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July 1, 2015 - 5:31pm

A streak-winged red skimmer rests atop a rose of Sharon leaf. A couple summers back my grandson Joshua and I came across a large spider web with three of these dragonflies wrapped up cocoon style and set aside for a meal at a later date. Joshua wasn't real happy about that - he likes dragonflies. Come to think of it, he likes all bugs, period!

This daddy long legs, aka "harvestman," also decided to scour the rose of sharon leaves for a meal.

It must have been good hunting - this green stinkbug wasn't about to pass up a meal. 

A white tail dragonfly rests atop a rip rap embankment

The translucence of a dragonfly's gossamer-like wings is evident on this twelve spot skimmer

The wood frog is actually not so much a creature of summer -  he just happened to show up while I was mowing the lawn. Along with the spring peeper the wood frog is one of the first amphibians to make its presence known in the early spring when it makes its way to vernal pools to procreate the species.

July 1, 2015 - 10:19am

The Viceroy, pictured above, is nearly identical to the Monarch butterfly. Because the Viceroy so closely resembles the Monarch, which contain a toxin that is poisonous to birds and certain other predators, birds will thus avoid Viceroys...but only if it has previously sampled a Monarch -- otherwise it will readily make a meal of the Viceroy. 

Donning her "summer reds," a doe casts a wary eye in my direction.

Early season larch cones.

This butterfly is called a Question Mark -- honest! Taking nature photos is something Claudia and I enjoy. Identifying a species is satisfying in itself even if it leaves you wondering. I have no idea how the Question Mark got its name.

An Indigo bunting perched in the pines.

The remains of last year's teasel.

June 24, 2015 - 8:30am

When our apple tree blossoms we're assured of seeing a variety of songbirds. Most years see plenty of "return customers," but every so often we're blessed with a "newcomer," like the yellow warbler pictured above.

In past years I've seen the yellow warbler in good numbers while canoeing Oak Orchard Creek where it flows through the Alabama Swamp. This is the first time we've seen them in our yard. And like every other species that shows up in the apple tree, they've come to feed on the insects found in the apple blossoms.

An Indigo bunting probes the blossoms for a meal. 

An oriole samples what's left of the suet.

A rose-breasted grosbeak interrupts the oriole's dinner.

Then there was the unexpected visitor at the feeder who had scaled the shepherd's hook and jumped onto the feeder.

He precariously worked his way downward...note how he's clinging by one paw!

Having settled in, he proceeds to stuff himself.

June 18, 2015 - 2:54pm

Hardly the mental image conjured whenever one hears the word marsh, Ringneck Marsh has greened up considerably in recent weeks.

A young angler tries his luck from the shoreline...........   

while his brother fishes from the dock. Part of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Ringneck Marsh is home to northern pike, largemouth bass and panfish.

A variety of furbearers and birdlife also call Ringneck home. An osprey nest is seen in the above photo ......

and a pair of adults tending to the nests occupants. To give you an idea of how big this stick nest is, an osprey is a large fish-eating bird with a massive wingspan -- perched atop this nest they look pigeon-sized. For much of the morning this pair alternated between visiting the nest and soaring high above the marsh.

Discovery! When the fish failed to cooperate, this young angler took to exploring among the shoreline rocks and was rewarded for his efforts.

These fellas stuck it out a bit longer.....then joined their brother exploring the shoreline and searching for frogs, snakes and aquatic bugs.

Calling it a day!

June 17, 2015 - 9:14am
posted by Howard B. Owens in hunting, outdoors.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today announced that the Assembly has passed a bill to authorize big game rifle hunting in Genesee County. Assembly Bill 4367-A passed the house Monday and passed the Senate earlier this year. Hawley, a longtime proponent of sportsmen and an opponent of the SAFE-Act, introduced the legislation in January.

“As an unwavering supporter of sportsmen and the Second Amendment, I am proud to announce that my legislation has overwhelmingly passed the Assembly and will be sent to the governor for his signature,” Hawley said. “Deer hunting is a mainstay here in Western New York and many families rely on venison as a viable substitute as grocery store meat prices continue to rise. The exhilaration of a young hunter getting his or her first buck cannot be replicated and I am proud to have made that possible.”

