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April 21, 2015 - 10:27am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, red-tailed hawk & snake.

Seconds before I snapped this photo, the red-tailed hawk pictured above was perched on a tree limb. And that's usually where it's situated whenever I've set foot into its domain. From its lofty vantage point it can detect movement in the goldenrod field, the grassy meadow or the swale.

But no matter where it's perched, whether it be in the big oak tree or an adjacent cottonwood, whenever I enter his hunting ground the red-tail immediately takes wing, giving me a wide berth and soaring high overhead in ever-widening circles that take it in the opposite direction before eventually disappearing over a distant woodlot. 

But on this day it showed no sign of alarm as I approached. Instead of paying me any mind, it seemed preoccupied with a potential meal.

In the blink of an eye the hawk departed its perch and was on the ground  investigating its intended prey. It turned out to be a snake slithering beneath the remains of last year's goldenrod.

The snake is an unwilling participant, making a hard right in its attempt to elude the hawk.

Finally, the red-tail lowers its head to the ground to administer the coup de grace

The snake minus its head is protruding from the left side of the red-tail's razor-sharp bill...

while a smaller portion dangles from the right side.

Apparently even swallowing a dead snake is no cakewalk for a raptor. The red-tail did this several times, twice with its head tilted back and at the time it looked as though it was gargling -- I'm guessing he was giving his dinner a bit of prompting on its way "down the hatch."

April 17, 2015 - 8:57am

Pussy willow, one of the earliest harbingers of springtime and perhaps the most short-lived. Within a couple days the catkins will turn yellow and flowery in appearance.  

Oxbow marsh on Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area. A stopover for both migrating and nesting waterfowl.

Phragmite reflections on the surface of a vernal pool. How long the water lasts here depends on the seasonal rainfall. But the creatures whose procreation depends on such a pool are great barometers and get things under way accordingly. Wood frogs, spring peepers and salamanders are among the visitors who come here to breed.

A late afternoon sun illuminates the trees along Oak Orchard creek on a calm spring evening. Though placid-looking, the water level is presently well above normal as is the current.

Pussy willow stands out in contrast against background evergreens.

April 16, 2015 - 12:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hunting, outdoors, Genesee County Park.

A proposal to allow limited deer hunting this fall in the Genesee County Park won't get the unanimous support of county legislators.

Legislator Mike Davis said during the Ways and Means Committee meeting that he can't support the proposed local law change that will make the hunt possible.

He said he was concerned about the safety of other park users during hunting season.

"If the park were completely closed to all but hunting, then I'm in, but without that I just can't support it," Davis said.

The committee the voted with the one dissenting vote to recommend passage of the local law to the full Legislature.

Davis was recently appointed to the Legislature and represents the Darien and Pembroke areas of the county.

Under terms of the proposal, bow hunting will be confined to 12 zones along the southern border of the park. While the hiking trails will be open, hunters are being told to stay clear of trails and be courteous of others using the park.

Hunters will be selected through a lottery Sept. 15, following a Sept. 11 deadline for applications, which open Aug. 17.

Two zones will be set aside for youth and disabled veterans, and young hunters and disabled veterans will be given priority over hunters from outside Genesee County.

In all, 48 hunters will be selected to receive permits for the four-week season, which runs from Oct. 19 through Nov. 15.

April 3, 2015 - 9:09am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature.

It was just about dinner time last Saturday when we received a call telling us about a big flock of snow geese in a Byron field. According to the caller, there were reportedly "at least 200" snow geese out there.

Either the caller underestimated the size of the flock or else we took a wrong turn and came across an even larger gathering of "snows."

It isn't that unusual to see snow geese occasionally in Genesee County. Normally, however, if one wants to view sizeable flocks of "snowies" during spring migration they take a drive down the Thruway to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge or one of the Finger Lakes. But this was an opportunity to view a flock of snow geese close to home.

When we first spotted them they were more than a mile away, yet there was no mistaking the high-pitched chorus of snow geese on the wing. There must have been upwards of 2,000 of them with a smattering of Canada geese along for the ride. The massive flock had taken flight only moments before and from a distance the main concentration appeared as a sold band of brilliant white oscillating above the eastern horizon. 

