Discovering Nature

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Mrs. Junco

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The light was poor, but I couldn’t help trying to get a photo of this junco nesting in the artificial wreath at church. She must handle stress well, as her home is right at the main entrance…

and she is perpetually watched by a fake bird almost exactly her size.

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Salamander Season

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We discovered yesterday that we’d completely missed a chapter of spring. It seems early, but there were lots of signs of the season advancing, including salamanders cruising about among the dead leaves in one of our favorite pools.

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Eggs had already hatched into plump tadpoles.

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Some frogs were floating about. This one’s trying to remain incognito, and she almost succeeded in getting stepped on.

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There were various signatures of creatures who were out and about and carving their names on trees.

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The wind had left its mark too. This tree had been split in two and turned into a drinking trough.

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And this was one of many that had been plucked up by the roots.

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We saw some kinglets, and a few geese squabbling endlessly over their own patch of pond. We also saw a new beaver lodge, and lots of signs of the beaver’s activity on trees along the bank:

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It was sunny and mild, and the green was just starting to show in the landscape.

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On the whole it was a thoroughly enjoyable walk! Even though our winter has been unusually mild, the sight of new growth always marks a welcome change.

Coltsfoot

A friend tells me this flower is called coltsfoot. It’s one of the earliest spots of color to be seen in the mud along the roadsides.

Ghost Story

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We’ve been keeping an eye out for the leucistic redtail in our neck of the woods. Our sightings are fleeting, but we’ve accumulated enough of them to construct a narrative at this point.

Usually the hawk is far away, and she has a knack for choosing unphotographable areas. We call her Marley, after the ghost in A Christmas Carol, because of her whiteness. We think of her as female because she is larger than the more typically colored redtail we see her with.

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See what I mean about unphotographable areas? Cropped in, though, you can see that this is a pair of hawks.

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Lately, we’ve been seeing Marley near, and sometimes perched on, a nest.

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So it looks like her story goes something like this so far: Marley has paired up with a male, and she is getting ready for nesting season. We’re not positive yet that she’s actively using it, but if so this is by far the most unusual nest we know of. We look forward to observing whatever we’re able to see over the next few months without scaring her away from her maternal duties.

Watkins Glen

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Though it was absolutely mobbed with people, its spectacular falls, heights, depths, darknesses, brightnesses, grays and colors were on display. It was great that so many people were out appreciating the wonders of a state park on a holiday weekend. I heard wonder expressed in many languages, by people of all ages. It was well worth the trip on a prime fall weekend.IMG_1411 IMG_1412ed IMG_1415

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Roadside Splendor

We are at, or just past, the peak for fall color here. I’ve been struck lately, driving from here to there, how amazing this country is. One doesn’t have to pay to see its beauty, or travel far, or even get out of the car to see it.

We are blessed.

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Chipmunks or deer?

“What would you say?” I asked my daughter on our way out of the woods. “Was this walk mostly about chipmunks or deer?”

“Chipmunks, probably,” she answered.

But three deer, resting and grazing, were the first things we saw — after the monarch mudskipping in the parking lot. Later, we heard the snorty scream of a deer warning call, followed by some banging sounds, and then a young buck running through the woods across the creek from us. Could he have been clashing antlers with another deer? Or did he get stuck in a tight spot somewhere? Strange. We back tracked to see if we could get another look at him, and though we did see him we didn’t get any pics. Still another young deer bid us goodbye as we left the woods, too. They were surely out and about.

The chipmunks were definitely impossible to ignore, however! They scampered everywhere and chirped till the woods rang with it, warning everyone that we were intruding. The little guy pictured in the log was close enough to his safety zone to indulge his curiosity about us somewhat before disappearing inside.

The other story, for me, was the busyness and color of the woods. It shows up especially in the stream/bridge pictures. It’s difficult to find a single area of the scene that isn’t already brimfull of other outlines. It reminds me of those art class exercises where you are instructed to fill every space with a different pattern.

Not a ton of color this fall — mostly yellows and rust colors. It’s been dry. But it’s enough to tint the sunlight, giving it a beautiful burnished glow before it hits the ground.

Polyphemus Moth

Polyphemus 1This is actually a picture from back in June that I didn’t get around to posting then. I saw it as I pulled into a grocery store parking lot one morning, sunning itself on the pavement in the exact center of the entry ramp. I stopped the car and got out. With encouragement from a man in a pickup truck who stopped to see what I was looking at, I let it walk onto my finger.

We kept it in an aquarium for a day as it slept. Polyphemus moths live only a few days and don’t eat — don’t even have mouths! But when evening came it was ready to FLY. Hopefully it lived the rest of its short life to the fullest.

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Virescent Green Bee

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This brilliant green fellow landed just as I was photographing this aster.  I learned his name here. He’s just another example of how you can live in the same place for years and years before noticing something common and very beautiful. He adds a new dimension to the already rich fall colors.

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