

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Asters and Goldenrods

Leaves falling, geese honking overhead, frost in the air, deer hunting season around the corner; time for one last colorful meadow story before moving on and embracing autumn.

The aster bloom, a wonderful palette of white, blue, lavender and purple, follows the goldenrod bloom, with just enough overlap to create a memorable finale to the wildflower season…..

The September bloom, brilliant when the sun is just right, frames idle nest boxes,

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Fuels late season butterflies,

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A “Comma”, one of the anglewing group of butterflies

Hides a fawn,

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And its alert mother as well!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Farm Fields and Wildlife

An unusually warm and sunny September has lured me to local farms to watch and photograph wildlife. I have to share a few of the highlights from recent trips.

Sulphur butterfly on Teasel

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Young buck, blinded by the late afternoon sun, relying instead on his nose and ears to evaluate my presence.

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The difference between an adolescent, yearling buck and a mature, 4 1/2-year-old breeder can’t be fully appreciated until they’re seen in the same frame!

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An adult doe and her fawn. The first of several deer hunting seasons opens on October 1 and the fawns will have lost most/all of their spots by then.

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Three white-tail secrets for beating the survival odds:

1 — stay in the shadows

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2—never let your guard down

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3—-and, when all else fails, run like the wind!

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A hen turkey and her small flock of youngsters foraging on seeds and insects. They have incredible eyesight but lack a deer’s curiosity and tolerance of humans; in other words, they’re unapproachable! This mother hen knew something wasn’t right, but chose not to sound the alarm and run…totally out of character!

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“If we can teach people about wildlife, they will be touched. Share my wildlife with me. Because humans want to save things that they love.”   – Steve Irwin

September sunset

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Meadows on Fire: Monarchs and Goldenrods

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Many of the goldenrods are going to seed now and temperatures are falling 20 – 30 degrees at night. Fall is arriving .. and butterfly season is coming to an end. Monarch sightings in September are now a special treat. Warm, sunny afternoons find them nectaring with a purpose and sense of urgency, fluttering from flower to flower, goldenrod to aster, in a fast-paced and unpredictable manner.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

A Beauty Cloaked in Velvet

While picking berries the other day, I was pleasantly surprised by the erratic flight of a Mourning Cloak butterfly. I don’t see this species often, and when I do I’m usually unprepared. They rarely feed on flower nectar, preferring tree sap and other sources of nourishment.

The butterfly darted up and around my shed, in the direction of the firewood pile. It was the first warm, sunny morning following several days of overcast skies and drizzle, so I wasn’t surprised to find it perched on a piece of wood, absorbing the warmth of the morning sun with its dark cloak. Damaged, but still a head-turner!

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Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

The White Admiral

I often encounter White Admiral butterflies in late spring and summer because we frequent the same habitats: woodlands and associated openings, edges and wet places. The caterpillars feed on willows and aspens, common woody plants in the region.

They’re a difficult target: adults rarely settle, fluttering and gliding every which way, in an unpredictable manner. This one fluttered from flower to flower for a minute or so, then, with no warning, just disappeared over the tree tops! Appearing black and white in flight, their brilliant coloration can’t be fully appreciated unless they pause for nourishment and the underside of a wing becomes visible.

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White Admiral nectaring on Dame’s Rocket

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.