Summer Scenes in Farm Country

Most of my travels take me through rural areas where dairy farms still dominate the landscape. These are priceless visual and ecological resources that attract and support diverse wildlife populations as well as livestock.

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Pigeons and crows are permanent residents, usually seen foraging on waste grain in harvested fields or in spread manure.

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Once or twice a week I sit in the evening near a field of corn, oats or hay to observe wildlife. Most evenings there is a predictable sequence of visitors, starting with groundhogs, does and fawns.

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Small flocks of geese glide into cut hay fields throughout the evening.

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Bucks, especially the seasoned veterans, arrive as the sun leaves the fields and camera gear is nothing more than extra weight.

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The last light of the evening, in the clouds. Somewhere below the cloud, in an open field on the highest hilltop, was the dark silhouette of a huge buck. It was his time.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Surprise Encounter

Just beyond the south end of the Morrisville State College campus lies the college aquaculture facility, a small stream and a short nature trail. It’s close to home and a place I visit often to walk, observe and photograph. This site rarely disappoints, but yesterday was uneventful – until I happened to catch a glimpse of two birds moving quickly across the blue sky. They were too high and far away for details, but it appeared to be a Common Crow harassing a large bird of prey. As luck would have it, the raptor circled in my direction and I was able to capture the moment before they circled up and away.

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The bird in question was an Osprey. The crook in the wings during flight and black patches at the bend in the wings (“wrists”) were diagnostic. Ospreys are fish-eating birds and it’s quite possible that this bird was investigating the outdoor ponds at the fish hatchery.

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All photos by NB Hunter

Covered in Snow

Friends and relatives often ask why we live in the snow belt. They see news coverage of the winter storms, the monster plow trucks rolling along in tandem generating huge waves of snow, the annual snow totals of 10 feet, the shoveling, etc.  Yesterday it was raining at lower elevations but here, with the temperature hovering around 30 degrees, it snowed all day. Small flakes stuck together to form giant ones that dominated the landscape, in the air and on the plants they landed on. I took a hike in the midst of it all.These photos say something about why I enjoy seasonal change, and snow in particular. .

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Persistent leaf of American Beech

My exploration started at the house. Triggered by the heavy, continuous  snowfall, there was a lot of activity at the feeders and I had to capture a bit of it before moving on.

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Chickadee perched in a Star Magnolia near a feeder

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Gray Squirrel

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Three (?) gray squirrels at a feeder

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Gray squirrel on the alert!

Large flakes of wet snow flying through the air and sticking to everything in sight has a dreamy, surreal effect that can’t be captured in full through a lens.

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Persistent beech leaves

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White Pine

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Fungus on sugar maple

I didn’t see much wildlife on this hike. A freshly killed cottontail (several hours old) in a brushy apple tree thicket caught my attention. The head had been eaten but the rest of the carcass remained. There were also fisher tracks in the area, not yet covered in new snow. I’ve been investigating these tracks for days now, checking the old growth hemlocks and sugar maples in an adjacent woodlot for a den site.

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A whitetail doe disturbed while feeding on pruned apple tree branches

The overall snow depth was about 10 inches, deeper in areas where it had drifted or was supported by shrubs and brush. That’s not all that much, but it was that “in-between” condition where it’s too soft and heavy for good snow shoe travel, and too soft and heavy for comfortable foot travel. So after a couple of hours of walking, I took a short drive to check open waters for ducks, geese and possibly an eagle. I saw nothing on the water, watched two crows in a tree above me for a while and decided to call it a day.

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Common Crow