First Snow (27October2016)

The first snow of the season left its mark on the landscape, in a pleasant sort of way (I don’t dare say that in the village, for fear of being shot). Unfortunately, a cold rain followed, turning the snow into slippery slush.

There was a narrow window of opportunity for “snow shots” this morning, before the rain, and these are some of the highlights.

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Cultivated red raspberry, second fruiting

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Quaking Aspen leaf

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Sugar Maple leaf

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Yearling white-tail feeding on persistent foliage (before I showed up)

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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Tree Leaves and Flowers

The emergence of new foliage on deciduous trees is a beautiful process and signature event in the spring season.

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Quaking (Trembling) Aspen, 5/20/2016

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Red Oak, 5/22/2016

And the Wild Apple trees are in full bloom too!

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Wild Apple trees, 5/22/2016

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Grosbeaks!

The spring songbird migration coincides with with the explosion of floral and vegetative growth in deciduous trees and shrubs. It’s a thrilling dynamic and wonderful time of year to become immersed in the great outdoors!

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New foliage on a maple in early May

Change is rapid, every day a new palette, and “here today, gone tomorrow” describes my experience with many migrating songbirds. Two days ago there were vibrant colors and sweet songs everywhere. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were low and at the feeders, Baltimore Orioles high above, foraging in the tree canopies.

Cornell, on its “All About Birds” website, describes the Rose-breasted Grosbeak as an “exclamation mark” at feeders. So true – for the brilliant male! However, females are easily overlooked or miss-identified, especially when the huge bill isn’t clearly visible.

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I was amused to see that a bird with a massive, seed- and fruit- crunching bill would be interested in the smallest of seeds at the openings of the goldfinch tube feeder.

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Some of these grosbeaks will remain while others will continue their northerly migration and search for summer nesting habitat. The low woody vegetation of young forests and forest edges is their target.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Seasons at War

There is quite a battle going on here: winter vs spring, cold whites vs warm greens, punching and counter punching. Winter is losing, but refuses to concede.

The vibrant green shoots of wild False Hellebore emerging in a blanket of snow tell the story.

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False Hellebore (Indian Poke) in a swampy woodland 6April2016

Photo by NB Hunter

Winter in Spring

In winter, eight inches of snow, freezing temperatures and numbing wind chills elicit a “Ho Hum”  from friends at the coffee shop. The same conditions two weeks into the Spring season evoke a full spectrum of responses, from grunts, groans and expletives to happy thoughts (not the majority).

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April snowstorms are unique because the flora and fauna are undergoing seasonal change and the transition to Spring is well under way. This storm crushed Glory of the Snow in full bloom and halted the opening of daffodil buds. Red Maple, aspen, hazelnut and other woody plants were in various stages of bloom and suffered some degree of frost damage. Blackbirds and robins, recent arrivals from southern wintering grounds, lost access to grain fields and worms, respectively. Hundreds of blackbirds appeared at bird feeders – mixed flocks of red-winged blackbirds, starlings, cowbirds and grackles.

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Robins foraged on any bare ground they could find, including spring seeps and plowed areas.

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Earthworms became active during the mild weather and thaw that preceded the storm and the new snow retained some of the warmth. My snow shoveling gave a robin access to a fresh, juicy meal — despite the 15 degree (F) wind chill earlier in the day!

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One of the few woody plants to retain fruit this far into the new year is Staghorn Sumac. It is now feeding several species of birds, especially robins.

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Photos by NB Hunter. April 3 & 4, 2016. © 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.

 

Late Winter Highlights, 2016

The late winter weather has been a roller coaster ride. In just the last week or so, seventy-degree swings in temperature were accompanied by snow squalls; balmy, spring-like days; dark gray skies and cold rains; freezing water; melting ice….and anything else you can imagine. This is the week in review, minus all of the bad stuff!

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The Chenango Canal under a thin sheet of ice (Feb. 23)

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Cold rain and runoff formed ice along a small stream

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A Chipmunk appears above ground for the first time in 2016 –  its enthusiasm  dampened by a cold, winter rain (Feb. 24)

 

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A Canada Goose exploring, and defending, open water (Feb. 25)

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Deer moving freely, foraging in the middle of the day;  in most years, movement would be limited by deep snow (Feb. 27)

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Stubby the Red Squirrel, with an exciting discovery on the rapidly melting snow cover (Feb. 28)……..

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Stubby, dozing in the late morning sun on a frigid day

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Eastern Hemlock, “old growth”

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.