Whatever the reason for their departure from the Byron location, it was soon apparent they were not yet ready to continue on their migration northward.

Within minutes they were in Elba, and by that time the main flock had dispersed somewhat, breaking up into several small flocks, each of which still numbered in the hundreds. These flocks settled down into fields along Norton and Edgerton roads, as well as fields adjacent Bank Street Road, seeking any leftovers from autumn's corn harvest.

Whether migrating or simply making a temporary change in feeding locations, snow geese call the entire time they are on the wing.

Two thousand geese may seem like a lot, but where snow geese are concerned it's hardly a drop in the bucket. The snow goose migration is one of the longest in terms of time and distance and flocks sometimes number in excess of 50,000.

Fortunately, the snow geese are just passing through and their stopover is sure to be brief since they breed on the open tundra, well above the North American timberline -- and still a considerable way off.

March 20, 2015 - 8:50am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, Canada geese.

They seem to have delayed their migaration as long as possible. Now, their biological clocks ticking, large flocks of Canada geese have begun to return  to their breeding grounds - even if the weather isn't fully cooperating. The problem? Presently there is  little open water to accommodate the thousands that have already arrived.

With a shortage of open water there's bound to be an occassional squabble.

Bottoms up!  The water is shallow enough for the Canada's to dabble for remnants of last autumn's corn.

Geese aren't the only waterfowl in search of open water. Note the barely visible Redhead in front of the Tundra swan.

Unlike the migratory species, whitetails have had to endure a long, hard winter. Until recently these cornstalk remains were buried beneath a thick snowpack. For deer, foraging for meals the past couple of months was a lot of work. 

March 10, 2015 - 10:50am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors.

Life for Frankie's RocknGirl began on a frigid, if not inauspicious note. She made her entrance into the world at the Goodwin Farm in Byron in the wee hours of February 28th, the last day of what was the coldest month on record in Western New York. The air temperature outside the barn was 1 degree Fahrenheit. But no problem there -- within the hour the newborn filly was standing alongside her mom, Azorean Sky.

In addition to the foal's mom, there was plenty more TLC support despite the early hour. Keith and Karen Goodwin, owners and operators of Goodwin Farm, were there to make things as comfortable as possible for both mom and her foal. Besides a thick matting of fresh straw in her stall, Keith Goodwin had placed a space heater nearby to combat the frigid night air.

Batavian Shelley Falitico arrived shortly after the newborn's arrival. She and her husband, Paul, are the owners of Azorean Sky, a 6-year-old standardbred broodmare who once held her own on the racetrack.

"Sky" had a successful year as a 3 year old," she said. "The reason we decided to breed her was because of her lineage. Her father was named Horse of the Year in 2005 by the Harness Writers Associaton."

Shelley was referring to Azorean Sky's sire, RocknRoll Hanover, who was also named Pacer of the Year and 3-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year. Among his 12 wins that year were the Meadowlands Pace, the Breeders Crown and the North America Cup, making him only the second horse to sweep all three of those prestigious races. He was a powerhouse that year, most notably in the Meadowlands Pace when he covered the mile in a blistering 1:48.3.

Though they've been involved with standardbred horse racing for a number of years, this is the first time the Faliticos have bred one of their horses. And rather than go the route of the professional horse breeder, they opted for the "home bred" method of fertility.

Since they have boarded all of their standardbreds at the Goodwin Farm, the Faliticos spoke about their plans with Keith and Karen Goodwin who have a combined 75-plus years in standardbred horse care.

"They have been completely on board with us and have provided outstanding care," Shelley said. "So when we decided to breed 'Sky' I researched New York State stallions eligible for breeding last year and 'hypo-matched' to see what would be a good breeding match for her."

A couple of potentially good matches caught her eye and she and Paul selected Village Jove who was standing at Winbak Farms.

She added, "By breeding Sky with Village Jove, the foal would be eligible for Sires Stakes when she made it to the race circuit." 

(Above, "Frankie" seems to have discovered her shadow.)

Shelley Falitico's own father, the late Frankie Scanlon, has already figured prominently in the foal's life. The foal is obviously his namesake and the sire, Village Jove, was chosen not only for his blood line, but because he and Shelley's dad shared the same birthday.

