Monday, May 29, 2017

The Tiniest Eft

Goodness, it's just Red Efts all over the place around here. And I'm not complaining! When I went for a walk at Hammond Hill State Forest yesterday, I crossed paths with six of these juvenile newts, and among them was the tiniest eft I've ever seen (pictured here with a dime for scale):

I didn't know they came so small! Look at this wonderful animal:

I moved the tiny eft off the path to make way for incoming mountain bikes, and the leaf I used as a mini-eft-elevator then made a great stage for one last adorable portrait:

Here's a bigger and bulkier eft I met during the same walk; all efts are beautiful, and it's so cool to get to compare individuals of such different sizes:

It was also great to see Red Columbine blooming next to the path (although I only found the one plant):

A small patch of Indian Cucumber Root (Medeola virginiana) made a cool sight with those tiers of whorled leaves:

The small flowers dangling from the top tiers of these plants are lovely, and quite strangely shaped:

I'm so happy to live in a place where Chestnut-sided Warblers are fairly common; they're my favorite warbler species, mostly because of the male's eccentric costume. This male Chestnut-sided Warbler gave me a nice view of his bright yellow cap (one of his best and strangest features):

I also got to admire this female Chestnut-sided Warbler's more muted yellow hat, along with her beautiful striped back:

We really do have lots of cool animals and plants around here!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Efts on a Dewy Morning

This past Tuesday morning, I was back at the Roy H. Park Preserve to walk through dew-covered meadows and woods. It must have been a good day for a walk, because I crossed paths with three Red Efts who were also out and strolling across the damp ground. Efts are the land-walking juvenile phase of the Red-spotted Newt, and they're wonderful:

Hello darling eft, I love your newty face:

And your delicate feet:

This eft was framed by symmetrical cinquefoil leaves:

Happy wandering, little efts!

Some brightly colored creatures were moving around in the trees as well. A pair of Common Yellowthroats stuck close together as they foraged:

A male Chestnut-sided Warbler was singing near the entrance to the preserve when I arrived, and he was still singing when I left a couple of hours later:

It was a lovely damp-morning walk indeed. Yay spring!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mid-May Birds, Bugs, and Flowers

Happy May! I've been doing a lot of wandering outside recently, and there's been so much to see. It certainly is a lively time of year! Here are some assorted sights from the past couple of weeks.

On May 10, during a visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Sapsucker Woods, I was happy to see a Brown Creeper alternately foraging along tree trunks and singing his sweet song:

And an Ovenbird was singing (loudly!) from his perch close to the path:

The following day (May 11), I spent some time exploring the paths along fields near our house. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to wander, because it's so close and it seems to always have interesting creatures around. (Bobolinks! Orioles! Warblers singing in the woods!) Plus, the scenery is amazing; I love all the spring colors on the surrounding hillsides:

This male Baltimore Oriole spent several minutes busily feeding among apple blossoms:

I'm still super impressed by the deep orange breast on this fellow:

And the view from underneath was brilliant indeed!

I also love the orange-glowing-through-black effect on the back of this guy's neck when he stretched:

Several Cabbage White butterflies were flying after each other in a nearby field, making a weird swirling swarm that looked more like the result of a computer algorithm than anything I'm used to seeing in nature:

A brilliant Six-spotted Tiger Beetle was hanging out on a bare patch in the path:

When I looked at this beetle from the front, I thought at first that it was munching on something; but no, the bulging white and brown things on the front if its face are just its huge mandibles. I definitely wouldn't want to be a smaller bug with this fast and powerful hunter around:

A few days later (May 14), I was in Maryland visiting my family for a few days, and the wonderfully colorful wildlife sightings continued with a male Scarlet Tanager (a female was nearby as well, but she was even less willing to pose for pictures than the male was):

Back home in Central New York, I went for a walk at the Roy H. Park Preserve late yesterday afternoon, where the fields are filling out with new-spring-green leaves:

And the dark coniferous woods are now speckled with pale green as well:

I wandered down into a small gorge to find the loveliest little stream:

All sorts of wildflowers were blooming in these woods, including dainty Starflower (Lysimachia borealis):

Tufts of floating Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia):

And several Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum), which I don't think I've ever seen in person before; this flower was such a wonderful surprise:

Lady slipper leaves were sprouting up nearby. I didn't see any flower buds, but I'll be sure to come back and visit these plants in a few weeks in case any blossoms do make an appearance:

It's been quite an eventful spring so far. And it's not over yet!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Cold and Rainy, But Lots of Birds!

This past Saturday was chilly and gray and rainy, and I did a dance with the weather for much of the day -- I kept trying to go outside, and then the rain would push me back inside. But I saw so many creatures in the time I was outside. Lots of birds that I hadn't seen yet this year are now back in the area, and they were out despite the wet weather, so I needed to be out there, too!

On Saturday morning, I drove out to a nearby park, and on my way home (after the rain sent me back to my car), I stopped to admire a bunch of swallows gathering on a fence next to the road. Tree Swallows are always beautiful, even in the rain:

I'm not used to seeing Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows hanging out in the same spot like this:

The birds seemed to be taking the rain as a bathing opportunity. Shake off those raindrops, little bird:

When I got home, the rain let up again for a bit, so I wandered outside near our house, where fields of bright yellow flowers make for quite a dramatic landscape, especially below heavy clouds and mist:

I'm guessing these yellow flowers are some sort of mustard, and the Red-winged Blackbirds at least seem to be making good use of them. I saw several male Red-winged Blackbirds displaying in parts of the field, and this female was picking up what looks like nesting material from among the yellow flowers:

So many birds in the area were taking advantage of the halt in the rain to move around. Every few minutes, I'd look up and see a different bird passing by overhead -- a heron, various hawks, vultures, ducks.... An Osprey circled over our neighborhood a couple of times, perhaps eyeing the ponds:

Even a Common Loon flew by at one point, heading toward the nearest Finger Lake, I'm guessing. I'm amazed that this creature could fly with all those damaged feathers on its left wing (and now I know that loons trail their big feet behind them when they fly, how cool):

Lots of birds were moving around in the trees next to the fields, including my first Baltimore Orioles of the year. This handsome male oriole had an especially brilliant breast that was almost red in places. What a sight on a gray day!

I was very excited to see a male Bobolink, too, who was singing his weird robot-song and snacking on flower petals. I've only seen Bobolinks twice before, and that was a few years ago, all the way back at the Connecticut shore. It's so cool to have these funny meadow-dwelling birds nearby:

A few White-crowned Sparrows have been hanging around our yard for the past week or so, and one fellow in particular frequently takes up a post in the blossoming apple tree outside our window to sing. White-crowned Sparrows only pass through this area during migration, and I'm glad to have these pretty birds as neighbors at least for a little while. Here's a picture of our apple-tree-songster from inside the house on this rainy day:

At this point in my life, the place where I've heard White-crowned Sparrows singing the most was at the coastal dunes in Humboldt County, CA (since these birds breed there). It's been very strange to hear those dune sounds again here in rainy, lush, springtime Central New York! Best wishes on the rest of your journey, little sparrow, when you do decide to move on; and thanks for stopping here for a few days:

A Green Frog was also out and about on this rainy Saturday, settled nicely in a puddle next to a field:

Hooray for spring, when even rainy days are exciting and full of things to see!