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.

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The Joy of Spring

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Skunk Cabbage leaves unfolding

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Chippy after a field trip to the bird feeder

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The female flower of a Norway Spruce tree

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Eurasian honeysuckle, an invasive shrub, in full bloom

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A mature doe reaching above my protective fencing to nibble on the new growth of a young apple tree; deer are losing their winter coats and look pretty ragged

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Morels in a maple-hemlock woodlot

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A fat and happy Red Squirrel framed in dandelion seed heads

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Osprey after an incredible 30 meter dive into the shallow water of a large pond

Gone fishing………………………………….

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

The Solitary Doe

White-tailed deer are social animals, and multi-generational family groups of does and fawns are the norm. That said, this young doe has been alone since last fall (I see her once or twice a week while trail walking) and is now including the bird feeders in her daily routine. I suspect the family group was broken up due to hunting season or highway mortality.

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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.

Avian Scavengers

Last week a friend told me about a road-killed deer in a field, visible and accessible from a secondary road. A mature bald eagle, crows, vultures and coyotes were feeding on the carcass at one time or another, so I visited the site hoping to capture some scavengers at work.

On the first trip, a dense fog limited visibility but the chatter of crows around the carcass gave me the approximate location.

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The next day was clear and bright and by mid morning the site was a chaotic scene of swirling vultures and noisy crows, about 10 birds in all.

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There was obviously a hierarchy among the vultures because some were forced off the carcass or to the fringe to wait their turn.

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There are nearly one million deer in New York state and large numbers of deer inhabit heavily populated areas, so deer-vehicle collisions are a routine occurrence. 70,000 to 80,000 deer-vehicle collisions occur annually (and that is just the number reported as insurance claims). Property damage averages several thousand dollars per incident.

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.