A Winter Walk (March, 2018)

Finally, after three storms and several feet of snow, the sun came out. I buckled up my snowshoes and set out to accomplish three things: pack trails for future walking and access to the property; capture some unusual, late winter scenes; and share this lovely late-winter day with friends who might be unable or unwilling to navigate waste-deep snow cover.

My woodland walk started at the house, followed a trail dating back to the construction of a small dairy farm in 1854, then looped back to the house. The adventure covered less than a mile but was nearly two hours in duration.


Home; the “1854 House”


A Wild Apple Tree


164 year-old farm trail with a packed snowshoe path in the center (1 of 3)



Chickadee feeding on White Spruce seeds in a windbreak/wildlife habitat planting (1 of 2)



Return trip down the woodland trail


Wild apple tree in snow and morning light; mission accomplished!

Photos by NB Hunter (15March2018). © All Rights Reserved.


A Pileated Woodpecker Up Close

A declining maple tree with a dead central leader was the stage. Our largest woodpecker, hammering away in decayed wood in search of ants and other insects, provided the entertainment. I see or hear these large, crow-size woodpeckers almost daily, but this was a rare opportunity for me to see one up close, one that was more interested in carpenter ants than the human audience.

The cavity and foraging bird were clearly visible from the edge of my friends driveway. Unsure of the bird’s reaction to my presence, I started shooting immediately.



Feeding was nearly continuous and moments like this were few and far between. The red stripe on the cheek told us this was a male.




Excavations by pileated woodpeckers leave cavities in dead and dying trees that are critical habitat for many species of wildlife. Given the location, this exquisite cavity might be claimed by squirrels or owls. Arboriculture (landscape/residential tree care) practices generally call for the removal of dead and dying trees or tree parts in order to reduce hazards and maintain tree health and longevity. However, in cases where wildlife habitat is a priority and the hazard assessment is low, benign neglect might be a viable option.

PileatedExcavation#1 Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

The Joy of Spring


Skunk Cabbage leaves unfolding


Chippy after a field trip to the bird feeder


The female flower of a Norway Spruce tree


Eurasian honeysuckle, an invasive shrub, in full bloom


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


Morels in a maple-hemlock woodlot


A fat and happy Red Squirrel framed in dandelion seed heads


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

Gone fishing………………………………….

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Tree Snags for Wildlife

This is a story about the management of a landscape tree in decline, management with an underlying theme of benign neglect.

Last summer I heard the unmistakable sound of a Pileated Woodpecker hammering on a large old white pine tree near the edge of the lawn. I was thrilled to see our largest woodpecker so close to home, but also knew that its presence was a sign of a tree in trouble. Sure enough, there was advanced decay at the base of the tree and the Pileated was foraging on carpenter ants. The probability of tree failure and subsequent damage to nearby targets was high. The White Pine was a “hazard tree” and had to be removed.

My contract with a professional arborist for removal included an unusual request. I wanted to minimize the hazard – but leave a large snag for wildlife.


The decision to create a snag payed dividends almost immediately. A Pileated Woodpecker is a frequent visitor, foraging around new wounds as well as old ones.



Pitch oozing from the fresh wounds on a warm day provided an unplanned photo opportunity and aesthetic experience. The fascinating world of magnified pitch droplets kept me busy long after the woodpecker had left the scene!


Pine pitch droplet, fly and spider; the droplet is about 1/8th inch across




Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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.


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



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.


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.


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!



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.


Aspen clone (May 4)


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



Dairy farm (May12)


Sugar maple foliage (May 14)


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


Sugar maple form and foliage (May 16)


Red oak flowers and foliage (May 17)

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