A rather sad twist to this story is the fact that both sires involved, RocknRoll Hanover and Village Jove, passed away unexpectedly in recent years, 2013 and 2014, respectively. This makes Frankie's RocknGirl a unique kind of filly, one whose mold has been broken. 

So what does the future hold for this standardbred filly? Well, for starters they already have a trainer lined up. Jim Mulcahy has trained the Faliticos' horses for the past nine years and will continue in that capacity.

"He's the reason we got into harness horse ownership," Shelley concluded.

While it's way too early to predict what's in store for Frankie's RocknGirl, aren't hopes and dreams what help to make life bearable? Then too, there is her lineage, such magnificent blood lines going back decades to the likes of Most Happy Fella and Meadow Skipper. More than that, I can't help pondering the fact that she came into the world on a night befitting neither man nor beast. That being said, I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, she's going to be a hardy sort, a filly with a whole lot of heart -- a filly who can give the boys a run for their money.

February 11, 2015 - 2:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley, Mike Ranzenhofer, outdoors.

Press release:

State Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer and Assemblyman Stephen Hawley have introduced special legislation, S.1292/A.4367, in the New York State Legislature to allow the use of rifles for big game hunting in Genesee County.

“In several areas of New York State, sportsmen are allowed to hunt deer with rifles and this change in law would allow the use of rifles in Genesee County,” Ranzenhofer said. “As the this year’s session progresses, Assemblyman Hawley and I will be working together to get this bill signed into law.”

Assemblyman Stephen Hawley is sponsoring the bill in the State Assembly.

“Hunting is very popular in Western New York, and this legislation is being requested on behalf of the Genesee County Legislature. I am pleased to address concerns of local governing bodies from my district and will work with members of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” Hawley said.

Last fall, the Genesee County Legislature and the Genesee County Federation of Sportsman Club requested the special legislation to be introduced at the beginning of the 2015 Legislative Session.

Existing environmental conservation law only authorizes the use of pistols, shotguns, crossbows, muzzle-loading firearms or long bows when hunting deer from the first Saturday after Nov. 15 through the first Sunday after Dec. 7.

The bill has been referred to the Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation in the Senate. If enacted into law, the bill would take effect immediately.

February 5, 2015 - 10:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hunting, outdoors, Genesee County Park.

Questions were answered and misconceptions cleared during a meeting in Bethany Wednesday night on a proposal to allow deer hunting during bow season in Genessee County Park, said Parks Supervisor Paul Osborn.

The proposal, which must be approved by the County Legislature, is designed to help thin the deer population in the park, which has grown to nuisance levels as deer are destroying park vegetation and preventing new trees from getting established.

About 60 people attended the meeting.

A few people expressed concerns that were based on misconceptions, Osborn said, such as hunters being able to use guns (they can't) and the potential conflicts with non-hunting users of the park.

The hunters will be confined to 12 zones along the southern border of the park, according to the presentation given to the audience. While the hiking trails will be open, hunters are being told to stay clear of trails and be courteous of others using the park.

No trees will be removed or trimmed nor are hunters allowed to engage in clearing to create shooting lanes. The prohibition is good for conservation, but will limit the distance an arrow can travel, requiring hunters to get closer to their targets and take better shots.

"Our goal is to grow trees, not to cut them down just so we an hunt deer," Osborn said. "Our goal is to grow trees so people can enjoy them."

Hunters will be selected through a lottery Sept. 15, following a Sept. 11 deadline for applications, which open Aug. 17.

Two zones will be set aside for youth and disabled veterans, and young hunters and disabled veterans will be given priority over hunters from outside Genesee County.

In all, 48 hunters will be selected to receive permits for the four-week season, which runs from Oct. 19 through Nov. 15.

There is a mandatory informational class Oct. 3, which is where the permits will be distributed to the 48 winners upon payment of a $25 fee.

Each winning hunter will be granted permission to hunt in a single zone for a single week.

The first deer taken must be anterless. The second deer can be either a legal deer with antlers or anterless, and hunters are encouraged to take only anterless deer. 

If the hunter takes two deer before the end of his or her week-long permit expires, the zone will be vacant for the remainder of that week.

Permits are non-transferable. While a hunter may be accompanied by one guest, the guest is not allowed to hunt at any time.

