Monday, October 27, 2014

October Visions of Nature

This morning sailors might be advised to take warning
The incredible American Beech
More Beech leaves
This Yellow Birch bark looks like it's made from gold leaf
The Birch grew over a stump which has now mostly disintegrated
More Yellow Birch root gymnastics 
Tulip Tree leaf with its complicated vein tributary system revealed
The ground of a reforestation field is littered with a diverse selection of leaves
Cattails create interesting natural soft sculptures 
The intricate paper nest of the Bald-faced Horned - vacant now
Morning light filtering through a young Sugar Maple forest
Some Porcupine quills stuck into an old grape vine
This Silverberry bush produced an incredible amount of berries
The grasses start to turn in the meadow
More early morning sky patterns
Moss from Shawangunk Nature Preserve in Cold Brook
Wintergreen lurks in a bed of moss at Shawangunk
Marsh St Johnswort produces its fruit 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mid-October Observations in Nature

Dreamy Wood-nymph Moth Caterpillar feeds on Hairy Willowherb
There are still a lot of things happening in our woods and other habitats in October. I've been finding quite a few caterpillars. Probably one of my favorites is the Dreamy Wood-nymph Moth caterpillar. Its black and orange striped pattern is bold and so they are pretty easy to pick out as they feed on Willowherb plants near the stream sides. Interestingly, the moth that they become is not nearly so easy to find. They are camouflaged to look like bird-droppings (they are bird-droppings mimics). This is the species' ingenious way of not being eaten by birds.

Quaking Aspen leaves
Right now much of the color in the woods is provided by American Beech Trees
A carpet of freshly fallen leaves around the base of a Sugar Maple Tree
A very bleached out Narrow-leaf Spleenwort fern
A White-tailed Deer spent the night here
One of several Winter Wrens skulking about in the gorge
They always stay close to the ground and are rarely found far from water
Palm Warblers are one of the last of their clan to migrate through the region
Black-throated Green Warbler - most have already come through
Kinglet migration is in full swing right now - This is a Ruby-crowned Kinglet playing hide-and-seek in a buckthorn tree
You can just make out the ruby crown on the top of this kinglet's head
Nashville Warbler - It had just been feeding on the aphids that cover this goldenrod stem
White-throated Sparrow migration is also in high gear - dozens and dozens of them can be seen with little effort
This female Rufous-sided Towhee will probably be departing for the south soon
Our most numerous migrant warbler is the Yellow-rumped Warbler - AKA the Myrtle Warbler
There are still a few Lincoln's Sparrows to be found around the forest edges and in brushy meadows
Long after blooming, now gone to seed, Pearly Everlasting still  remains a focal-point in the meadow
The leaves and stems of Tall Coreopsis turn a light red-ish color

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Northern Harrier and a Crow Spar over the Beaver Pond

A female Northern Harrier coming in low near the beaver pond
There has been some interesting activity around the beaver ponds lately and this time it doesn't involve the beavers. The action was provoked by the presence of a female Northern Harrier. The Harrier is just one of several species of raptor that have been stopping by the nature preserve as they migrate south. This particular bird was hunting at one of the beaver dams. Hunting there can be pretty lucrative since small rodents live in and travel through the many nooks and crannies in the dam's structure. This Harrier is not the first raptor to notice the dam's potential. This time, however, it looked like a family of resident crows didn't appreciate the Harrier's interest, but their interaction with her hardly seemed very serious. It was more like the kind of sparring seen between sibling hawks. In other words, it was more like play.
The Harrier makes a commotion over the beaver dam
The harrier's attention is fixed on detecting the slightest movement on the ground
Hearing is enhanced by a facial disk - outlined by a light ring of feathers around the face
Coming back in to the beaver dam
Stirring up some mayhem with one of the crows
That got her attention
The Harrier is a bit larger than the crow, but is able to match some of its maneuverability
The course of the pursuit changes direction frequently
The Harrier is deliberately laying back - obviously the intent is not to catch or even to strike the crow
These 2 birds are just in it for the fun
The crow pulls in its wings and goes into a dive - the Harrier puts on the air brakes
The crow plummets, but the Harrier stays on target
Closing the gab quickly this time
The crow inverts and begins to peruse the Harrier
This time the Harrier begins to go into a dive 
Not to be outdone by the crow, the Harrier executes a complete inversion 
The crow is back in pursuit - the Harrier lays back and allows her to catch up
The crow does a dive complete with a back flip
The Harrier returns to hunting 
The white patch at the base of the Harrier's tail is an excellent field mark
Taking a needed rest after a long play session