Zooming in on Early Autumn

Early Autumn. A visual definition!

The spectacular bloom of goldenrods and asters fades as plants age to drooping stalks and earth tones.Cool nights give rise to morning dew…. and wet feet. The once daily encounters with cold blooded creatures – bugs, snakes, toads and the like – gradually disappear. Birds and mammals take center stage, competing for nature’s bounty as they instinctively prepare for winter.

Nutritious acorns and other “hard mast” are wildlife magnets and a critical food source for winter health and survival.

Wild turkey hen and her young foraging for seeds and bugs in a hay field.

Antlers free of velvet and polished, this mature whitetail will soon reach his peak weight and be ready for the physical challenges of the rut, the hunting seasons … and winter

Fungi thrive in the warm, wet weather of September. Fruiting bodies are everywhere, appearing quickly and unpredictably in the moist, organic habitats of woodlands.

Happy Autumn!!!

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

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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.

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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.

October Memories

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Wisps of clouds and soft colors defined a warm and peaceful sunrise

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Natural rhythms were interrupted by unusually warm, dry and erratic weather patterns

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Early leaf drop and muted colors in woodlands shifted attention to the landscape underfoot

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The Harvest Moon reminded all of the landscape overhead

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Harvested fields were crowded with hungry geese

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Gulls as well as geese foraged in dense, low fog on cold mornings

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Searches for fall landscapes led to familiar haunts, like the old mill pond

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Driven more by photoperiod than the tricky warm weather, a mature male beaver prepared for winter by harvesting an aspen tree and stashing branches at the family lodge

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Staghorn Sumac was on fire!

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A large ash tree, dead for many years, returned to life. An impressive mass of “Chicken-of-the woods” fungus fruited on the base of the snag and lit up a drab woodland scene.

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October reflections

Photos by NB Hunter (October 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

 

Fruiting Bodies!

Woodlands come alive in late summer as fungi and related plants respond to warm, moist growing conditions with visible forms of their life cycles. Fruiting bodies of myriad shapes, sizes and colors appear, sometimes overnight (they thrive in darkness!). The show can be every bit as rewarding as the spring flush of wildflowers…and just as fleeting too.

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Mushrooms emerging through a layer of spruce needles

 

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Coral Fungus

The Ghost Plant (Indian Pipe) made its way into this series on fungi because it lacks chlorophyll and can grow in the dark. In reality, it is a non-photosynthetic flowering plant that parasitizes the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi associated with tree roots.

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The Ghost Plant (Indian Pipe)

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Spindle Fungus

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Wildflower Practice!?

Despite the warm, moist conditions, my woodlot is devoid of wildflowers. It’s too early, and the cold, snowy weather moving in this direction will hold things up a bit longer.  Under the circumstances, I was ecstatic over this brightly colored macro opportunity, discovered while working in the woods:

Cup fungus on a fallen branch

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Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Super Cold, Super Cooled

The erratic weather of March helps explain why the definition of “snow” isn’t as simple as one might think. Yesterday morning I discovered a light coating of “graupel”, one of the many types of snow.

The morning temperature at ground level was in the low teens. Cold!!! That night, super-cooled water droplets in the cloud layer had coated snowflakes, which then fell as tiny white balls called graupel (also soft hail, snow pellets).

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Graupel and frost on Turkey Tail mushroom

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Graupel and frost on moss and leaves

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Graupel and frost on a moss-covered log

Photos by NB Hunter 19March2016. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Autumn Macros: Fungi

Many types of fungi flourish in the warm, damp conditions that accompany early autumn. I don’t know their taxonomy as well as I should, but love to photograph them. 

Hollow trees, especially the large, old survivors, are woodland magnets that rarely escape my attention. This old growth sugar maple, a boundary line tree, is one that I always approach with great anticipation – perhaps a fisher, raccoon or owl has taken up residence? I discovered something quite different and unexpected on this trip: mushrooms, growing in the damp, dark recesses of the cavity. The last images in my post are a small sampling of this intriguing microsite.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.