Hunting will be limited from sunrise to noon each day. 

Hunters will be required to park in the designated parking lot and walk to their respective zones.

The plan is subject to modification until approved by the Legislature.

One modification, suggested by a person at yesterday's meeting, is that hunters entering the park be required to sign in and sign out when they leave.

Osborn said that idea was well received. It will help ensure hunters safely exit the park.

January 29, 2015 - 9:10am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, songbirds.

Thanks in large part to a constantly filled bird feeder, the Winter of 2015 has seen an abundance of feathered visitors in and around our yard. This cardinal waits on a snow-covered spruce bough between feeding forays.

The smaller birds, like this junco, begin to arrive at first light -- not at sunrise mind you -- but when the first hint of gray light begins to permeate the darkness.   

The blue jays arrive a bit later. After a pit stop in the apple tree to make sure the coast is clear, they will flit back and forth between the tree and the bird feeder....

as does this cardinal.

A trusting sort, the chickadee will occassionaly take seed from your hand.

Not so with the tufted titmouse....it flits about rapidly; It's been difficult to take its picture.

A blue jay in the "crow's nest" of the apple tree. The apple tree is the closest bit of cover to the bird feeder. There are small brambles and thickets just inside the small woods, but the apple tree is usually where all of our "guests" bide their time while waiting a turn at the bird feeder.

January 20, 2015 - 9:33am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, red-bellied woodpecker.

There was a time when the red-bellied woodpeckers never ventured into our yard, instead choosing to scour the bark of the big cottonwood, as seen here, or sidling along the branches of the box elders and walnut trees along the edge of the adjacent woodlot.

In the hardwoods the red-bellied woodpecker was something of a loner, but he doesn't mind sharing space at the bird feeder.

Often mistaken for a red-headed woodpecker, the red-orange streak on its abdomen indicates how the red-belly got its name.

A bluejay joins the red belly for a suet feast. No doubt attracted by the slabs of suet we've put out in recent winters, the red-bellied woodpecker has become a freqent visitor to the bird feeder.

While it may not qualify as a "blue moon occurrance," I haven't seen a red belly in the apple tree until this day. Being in close proximity to the bird feeder, the apple tree provides thick cover and protection from winged predators.

December 26, 2014 - 2:58pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, outdoors, birds, Genesee County Airport.

Here's one of the snowy owls out at the airport in a photo by Dylan Brew, of Schoen Productions.

December 25, 2014 - 9:41pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in outdoors, nature.

Dylan Brew, of Schoen Productions, shared these photos he took of some feather-covered visitors he had today.

He identified them (though I'm not sure I'm posting them in the right order) as: Carolina wren, white-throated sparrow, tufted titmouse, red-bellied woodpecker.

December 24, 2014 - 6:22pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, West Middlebury Baptist Church.

Long migratory flights have been put on hold in recent days. Here a drake and hen mallard take advantage of the open water on "celery brook" to do some dabbling.

Downstream from the River Street bridge, a pair of Canada geese appear to be feeling their oats.

Framed by phragmite plumes, these Canadas enjoy the open water of the "sandwash." 

The placid surface of a local pond creates a mirror image of this lone cormorant.

Even domesticated critters are taking advantage of the warm weather -- apparently in this case the grass is greener on the other side!

What are the chances strains of Silent Night will permeate this little valley in Middlebury tonight?

Wishing you and yours a joyous Christmas!!!! 

December 8, 2014 - 10:35am

It was a time when much of the country was still feeling the effects from the Great Depression. In rural America the contents of a hunter's game bag greatly helped add to the family larder. Water fowl bag limits were quite liberal at the time and shotgun shells nowhere near as costly as they would become. A box of birdshot cost $1.25 -- a mere farthing by today's standards.

According to the Minnesota Public Radio archives, the autumn of 1940 was unseasonably warm throughout the state. The area had experienced a real Indian Summer during October that year and November began much the same way. Because warm autumns aren't conducive to great duck hunting, the wing shooting hadn't been much to write home about -- at least not until this day.

