Whitetail Watching, 2019

This is the best time of year to observe deer, especially if quality, open habitats are accessible. Populations are high, deer are preoccupied with eating, and bucks are warming up for the breeding season.

Since eating is the top priority, mixed groups are common and warrant close scrutiny. They’re full of surprises! Variations in sex, age, condition, color and behavior soon appear.

A “bachelor group”, common social behavior in summer; note the tumor on the middle buck

Two bucks in the frame, but my attention is elsewhere!

Early territorial behavior: scent-marking an overhead branch (1 of 2)

A mature buck leaving the hay field for dessert in the adjacent brush lot: wild apples

Bucks are being bucks, while does are parenting. Fawns are weaned, but still need TLC (1 of 3)

Photos by NB Hunter (Aug. 31 – Sept. 5, 2019). All rights reserved.

Late Summer Gold, 2019

Wildflowers are the perfect bookends to the growing season! Spring ephemerals like trillium and bloodroot introduce spring, while late summer beauties like the goldenrods and asters provide a colorful transition into the dormant season.

Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) dominate fallow fields, forest edges and waste places. There are dozens of species and variations in size and form, some as tall as seven feet. In full bloom, showy clusters of tiny flowers form plumes, wands, clubs and spikes, depending on the species.

The goldenrod bloom creates endless photo opportunities as it frames, attracts and enhances subjects of interest in a single glance. These examples made me smile, and illustrate why I embrace seasons of change.

As August gives way to September, chilly nights and the approach of autumn, the uniform sea of golden yellow is enhanced by the arrival of a vivid palette of asters. And summer’s curtain call is complete.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

 

 

“Milking” Summer

Seems like yesterday that I was photographing nests, babies and nurturing parents. Now, a stroll through rural landscapes provides ample evidence of the changing seasons and cycle of life. I always feel a sense of urgency at this time of year: finish projects, prepare for winter and, above all else, capture the moment!

Bird populations and foraging activities are are at or near peak levels. Songbirds like cedar waxwings, catbirds and song sparrows are swarming open habitats in search of nutritious bugs and berries.

A close look at milkweed colonies in neglected fields and along fence rows and forest edges reveals brilliantly colored monarch caterpillars, eating voraciously in advance of metamorphosis and a red-eye flight to the mountains of Mexico.

Farm fields are full of surprises. In one, a small herd of historic American Aberdeen Angus cattle graze peacefully, as though choreographed. In another, a good whitetail buck is feeding non-stop, packing on as much weight as possible before the November rut and the long winter that follows. The fact that he’s changing into his grayish, insulated, winter coat didn’t go unnoticed.

It’s a bumper year for wild apples and deer are taking full advantage of the crop. They aren’t overly selective either, munching on fallen apples (“drops”), regardless of the ripeness or variety.

Photos by NB Hunter (August, 2019). © 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.