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Friday, November 14, 2014 at 9:45 am

Watching the waterfowl

post by JIM NIGRO in nature, outdoors

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.

Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Early November pics from Genesee County Park

post by JIM NIGRO in Genesee County Park, nature, outdoors

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.

Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 8:00 am

Musings on autumns past, present and an unsettled future

It was an October day when I walked out the front door of my grandmother's home and saw two family friends. They were sitting on the tailgate of a station wagon parked beneath an old maple. They were holding a day's limit of ringneck pheasants and the setting was enhanced by the maple's red-orange foliage.

That took place on Batavia's southside nearly sixty years ago and that was likely the moment I knew I wanted to hunt when I was older.

I'm guessing it was also around the time I began to take note of the various breeds of hunting hounds in our neck of the woods. There were sporting dogs all over the place in those years. I saw Nin Trinchera's beagles every day on my way to St. Anthony's School. And all the regulars at Kibbe Park knew "Colonel," an English setter belonging to the Ficarella family. It was a time when upland game was plentiful and hunting was as American as baseball and apple pie, and setters, spaniels and pointers seemed to be as common as the once-abundant chestnut trees.

Let me fast forward to another day in October. It's a Saturday morning in 1989. A small group of duck hunters and a pair of black labs are hunkered down among the cattails in Oxbow marsh. Decoys have been set out and the hunters make small talk waiting for the break of dawn. Someone mentioned the ongoing murmurings and rumblings being made in reference to gun owners. "Someday they're gonna take our guns," he said, referring to the powers that be. I don't know if he really believed it then. I don't know if any of us did. After all, could it have been anything more than just another bombastic threat?

Today the threat is real and very close at hand.

For decades I was a waterfowler and an avid bowhunter and in the '60s and early '70s I did a bit of ringneck hunting. In recent years I 've spent far more time in the outdoors with a camera. Still, I have pleasant memories of days spent in the marsh and in tree stands or scouring grain fields and swale hoping for pheasants to explode from cover. And I am thankful to those who took me under their wing in my earliest days afield.

And those are just a couple of reasons why I'm voting early Tuesday morning in hopes of preserving a small slice of Americana.

Friday, October 31, 2014 at 8:55 am

Batavian has close encounter with large sow black bear and her cubs

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 7:30 am

Autumn pastoral: photos of the October countryside

post by JIM NIGRO in autumn streams, fall foliage, nature, outdoors

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!!!

Friday, October 17, 2014 at 5:33 am

Veteran Batavia police officer scores well at Fall Festival Highland Games

It was just after 9 a.m. and Claudia and I were working our way between an already growing crowd of vendors and onlookers when we spotted Batavia Police officer Frank Klimjack. He was standing in a roped off area at the base of Bristol Mountain with several men in kilts -- some bearded, some bald and all of them about the size of NFL linemen. 

They are known as the Buffalo Heavies, so-called not so much for their size but rather for the physical contests they engage in. Officially they are the Buffalo Heavies Kilted Throwers Club. traditional Celtic athletes from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada. Their forte is throwing and heaving weighted objects around: they throw for height, distance and, in the case of the caber (pictured above), it's not so much the distance but accuracy -- pitching the caber forward as straight as possible.  

Frank Klimjack preparing to toss the sheaf, a straw-filled burlap bag weighing 16-18 lbs.

On this day Frank and his fellow Heavies were competing in the Bristol Mountain Fall Festival and Highland Games. The Highland Games are a series of athletic contests that originated in Scotland in the 11th Century. The events are the hammer throw, sheaf toss, caber toss, weight for distance, weight for height and weight over the bar, Braemer stone and open stone. The difference between the latter two is technique and stone weight.   

In one swift motion the sheaf is pitched upward....

and over the bar. After each round the bar is raised higher. It's kind of a last man standing deal.

Frank's interest in the Highland Games began a few years ago. "I was at Olcott Beach watching members of the Niagara Athletic Club competing when their athletic director said to me, 'you look big enough -- why don't you come out and give it a try?' A couple of weeks later at another competition they lent me a kilt and I was on my way." He fared pretty well on that first outing. "About middle of the pack," he said, "at least I wasn't at the bottom."

Frank Klimjack has moved up quite nicely since that initial outing. On this day he took second place overall. Competing in only his third full season, he is currently ranked #5 in North America in the Highland Games 45 to 49 age group.

A former paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, he did a stint with the New York State Park Police before finding his niche with the Batavia PD, where he has served for the last 15 years.

Kellie Klimjack, left, watching her husband's efforts.

Nick Kahanic, Klimjack's friend and fellow "Heavy," is a world-record holder in the Braemar stone and Open stone.

Here's Nick competing in the Weight for Distance. He sent the 56-pound weight 87 feet on this try.

Bagpipers and drummers paying tribute to disabled vets. Whenever the Buffalo Heavies compete, all proceeds raised go to OASIS (Outdoor Adventures for Sacrifice in Service) a volunteer organiziation that provides sporting experiences to disabled veterans and their families free of charge. OASIS currently offers skiing, fishing, sailing, archery, ice skating, horsemanship, golf and rowing. This day's competition raised $4,500 -- awfully good considering admission was free.

This is Lou Iannone and I would venture to guess he's the sparkplug of the Buffalo Heavies. This was our first exposure to the Highland Games and we found the camaraderie between competitors evident and the athletes engaging the crowd with friendly banter as well as answering any questions onlookers may have had.

The atmosphere was festive, the scenery fantastic and with the chair lift taking an endless number of visitors leaf-peeping to the top of the mountain, the crowd was estimated at over 7,000.

The athletes were impressive, entertaining and outgoing. It was for sure a fun outing and Claudia and I look forward to attending the Highland Games again.

Monday, October 13, 2014 at 9:01 am

Mid-October seasonal photos

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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 9:55 am

Reader photo: Garden spider

post by Howard B. Owens in outdoors, photos

Inspired by Jim Nigro's post, Jody Robbins submitted this photo of a spider from her garden.

Monday, October 6, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Meet argiope aurantia, maker of meadow web gems

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!

Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 10:12 am

Friends with Benefits: deer & wild turkeys hanging together

post by JIM NIGRO in nature, outdoors, 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.

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