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nature

May 4, 2015 - 1:50pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, nature, trees.

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Upton Monument

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Redfield Parkway

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Washington Avenue

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Washington Avenue

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Centennial Park

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State Street

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VA Center

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Holland Land Office Museum

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 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 17, 2015 - 11:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, nature, Genesee County Airport, snowy owl.

Rebecca Grela shared this picture she took Saturday of the snowy owl at the Genesee County Airport.

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 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.

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.

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!!!

October 13, 2014 - 10:01am

Daybreak along the power lines

A view from Molasses Hill Road

A chipmunk enjoys some sweet corn from our autumn decor

A gray squirrel has similar taste - except he'd prefer to eat alone.

A wagonload of pumpkins on the side of the road

This maple was so resplendant and riveting I failed to notice the cattle beneath it.

Cornstalk tassles silhouetted at dawn

October 6, 2014 - 3:55pm

A yellow garden spider tends to its dew-laden web.

Argiope aurantia, a.k.a. the yellow garden spider, the black & yellow garden spider or golden garden spider. And while it may be found in your garden as the name suggests, it is actually more at home in any locale where it can suspend its silky web from tall plants and grasses, particularly meadows and alongside narrow, slow-moving streams.  

Its web creations are silky and symmetrical and can measure over two feet in diameter. They are also quite lethal to flying insects. This web, and several others in close proximity, were found in a meadow of milkweed, Queen Anne's lace and dead tansy.

Strung up amid spent tansy and covered with dew, this web bears a certain Halloween motif.

Once her prey is ensnared, this female will "jiggle" her web to further secure her quarry before scurrying across her silky masterpiece and injecting venom into her victim. She will then wrap her prey in a silky cocoon and wait a few hours for the venom to do its work -- turning her victim's insides to liquid. Makes for a high-protein buggy milkshake!

October 2, 2014 - 11:12am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, whitetail deer, wild turkey.

I came across these deer and wild turkeys feeding together along what was one of my favorite outdoor haunts in my teen years.

As I took these photos I thought back to the very first time I came across deer and wild turkeys together. At the time I thought it merely happenstance and simply savored the moment. After a second occurrence I chalked it up to coincidence. Today, several years later, gatherings between whitetails and wild turkeys may cause me to raise an eyebrow. But am I surprised? No way!

You see, in the time since my first deer/turkey encounter, I've heard it said that, "if the wild turkey, with its keen eyesight............

possessed the scenting ability of the whitetail deer...........

it would be nearly impossible to get close enough for a shot"....

A bit of an exaggeration perhaps? Maybe. While it may sound like a stretch of the imagination, it's a statement that attests to the keen senses of both species.

By definition, symbiosis isn't what we might label the relationship between deer and turkeys. Yet the wild turkey and the whitetail deer are two of North America's most sought after creatures, with pursuit being from man and natural predators alike. That being said, I find it not only interesting, but understandable as to why the high strung whitetail and the skittish wild turkey oftentimes work together. It's a relationship that benefits both species.

September 24, 2014 - 8:55am

This monarch uses its proboscis to probe goldenrod for nectar. While not as numerous as in years past, the monarch butterfly still lends color and grace as it flits about the meadow.

A twelve spot skimmer takes five

Its getting to be the time of year when the tansy leaf aster rivals the goldenrod for dominant color

A leopard frog does its best to remain concealed as it moves about the meadow grass.

A red tail hawk surveys the meadow from a favorite perch......

the red tail is the apex predator during the day shift in and around this neck of the woods.  After the sun sets its another story.........

Once darkness falls there are three characters vying for top dog: the coyote, the great horned owl and, as of late, at least one fisher has been making its presence known in the vicinity of the meadow......

Though I doubt any of them have this guy high on their menu. But lets give this  little stinker some credit - he's very good at digging up destroying yellow jacket nests!

September 15, 2014 - 8:31am

In addition to goldenrod, purple loosestrife is among our most colorful and prolific late season blooms.

The showy, magenta-colored flowers are attractive and eye-catching among young and old alike. And while loosestrife really brightens the landscape, it does come with a downside.

