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August 18, 2014 - 1:08pm

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly busies itself drawing nectar from the tiny lavender flowers found on teasel.

Its the time of year when roadsides and meadows are prolific with colorful flora. While many species of flowering plants are looked upon merely as weeds, for the insect kingdom they are a means of sustainment.

Here, a hummingbird moth tends to the bloom of a bull thistle. Active during the day, this is one species where the old adage, "like a moth drawn to a flame" doesn't apply.

Like its namesake, the rapid wingbeats of the hummingbird moth produce a slight buzzing sound, yet softer than that of a hummingbird.

A tree cricket explores the interior of a wild morning glory.

A bumble bee at work on a flowering burdock.

A bumble bee no sooner touches down on a Rose of Sharon blossom when it realizes it's a bit late. The bee inside is busy collecting pollen by rubbing itself against the stamen.

August 15, 2014 - 2:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in animals, outdoors.

Pulled into my driveway this afternoon and saw a flash of yellow dancing through my sunflowers. There were two yellow birds -- finches, I think, eating seeds. I managed to get a photo of one before they took flight.

August 14, 2014 - 3:00pm

 Beginning September 10, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County will begin training a new class of Master Gardeners through our “Principles of Gardening” program.  Classes will be held at the CCE office at 420 East Main Street, Batavia on Wednesday evenings from 6 to 9 pm through November 19.  (There will also be a full day session on Saturday, November 8.)  Pre-registration by August 25 is required as the class size is limited.

Participants will enjoy learning about a variety of horticulture topics including: botany, plant pathology, entomology, soils & fertilizers, lawn care, vegetable gardening, weed identification, woody ornamentals, fruit, perennials and annuals.  Each class will focus on a different topic throughout the training.

Anyone interested in learning more about gardening may attend the course.  The fee for training is $225 per person.

This training is the first requirement to becoming a Genesee County Master Gardener.  Genesee county residents who complete the course are then eligible to apply to the Genesee County Master Gardener program.  (Other county residents should contact their local Master Gardener program.)  A Master Gardener volunteer should have a willingness to give back to the community and help put into practice what they learned at training.  Enthusiasm for sharing their skills and knowledge is a must.

For an application or to register contact Brandie Schultz at 585-343-3040, ext. 101 or stop by the Extension office at 420 East Main Street in Batavia.

August 12, 2014 - 1:21pm
posted by Billie Owens in sports, outdoors.

Press release:

As part of Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will hold two waterfowl hunter informational meetings. One of these will be in Genesee County.

It will take place on Thursday, Aug. 28, at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters located on Casey Road in Alabama. It will be from 7 to 9 p.m. and focus on topics of interest to waterfowl hunters in Western New York and the Iroquois and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuges areas.

Topics will include:

  • Highlights of waterfowl management and research programs at two National Wildlife Refuges, Iroquois and Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge; and four of the state Wildlife Management Areas -- Tonawanda, Braddock Bay, Oak Orchard and Northern Montezuma.
  • Regional and statewide waterfowl news and updates;
  • Atlantic Flyway news;
  • Waterfowl population status survey results;
  • New York waterfowl hunting season-setting process; and tentative 2014-15 duck and goose hunting seasons.

Wildlife biologists from DEC and the two National Wildlife Refuges will discuss items of interest to waterfowl hunters in an informational and interactive forum.

They will present results of local and international surveys of waterfowl breeding populations and discuss habitat conditions and habitat management efforts. Updates of waterfowl management issues in the Atlantic Flyway will be presented, and this year’s tentative waterfowl hunting seasons and bag limits will be discussed.

The NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative is an effort to improve recreational opportunities for sportsmen and women and to boost tourism activities throughout the state. This initiative includes streamlining fishing and hunting licenses, reducing license fees, improving access for fishing and increasing hunting opportunities in New York State.

