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.

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.

Goldenrod Meadows and Summer’s End

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Goldenrod honey in the making

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White Admiral

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Cabbage Whites planning ahead

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A Cabbage White butterfly caught in the web of life; one of two

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Monarchs: a species at risk; one of two

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Wildflowers: August Jewels

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Jewelweeds (Touch-me-nots; Impatiens) have so many redeeming qualities. They’re a favorite in the late summer diet of deer; hummingbirds will camp out over a patch of jewelweed and alternately perch and feed for hours in the mid day sun; bees also feed on jewelweed nectar; and, on a chilly morning, when everything is dripping wet with dew, the jewels of jewelweed are beautiful.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Wetland Surprises

The mind-boggling variety of life in and around wetlands virtually guarantees a rewarding nature walk, with unexpected thrills along the way. This morning I decided to take a short walk between the dam of a small reservoir and the swampy drainage below. I was hoping to see some wetland wildflowers, but packed extra gear – just in case.

My first discovery was Arrowhead, in the shallow water along the shore of the reservoir. As luck would have it, this was also my last wildflower photo. I was soon distracted by much bigger game!

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Movement in the tall, dense vegetation bordering a small stream stopped me in my tracks. It was something fairly large, brown and several feet above ground level – had to be the head of a deer.

Sure enough …an adult doe appeared. She had no doubt spent the night feeding in nearby fields of corn and beans and was heading for high ground in the swamp to rest.

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She moved like a wisp of smoke and was gone as quickly and silently as she had appeared. But, where there’s smoke there’s fire! I’m so glad she was successfully bred last November.

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“You just don’t luck into things as much as you’d like to think you do. You build step by step, whether it’s friendships or opportunities.”   – Barbara Bush

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Hummingbirds in Late Summer

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Our hummingbirds will be gone in a month so I’m savoring every moment with these little marvels. Numbers have peaked, boosted by the young of the year, and all are feeding voraciously in preparation for the long journey to the Gulf Coast and Central America.

They’re devouring sugar water in feeders, in some cases swarming like bees and constantly fighting for position.

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Gardening for hummingbirds is a more natural and satisfying method of attracting and feeding hummers. Red and orange tubular flowers like this Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ can be dietary staples.

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Perches near feeders are my favorite setting for observing and photographing hummers. Portraits that capture the nuances of perching behavior shed an entirely different light on a species best know for its aerial magic!

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When out and about in the summer months, I often think about hummingbirds foraging in natural areas, apart from the direct influence of man and artificial feeding practices. Are there tubular flowers blooming in the wild now? If not, what are the hummers feeding on? Three native species come to mind: Bee-balm (Monarda), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia) and Jewelweed (Touch-me-not; Impatiens).

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Jewelweed or Touch-me-not (Impatiens) in early August

Photos by NB Hunter. All Rights Reserved.