The morning of November 11th dawned sunny with the thermometer reading 50 degrees -- almost balmy for Northern Minnesota so late in the year. The temperature would climb to near 60 degrees. For outdoorsmen it was practically shirtsleeve weather. A good number of sportsmen heading out to the backwaters of the Mississippi where it flows past Winona were dressed accordingly -- nothing more than a canvas hunting jacket over a light shirt. 

In addition to the sloughs and backwaters of the upper Mississipi watershed, the river is dotted with a maze of islands where it flows past Winona, making the area ideal habitat for duck blinds. And this is where a good number of duck hunters headed that November day. 

By early afternoon the sky clouded over and a wind came up. It was a light wind at first and with it came the rain -- prime conditions for hunting ducks. The temperature began to drop and sure enough, the ducks began arriving in good numbers. Big flocks numbering in the hundreds at first, but before long the ducks were funneling into the backwaters of the upper Mississippi by the thousands. After a while the rain turned to sleet and still the ducks poured into the sloughs and backwaters. The sky was black with ducks and a few geese mixed in as myriad waterfowl all across the upper Mississippi flyway were silhouetted against gray storm clouds.

What appeared to be dream conditions for the duck hunters was really an omen, a forebode warning. In their zeal the gunners totally misread Mother Nature's danger signal. The ducks, countless thousands of them, were seeking shelter from an imminent storm. The hunters, meanwhile, merely thought it their good fortune to be afield for a waterfowl movement such as was taking place before their very eyes. They had no clue what was bearing down on them.

Predicting the weather in those years was not the science it would one day become. If those early meteorologists had at their disposal the sophisticated weather-predicting equipment of today, they would have known a strong storm that had originated in the Pacific Northwest had barreled across the Rocky Mountains and, instead of weakening after crossing the Continental Divide as is usually the case, it tapped into an intense low-pressure system carrying plenty of rain from the Gulf of Mexico before colliding with a frigid arctic air mass from Canada. A recipe for a weather disaster was in the making.

As the temperature continued to drop, the sleet turned into snow and what had become a stiff wind began increasing in instensity, growing ever stronger. Still, the waterfowl kept coming, providing the gunners hunkered down in the cattail-lined sloughs the duck hunt of a lifetime. The bag limit at that time consisted of 10 ducks and for those who had yet to fill their quota, with so many birds on the wing, it appeared to be just a matter of time before doing so. Thus, in the excitement of the hunt, shotguns continued to boom throughout the backwaters of the upper Mississippi.

"THE WINDS OF HELL"

The time eventually came when those who had refused to abandon their duck blinds earlier would have to pay the consequences one way or another. Mother Nature was about to unleash her fury.

The wind continued to strengthen and the hunters who had yet to leave, those still in the elements, knew they had made a dire mistake. For the hunters on the river islands, blinding snow and 70-mph winds made getting back to shore next to impossible. While a scant few somehow managed to get back to shore, for most it was an exercise in futility. Without outboard motors, wooden rowboats and skiffs were no match for the whitecaps and five-foot waves that stood between them and safety. It would prove to be at best a harrowing ordeal for those stranded anywhere among that maze of islands.

By nightfall the temperature had plummeted to 2 degrees but hurricane-force winds created a windchill of minus 55. In desperation, boats, decoys and duck blinds were burned in an attempt to provide warmth. Some repeatedly walked in circles to keep their blood flowing, others struck themselves over and over, pounding themselves in the arms and torso to keep the circulation moving.

What awaited rescue personnel the next day were a series of grim, surreal scenes. Throughout the region hunters were found lying prone, some beneath their duck boats, others covered by the drifting snow. One man was found standing in waist deep water -- he was frozen solid, his arms still clinging to a tree. Raging winds had driven the river up and over what little dry land, if any, was to be found on that particular spit of land.

One teen survived only because the family's two black labs had nestled on either side of him and remained that way throughout the night. The boy's brother, father and uncle weren't so fortunate. While many froze to death, others drowned in their attempt to cross the river sloughs in low-slung duck boats that were no match for five-foot waves and 70-mph winds.

The deadly storm ravaged parts of three states and was the reason for a head-on collision between a freight train and a passenger train loaded with duck hunters. Unable to see in the white-out conditions, the passenger train's crew missed a trackside signal. On Lake Michigan three freighters and two smaller boats sank, claiming 66 lives. All told, the storm was responsible for 160 deaths. Of that total, nearly 50 of them duck hunters, the majority perished in the upper Mississippi watershed near Winona.