In support of this initiative, this year’s budget includes $6 million in NY Works funding to support creating 50 new land and water access projects to connect hunters, anglers, bird watchers and others who enjoy the outdoors to more than 380,000 acres of existing state and easement lands that have not reached their full potential. These 50 new access projects include building new boat launches, installing new hunting blinds and building new trails and parking areas. In addition, the 2014-15 budget includes $4 million to repair the state's fish hatcheries; and renews and allows expanded use of crossbows for hunting in New York State.

This year's budget also reduces short-term fishing licenses fees; increases the number of authorized statewide free fishing days to eight from two; authorizes DEC to offer 10 days of promotional prices for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses; and authorizes free Adventure Plates for new lifetime license holders, discounted Adventure Plates for existing lifetime license holders and regular fee Adventure Plates for annual license holders.

Directions to Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge at 1101 Casey Road, in Basom:

From the New York State Thruway, take Exit 48A (Pembroke) and travel north on Route 77 to Alabama Center. Continue north on Route 63 for approximately 1 mile, turn left on Casey Road. The office is about a mile down the road on the right.

August 1, 2014 - 10:21am
posted by Judy Spring in recreation, outdoors, nature, walk, park.
Event Date and Time: 
September 24, 2014 - 10:00am to 11:30am

Discover what’s happening at Genesee County Park & Forest. We’ll walk on a variety of trails, see what flora and fauna are about, and enjoy being outdoors. Bring binoculars and dress for the weather.

Wednesdays in September 10am -11:30am (Adult Program)

Cost: $5/person/walk or $16 for all 4 walks (paid at first walk)

Pre-Registration Required. Genesee County Park & Forest 11095 Bethany Center Rd., E. Bethany

For More Information and To Register, Call #585-344-1122

July 4, 2014 - 9:25am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, bobolinks.

The bobolinks have returned from their South American wintering grounds and once again nearby meadows and fallow fields are filled with their bubbly serenade. They've come from as far away as Argentina, arriving in the northern U.S. and southern Canada to raise a single brood.

Their preferred habitat provides both nesting and foraging. Here they construct their nests on the ground, well concealed amid tall grasses. And it is in these same confines where they dine on seeds and insects.

Once the mating season is over the males will molt and, like the female pictured above, will take on a more sparrow-like appearance and will migrate south in such fashion. Unlike the spring migration, the bobolink's return flight to its wintering grounds is done in much larger flocks.

Back in the day the southward migration of the bobolink included a stopover on South Carolina rice plantations where the birds gorged themselves on grain until they became plump "little butterballs." Because the males had molted, folks thought they were seeing a different species of bird and the now drab-colored bobolinks were called "butterbirds" and were shot by the tens of thousands each fall as a food source.

The bobolink was all but eradicated then, but today most of the rice fields are gone and the bobolink, like all songbirds, is a protected species.

June 28, 2014 - 10:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Lions Club, outdoors, DeWitt Recreation Area.

Joshua von Kramer is all business as he casts his line into the pond at DeWitt Recreation Area today during a youth fishing tournament sponsored by the Batavia Oakfield Lions Club. Fishing with him are Nicole and Eric von Kramer.

Reice Woodward reels in a catch.

Reice Woodward

Ed Staniszewski with the boys and girls derby grand prizes.Other prizes on the table.

Joey Staniszewski

Blake Bradt gets her catch measured by Joe Bradt.

The tournament was dedicated to the memory of Kendra Haacke, who died this Spring at age 31. Above, members of the Haacke family, Melissa, Chris, Ken, Emma, Mary Ann and Lily.

May 29, 2014 - 9:40am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, whitetail fawn.

It's that time of year when nature's youngsters begin coming into the world on a daily basis. This whitetail fawn has learned that remaining absolutely still and concealed is vital to its survival. A trio of us had been working a few scant feet away for nearly half an hour before noticing the newborn.

Just a few hours old, the fawn remained motionless in a residential flower bed while we spread mulch about its hideout. Once aware of its presence, we worked quickly, quietly and with little commotion as possible. Having completed the job, we moved on and the little one never flinched. No doubt mom was not far away, watching the entire time.

