Last Day of Autumn

I just felt like a needed a long walk on this, the last day of Autumn 2007.  I put the 500mm lens on the camera – the one Norm Karp loaned me.  I hadn’t gone but a few yards down the trail when a hawk flew by and landed in a tree.  I snapped a few shots… then it took off.  I followed it and snapped a few more.  None of the shots came out particularly well…  but good enough that I think it’s a Cooper’s Hawk.  What do you think?

Hawk2 Hawk1

Winterberry HollyI also took a picture of this Winterberry Holly using the long lens.  I’m afraid I just can’t get very consistent results with it.  I don’t think I’ll be looking for one like this!  I switched back to my kit lens and sometimes added the 10X closeup lens and had a lot more fun.

Forever Bridge


Here is the “Forever Bridge”.  That’s what my daughters dubbed it once when they were very young and I made them cross-country ski across it on a windy, cold day.

And here’s a harvestman that was actually crawling on top of the snow:

Harvestman on Ice

It was a very pretty day for a walk.  Tomorrow is officially winter… and the daylight returns.  Whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year, may yours be joyous and nature-filled!  Blessings to you!

Nature Conspires…

(All of the pictures for this post come from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.  If you click on one of the pictures, you will go to the source.)

I’ve written many times before about what a reluctant birder I am.  In particular, I’ve mentioned that I don’t know my hawks very well.  It seems this past week, nature is conspiring to help me learn a few…  We’ve had several visitors – right in the backyard perfectly visible from our office windows.

Red-shouldered Hawk - CornellPatrick called me to his office, handed me a pair of binoculars and began describing the location of a hawk.  Red-shouldered.  So pretty.  This picture from Cornell really doesn’t do the bird justice – at least not the one I saw!  The breast was so rusty red – the colors actually resembled those of an American Robin.

I don’t keep a life list, but I believe this is the first time I ever saw a red-shouldered hawk.  At least it is the first time I was aware that was what I was seeing!

Yesterday, after taking Dennis Webster on a walk-about (our interview will be on WJTN AM1240 later this month), I was at the back of the building where our bird feeders are.  As I stood close to the big picture window, I was buzzed by a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Sharp-shinned Hawk - CornellNow mind you… I was still outside.  This hawk was literally almost in my face!

Whenever you put out birdfeeders, you feed seed-eating birds, of course… but you also feed birds of prey.  This Sharpie was trying to catch a snack…  He missed this time, but there have been plenty of times when the visiting hawks snag a poor unsuspecting jay or dove.

A similar, but larger hawk visited this week, too…  A Cooper’s Hawk, immature.

Cooper's Hawk Immature - Cornell



This fellow (well… one that looked like this) sat for a good long time in a tree outside our office window.  My co-workers, who are all better birders than I, were patient with me.  They didn’t tell me what I was seeing, but asked leading questions that helped me figure it out on my own using my trusty Sibley’s guide.  (Thanks guys!  This is my favorite way to learn… through coaching!)

Red-tailed Hawk Juvenile - CornellA fourth hawk was added to the list this morning.  When I drove into the driveway, two large birds were just above me.  One headed east and disappeared, but the other circled around the driveway and landed in a tree just above where I would eventually park my car.

Sarah and I had both arrived at about the same time.  We sat in our cars for some time watching this bird.  It is often hard to tell a species when you are looking at a juvenile, but with Red-tailed hawks, the belly-band is a key mark.  The individual we watched didn’t seem concerned with our presence and sat quite comfortably on the branch for a long time.  It even tucked one of its feet up, fluffed up its feathers, and seemed to settle in.  I grew impatient, though, and the slam of my car door sent it flying.

Four hawks in four days…  One more day of work tomorrow… Will I see a fifth hawk?  If so, what will it be, do you suppose?

P.S.  Am I becoming a birder?

Scots Pine

Scotch Pine in Audubon's BackyardThere are (at least) three big Scots Pines on the property at Audubon.  One is in the backyard, one is along Maple West, and the other is near the Arboretum.  Also known as a Scotch Pine, the latin name is Pinus sylvestris.

According to Stan Tekiela in his book Trees of New York, the Scotch Pine is the most widely distributed pine in the world.  To identify, look for twisted, pointed needles that are 1.5 to 3 inches long (4-7.5 cm) in clusters of two.  Also note the bark.  On the lower trunk it will be orange-brown and flaky.  The bark on the upper trunk may be bright orange to red and appears to be peeling off in paper-thin sheets.

Stan also tells us that Scotch Pine was one of the first trees introduced by Europeans to North America.  The most interesting tidbit in his book, though, has to do with the trunk.  He says that in Europe, this tree grows tall and straight, but that here in America it often has a crooked trunk.  He suggests that one reason may be that cones (and therefore seeds) were easier to collect from trees whose crooked branches one could climb.  Hmm… doesn’t that sound evolutionary?  Revolutionary?

PineScotsConeI find pine cones of every variety quite appealing.  I’m the type who has jars of hemlock cones and baskets of red pine cones… just sitting around… because I like them.  Scotch Pine cones stay on the tree for three years.  It takes that long for the cones to ripen.  So on a branch, you might find cones right at the end of the branch that were just fertilized this year.  A little further back are the 2 year old cones, and further still, the 3 year old cones with scales open.  I had to borrow this image of the cone, because I keep forgetting to photograph one.  (Click on the cone to go to the source and a very interesting site about this species that includes a recipe for beer!)

Scotch Pine Closeup

Having some Scotch blood in me, I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland…  Now, I’m especially curious about the Caledonian Pine Forest, 1% of which is old growth.  Perhaps one day I’ll get there…

This species is often grown for use as Christmas trees.  Check yours.  Is it a Scotch Pine?


Want to learn more?  Try these links:

Waiting for the Storm

Leaf Skeleton“They” have been predicting a severe winter storm for days.  It was supposed to have started last night at 10pm.  There was some wet snow overnight… nothing significant.  I was hoping to need snowshoes by now.  I did pull on the serious winter boots, and wind pants…  and I headed out with the dog for College Park.

I decided to try some more with exposure… So I (not so) carefully set my camera to overexpose – to compensate for what the camera will do when it sees white snow.  Except after a whole lot of pictures that came out way to dark I realize I’ve slipped the indicator to the underexposed side of zero, not the over-exposed.

Wild CucumberI changed the setting when I realized I had goofed.  But I knew that half the pictures in my folder for today would be grayer than I wanted…  Oh well… Maybe they’ll make good Photoshop fodder.

The dog led the way through very wet snow.  We crossed the creek and found these…

Zigzag Goldenrod

Oriental BittersweetOn the way back toward the car, I debated whether I should go over by the pond, or just cut through the woods.  Lolli decided for me and headed for the pond.  Because of her insistence, I found this lovely splash of color.

After the walk, we watched a few minutes of the Buffalo/Cleveland football game.  Yikes was the weather bad west of us…  And what’s west of us, we get eventually…

We went to the 4pm Vespers service… By the time it was over… the storm had arrived.  We’re getting it now!