It can thrive in the damp soil of a roadside ditch....

or run amok in and around wetlands -- and therein lies the problem. A non-native plant, purple loosestrife can easily take over large tracts, in the process choking out beneficial plants like cattails, rushes and sedges, which provide food, cover and nesting for waterfowl, furbearers and a wide variety bird species.

September 5, 2014 - 7:52am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, gray tree frog, bullfrog, katydid.

Don't let the green-color phase fool you. This gray tree frog normally lives high in the trees and descends at night only to chorus or breed. He doesn't have a far reaching call; it's more like a soft trill.

Unlike its web-footed cousins, tree frogs have toe pads, appendages with an adhesive-like quality that great enhances their climbing and clinging skills. 

Katydids are nocturnal and, for the most part, tree dwellers. Rarely seen but heard on any warm evening in August and September, katydids don't have a voice, but instead create their noted sound - kaytdid, kaytdidn't - by rubbing part of their wings or legs together.

A good example of why the katydid is difficult to spot. They've been sounding off with exuberance for the last week or so, a reminder that autumn is nigh.

The largest of North Americn frogs, the bullfrog, has a far-reaching call that is said to be heard for more than a quarter mile. And I can attest to that. I can easily recall lying in my bunk at Y camp and hearing the bullfrogs "talking" non-stop, their call carrying across the water from the swamp at the south end of the lake. 

As you can see, the bullfrog's shade of green will vary. Both frogs pictured in this post are indeed fortunate fellas. Both live in very close proximity to the two water snakes you may have read about in my last post.

I've enjoyed the sound produced by the critters pictured here since childhood. Add to the list many others...loons, owls, migrating geese, etc. Nature's nocturnal sound is limitless...and I can't say I have a favorite. I enjoy them all -- with one exception -- the buzzing of a mosquito!

August 26, 2014 - 5:46pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in animals, outdoors, nature.

I was walking along the edge of a meadow last week hoping for pics of butterflies and wildflowers. The last thing I expected to come across was a pair of water snakes. Very large water snakes. Both specimens stretched over 40 inches in length.

Until this day, all water snakes I've encountered were either in the water or at the edge of a lake, stream or pond, their preferred habitat. These two were more than 20 yards from a pond loaded with frogs. A stone's throw in the opposite direction is a narrow, sluggish, alga-covered stream filled with tidbits on the water snake's menu.

Okay, so this pair of snakes was a bit out of their juristiction. No big deal. But a couple of days later I came across them again in the same location. And a third time less than a week later, same thing. Oddly enough, each time I saw them, the smaller snake, if you could call it that, was nearly stretched out while the darker, obviously older snake, was tightly looped, its head hidden in the meadow grass.

Northern water snakes mate around April - June and give birth between August and October. Could the larger of the two have been a female ready to give birth. Was the other the papa or might it have been hanging around hoping for an easy meal? For what it's worth, once the offspring are born there is no nurturing, young are immediately on their own.  

The Northern water snake is active both during the day and night and their prey list quite extensive. Mice, meadow voles, crayfish, frogs, fish, birds and other snakes just to name a few. In turn, the water snake is preyed upon by hawks, owls, herons, fox and possums. On the other hand, given the size of the water snakes pictured here, they may have little or nothing to fear except man.

The meadow and nearby fallow fields, now rife with wildflowers, were teeming with ground nesting bobolinks less than two months ago. I wouldn't be surprised if this pair of well fed serpents took advantage of the nesting season and helped themselves to eggs, fledglings and perhaps adult bobolinks caught off guard. 

This is the larger of the two doing its best to remain concealed. The cloudy  appearance of its eye indicates its getting ready to shed its skin. With age, the water snake's tell-tale markings begin to fade and eventually they will appear dark brown or black.

Though non-venomous, the northern water snake is a feisty sort, it will strike when cornered and bite repeatedly if handled. The bite of large water snake can be painful and its saliva contains an anticoagulant which will cause the bite to bleed profusely. In the South they are often mistaken for copperheads and water moccassins and as a result are sometimes killed on sight.  

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