It didn’t look like there was going to be much fall color this year and then, bang! It started the weekend of Oct. 19 and was just gorgeous all of the following week. The color hung on until this past weekend, which was surprising considering the heavy winds we experienced around Halloween.
Of course there was some really stand-out foliage, but until recently you had to look for it. Being a nature photographer, I was running around to catch those “special” trees but as the week went on there were more and more showing up. Oaks have held on well and, of course, some of the maples have really added that “touch” to autumn. At the height of the annual show I spent quite a bit of time photographing those brilliant colors, as I never tire of Mother Nature’s “painting.” Alas, some more heavy winds and rain finally brought down a lot of leaves and reduced the remaining colors.
I have heard a lot of folks say that a lot of leaves fell early this year, but that is not the case. What these folks were seeing was our native ash dying off in mass as a result of the invasion of the Emerald Ash Borer in our area. This is a non-native insect that bores into the ash trees and eventually kills them by cutting off the nutrients and water going up the trees. It happens quickly and sweeps through the area quickly. Traveling around you will see it everywhere and no area will survive it. It will destroy the ash across the state just as Dutch Elm disease did years ago.
There is no real cost-effective cure for it and those of you who have ash near your house or garage may as well get them removed before they fall and destroy property. The bad thing about ash is that once it is dead, it doesn’t stand long before it comes down. I predict that you will be seeing a lot of it falling onto our roads and giving our highway departments a lot of headaches.
A lot of our summer birds have moved south but the migrating geese have really started moving in. I love watching geese “fall” from the sky as they come into a field or marsh and it is probably the old goose hunter in me causing this. Nothing thrills a waterfowl hunter more than watching Canada geese be fooled by his decoy spread and his calling as they start cupping, slipping and sliding down into the spread.
What I love to watch and photograph are these quick-lose-altitude tactics geese do, with them sometimes flying upside down to lose altitude more quickly. I’m not kidding! They will actually flip over on their backs and fly upside down for a few milliseconds. It happens so fast that it is not easy to catch even with the camera. Actually, eagles do it to when they are fighting in the air as they slash out at each other with their talons.
Most of our great egrets and great blue herons have moved south but I have been seeing something new this year. For the last few years we have had a couple pairs of sandhill cranes nest and raise young in the Alabama swamp; although not seen often the two family groups are occasionally spotted. This fall, however, I have been seeing a larger number of them, although they really haven’t been birds that migrate through our area.
It started a couple of weeks ago, when three separate groups were spotted flying over the area where I was photographing early-morning eagle activity. I counted a total of about 23 cranes. Since then, a few small groups have been seen that appeared to be migrating through. Then, just the other day, a friend called to say he saw about a dozen in a field over by Basom. Of course I grabbed the camera and headed right over. While I sat there trying to get some good shots, another three dropped out of the sky and joined them, making a total of 15 cranes.
Another bird I have been photographing quite frequently is a local family of trumpeter swans. This year is the second for this pair to have nested successfully in our swamp. They hatched eight and ended up getting seven fledged. Five of the young they fledged last year showed up back in the swamp this spring so maybe down the road the native trumpeter swan will become a more commonly seen bird here. They are preferred over the non-native mute swan found in many places across the state now that cause problems. Nothing is more impressive than a huge white trumpeter flying by you — with maybe the exception of a bald eagle.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .