Small Farms and Cultivated Fields: Priceless

In late spring patches and ribbons of vivid colors are dominant in open landscapes. The spectacular, multi-colored bloom is Dame’s Rocket, a garden escapee gone wild.

Invariably, my interest in this wildflower opens my eyes to the visual resources beyond the bloom. Fields, mostly cultivated fields on local dairy farms, become a subject of interest.

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Dame’s Rocket in full bloom 

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Front to back: Dame’s Rocket, grain fields and woodlands (8June2017)

The appeal of cultivated fields is much more than the dynamic beauty of line, color and texture through the seasons. They’re wildlife magnets, providing critical habitat for a host of opportunistic birds and mammals.

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Buck in velvet, foraging on new growth following the first cutting of hay (27June2017)

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Hen turkey foraging in a hay field; there might be youngsters underfoot, chasing hoppers {1July2017)

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Lingering storm clouds after days of torrential rains and damaging flood waters (1July2017)

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Red-winged blackbird foraging in a field of barley (1July2017)

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A hay field colonized by wild black mustard (30June2017)

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Orchard grass, a common forage plant in hay fields (27June2017)

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Wild Daisies

In the summer months the fragile spring flowers of moist, shaded woodlands give way to hardy species that thrive in open, disturbed sites. They colonize places that are inhospitable to most of our native plants, including nasty roadside habitats. Daisies are a group of plants that occupy that niche and their flowers, en masse, are now a pleasing sight.

Oxeye Daisy in full bloom, field – road ecotone (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum; Composite Family).

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Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

Forested Watersheds

This is an excerpt from my photo journal after an annual camping and fly fishing trip in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania in late May and early June.

A seven mile descent into a narrow stream valley typifies the terrain and landscape of the Allegheny Plateau. This particular watershed of about 50 square miles is a tiny window into a much larger, mostly forested region of over two million acres of public land. Advocates of eco-tourism call it “Pennsylvania Wilds”. Decades of camping, fly fishing, sightseeing and research in PA Wilds have given me a foundation and perspective for virtually all matters of conservation and environmental health. That will no doubt be evident in this post.

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The sweltering heat wave blanketing much of the U.S. and the latest issue of Nature Conservancy magazine (“Blue Revolution: Rethinking Water on a Thirsty Planet”; Summer 2017) led me to focus on one aspect of my annual trip that is becoming more and more precious with the passage of time: the clean, cold surface waters of forested watersheds.

Upon our arrival, we were not surprised to see that weeks of cool, rainy weather had resulted in water levels a foot above normal. But, the turbulent waters were nearly free of sediment due to the absence of development and continuous forest cover.

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Small, freestone mountain streams recovered quickly and were well on their way to “normal” after just two days without rain – another wonderful feature of a pristine watershed.

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Mayfly activity … as well as dry fly fishing … followed a more predictable pattern when temperatures rose and water levels receded.

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A Green Drake mayfly spinner (Coffin Fly)

Spring seeps trickling over exposed rock enhanced the visual experience and supported lush growth of ferns and wild flowers.

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Virginia Waterleaf thriving in the moist, shady microsite of a spring seep

“Hydrologists estimate that if all the water on Earth filled a 5-gallon bucket, just one drop of it would represent the clean, fresh water accessible to humans.” – Nature Conservancy magazine, Summer 2017.

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Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Spring Greens

As I chase Spring in search of wildflowers, critters and other natural phenomena, I am reminded of something special that is often a backdrop for more popular subjects rather than the main attraction. Artists and photographers know it well, and they also know the challenge of capturing its stunning, ephemeral beauty at the right time and place. I’m referring to the palette of fresh, spring greens that appears as plants emerge from dormancy.

These images, in chronological order over a period of about two weeks, are my most recent attempt to capture “green-up” in Central New York.

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Aspen clone (May 4)

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Wild apple tree bloom and woody plant leaf development (1 of 2; May 10)

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Dairy farm (May12)

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Sugar maple foliage (May 14)

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Canada geese in a field of barley (a gang of newly hatched goslings at her feet; May 15)

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Sugar maple form and foliage (May 16)

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Red oak flowers and foliage (May 17)

Photos by NB Hunter (May 4 – 16, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Scanning the Stubble

Certain that the arrival of cold, wind and snow would lead to sightings of migrating snow geese in fields, I’ve kept a watchful eye on proven habitats: harvested corn fields. Crows, Canada geese and barren landscapes have been the rule; no snow geese to date.

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Crows in the stubble

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Wild Canada geese on a dairy farm

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Pasture tree in a storm

Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

Snowy Highlights, Feb. 2017

Most of our snow will be gone by the end of the week. There will be more, but I feel the need to post these wonderful winter snow scenes while they’re still fresh in my memory!

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Harvested corn field in winter

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Eastern Wild Turkey foraging for waste grain

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Spring-fed stream and geese, with a mature oak tree in the center

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Groundhog emerging from hibernation, 20Feb2017

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Woodland trail after a heavy, wet snow

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Young whitetail doe

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Small woodland stream, framed by mature hemlocks and sugar maples

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Mourning doves taking flight

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Woodland trail in sunshine and shadow

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A shed deer antler exposed by melting snow

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

The Color of Winter

We have four months of winter; I enjoy three of them. The earthy colors and vivid contrasts of uncluttered winter landscapes can be very appealing, even spectacular. Winter also affords us the opportunity to observe the behavior and coping mechanisms of resident birds and mammals as they struggle to find sufficient food and cover amidst dwindling resources. The “dormant” winter season is far from static; there’s a lot going on, and much to learn. I’ll share a few winter highlights from Central New York, captured in January, 2017.

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Northern cardinal foraging for grain near a backyard feeder

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Eastern wild turkeys searching for waste grain

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Round bales on a foggy winter morning

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Black-capped chickadee in a lake-effect snow storm

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Hilltop panoramic view of farms and woodlands

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American crow foraging on waste grain

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Morning sunlight on the Chenango River 

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Red-bellied woodpecker feasting on a commercial suet block

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.