The cataclysmic weather phenomena which struck the Upper Midwest on Nov. 11th, 1940, has since been labeled in many ways. For some it was the Armistice Day Blizzard, others called it the Storm of the Century. One newspaper's headlines referred to it as The Winds of Hell.

However that tragic event is recalled, in the annals of waterfowling and for the family and friends of those who perished, it will no doubt be remembered as The Day the Duck Hunters Died.

December 5, 2014 - 10:49am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors.

This gray squirrel found a weathered and wrinkly apple on the ground and decided on taking it back into the apple tree before gnawing away.

The red squirrel stuck with more traditional fare -- a black walnut.

A nuthatch is waiting to have a turn at the bird feeder.........it might take awhile.....

or until this gray squirrel is done gorging itself.....there has been a variety of birds coming to the feeders: cardinals, juncos, chickadees, blue jays, etc.....and quite often they all have to wait for the squirrel to finish.  

A "well-insulated" mourning dove.........

and a finch that seems to be contemplating whether or not to head South.

November 14, 2014 - 9:45am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature.

The ballet of the honkers.....gathering speed prior to take off.

"In sync"...they just need some altitude - quickly!  

A drake and hen mallard enjoying a sunny morning on the Tonawanda.

A lone ring-necked duck in a small unnamed tributary off Old Creek Rd.

Canada geese making chatter and resting between flights

For now, their flights consist of short hops in search of grainfields. All too soon the flights will be much higher in altitude and much longer in duration, after which we won't see them again until late winter or early spring.

November 13, 2014 - 12:21pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, Genesee County Park, nature.

As of last weekend there was still a splash of color at Genesee County Park & Forest, as seen along Memory Lane, the main road in the park. 

Soft morning light really enhanced the golden-bronze tint of beech leaves....and it seems that the fallen leaves weren't totally ignored.....

as some creative soul put them to good use.....

Maybe it was this wooly bear and some of his friends...they were out in number on this day.

A blue jay keeps a wary eye on Claudia and myself.

These pics are barely a week old and the scene above is already a memory. Before we know it the park will be cloaked in winter white. Hope to do some snow shoein' here this winter and if we do, I know we'll remember this sunny autumn morning.

November 1, 2014 - 9:00am

It was an October day when I walked out the front door of my grandmother's home and saw two family friends. They were sitting on the tailgate of a station wagon parked beneath an old maple. They were holding a day's limit of ringneck pheasants and the setting was enhanced by the maple's red-orange foliage.

That took place on Batavia's southside nearly sixty years ago and that was likely the moment I knew I wanted to hunt when I was older.

I'm guessing it was also around the time I began to take note of the various breeds of hunting hounds in our neck of the woods. There were sporting dogs all over the place in those years. I saw Nin Trinchera's beagles every day on my way to St. Anthony's School. And all the regulars at Kibbe Park knew "Colonel," an English setter belonging to the Ficarella family. It was a time when upland game was plentiful and hunting was as American as baseball and apple pie, and setters, spaniels and pointers seemed to be as common as the once-abundant chestnut trees.

Let me fast forward to another day in October. It's a Saturday morning in 1989. A small group of duck hunters and a pair of black labs are hunkered down among the cattails in Oxbow marsh. Decoys have been set out and the hunters make small talk waiting for the break of dawn. Someone mentioned the ongoing murmurings and rumblings being made in reference to gun owners. "Someday they're gonna take our guns," he said, referring to the powers that be. I don't know if he really believed it then. I don't know if any of us did. After all, could it have been anything more than just another bombastic threat?

Today the threat is real and very close at hand.

For decades I was a waterfowler and an avid bowhunter and in the '60s and early '70s I did a bit of ringneck hunting. In recent years I 've spent far more time in the outdoors with a camera. Still, I have pleasant memories of days spent in the marsh and in tree stands or scouring grain fields and swale hoping for pheasants to explode from cover. And I am thankful to those who took me under their wing in my earliest days afield.

And those are just a couple of reasons why I'm voting early Tuesday morning in hopes of preserving a small slice of Americana.