May 17, 2014 - 10:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, outdoors, Tonawanda Creek.

The fish weren't biting on the Tonawanda Creek today, but that didn't stop a group of Batavia residents from having fun during an annual fishing derby organized by John Lawrence.

The water was high and swift, which made it hard to even get a nibble, but the anglers, young and older, stuck with it.

Above, Brian Mruczek with is son Lakoda.

Giana Mruczek.

Nick Grasso puts on a show like he's really hooked something big.

May 16, 2014 - 9:47am

The past couple of weeks have seen a significant amount of songbird activity out our way. Right on cue, orioles began showing up when the first apple blossoms began to open, no doubt attracted by the insects within.

While the petals are bright yellow, back in the day someone thought the mottled brown pattern on the green leaves of the Trout lily resembled the markings found on the back of wild brook trout....hence the name.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks have been showing up at our feeder each day for the past week or so.

A dog violet with morning dew on its petals.

An indigo bunting scans the surroundings from atop the feeder. 

Lesser celandine grows in large clusters, abundant along boggy streams and damp woodlands. As the sun begins to set, the blooms close and remain so until the sun once again begins its ascent,   

A pair of Northern flickers probing the ground for a meal.

Periwinkle, aka myrtle, sometimes used as groundcover in landscaping, is found in the wild as well.

May 9, 2014 - 9:38am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, lake ontario, Lakeside Beach State Park.

Batavians Joe Schlossel and Mike Badami silhouetted by the early evening sun at Lakeside Beach State Park along Lake Ontario. It's that time of year when shore casters are able to cash in on Lake Ontario's trout and salmon fishery.

Sometime in early to mid-May, the trout and salmon begin to move offshore. For now they remain within reach of shoreline anglers. While the majority of anglers flock to places like Point Breeze, Mike Badami (pictured above) and Joe Schlossel (below) opted for the solitude of Lakeside Beach State Park.

The pair ventured to the park twice in the past week and each time were rewarded for their efforts. Once the trout move into deep water, these two anglers will return to local haunts and target their favorite warm water species, black bass and northern pike.

April 29, 2014 - 8:10am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, John Arneth, turkey hunting.

John Arneth was in the fifth grade when his father drove him to Barrett's Batavia Marine to see Paul Butski. The year was 1980 and Butski was at Barrett's to give a demonstration on calling turkeys. Then a former world, state and Grand National champion caller, Butski took aside the youngster from Le Roy and taught him how to use a friction call. Not yet old enough to hunt at the time, John put to use what he learned from the renowned caller, practicing the art of imitating communication between turkeys.

In the decades since, John has learned a great deal in the turkey woods, having hunted turkey in several locations throughout Western New York including Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston and Chautauqua counties. His passion for turkey hunting has also taken him out of state, pursuing toms in Florida and Alabama. In 32 years of turkey hunting he has taken 52 longbeards. No doubt he has become prolific in the art of calling in wily toms, so much in fact, he is on the pro staff of several makers of outdoor gear, among them Duel Game Calls. Over the years he has conducted 250 turkey and deer seminars at places like Cabela's, Bass Pro, Gander Mountain, National Wild Turkey Federation events, outdoor shows, pro shops, churches and calling contests.

These days John is the town of Le Roy highway superintendant and still an avid turkey hunter. Friday evening I sat down with John and listened as he demonstrated one of Duel Game Calls' newest products, the Blodgett Signature Design turkey call, a totally new look in the game call industry.

The Blodgett series was named in honor of Harry Blodgett, legendary turkey call maker. To say that Arneth and the people at Duel Game Calls are optimistic woud be an understatement. At the National Wild Turkey Federation Grand National Convention the new calls raised eyebrows and turned heads, wowing some of the biggest names in the business.

"The calls absolutely blew people away, even turkey hunting legends like Jim Strelic," he said.

