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Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 9:23 am

Pics from the archives: fins, fur & scales from back in the day:

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!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 8:30 am

Thoughts and observations on the sleek & sinister-looking grackle

post by JIM NIGRO in grackles, nature, outdoors

There was quite a gathering of grackles around our place recently. Common grackles they were, and over a three day period they alternated between hanging out in the trees, patrolling the lawn and laying seige to the bird feeder.

At first glance, especially from a distance, the grackle appears all black. But depending on the light, they can exhibit a lustrous sheen, displaying iridescent shades of green, blue, purple and bronze.

Despite the brilliant coloration, grackles possess another look, one sinister and menacing in appearance. Looking at this pic I'm reminded of three wildlife dramas involving grackles from years past. My reaction after each varied. The first was not exactly endearing; the second can be described as "WOW!" After the third event my reaction was, surprisingly, a certain degree of admiration.

The first one occurred one summer not so many years ago.

On that day I was thatching the yard with a leaf rake when I noticed a blackbird on the ground, interested in what I first thought to be a small piece of plastic, much like a wadded up bread wrapper, being slowly pushed along by a slight breeze. The blackbird followed after it, striking it repeatedy with its bill. It took a second for my brain to register what I was seeing.

The blackbird was a grackle, and the "piece of plastic" was a fledgling robin that must have either fallen or was robbed from its nest and was doing its best to escape its tormentor.

About that time I let fly with the rake and naturally the grackle took flight. Scooping up the baby robin, I could see it was still alive, but barely. I tucked it in the shade beneath some vines in hopes that its mom was nearby.

Ever vigilant, even during the late March snowstorm.   

A second incident occured when former Batavians Tim Martino, Keith Emminger and I were mowing lawns on Woodcrest Drive. We had just pulled the equipment trailer up to the curb when a small raptor  --  I'm thinking Cooper's hawk  --  slammed into a grackle in midair.  This happened right in front of our pickup truck. The hawk proceded to land atop its fallen prey where it lay in the street. Whether it intended to make a meal of the grackle I can't say as the hawk immediately flew off, perhaps suddenly aware of our presence. 

The third incident caused me to look at grackles in a different light.

It was a spring day when I heard some rustling coming from within a small stand of dry, brittle phragmites. Judging from the sound, it wasn't a large animal but there was definitely something going on. Try as I might, I was only able to see small, dark flashes of movement. Moments later a grackle took flight, a snake dangling from its bill. The snake was limp, and I'm guessing the commotion in the dry reeds was the grackle dispatching its quarry.

Friday, April 4, 2014 at 8:11 am

An array of winged visitors - some colorful, some tuneful, some silly and a bully or two

post by JIM NIGRO in outdoors

Despite the up and down weather this year, the bird life has been nothing short of prolific. April has taken up where February and March left off, by offering up a variety of species. Cardinals have been front and center on the color spectrum around here, and will likely remain so until the orioles show up to scour the apple blossoms for insects.

The absence of foliage makes it an opportune time for pics or simply viewing a wide range of species and a flash of red is sure to catch the eye. His tune is easily recognizable, and it seems like he sings best under a blue sky.

Though strikingly handsome, the bluejay is more noisemaker than songster -- they make many sounds, and in the wild are quick to sound the alarm when intruders are about, be it man or beast.

While not as colorful, the white-breasted nuthatch is quite entertaining and almost comical with its trademark upside down movement.

It can be hard to distinguish between the purple finch and the house finch -- with so much red I'm thinking purple.....is that an oxymoron?!

A classic case of frost beak -- the avian equivalent of frostbite......honest :)

Many of the species share at the feeder, or, at the very least take turns, flitting back and forth between the feeder and the trees......that isn't the case with the bluejays......

The bluejays tend to be a bit of a bully at the bird feeder..... but whereas the smaller birds simply wait nearby while the bluejay gorges itself.........

