Local Matters

Community Sponsors


August 12, 2013 - 9:01am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, blue jay, house finch, veery thrush.

The first time I saw a house finch I thought I was looking at a sparrow/cardinal hybrid. Like many song birds, this one perched in our apple tree no doubt looking for insects.

Having spotted me, he immediately took what he felt was appropriate action............

As I understand it, this bit of displaying is something birds do to mark their territory to intruders or in hopes of attracting a mate.

Here's a literal bird's eye view of a visitor whose incessant squawking often gives him away long before he comes into view...........

unlike other songbirds, the noisy Bluejay didn't come here in seach of bugs. The apple tree is lush this year and no doubt he's here to gorge himself on fresh fruit. He must have been hungry -- despite my close proximity, he refused to leave.

For the past couple of weeks this little songster had been singing its heart out, while hidden amid the apple tree foliage. Its song was pleasant, and a sound I either had not heard before or perhaps just hadn't been mindful of. Try as we might, Claudia and I were unable to get a look as it flitted from branch to branch. If we attempted to move in for a closer it would fly off into an adjoining woodlot.  

As I took its picture it began belting out the same melody we had been hearing previously....... the closest resembling photo I could find in either the Smithsonian or Audubon field guides indicated it might be a Veery thrush. Still not certain, but its sound was most pleasing to the ears.    

August 5, 2013 - 9:20am
posted by JIM NIGRO in Bass Fishing, outdoors, take a kid fishing.

Two year old Evan Patric, geared up with "floaties," takes his father's hand as he prepares to embark on his first fishing adventure.

Evan is nestled close to his father, James, as the boat leaves the dock. That's Joe Schlossel Jr. in the stern, rigging the tackle.

I'm not sure what dialogue took place here, but judging from his expression, Evan seems to be saying, "where are the fish?" 

With his dad's help, Evan takes hold of the fishing rod.

Given a free rein, so to speak, Evan dunks the end of the pole. Give him time, he seems to have the hang of it.  

With a little help, Evan boats his first fish, a largemouth black bass. For 2-year-old Evan that fish must be larger than life.

As evidenced by his smile, I'm guessing that Joe Jr. seems to have captured the action on his phone. It's been almost two decades since he first wet a line......  

And this is the guy who showed Joe Jr. the ropes. That's Joe Schlossel Sr. bringing a bass alongside the canoe.

Though Joe Sr. doesn't get to fish as much as he'd like, apparently he hasn't lost the touch!

With a lull in the action, Evan's attention turns toward the evening sky.....

What kid isn't fascinated with cloud formations?

Back at the dock, Evan gets into the canoe and grabs both paddles, just as he did before the evening began. He wasn't too pleased when we loaded the canoe onto the pickup. But a competent guide knows how to keep his clients happy and moments later Joe Jr. presented the young angler with a cherry-flavored freezy pop and just like that the canoe was forgotten. 

July 29, 2013 - 10:38am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, great horned owl.

At first glance this photo appears to be nothing more than some tall wild grass. But a look just beyond the grass reveals an ominous shape and a pair of sinister-looking eyes. Even before I took this photo the first image I saw was that of a large bundle of feathers with a pair of enormous wings extended.

A closer look revealed a great horned owl that had apparently just made a kill and looks none too pleased over my intrusion. Judging from its size I'd say it's a female and she's on full alert, unsure of my intentions. Her raised tufts and intense, glowering stare seem to be saying, "stay away."   

You may find it funny, but, I took several photos and talked to her the entire time. Though still eyeing me warily, she seemed less tense. Unlike a few previous encounters where the owls repeatedly clacked their beak and emitted a hissing sound, this gal just looked at me as I took her picture.    

I've long had an infatuation with mature great horned owls, dating back to my first enounter in the late Sixties. They are an ultimate predator, and while highly nocturnal, they do make daytime hunting forays. They can rotate their head 280 degrees, enabling them to watch their own back, so to speak. That's quite an asset while hunting from a perch. Their long, thick talons will easily skewer flesh and they are built for silent flight as there is no swooshing of air as it passes though their feathers. Except for mating calls and territorial warnings, they navigate the wilds without making a sound.

Eventually I turned and walked away, as fascinated as ever with the great horned owl.

June 9, 2013 - 11:55pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, murray the cat, hawks.

Murray the cat spends a good deal of his time perched in the window, just watching the world go by. Whether he opts for a ground floor or a second-story window, there's a lot to see. 

Take for instance this cottontail rapidly inhaling the stalk of a clover bud.

Then too, there are plenty of chipmunks to keep Murray amused. This guy appears to be checking if the coast is clear.

Whenever feathered or furry visitors come into our yard, Murray's barely audible purr becomes a muffled staccato and his tail begins to writhe back and forth and up and down. It's also a signal to grab the camera and see what's up. Generally it's songbirds, red or gray squirrels and woodchucks that pique Murray's interest.......but not always.

Like the morning when this hawk alit in the hedgerow, perched no more than 12 feet off the ground. I'm not sure if it's a young Cooper's hawk or a broad-wing, but I was able get a sequence of photos and Murray didn't seem to mind my intrusion into his space.

Naturally any birds or cottontails had vacated the area, but the hawk seemed intent on having a look-see. It began scoping the area with a long look to the left.

It then did an about-face to scan the ground below and slightly to its right.......

before peering off into the distance.

It briefly cast a glance in our direction.......

then, partially obscured by twigs, it seems to go on high alert, craning its neck forward. 

Its head once again erect, it's still eyeballing whatever caught its attention.

Suddenly its bill opens slightly....is it agitated or getting ready to pounce?

Then, for the second time, it turned in our direction.......and it's probably just a coincidence, but it was at this moment that Murray decided to vacate the window. Seconds later the hawk exited its perch and, in a flash, swept downward and momentarily out of sight before emerging once again as it sped off, flying just above a ground cover of vine and brush before disappearing from sight altogether.

Like I said, probably just a coincidence, but when I turned from the window, guess where I found Murray?

May 16, 2013 - 8:13am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, outdoors.

Sarah Della Penna takes walks with her Great Danes out on a piece of property off Creek Road, Batavia, and always takes her camera. She sent in some of her recent pictures.


May 16, 2013 - 7:58am

It's that time of year when the small woodlots on either side of our property attract a variety of bird life, none more colorful than the Baltimore oriole. Though they didn't arrive as early or in such great numbers as last spring, they did arrive to feast on the small insects among the apple blossoms.

Having grown accustomed to their visits in recent years, by their song alone we know when the orioles have arrived. Their sound is distinct and pleasing to the ear.  

Partially obscured by apple blossoms, I'm guessing this to be a member of the warbler or finch family.

Here seen upside down in its quest for bugs, it was difficult to get a clear pic as it darted quickly about in search of food. 

A pair of fledgling robins seem uninterested in the juicy worm provided by their mother. Not a year passes when a robin has not failed to nest in our garage, always using one of two nests that have been in place for years and each year the same nest produces a double clutch.

A male and female goldfinch search the ground for a meal.

Morning sun highlights the crest of a pileated woodpecker.

Working its way around the tree, it has moved into the shade and this angle reveals the size of its bill.

A lone crow perched in the cottonwood.

The cottonwood towers above the other trees in the woodlot and it's in cottonwood where the crows often gather. This foursome no doubt has mischief on their minds, waiting to harass an unsuspecting hawk or waiting for the neighbors to take out the trash.

This photo was taken in late winter. At first I thought this crow was hard up for a meal as I've never seen a crow attracted to sumac drupes before. As I watched, he didn't eat the drupes, he tore them apart. Did it think something was inside? Or was it hell-bent on destroying the drupes because song birds eat them? And crows are notorious for raiding the nests of other birds and destroying eggs or killing the young.

May 10, 2013 - 6:54am

In January of this year, the Genesee Archers for Christ was officially accepted as a chapter of the Christian Bowhunters of America. Pictured above are three of the chapter's founders. Left to right, Caroline and Joe Pionessa, of Oakfield, and Kevin Lawson, of Bethany. The fourth founding member is Batavian Mike Grasso. 

Joe Pionessa, a Marine Corps veteran who has been around the proverbial block a few times, decided the time had come to dedicate his life to Jesus Christ and what better way than to use his love of the outdoors as a ministry to bring the Gospel to men, women and children.

Recently, Joe Pionessa was the guest of Care-A-Van ministries at their Teen Warehouse in Darien, where the group serves up supper and provides recreational activities for inner-city teens on Saturday evenings. On this night, Pionessa shared some outdoor knowledge including turkey and deer hunting tactics.  

Here he's demonstrating the use of one of several game calls he had on hand. A longtime outdoorsman, Pionessa was quick to add that, at this point in his life, the outdoors has become about much more than hunting. Whether it be sunsets or sunrise, and a countless number of other natural wonders, he is now quick to recognize the handprint of God in the outdoors he enjoys.

The membership the Genesee Archers for Christ is comprised of men, women and children who are devoted to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and spread the good news.

Interested parties can reach Joe Pionessa at 585-298-0011.

May 6, 2013 - 9:44am

With a backdrop of woodland and blue sky, a patch of red osier stands amid the remnants of last year's cattails. 

Also called dogwood and red willow, osier is attractive to a variety of wildlife including this redwing blackbird, another spring harbinger.

Framed by osier, a swamp maple is reflected on the surface of a placid backwater. While the sight and sound of the redwing blackbird was obvious, unseen were the spring peepers whose mating call permeated the air.

A mother goose stealthfully protects her clutch of eggs....

...while a great blue heron stalks the edge of a shallow marsh.

It's early evening on Oak Orchard Creek and soon the diurnal creatures will begin their retreat. 

As day rapidly fades into night, only the spring peepers will remain vocal, joining the nocturnal chorus of the late night denizens.

April 29, 2013 - 9:54am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, Duck Commander.

For those who tune in regularly to the hit cable television show "Duck Dynasty," Phil Robertson is easily recognizable as the patriarch of a bearded clan of Louisiana woodsmen, including his sons, Jase, Willie, Jep and zany Uncle Si. 

Robertson paid a visit to Western New York last Saturday night for an event sponsored by the Bow Bending Believers, a group of Christian archers based in Medina with a number of Genesee County residents among its ranks. Bow Bending Believers is a branch of the Christian Bowhunters of America. As a large turnout was expected, Ridgeway Baptist Church provided the use of its sanctuary for the evening and upwards of 800 people came to hear Phil Robertson's message.     

During the meet-and-greet segment of the evening (that's Josh Harloff, of Oakfield, with Phil Robertson) two large screens on either side of the stage displayed videos of the Duck Dynasty clan doing what they do best -- hunting ducks amid the flooded timber of Louisiana's bayou. The video repeatedly depicted Phil, Jase, Willie and Si Robertson hunkered down and scanning the sky, then working the duck calls which made Duck Commander a hot commodity. Not surprisingly, large numbers of mallards, pintails and wood ducks began rapidly winging into range. Suffice to say, it was easy to see why the Robertson family often dines on duck gumbo.   

A powerful and dynamic speaker, Phil Robertson shared his testimony, including playing football at Louisiana Tech where he was the starting quarterback in the mid-'60s. During one game, after having thrown a long touchdown pass, he thought to himself, "Yeah, this is fun, but I'd rather be hunting ducks." He quit shortly thereafter and his understudy, a fellow named Terry Bradshaw, took over. In his autobiography, "It's Only a Game," Bradshaw said "The quarterback playing ahead of me, Phil Robertson, loved hunting more than he loved football. He'd come to practice directly from the woods, squirrel tails hanging out of his pockets, duck feathers on his clothes. Clearly he was a fine shot so no one complained too much."

Alan Robertson, on the right in photo above, is Phil's oldest son and the only clean-shaven of his siblings. He's an ordained minister in West Monroe, La., and before introducing his father on this evening, he told the audience how his parents bumped into Bradshaw at the Los Angeles airport. The two former teammates hadn't seen each other for 44 years but that didn't stop Bradshaw from giving his former mentor a big bear hug. Bradshaw then went on to tell his old pal of all the injuries he had sustained during his playing career, to which Phil replied, "I do believe I made the right career decision." His family owned company, Duck Commander game calls, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.         

Once out of football and pursuing the outdoor activities he loved, life wasn't without its rough patches for Phil Robertson and his young wife. He and Kay married in 1966 and for a few years he went on living as though he were a bachelor. "Miss Kay," as she is known to millions of viewers, laid down the law one day in those early years of their marriage and it was around that time Phil made what he says was the best decision of his life when he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

On this evening, after being greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation, one of the first things he did after stepping to the podium was take his worn and well-used Bible from his camo rucksack. And for over an hour the 800 men, woman and children were enrapt as the Duck Dynasty patriarch shared a message of faith, family and the United States of America. His theme for much of the evening was adversity -- whether on a national or individual level -- is often the result of disobedience. He spoke of the dangers and consequences resulting from neglecting God's word and putting the Ten Commandments on a shelf. His statements were not based on conjecture but rather a strong foundation of faith. 

After listening to Phil Robertson, I felt as though I had just heard a combination of John the Baptist and Thomas Jefferson. Obviously, he's quick to share his faith, love of family and country -- in that order. And it came as no surprise that those in attendance gave Phil Robertson another standing ovation as he concluded his talk.

April 28, 2013 - 8:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in fishing, outdoors, Lei-Ti Campground bethany.

Photos and information submitted by Mark Knowles.

Mark Knowles says his son, Cameron, 12, caught "Walter" this year and last year while fishing the pond at Lei-Ti Campground in Bethany. 

"This bass is called Walter by many who tried to catch him," Mark said.

Top photo is from this year and bottom photo is from last year, Mark said.

April 22, 2013 - 7:22am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, horned grebe, water birds.

This horned grebe spent much of last weekend in our backyard after the Tonawanda spilled its banks. "Tamer" than other grebes, it allowed Claudia to take these photos without much alarm on its part. Still in its winter plumage in these pics, as it nears its breeding season the neck will turn rufous, the head and back will darken drastically and its russet "horns" will be more prominent.

Here its slightly tilting its head to accommodate a small fish down its gullet. Despite the murky floodwater, this grebe had no trouble finding prey beneath the surface. While its diet consists mostly of small fish, the horned grebe will also eat some crustaceans and aquatic insects. We watched as it would quickly dive and surface several seconds later, a process it would repeat several times throughout the day.

Excellent swimmers, young horned grebes can swim and dive immediately after hatching but most often they hitch a ride atop their parent's backs.

Horned grebes are rarely seen in flight, they migrate under cover of darkness and once on their wintering grounds they seldom leave the water. It spent all of last Saturday morning, afternoon and night in our flooded back yard. It was still there early last Sunday morning but with the floodwaters quickly receding, our visitor finally departed.

April 15, 2013 - 7:42am

Considered the most colorful of waterfowl, the drake wood duck is resplendant in iridescent shades of blue, green and purple. His prominent crest is easy to spot in this photo taken by Claudia.  

The wood duck is noted for nesting in tree cavities. Their young will leave the nest soon after hatching, which will require plummeting up to 50 feet through the air to reach the ground or water.

A monogamous species, this probably isn't the first breeding season for this pair of Canada geese. 

Local wetlands are a favorite stopover for migrating geese. Many find the area just the place to start a family.

Here's a thought....just maybe, could swimming alongside one another be the equivalent of holding hands?

Here's another thought.....is this guy the odd man out???

April 5, 2013 - 9:55am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, Tundra Swans, swans in flight.

There are few things in nature so graceful and sublime as the tundra swan in flight. In recent weeks they've been arriving in sizeable flocks from their wintering grounds along the mid-Atlantic Coast.

A split second before touch down in a local farm field, this pair will join the main flock in gleaning the remnants of last year's crop.  

Their respite will be brief before continuing onward to their breeding grounds in the Far North. The landowner said the previous two days the south end of this field held so many swans it resembled moguls on a ski slope.

While only a remnant of the previous day's flock remains, there were enough to suit me. This photo was taken seconds after they spotted me in a hedgerow. Moments before they were meandering about, heads to the ground as they helped themselves to last fall's leftovers. Now alert, their necks erect, they begin to move slowly away.

I certainly would liked to have captured this group against a blue sky....but like the saying goes, you play the hand you're dealt.

This is Raven, a first year black lab and she certainly doesn't seem to mind Claudia and I encroaching on her territory. Though these are her stomping grounds, she could care less about swans.....she just wants to make friends!     Raven is owned by Ed and Luanne Mileham who told us about the swans and gave us access to take photos. Thanks Ed & Luanne!!!   

By the time the mating season kicks into high gear, these swans will be just a memory, nesting somewhere in the Canadian Far North.

March 30, 2013 - 5:20pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, outdoors, Godfrey's Pond.

Today, Arlene Leach checked an item off her bucket list. She took her first fly-fishing class.

"I love nature," the Rochester resident said. "I love water and I love fish and it just brings me closer to a peace I don't have in my professional life."

Leach was among 30 people who turned out at Godfrey's Pond this morning for a free fly-fishing class with instructors Ron Wickings (with Leach, top photo) and Jim Southall (with Leach, second photo).

While Leach had never held a fly rod before, some of the class members have been fly-fishing for years.

"The thing I try to teach is don't ever think you've arrived," said the 54-year-old Wickings, who started fly-fishing the Oatka Creek when he was 12. "Everybody can learn something. That's the fun part of fly-fishing."

The patience and knowledge of her teachers impressed Leach, who picked up the basics of a roll cast quickly.

Asked if she studied fly-fishing at all before coming out today, Leach (who is friends with the Southall family) said she felt intimidated, so she avoided it.

"But I listened and watched and people's love for it was a bit infectious, and people are encouraging me through the learning curve," she said.

Wickings said he was living his dream today -- teaching fly-fishing. He wishes he could find a job where all he did was teach people how to fly-fish.

"I've always enjoyed teaching the most," Wickings said. "I think it's because you get to see someone discover something for the first time and it almost rubs off on you. You can live a little bit vicariously through them."

Jeff Southall, with his sons Harrison and Dominic, hauls in a trout. Southall, son of Tim, learned to fly-fish at Godfrey's 30 years ago.

Jeff Southall

Ed Burton, from Gates, hooks a trout.

Burton with his catch.

Catch and release.

Harrison and Dominic

Below, the slideshow is all the same photos used in the post, but you can view the photos at full screen. Participants can purchase prints by clicking here.

March 28, 2013 - 8:23am

While the month of March has hardly been spring-like, Tuesday's weather brought forth an abundance of woodpeckers, songbirds and bushytails in the small woodlot that borders our property. And with the emergence of foliage yet a long way off, conditions were ideal for taking their picture.

First on the scene was this female cardinal. In the soft light of early morning and still plenty of chill in the air, she forages along the ground and spots remnants of last year's seed. 

As the sun climbed higher more birds arrived, like the downy woodpecker pictured above and in the top photo. The "downies" were difficult to capture with the camera, as they kept rapidly flitting about, from tree to tree and branch to branch.

It was only a matter of time before the red squirrel population was heard from. On this day there were several working the same area. This one stopped briefly on the trunk of an aged cottonwood.

From an adjacent walnut tree, this red-bellied woodpecker seems to be sizing up the main trunk of the cottonwood and, with the red squirrel present, weighing its options.......

and then deciding to go for it.

A lone gray squirrel showed up -- even with the red squirrels in close proximity.

Despite the chill in the air and patches of snow on the ground, between the blue sky and the arrival of some furred and feathered friends, it was a good day.

March 23, 2013 - 3:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in photos, elba, outdoors.

Driving down Norton Road, Elba, today, it was hard not to notice the pond on the eastside just teaming with birds. Ron Graziaplena created the waterfowl sanctuary and maintained it over the years. Graziaplena, a Batavia resident, passed away last year, but his sanctuary is still a popular place for the birds he loved (many, no doubt, decendents of ducks he raised).

March 23, 2013 - 2:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, outdoors, Godfrey's Pond.

Volunteers with Godfrey's Pond stocked the conservation group's spring-fed pond today with 10- to 14-inch rainbow and golden trout.

Fishing season opens Saturday and members and guests will be able to angle for these beauties throughout the summer.

The pond is stocked twice a year -- in the spring and in the fall -- from fish that are hatched and raised at Godfrey's own facility in a DEC-approved program.

Ron Wickings, above, will help conduct a fly-fishing seminar starting at 9 a.m., Saturday, March 30, that is open to the public. The course is free.

Godfrey's Pond will hold open houses on May 19 and June 16.

March 6, 2013 - 7:10am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, turkeys, possum, turkey vulture.

Why did the turkey cross the road? To prove to the possum that it COULD be done.

"No way!!!!" exclaimed the possum.

"Piece of cake" said the turkey...."Watch me".......and off he went.

"Cool beans" said the now believing possum. "Let me give it a try!"......

Meanwhile, a lone turkey vulture patiently watches in anticipation...........

He made it...much to the vulture's disappointment! 

February 20, 2013 - 6:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in holley, hunting, outdoors, Squirrel Slam.

Genesee County has at least one champion squirrel hunter.

Erica Kotarski, 13, in eighth grade at Oakfield-Alabama Central School, won the youth division in the Holly Fire Department Squirrel Slam on Saturday.

To earn the $50 prize and plaque, Erica bagged five squirrels with a total weight of 7 pounds 1.8 ounces.

As near I as I can find, HFD has not announced the other winners, but Erica's parents, Dale and Molly, are proud of their daughter and sent along the phone and information.

Erica has her lifetime hunting license and has taken all required safety courses, Molly said.

February 13, 2013 - 8:00am
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, nature, snowscapes, winter scenery.

Nemo, the winter storm that passed through the area last Friday evening and early Saturday left a number of picturesque scenes in it's wake. Shortly after sunrise Sunday morning, with the thermometer reading 10 degrees, Claudia and I went off in search of snowscapes to share with Batavian readers.

This scene certainly has a wilderness look to it. It's actually found along Main Street, Oakfield, just across the road from Allie's Cones & Dogs. The stream is shallow and has sufficient current to prevent freezing despite the low temps.  

It was a different story on Oak Orchard Creek where the water runs deeper and the current much slower.

Starving for sunlight, the needles of a spindly spruce have been replaced by a coat of white.

In a distant hedgerow, snow and ice have combined to fashion what appears to be "reindeer figurines."

A drake mallard drifts past a trio of black ducks partially obscured by snow-covered branches.

Constant exposure to a west wind may be the reason for this tilted cedar.

Another photo of Oak Orchard Creek, this one farther upstream, somewhat congested by shoreline brush, but rather enchanting nonetheless.

Subscribe to



Copyright © 2008-2019 The Batavian. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service

blue button