June 10, 2015 - 8:55am

This is a what Mohawk Pool looked like when Claudia and I took our first hike at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge this year. It was April and cattails were brown and trees devoid of foliage. 

Later in the day the surface of Mohawk Pool reflected less sky while the early evening sun cast a glow on surrounding flora.

A pair of Canada geese swim slowly past.

Dusk along Feeder Road.  

A towering sycamore stands out in contrast against a blue sky.

A classic mallard photo....irridescent green head as vivid as could be, and a leg band to boot. Bands provide valuable data for wildlife biologists. Nice photo, Claudia!

A great blue heron stalking its next meal.

Companions for life.

June 6, 2015 - 9:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama, outdoors.

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Five-year-old Ryan is all business as he waits for the start of this morning's youth fishing derby at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. It's the 24th year for the event. This year, as of 8:10 a.m., 30 children had signed up.

Ryan is with is dad, Dave, and brother, David, 7. The family lives in Alabama.

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June 4, 2015 - 10:47am

This photo of black-crowned night heron was taken by Claudia along the Feeder Ditch on the Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area. The Tonawanda WMA borders the western perimeter of the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge while Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area lies to the east. Together they compromise more than 19,000 acres of wildlife habitat that beckons to the springtime outdoor enthusiast, be it hiking, bird watching or nature photography. And so it was that Claudia and I spent several days this spring partaking of all three activities at the three locations.   

Our takeoff point for Tonawanda WMA -- facing west on the Feeder ditch.

The black-crowned night heron was hidden from our view by tall reeds as it stalked the shallows. Finally aware of our presence it made quite ruckus as it took flight, emitting several loud guttural squawks, literally one after the other.

Hard to say who was more startled, my wife and I or the heron. Anyway, as disturbed as it seemed to be, we were surprised when the heron alit in a tree and allowed us to take its picture.

It's that time of year when female turtles are making their annual trek to deposit eggs. This gal doesn't look so pleased with the delay, does she?

I really enjoy wild mustard greens and having come across an abundance of it atop one of the berms, the day's hike turned out to be a bit longer than planned.

A great blue heron perched atop wood duck nesting box

A great blue heron perched in the tree tops.....saw more blue herons on this day than ever before, most of which were on the wing.

A gust of wind reveals a red-winged blackbird's scarpular

To be sure, there is quite a history behind what the locals refer to as, "the Feeder Ditch."

May 28, 2015 - 3:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hunting, outdoors.

Press release:

A bill, S.1292, to allow the use of rifles for big-game hunting in Genesee County has passed the State Senate by a vote of 52 to 4. State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer is the bill’s author and sponsor in the State Senate.

“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.  “I am pleased to report that the bill has passed the State Senate, and I am hopeful that the State Assembly will pass it before session ends next month.”

Last fall, the Genesee County Legislature and the Genesee County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs 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 sent to the State Assembly. Assemblyman Stephen Hawley is sponsoring the bill in the State Assembly. If enacted into law, the bill would take effect immediately.

May 28, 2015 - 11:41am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, yellowlegs, sandhill crane, Iroquois NWR.

Hard to say for certain whether this yellowlegs is of the "greater" or "lesser" variety. Both are quite similar in appearance and, as you might have guessed, the long bill is perhaps the first thing you notice about this migrating shorebird -- at least in this photo. 


This photo plainly shows how the yellowlegs got its name... and those legs come in handy for stalking small fish in the shoreline shallows.


The yellowlegs' long bill also proves useful when seeking a meal.

Here the yellowlegs uses its bill to probe for food, moving it back and forth to stir up the silty bottom and in the process locate snails and other aquatic morsels.

A sandhill crane makes a rare appearance along the Feeder Road at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.  

According to the "Audubon Field Guide to BIrds," there are isolated populations scattered in places like the Rocky Mountains and northern prairies, the majority of sandhill breeding takes place in regions throughout Siberia and across the Canadian arctic.


The mating dance of the sandhill crane is said to be spectacular. A mating pair will face each other and suddenly leap into the air with wings extended and feet thrown forward. Having done that they will then bow to each other and perform an encore. 

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.

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