“Milking” Summer

Seems like yesterday that I was photographing nests, babies and nurturing parents. Now, a stroll through rural landscapes provides ample evidence of the changing seasons and cycle of life. I always feel a sense of urgency at this time of year: finish projects, prepare for winter and, above all else, capture the moment!

Bird populations and foraging activities are are at or near peak levels. Songbirds like cedar waxwings, catbirds and song sparrows are swarming open habitats in search of nutritious bugs and berries.

A close look at milkweed colonies in neglected fields and along fence rows and forest edges reveals brilliantly colored monarch caterpillars, eating voraciously in advance of metamorphosis and a red-eye flight to the mountains of Mexico.

Farm fields are full of surprises. In one, a small herd of historic American Aberdeen Angus cattle graze peacefully, as though choreographed. In another, a good whitetail buck is feeding non-stop, packing on as much weight as possible before the November rut and the long winter that follows. The fact that he’s changing into his grayish, insulated, winter coat didn’t go unnoticed.

It’s a bumper year for wild apples and deer are taking full advantage of the crop. They aren’t overly selective either, munching on fallen apples (“drops”), regardless of the ripeness or variety.

Photos by NB Hunter (August, 2019). © All rights reserved.

Cattle Egrets

Despite the erratic weather and cold, wet Spring, April has been full of surprises and opportunities for unusual photographs. A family of red foxes, snow-covered wildflowers and a rare sighting of an egret were among the highlights. This post is about the egret, a new addition to my life list of birds.

Cattle egrets have been in the U.S. for about 70 years and are most common in the Southeast in field-wetland habitats. However, their range is expanding and sightings of birds father north and inland are occurring more often. Prior to my encounter with this solitary bird, my knowledge of cattle egrets was limited to nature shows featuring birds foraging on and around large mammals in their native Africa!

Cattle Egret in breeding plumage

I wasn’t surprised to be ignored by the cattle in the muddy barnyard near the road, but the egret’s tolerance of my parked vehicle and clicking shutter at close range was enlightening. He was far more interested in maneuvering a step ahead of a curious cow and occasionally stopping to forage on its head!

I think it’s safe to assume that this beef cow had never seen a Cattle Egret before, and I was amazed at the cow’s seemingly innate tolerance and understanding of this symbiotic relationship.

Many thanks to the farmer who alerted me to the presence of a white bird “harassing” his cows! Farmer, cows and photographer all had a unique, cooperative experience.

Photos by NB Hunter (April 20, 2019). © All rights reserved.


The Great Outdoors in September, 2018

There are seasons, and then there are seasons within seasons. The final three weeks of summer that define the month of September provide vivid proof of the latter.


Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar, the larval stage of a tiger moth

Sulphur butterflies probing for nutrients in the wet, trampled soil of a cow pasture

Chicken of the Woods fruiting body (fried in butter by the landowner after I captured it alive!)

Monarch caterpillar feeding on Common Milkweed

A “fresh” Monarch nectaring on New England Aster (a September staple) in a weedy meadow

A good crop of Red Oak acorns has this squirrel busy all day long!

A young cottontail, now about half the size of its parents

Gray Dogwood, a favorite fuel of migrating birds like robins and catbirds

Most bucks rub their antlers free of dried velvet during the first three weeks of September, an event triggered by decreasing day length and increased testosterone

Foraging wildlife in a hay field in fading light (September 18 – the same date and location as the previous image)

Lastly, a message from my friend’s milk house kittens: Thanks for visiting!!!

Photos by NB Hunter (September, 2018). © All rights reserved.