When the grackles show up the songbirds tend to give them a wide berth, usually vacating the premises altogether. We had a large flock of grackles descend on us last week, and it reminded me of a couple tidbits I want to share with you in my next post.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at 7:25 am

Is the icy grip of early spring beginning to yield? The critters seem to think so!

No sooner had the robins arrived when they discovered it might take a while before any worms were available. With their favorite staple somewhere far below earth's frozen layer, the robins had to make do elsewhere, like chilly sumac drupes.

Likewise, these starlings sampled the sumac.....this was not only the first time I had seen starlings eating sumac, it was the first time I remember starlings eating without making a noisy racket. Several dozen descended on the sumac trees and they hardly made a sound.

As the snow recedes, the whitetails aren't having to work so hard to find a meal.

For now yarding up is still commonplace -- warmer weather and greater food availability will result in herd dispersal.

From a distance I first thought this hawk to be a redtail.....the more I look I'm thinking its a rough-legged hawk.

Here it.s about to take flight.

Mourning doves have been showing up in vast numbers. This pair has been enjoying the spillage from our bird feeder.

With the snow all but gone, the red squirrels can get down to some serious foraging........

Score!!!!..................kinda looks like a meatball cookie with no icing!

Monday, March 17, 2014 at 5:30 pm

A gathering of late winter woodpeckers

The past couple of weeks we've seen an incredible amount of avian activity taking place, species ranging from songbirds to raptors. Among the wide variety were a number of woodpeckers, like the red-bellied woodpecker pictured above. He had been hard at work before sensing my presence and then abruptly snapped to attention.  

After several minutes he decided it was safe to get back to the business at hand.

Pileated wood peckers have been frequent visitors throughout the winter. This is the first frontal pic I've taken - quite by accident as it turned in my direction just as I took his picture.  

Moments later he provided the angle I wanted. Here he's perched on a dead limb of a towering cottonwood.    

Downy woodpeckers have been showing up daily to feast on suet.

It almost seems as if he stopped to check out the falling snow.

Another red-bellied woodpecker investigates the spillage below the bird feeder.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 at 9:39 am

Winter 2014 was a beauty at Genesee County Park & Forest

Depending on who you ask, the winter has been judged somewhat lengthy and at times harsh. While Old Man Winter threw us a curve ball or two, the aftermath was sometimes asthetically pleasing to the eye. And nowhere was this more evident than at the Genesee County Park & Forest.

A trail into the hardwoods. Claudia and I logged several hours at the park this winter, trying to cover every bit of the more than 12 miles of trail.

The hike was always exhilarating, even if the air was frigid at times. Even on the coldest of days, we ran into hikers, cross country skiers, snowshoers, and even two or three hearty souls who were jogging.

Of course we met a good number of people out exercising their dogs, like Batavians Dan and Debbie Barone pictured above.

A cross country skier glides along one of the well-maintained trails.  

Gotta love the Boy Scouts. The park is in great shape thanks to many volunteers.

Snow-covered spruce trees as seen from the Turtle Pond trail.

Surrounded by needled giants, this tiny spruce sees limited sunlight.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:14 am

Furred and feathered visitors come calling in search of a meal

We had a couple of unexpected visitors to our place last weekend. Being February and given the sort of winter we've had, it was more than a bit of a surprise to see a pair of bluebirds come calling last Saturday morning.            

A male and female alit in the apple tree and I never thought they'd sit tight with the powerful wind gusts whipping the branches about. But sit they did and I was able to get several shots of the male while the female was obscured by branches.

A female cardinal seems to be shrieking with delight, perhaps celebrating the sunshine and blue sky

This cardinal seems content to sample a snow-capped frozen apple.

A chickadee sticks close to brushy cover.......

while another helps itself to sunflower seed and millet.

Pileated woodpeckers have shown up quite regularly this winter......we often hear their raucous call long before they come into view.

How did this gray squirrel get a snow hat?

He and some friends were digging for the walnuts I had tossed into the briars last autumn. I knew the squirrels would find them, but I never thought they would wait till there were several inches of snow on the ground before doing so.

