A Closer Look at Late Summer

Sometimes I need to saunter, camera in tow, with no particular destination or photographic agenda. My only serious goal is surviving attacks from biting insects, mosquitoes and deer flies in particular. The slow pace shifts my gaze from distant subjects to the detail landscapes in front of my nose.

I’ve been fascinated by Jewelweed or Touch-me-not forever. Morning dew on Jewelweed blossoms is a late summer event in macro world. A friend calls the plants “poppers” because, like many of us, she remembers squeezing and exploding the mature seed pods as a child. Eventually, I came to fully appreciate the late summer Jewelweed bloom when I watched hummingbirds feeding on the tubular flowers….fueling up just weeks before their lengthy migration.

Knapweed is in full bloom now, preceding the goldenrods and asters by several weeks. It’s a magnet for nectaring insects and adds a little spice to the monochromatic greens of a summer meadow.

Monarchs have been few and far between this summer (?), so I was thrilled to have this specimen pause long enough for a portrait!

A meadow hawk dragonfly at rest on an unopened knapweed flower bud, with knapweed blossoms as a backdrop.

Our common White Admiral, at rest on a spruce branch in morning sun after a crazy,  erratic flight around the yard.

Wild thistles deviate from the norm, flowering and fruiting simultaneously on the same plant. Goldfinch food!

Tiny frogs and toads are now exploring new territory, eating and trying to avoid being eaten. This little Wood Frog could rest comfortably on the end of your thumb.

Cottontails are everywhere this year. These daytime foragers are often seen together and lead me to think they are survivors from a litter that I started photographing in May. Scenes like this one, on my weedy sidewalk, are the main reason I stopped using commercial weed killer a long time ago.

Photos by NB Hunter (August, 2019). © All rights reserved.

A Change of Pace: Turtles!

Sometimes I have to walk away from the common challenges of wildlife photography, subjects like deer feeding in fading light, butterflies darting erratically across a meadow, tiny birds searching for berries in dense undergrowth, an eagle soaring in the clouds.

Turtles loafing in the warm afternoon sun on late summer days is a nice alternative, one where speed and light are inconsequential! Turtle searching led me to the Chenango Canal towpath trail and wetland complex.

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My first encounter was a painted turtle basking in the warm gravel at the edge of the road.  I managed to capture a few portraits before it crawled into the swamp.

 

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A hundred meters down the towpath trail, I saw what appeared to be a shiny flat rock in the grassy center strip. Something wasn’t right – too shiny – so I approached cautiously. Oh boy – a young snapping turtle! It was tiny by snapper standards, about the size of a hand with fingers extended. Speaking of fingers …..

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I wanted one more image, that of a big, mature snapper, but much of the shallow water along the near bank was obscured by the tall, dense growth of Touch-me-not (Jewelweed).

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Eventually I found a clear view of the canal in prime turtle habitat, but saw nothing but a large, slimy rock covered in algae and mud. Time to give up and head home……or not!?

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The rock had a neck and head! Snappers can live 30 to 40 years and weigh up to 35 pounds; I think this prehistoric monster is living proof!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Wildflowers: August Jewels

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Jewelweeds (Touch-me-nots; Impatiens) have so many redeeming qualities. They’re a favorite in the late summer diet of deer; hummingbirds will camp out over a patch of jewelweed and alternately perch and feed for hours in the mid day sun; bees also feed on jewelweed nectar; and, on a chilly morning, when everything is dripping wet with dew, the jewels of jewelweed are beautiful.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Hummingbirds in Late Summer

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Our hummingbirds will be gone in a month so I’m savoring every moment with these little marvels. Numbers have peaked, boosted by the young of the year, and all are feeding voraciously in preparation for the long journey to the Gulf Coast and Central America.

They’re devouring sugar water in feeders, in some cases swarming like bees and constantly fighting for position.

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Gardening for hummingbirds is a more natural and satisfying method of attracting and feeding hummers. Red and orange tubular flowers like this Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ can be dietary staples.

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Perches near feeders are my favorite setting for observing and photographing hummers. Portraits that capture the nuances of perching behavior shed an entirely different light on a species best know for its aerial magic!

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When out and about in the summer months, I often think about hummingbirds foraging in natural areas, apart from the direct influence of man and artificial feeding practices. Are there tubular flowers blooming in the wild now? If not, what are the hummers feeding on? Three native species come to mind: Bee-balm (Monarda), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia) and Jewelweed (Touch-me-not; Impatiens).

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Jewelweed or Touch-me-not (Impatiens) in early August

Photos by NB Hunter. All Rights Reserved.

 

Meadow Macros

Flower Spider (Goldenrod Spider, Red-spotted Crab Spider) on Knapweed

Sulphur on Chicory

Red-tailed Bumble Bee on Goldenrod

Wood Nymph on Knapweed

Jewelweed (Touch-me-not)

Sulphur on Goldenrod

Cucumber Beetle on Aster

Viceroy on Goldenrod

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Late Summer Jewels

Yesterday I watched a hummingbird visit this patch of wildflowers for nectar. When a very chilly night left everything covered in dew, I became the visitor! Called Jewelweed (also Touch-me-not) for the way water droplets linger on plant parts to form glistening, jewel-like beads, this native Impatiens is a late summer favorite.

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Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.