Winter’s Grip

I’m mindful of migrating waterfowl and have been searching surface waters for an interesting subject. Needless to say, snow,  frigid temperatures and the return of ice have made that close to impossible. Of late, I’ve spent more time in my “truck blind” than afield.

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Mallards in a snow storm

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Canada geese on ice

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Hooded mergansers on a precious spot of open water

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Hoodies

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Streamside ice on a moss-covered rock

Brrrrr!!!

Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

Canal Waterways and Resources

Many of my posts are linked, directly or indirectly, to the elaborate water transportation system engineered in New York State in the 19th century. The network of canals, reservoirs, feeder canals and associated wetlands that once transformed the movement of coal, agricultural products and people across New York and Pennsylvania are now critical wildlife and outdoor recreation resources that define the Central New York region.

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Wood Duck on the Chenango Canal

A small section of the Chenango Canal (originally a 97 mile long feeder to the Erie Canal that operated from 1836 to 1877), has stood the test of time. It is now listed on the National and New York State Registry of Historic Places. The massive, chiseled stones in this aqueduct provide a vivid historical perspective: Immigrant workers from Ireland and Scotland, aided by mules, oxen and horses, built the entire canal by hand. At the height of the construction, there were 500 laborers per section, toiling for $11.00 a month.

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The remains of a 19th century aqueduct on the Chenango Canal

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

The Winter Solstice

“We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.”     – Gary Zukavteasel16dec168647e5c8x10

“How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year!”             – Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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“Kindness is like snow – it beautifies everything it covers.”     – Kahlil Gibran

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“There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you. In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.” ― Ruth Stout

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“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.”     – John Burroughs

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“When snow falls, nature listens.”     – Antoinette van Kleef

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“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”            ― John Steinbeck

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“Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.”     – John Boswell

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Photos by NB Hunter; taken in Central New York in December, 2016 © 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.

Summer Scenes in Farm Country

Most of my travels take me through rural areas where dairy farms still dominate the landscape. These are priceless visual and ecological resources that attract and support diverse wildlife populations as well as livestock.

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Pigeons and crows are permanent residents, usually seen foraging on waste grain in harvested fields or in spread manure.

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Once or twice a week I sit in the evening near a field of corn, oats or hay to observe wildlife. Most evenings there is a predictable sequence of visitors, starting with groundhogs, does and fawns.

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Small flocks of geese glide into cut hay fields throughout the evening.

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Bucks, especially the seasoned veterans, arrive as the sun leaves the fields and camera gear is nothing more than extra weight.

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The last light of the evening, in the clouds. Somewhere below the cloud, in an open field on the highest hilltop, was the dark silhouette of a huge buck. It was his time.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Aquatic Habitats in Summer

Late July in Central New York is usually hot and dry and this year is no exception. Water levels in wetlands and surface waters are at a seasonal low, exposing habitats and life processes not visible at other times.

Dragonflies like this male Widow Skimmer are extremely active, foraging on the wing for tiny insects.

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Avian predators – shorebirds, herons and kingfishers – capitalize on the availability of prey in exposed mud flats and shallow waters.

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“Soft Landing”

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Another avian predator can be seen hunting for prey above the water’s surface rather than below it. Clouds of tiny mayflies (“Tricos”, short for the genus Tricorythodes), pulsating over the riffles of cool, alkaline streams, are fair game for small flocks of Cedar Waxwings.

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A “Trico” trapped in a spider web during the morning hatch; the Trico body is 3-4 mm long

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Tricos in a web

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“For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and we think little about it beyond the point of contact. We have lost a sense of respect for the wild river, for the complex workings of a wetland, for the intricate web of life that water supports.”   – Sandra Postel

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.