Happy Earth Day

Celebrating Earth Day with images from April, 2018.

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Starlings searching for spilled grain on an active farm

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Mallard at rest on a wintry spring day

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Ring-billed Gull foraging in a flooded field

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Mature whitetail after a long, cold rain

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Turkey Vulture cleaning up a road-kill

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White-throated Sparrow with a kernel of corn

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Breeding Wood Frog in a vernal pool – today – a month behind schedule

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Wild turkey (a young gobbler or “jake”)

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Vultures: a Mating Pair

The pair of Turkey Vultures that I see in my travels arrived from their southern winter range a couple of weeks ago. As mentioned in last week’s post, an old abandoned barn is a favorite roosting and perching site. I’ve encountered them there twice, warming in the mid-morning sun after a bitterly cold night.

Yesterday morning was my most recent encounter. The male was perched on one end of the roof, the female (shown here) on the opposite end. I stopped the truck a short distance away to observe, thinking about flight images with the blue sky as a backdrop. The female was clear of obstructions and afforded me the best opportunity for action shots, so I focused on her and waited.

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Just as I started to lose patience and question my decision to watch vultures rather than search for eagles, the male started to grow restless as well. I was sure the pair was about to take flight. Instead, I had the rare opportunity to witness and document the breeding behavior of vultures from close range.

The initial phase was hilarious and totally unexpected. The restless male started inching his way along the ridge line of the roof, occasionally having to spread his wings and steady himself, like a tight-rope walker. I was sure he was thinking flight, but he had something else in mind: procreation! His approach had been slow, steady and nonchalant, as if he was testing the receptivity of his mate.

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She never moved from her original perch, suggesting a willingness to cooperate. And she did. The huge dark wings of the male, spread above his mate and contrasting with a robin-egg-blue backdrop was spectacular.

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Photos by NB Hunter (3/24/2018). © All Rights Reserved.

 

Mother’s Day Gems

Spring in the North, you gotta love it! Galleries of world class images can’t fully capture the moments; there are too many intangibles whirling around, evading descriptive words and fancy gear. The last 72 hours have left me with a flood of memories, some made a bit more lasting with visual reminders. Mom would have loved this post!

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Trout Lily, with insect pollinators

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Red-tailed Hawk

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White (Large-flowered) Trillium

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White Trillium

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Chipmunk

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Red (Wake-robin, Birthroot, Purple) Trillium

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Red Trillium

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Turkey Vulture gliding in to its tree-top roost

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day photos; all except the last image captured in central New York on 21April2014; quotes by Aldo Leopold, the father of modern wildlife ecology and management

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, “What good is it?”

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Turkey Vulture, flying low and scanning open landscapes for a meal of carrion

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.”

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Eastern Bluebird, female, investigating the availability of nest boxes and open feeding grounds

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

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Ruffed Grouse, female

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“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

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Eleven-month-old White-tail buck after a long winter

“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on a map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.”

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Canada Geese at sunrise

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Morning Sun

A quick, mid-morning trip to a nearby marsh proved to be both relaxing and fruitful: photos of something old and something new, in solitude. Once there, I was wishing for more time and warmer field clothes.

En route, I spotted several Turkey Vultures perched high in a deciduous tree, blackish silhouettes positioned between me and the bright morning sun.  The day was warming up quickly and they were growing restless on their perches. Within a few minutes they soared overhead, disappearing high over the swamps and fields to the west.

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I was headed for the marsh and ponds where the wild Mute Swan resides. I found it in an old beaver dam pool, feeding, preening and patrolling.

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The swan eventually disappeared downstream, walking up over the abandoned beaver dam and slipping into the flooded cattails and pools below. Three Ring-necked Ducks soon appeared along the cattails, two males and a female.

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My field trip ended on a good note ….

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Song Sparrow

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Recent Bird Sightings

I was lucky enough to see a Fisher and an Eastern Wild Turkey gobbler this evening, but have no photos to prove it! Instead, I’ll share photos of random bird sightings from the past week, all species that were covered in earlier posts.

The Eastern Bluebirds are nesting now, and I usually see them feeding in the morning. In their typical “perch and drop” manner, they land on a woody plant near an opening, usually about 3 to 10 feet above ground, then drop to the ground to snatch an insect.

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Eastern Bluebird, male

The Tree Swallows, like the Bluebirds, are now nesting in my custom boxes.

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Tree Swallow

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I have read about Turkey Vultures adopting a residential lifestyle, but until this past week had not observed it. On the western edge of our one-stoplight village is a small stream, field, large Black Willow trees, and a dead-end road with a few houses. A flock of about eight birds has been roosting there, sometimes in the large willows, sometimes on roof tops, and occasionally on one of the large fence posts that frame a garden plot.

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Turkey Vultures

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My property is generally avoided by wild Turkeys in winter due to deep snow. However, they’re here in the spring breeding and nesting season and I often see them in the summer with their broods, feeding on grasshoppers and other insects. This hen is a wild bird, probably nesting within a few hundred yards of the house, that often forages through the yard around mid-day.

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Eastern Wild Turkey

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All photos by NB Hunter

Bird Sightings in Early April

April roared in with lake-effect snow, wind and bone-chilling temperatures. I couldn’t help but wonder, and worry, about the fate of migrating birds like the Woodcock that I accidentally flushed during the storm. Two days of stormy weather finally gave way  to sun, blue skies and temperatures above freezing. This post documents random bird sightings during that three-day period of weather extremes.

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A pair of Mallards feeding during a lake-effect snowstorm (1 of 2)

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A Cooper’s Hawk with its prey, one of a flock of 20–30 “blackbirds” that were visiting a bird-feeding site during the lake-effect snow storm.

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Common Redpoll near a feeder

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Mourning Doves at a feeding site

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One of a pair of Canada Geese staking claim to a nesting territory

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A pair of Hooded Mergansers at rest near the bank of a small, historic canal waterway

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Turkey Vulture searching the fields and roadsides for carrion.

All photos by NB Hunter