October 31, 2014 - 9:55am

It was approximately 4 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23rd, when Mike Corbelli experienced the encounter of a lifetime. 

A Batavia resident, Mike was archery hunting for black bear with a group of local men from Genesee and Wyoming counties. The group was hunkered down in Sterling Forest State Park in the Ramapo Mountains of Downstate New York. Their outing ran from Oct. 19th to the 25th. On Tuesday a nor'easter passing along the New England coast began permeating the area and for two days the hunters dealt with the storm's wind and rain. 

By that Thursday there was no let up and with the wind gusts toppling trees, rather than use a climbing tree stand, Mike opted to conceal himself in a fallen tree situated at the edge of a shallow ravine. As things turned out, the weathered blowdown worked good- - almost too good.

Eventually Mike saw movement off in the distance, something black appeared, moving slowly through the forest. It was a bear and moving in his direction. Then he spotted another.

Mike knocked an arrow, waiting to see if either was big enough to take. Suddenly he spotted a third bear, a large sow. It then became evident the first two were cubs. Slightly further back of this trio were two more cubs. Because it's illegal to take a bear with cubs, Mike let off on the bow string and switched modes.

"Seeing the cubs made me drop my guard," he said. "I changed perspectives, going from hunter to enthusiast."

Keeping in mind these are wild animals, he never put his bow down, instead simply switching hands, holding his bow in his right hand and using his left to take photos with his phone.

While Mike had switched modes, that wasn't the case with momma bear. She was looking for food and she and three of her offspring continued in Mike's direction with one of the cubs deciding to climb a nearby tree. The closest cub was gamboling about, playfully working its way toward Mike when momma, possibly on alert, gave the cub a hard shove with her head, possibly sending her offspring a message which said, "pay attention -- something's not right."  

By now the sow is in the lead and within five feet of Mike and he realizes he needs to do something. But what? With the ravine at his back he has nowhere to go. So, he stood up and shouted "NO" with all the authority he could muster. 

Alarmed, the sow retreated slightly -- and only slightly -- a matter of a few feet. Now definitely aware of a threat, her protective instincts kicked in as she snarled and held her ground before lowering her head and making a false charge.  

With 300 pounds of protective mother bear threatening him, it's totally understandable if Mike's pic is a tad blurry. 

After bluffing her charge, the sow ran around the tree one her cubs had climbed and tried to come at Mike from a different angle. Now it was all about survival.

Mike recalled a video by veteran bow hunter Wayne Carlton, explaining that, "a bear coming toward you is coming for one reason -- to eat. You need to make yourself bigger than the bear." ... Recalling those words Mike Corbelli raised his arms over his head in an effort to make himself appear as big as possible and then he audibly growled. That seemed to do the trick as the big sow finally turned and ran into the ravine.

In this pic you can see two of the cubs treed and another about start climbing. That black blur on the floor of the ravine and just to the right of a big tree is the sow.

Mike's hunting companions, L to R: front, Tracy Mallon, Charlie Heintz; middle, Shawn Kibler, Dick Cecere; back, Tony Davoli, Mike Hallagan, Bob Botel, Mike Corbelli. Upon seeing the video Mike took of his encounter, each of his fellow hunters expressed amazement at the turn of events, how close he was to the bears and the outcome.  

Photos and video courtesy of Mike Corbelli. Check out the video at the link below.

Video on YouTube

October 23, 2014 - 8:30am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, fall foliage, autumn streams.

A gently rolling buckwheat field, splashes of red-orange in the hardwoods and a sky filled with blue-gray clouds -- October in Genesee County.

Downstream from the Powers Road bridge, a mirror image on a placid stretch of Tonawanda Creek. 

Dim light inside a woodlot and blue sky beyond really set off this maple's foliage.

A hint of early morning mist on Bowen Creek.

One of the many things I enjoy in autumn is seeing red maple leaves against a deep blue sky.

Hardly more than a trickle on this day, the Little Tonawanda nonetheless flows onward to its confluence with the mainstream Tonawanda.....

Further downstream fallen maple leaves blanket the shore while others are caught in a shallow riffle.

Just my opinion, but.....the spectacular hues of these crimson oak leaves underscore the brilliance of the autumn of 2014!!!

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