Apple Tree Blossoms 2017

May is apple blossom season in Central New York!

I worry like a farmer when the flower buds begin to open. Killing spring frosts are common and they can wreak havoc on new growth. We escaped those this year, but the bloom was greeted by cool, wet weather that greatly reduced the activity of bees and other insect pollinators.

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Warm weather finally arrived! Several days of summer-like weather really perked things up and the bloom peaked.

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We weren’t “out of the woods” yet. A clash of cold and warm air masses produced severe thunder storms, complete with high winds and hail. Wind in excess of 40 miles per hour damages trees, especially those that are predisposed due to poor form and/or location. Of the dozens of wild apple trees that I manage, two were affected. One, on soft, wet soil in a stream bottom, was uprooted completely and will become firewood and cottontail habitat later in the year. The other, pictured below, had poor structure: two large stems separated by a seam of “included” bark rather than solid wood. Lacking a strong connection, the trunks were ripped apart in the high winds.

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Days after the storm, the resilience of nature was apparent. Most trees, as well as their blossoms, appeared to have survived our erratic spring weather and should produce some apples this fall.

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The bloom is fading, the ground now littered with petals, but I’m still looking up. Rose-breasted grosbeaks, singing in the tree tops as they forage on flowers, have my attention!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Too Wet to Gobble

This morning I discovered several eastern wild turkeys in a hay field in a steady, cold rain. It’s the peak breeding season, and this might be the gobbler’s point of view!?

“Two hens in sight……good breeding stock…..I should wow them with a good strut and gobble….”

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“But this cold rain has dampened my enthusiasm….I’m too wet and miserable to strut and gobble.”

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“Might as well do the next best thing – eat!”

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Photos by NB Hunter 5/5/2017 ©All Rights Reserved

Songbirds: the Answer for Cold, Rainy Days!

Several years ago friends gave me a flowering shrub as a retirement gift: a Purple Leaf Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena). It persisted through droughts, monsoons, subzero temperatures, snow, ice and benign neglect, as well as transplant shock, and has finally produced a major bloom. Strategically positioned between two bird feeders, it has been the focal point of backyard songbird activity this spring. It’s a gift that keeps on giving!

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Black-capped Chickadee

Goldfinches, the males now sporting their bright breeding plumage, swarm a ‘Nyjer’ seed (thistle-like seed) feeder throughout the day and brighten even the darkest days!

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Female Goldfinch

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The Spring songbird migration is in full swing so any of a dozen species can appear unexpectedly, and disappear as quickly as they arrived. I had about 30 seconds to interact with each of these colorful visitors.

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Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Photos by NB Hunter. (May 2 – 4, 2017). ©  All Rights Reserved

 

A Butterfly that Hibernates

The last thing on my mind when I’m hiking this time of year is butterflies…it’s cold and there are few flowers in bloom.  But, I pass through a sunny clearing in the forest on my daily walks and invariably have my day dreams interrupted by the flutter of a Mourning Cloak butterfly. Males emerge from hibernation this time of year and “perch” in a sunny opening to attract a mate and breed.  I’ve cut firewood nearby and the sap oozing from stumps is a likely food source.

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Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.