As it turns out, I've not only landed in a place that's beautiful and amazing and full of cool wildlife, but I'm also lucky enough to have met people here who love nature and are willing to go on adventures with me!
During Labor Day weekend, I got to visit Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge -- a swampy area at the north end of Cayuga Lake that's especially important for migratory birds -- with one of my new colleagues and his wife who happen to be very experienced local birders. Montezuma was wonderful, with plentiful habitat for shorebirds and other water-loving creatures, and with my companions' help I was able to pick out new-to-me birds like Pectoral Sandpipers and Stilt Sandpipers from among the flocks of other similar-looking species milling around the fields and ponds. (The real test will be whether I can identify those birds again on my own later! We'll see!)
A Ruddy Turnstone was drawing a small crowd of admirers as it foraged near the road (apparently these birds are relatively infrequent passers-by in this area):
A Greater Yellowlegs was foraging nearby, looking positively lanky next to the primarily smaller shorebirds in the area:
We saw quite a few juvenile Common Gallinules on the water:
And I couldn't resist this image of a preening Great Egret with a Double-crested Cormorant drying its wings in the background:
A pair of Sandhill Cranes apparently nests every summer at Montezuma, and I so wanted to see these birds (if they hadn't yet left for the year). I have practically no experience with cranes, which makes them almost mythical creatures as far as I'm concerned. Well, we were driving by some fields near the refuge, and then there were four tall gray/brown figures moving through the grass, like deer but not:
The parents are the gray birds with red masks, and the juveniles are the browner ones with plain faces. And now I know that baby cranes are called "colts," and it is the most wonderful thing:
The Sandhill Cranes were a highlight, but the whole trip to Montezuma NWR was awesome. It's a bit of a drive to get to this place from Ithaca, but I'm sure I'll be back to experience Montezuma in its various seasons!
Then last Sunday, I went on a walk with a small group of colleagues at the Lindsay-Parsons Biodiversity Preserve, a Finger Lakes Land Trust preserve just south of Ithaca. We were absolutely the only people in this place the whole time we were there. We walked in woods, around ponds, and through the most perfect, rolling, goldenrod-filled fields, and it was wonderful:
Beavers had flooded an area of these woods in recent years, leaving a big swampy stand of dead trees:
We saw a bunch of Wood Ducks swimming among the skeletal trunks and brush, but they stayed well away from my camera's reach.
I have missed Red Efts a whole lot in my year away from the east, and I was so happy to find them here in these rain-dampened woods. We counted 11 of these wonderful creatures just along the path; how many more were out wandering through other areas of the forest?
A fancy Scalloped Sallow moth (Eucirroedia pampina) sat in what looked like a headstand on a milkweed leaf:
I started feeling a hint of Fall during that walk (!), and I'm happily anticipating the cool, crisp weather and wonderful Fall sights to come. I'll close with my phone's view of the goldenrod fields at Lindsay-Parsons, all blue sky and yellow flowers and a ribbon of green (soon to be orange/red/yellow!) trees: