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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.

November 6, 2014 - 11:57am
posted by Judy Spring in Event, nature, Craft, activity.
Event Date and Time: 
December 6, 2014 - 10:00am to 12:00pm

Create A Critter

Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014

10am-12pm

Cost: $5/one adult and one child ($3/additional child)

Pre-registration required. Call #585-344-1122 to register.

Join us and use your creativity to make creatures,ornaments, and decorations out of natural materials colleced from nature. Use pinecones, nuts, seeds, wildflowers, and such. Decorate your home 'naturally' this winter. Program held at Genesee County Park & Forest Interpretive Nature Center, 11095 Bethany Center Rd., E. Bethany.

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.  

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 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

August 1, 2014 - 10:15am
posted by Judy Spring in recreation, nature, walk, park.
Event Date and Time: 
September 3, 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.

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 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.

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!

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