This guy, meanwhile, appears to be rubbing his paws in anticipation while eyeballing the bird feeder. 

Prior to last weekend, the last bluebird I saw was just before Thanksgiving. Winter set in on us right after that. I've never seen one this early in the year. I've heard or read somewhere that bluebirds sometimes winter here, it all depends on the weather and availability of food. Regardless, I know we've got some single-digit lows coming later this week, but I've always felt Mother Nature was pretty good at predicting the weather.....here's hoping!

Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Earth Day Celebration

post by Judy Spring in clean up, Earth Day, family, outdoors

Saturday, April 26; 10am-2pm; Cost: Free; Show that you care about the earth. Help spruce up DeWitt Recreation Area, plant trees, take a bird walk, make a birdfeeder. Lots to do to get ready for spring time. Bring your lunch and have a picnic. Held at DeWitt Recreation Area, 115 Cedar St., Batavia 14020. For more information, call #585-344-1122.

Event Date and Time

April 26, 2014 - 10:00am - 2:00pm
Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 6:15 pm

After a brief respite, wildlife on the move once again

This cardinal is no doubt making up for lost time by gorging on what's left of last autumn's wild grapes. Having hunkered down for a few days during last week's blizzard, the usual cast of characters is back in action in and around our neighboring woodlots.

With a poplar directly behind it, a pileated woodpecker knows decaying wood is a better place to find insects, so it pounds away on a dead sumac. There were two pileateds in close proximity on this day, but getting them into the same frame proved futile.

This pileated seems to have found the upper reaches of a dead poplar to its liking.

As the storm descended on us late last Monday afternoon, the last flurry of movement I saw was that of a red squirrel scurrying into our barn. This guy is tightly clutching a dead nub as if expecting the high winds to return at any moment.....

In the next instant it turns and sticks tail high in the air...a bit sassy maybe or perhaps it's suddenly sensing an intruder. If on alert mode, it's with good reason....

Like everything else, this redtail didn't eat for a few days during the storm...    

Hawks have been showing up with greater regularity, what with cottontails, squirrels and, in the warmer months, chipmunks, to prey on.   

Here's the cardinal again...in this photo note the bit of grape stain on his beak.

A gray squirrel gives the once over to a tiny abode that has housed baby wrens for the past few summers.

Sometime before last week's blizzard and after December's flood, we had some freezing rain.....this house finch doesn't seem deterred by the results.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Pondering Christmas, nature and vintage Christmas cards

When pine trees bend with heavy snow...and trails are hard to find...the warm glow from the fireplace...brings memories to mind.                                           

I first came across this piece of verse more than forty years ago in a Leanin' Tree Christmas card. Those vintage Leanin' Tree cards beckoned to kindred spirits, especially those whose favorite haunts tended to be somewhere off the beaten path.

Some of those old cards depicted homesteads of yesteryear where kinfolk gathered to celebrate Christ's humble birth and enjoy one another's company. The artists renditions also included a variety of settings, be it a pastoral landscape or wildlife, including but not limited to, songbirds, deer, and waterfowl. There were also those which featured man's best friend, be it hunkered down in a duck blind or flushing pheasants from a swale.

Those cards captured many wilderness moments, compelling its reader to take time to see the wonder of nature and the signature handiwork of an awesome Creator.   

It can be seen in graceful symmetry...

or in beauty sublime.

It can be seen in the love of friend for friend...

Its displayed in vivid, resplendant hues...

and in the amber halo in the eyes of a faithful companion.

The outdoors and the inhabitants of the wild beckoned to the hearts of the writers and wildlife artists who created those Christmas cards of yesteryear. Perhaps they found truth in nature, a natural world in tune with its Maker, a loving God who two thousand years ago sent us a Savior.

To Howard and Billie, the staff of The Batavian and all of its readers, may the joy and wonder of Christmas be yours this holiday season!

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