While the lamination gives the call a good look, the business end of the call, the striking surface and the sound it produces, was what got the attention of veteral turkey hunters. "Can it purr?" asked some, "Can it yelp and cutt?" asked others. John Arneth was happy to oblige and he answered their questions the only way he knew how, he demonstated by giving a quick clinic and customers went away satisfied, more often than not with a supply of new  Blodgett calls.   

The reason for the call's success in imitating the sound of a turkey lies in the overall makeup of what is known in the turkey hunting industry as pot style calls.

"We use laminated sugar maple, the same lamination process used by Gibson guitars. We pay a royalty to Gibson guitars for the lamination process because they own the patent," he said. "They are machined pots," he added, "from a very precise computer-controlled cutting machine."

The makeup of the striking surface of the call is a bit more interesting, as John explained, resulting in three different surface types, one being borosilicate crystal to be exact, and it creates a high pitched, very high-quality sound. A second was a slate surface, made from a very pure form of ocean slate. The third striking surface was aluminum, 6061 aircraft aluminum, oil free, bead blasted and it produces the highest frequency call in the industry. 

In addition to Duel Game Calls, John Arneth is on the pro staff of Mossy Oak, Ol' Tom, Gold Tip Arrows, Hawk Tree Stands and Wasp Broadheads. He currently lives in the village of Le Roy with his wife and three daughters    

April 27, 2014 - 1:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in elba, alexander, corfu, hunting, outdoors, Turkey Season.

Kilian Lewis, 14, of Corfu, bagged his first turkey yesterday morning in Alexander as part of a Youth Turkey Hunt, the first day of the Spring youth hunt season (the adult season begins May 1). The turkey had a 10-inch beard. Killian's older brother, Collin, 18, helped call it in. (Photo and info submitted by M. Lewis).

John Zambito, 14, of Elba, got his first turkey this morning while hunting with his uncle Kelly Creegan. (Submitted by Chantal Zambito)

April 24, 2014 - 8:30am

Every year thousands of people flock to Letchworth State Park and of course all who come to the park want a look into the Genesee River Gorge, the Grand Canyon of the East. Among the sights in the gorge, several hundred feet below on the river's surface, are what appear to be blips of white. Those blips are waves of white water and all but unnoticed against a panoramic vista from the overlooks. There, high above the river, they appear somewhat obscure, maybe even miniscule -- unless you maneuver over and through those waves via raft or kayak. And only then will you get a real sense of what the Genesee River Gorge is all about.

Might anyone be interested in seeing the gorge from below, Adventure Calls Outfitters is ready to accommodate. Not only is there an opportunity to view the gorge from the "bottom up," one gets to take a thrilling ride at the same time. 

The accompanying whitewater pics, courtesy of the folks at ACO, were taken during the first two weekends of the rafting season on April 12th, 13th and 19th. With snowmelt and spring runoff in high gear, now is the optimum time for a wild ride with Western New York's premier river runners.                        

Adventure Calls Outfitters is owned and operated by Stafford resident Kevin Kretschmer who has spent 32 years as a whitewater guide on the Genesee River Gorge, the Salmon River up at Pulaski and Cattaraugus Creek through Zoar Valley. He has been the owner of ACO for the past 16 years. 

ACO has a large contingent of skilled guides on hand, each of whom love their work and enjoy nothing better than taking customers through some smashing whitewater.                                                                                                   

Midway through every trip, groups stop for pictures at the base of Wolf Creek Waterfall. Here guests have the opportunity to take the "leap of faith" -- a plunge into a hole beneath the falls. Not to worry, no one's ever been lost taking the leap of faith.                                                                                                     

The user-friendly and highly maneuverable inflatable kayak...aka  funyak!      

Riding a wave train along the wall. Is this stuff thrilling? Invigorating?   

You bet it is! BOOYAH!

The ACO rafting season is just getting under way. The season on Cattaraugus Creek runs from April though June. Release dates for the Salmon River are July 5th, 6th, 19th and 20th and Aug. 2nd and 3rd. While rafting is their mainstay, Adventure Calls Outfitters offers a variety of packages and events throughout the season. Check out their Web site at http://www.adventure-calls.com/rafting_letchworth.html

April 17, 2014 - 9:23am

June 1980, Northern Manitoba -- We had a great fishing adventure and a bit of an education as well. I learned that lake trout and brook trout are actually members of the char family. Note the white piping on the pectoral and ventral fins of the laker pictured above, distinctive markings on all char.                   

We also I discovered that it was wasn't necessary to fish deep for lake trout thanks to the frigid temps of subarctic waters. But those cold waters also make for a slow growth rate, as little as a half pound per year. That means the laker I'm holding in the above pic had been around for 48 years.                    

Winter, 1991 -- Slow but steady wins the race...Nick Calarco's hounds had this coyote on the run for a considerable time before it finally stopped for a breather.       

It may be winded but it's still full of fight -- note the hair standing up on its back. 

A young Massasauga rattlesnake. These are known to exist in two locales in all of New York State -- in Genesee County's Bergen Swamp and in the Cicero Swamp north of Syracuse.               

This is what it will look like when it's all grown up.

Playtime for Bandit..........Bandit and his siblings were discovered living between a wall and a partition in a small barn that served as chicken coop. Concerned for his chickens, the owner urged the mother raccoon to relocate, which she did -- one baby at a time. She took the first three and never returned for Bandit. After several days passed Bandit was adopted and nurtured by loving hands.

   Nap time!

April 9, 2014 - 8:30am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, grackles.

There was quite a gathering of grackles around our place recently. Common grackles they were, and over a three day period they alternated between hanging out in the trees, patrolling the lawn and laying seige to the bird feeder.

At first glance, especially from a distance, the grackle appears all black. But depending on the light, they can exhibit a lustrous sheen, displaying iridescent shades of green, blue, purple and bronze.

Despite the brilliant coloration, grackles possess another look, one sinister and menacing in appearance. Looking at this pic I'm reminded of three wildlife dramas involving grackles from years past. My reaction after each varied. The first was not exactly endearing; the second can be described as "WOW!" After the third event my reaction was, surprisingly, a certain degree of admiration.

The first one occurred one summer not so many years ago.

On that day I was thatching the yard with a leaf rake when I noticed a blackbird on the ground, interested in what I first thought to be a small piece of plastic, much like a wadded up bread wrapper, being slowly pushed along by a slight breeze. The blackbird followed after it, striking it repeatedy with its bill. It took a second for my brain to register what I was seeing.

The blackbird was a grackle, and the "piece of plastic" was a fledgling robin that must have either fallen or was robbed from its nest and was doing its best to escape its tormentor.

About that time I let fly with the rake and naturally the grackle took flight. Scooping up the baby robin, I could see it was still alive, but barely. I tucked it in the shade beneath some vines in hopes that its mom was nearby.

Ever vigilant, even during the late March snowstorm.   

A second incident occured when former Batavians Tim Martino, Keith Emminger and I were mowing lawns on Woodcrest Drive. We had just pulled the equipment trailer up to the curb when a small raptor  --  I'm thinking Cooper's hawk  --  slammed into a grackle in midair.  This happened right in front of our pickup truck. The hawk proceded to land atop its fallen prey where it lay in the street. Whether it intended to make a meal of the grackle I can't say as the hawk immediately flew off, perhaps suddenly aware of our presence. 

The third incident caused me to look at grackles in a different light.

It was a spring day when I heard some rustling coming from within a small stand of dry, brittle phragmites. Judging from the sound, it wasn't a large animal but there was definitely something going on. Try as I might, I was only able to see small, dark flashes of movement. Moments later a grackle took flight, a snake dangling from its bill. The snake was limp, and I'm guessing the commotion in the dry reeds was the grackle dispatching its quarry.

April 4, 2014 - 8:11am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors.

Despite the up and down weather this year, the bird life has been nothing short of prolific. April has taken up where February and March left off, by offering up a variety of species. Cardinals have been front and center on the color spectrum around here, and will likely remain so until the orioles show up to scour the apple blossoms for insects.

