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.

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.

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Aspen clone (May 4)

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

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Dairy farm (May12)

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Sugar maple foliage (May 14)

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

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Sugar maple form and foliage (May 16)

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Red oak flowers and foliage (May 17)

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

A Different View for Wildflowers

Cold weather has delayed the arrival of traditional, early spring wildflowers. This has led me to look up rather than down, searching for the lesser known flowers of trees and shrubs. They can be stunning, but often require magnification to be appreciated.

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One of the many species of shrubby willows (Salix); a critical food source for bees in early spring

 

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Red maple (Acer rubrum) in full bloom

Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

 

Autumn Foliage: the Encore

The flaming foliage that fueled the tourist industry a month ago is now in the business of soil enrichment. The thick layer of leaves on the forest floor is already decomposing and adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil. The annual cycle is nearly complete, and all will benefit, from fungi and amphibians to the massive oaks and the wildlife that depend on them. Is there a better example of recycling? Doubt it.

Fortunately, Mother Nature is kind enough to return with an encore performance, giving nature lovers one more peak at colorful leaves before winter. Several tree species, the beeches, oaks, aspens and larches included, don’t show off their fall colors until late October and early November. This past week I photographed Quaking Aspen and American Beech in local woodlots to illustrate.

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Mature Aspen

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Aspen

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Beech, with a background of aspen

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Aspen along the edge of a small stream

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Beech on aspen

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Aspen leaf adrift in the surface film of a small stream

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Mature aspen, with years of snow and ice damage reflected in an irregular crown

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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.

Autumn Scenes, Near and Far

Red Oak leaves in the morning sun

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An aging Sugar Maple tree. Well beyond its economic prime, but priceless as a visual resource

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The third, and final, cutting of hay for the season

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The colors and contrasts of dairy farms, active and abandoned

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The Hunter’s Supermoon, a rare October treat!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.