The absence of foliage makes it an opportune time for pics or simply viewing a wide range of species and a flash of red is sure to catch the eye. His tune is easily recognizable, and it seems like he sings best under a blue sky.

Though strikingly handsome, the bluejay is more noisemaker than songster -- they make many sounds, and in the wild are quick to sound the alarm when intruders are about, be it man or beast.

While not as colorful, the white-breasted nuthatch is quite entertaining and almost comical with its trademark upside down movement.

It can be hard to distinguish between the purple finch and the house finch -- with so much red I'm thinking purple.....is that an oxymoron?!

A classic case of frost beak -- the avian equivalent of frostbite......honest :)

Many of the species share at the feeder, or, at the very least take turns, flitting back and forth between the feeder and the trees......that isn't the case with the bluejays......

The bluejays tend to be a bit of a bully at the bird feeder..... but whereas the smaller birds simply wait nearby while the bluejay gorges itself.........

When the grackles show up the songbirds tend to give them a wide berth, usually vacating the premises altogether. We had a large flock of grackles descend on us last week, and it reminded me of a couple tidbits I want to share with you in my next post.

March 26, 2014 - 7:25am

No sooner had the robins arrived when they discovered it might take a while before any worms were available. With their favorite staple somewhere far below earth's frozen layer, the robins had to make do elsewhere, like chilly sumac drupes.

Likewise, these starlings sampled the sumac.....this was not only the first time I had seen starlings eating sumac, it was the first time I remember starlings eating without making a noisy racket. Several dozen descended on the sumac trees and they hardly made a sound.

As the snow recedes, the whitetails aren't having to work so hard to find a meal.

For now yarding up is still commonplace -- warmer weather and greater food availability will result in herd dispersal.

From a distance I first thought this hawk to be a redtail.....the more I look I'm thinking its a rough-legged hawk.

Here it.s about to take flight.

Mourning doves have been showing up in vast numbers. This pair has been enjoying the spillage from our bird feeder.

With the snow all but gone, the red squirrels can get down to some serious foraging........

Score!!!!..................kinda looks like a meatball cookie with no icing!

March 17, 2014 - 5:30pm

The past couple of weeks we've seen an incredible amount of avian activity taking place, species ranging from songbirds to raptors. Among the wide variety were a number of woodpeckers, like the red-bellied woodpecker pictured above. He had been hard at work before sensing my presence and then abruptly snapped to attention.  

After several minutes he decided it was safe to get back to the business at hand.

Pileated wood peckers have been frequent visitors throughout the winter. This is the first frontal pic I've taken - quite by accident as it turned in my direction just as I took his picture.  

Moments later he provided the angle I wanted. Here he's perched on a dead limb of a towering cottonwood.    

Downy woodpeckers have been showing up daily to feast on suet.

It almost seems as if he stopped to check out the falling snow.

Another red-bellied woodpecker investigates the spillage below the bird feeder.

March 11, 2014 - 9:39am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, genesee county park & forest.

Depending on who you ask, the winter has been judged somewhat lengthy and at times harsh. While Old Man Winter threw us a curve ball or two, the aftermath was sometimes asthetically pleasing to the eye. And nowhere was this more evident than at the Genesee County Park & Forest.

A trail into the hardwoods. Claudia and I logged several hours at the park this winter, trying to cover every bit of the more than 12 miles of trail.

The hike was always exhilarating, even if the air was frigid at times. Even on the coldest of days, we ran into hikers, cross country skiers, snowshoers, and even two or three hearty souls who were jogging.

Of course we met a good number of people out exercising their dogs, like Batavians Dan and Debbie Barone pictured above.

A cross country skier glides along one of the well-maintained trails.  

Gotta love the Boy Scouts. The park is in great shape thanks to many volunteers.

Snow-covered spruce trees as seen from the Turtle Pond trail.

Surrounded by needled giants, this tiny spruce sees limited sunlight.

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