Boy, what a difference an hour makes.

I was looking at snapshots taken some time ago, on my cellphone.

I think both of these pictures are a bit awkward – –

but I also thought they were interesting, because of the change in atmosphere.

They were taken just a couple of yards from each other, same day, one hour apart.

The first picture looks “seasonal” and almost festive, nice red winterberries (thanks Linda & Steve for identifying!)

Reminds me of cranberries, which I love.

An hour later, the swamp presents quite a different aspect, kinda spooky.

Reminds me of a ham dinner with too much cranberry relish – a portrait of the atmosphere in my stomach.

The dark blobs on the dead trees in the background, just barely visible, are nests in a blue heron rookery heronry.

BTW, a lot of people, none of them birders, have told me that herons kill off the trees they roost in.

I don’t know if herons seek out dead, mostly limbless trees, because they’re somewhat awkward fliers, and can’t navigate through branches, or if it’s true, what the old folks around here say, that by pooping on the trees day after day, they actually kill them off.

I’m not sure how that would be fatal, but it certainly seems like it would be discouraging.

I remember reading about a primitive tribe, that rather than trying to cut down trees, to clear a field for cultivation, would get up very early each morning, and whack the tree with a club, while yelling at it.

The theory was that the pre-dawn shock killed the tree.

I figure the tribespeople were eventually severing the phloem layer, girdling it, and that’s what killed the tree, but who knows.

Doesn’t it seem an awful lot like waking up to talk radio in the USA?

Caveman thinking & poo-flinging in a dismal swamp.

Heron excrement, Stone Age tree-clubbing, or paranoid rabble-rousers — may not be fatal, but it’s surely discouraging.

As one rookery tree said to another — all this crap just has to be taking years off our lives.

On a happier note, from the album “In My Tribe”

Here’s 10,000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant “Like the Weather”

Obviously not taken in December! But wouldn’t they make nice Xmas tree decorations?  Same location, during the summer – – I think I mentioned some time ago, seeing buttonbush – – this is the area  where I always see it.  Sterling, NY, on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Finger Lakes, FLX, Frostbite, Nature, NY, Ontario, United States, Upstate New York, Winter

Pictures of Upstate New York. December. Sterling Swamp


22 thoughts on “Pictures of Upstate New York. December. Sterling Swamp

  1. pinklightsabre says:

    Like the wry humor here Robert, the talk radio reference, the business about the herons (heronry). Say that, heronry, after a few drinks. Love the stark look of the lake in the morning, which I assume it was…or twilight. I think it’s those rare times during winter that help get us through, those glimpses of ‘stark beauty,’ like the occasional heron taking off. Man, they are a bit clumsy looking when they fly: bad design?

  2. At I found this: “Nesting habitat in a large colony can become degraded very quickly. The large numbers of adult and young birds deposit copious amounts of excrement; it coats the leaves of the trees and can effect changes in soil conditions, resulting in the accelerated death of the host trees. The herons also harvest sticks for nest-building materials by stripping foliage and branches from both nesting and non-nesting trees. Removal of actively growing branch tips can reduce leaf numbers and thus photosynthetic ability, reducing the trees’ ability to grow. Some non-nest trees near the heronry have suffered marked defoliation due to the herons’ activities.”

    • So it’s not slander. I’d thought the guano would be fertilizer, hadn’t thought of the leaves being coated, or fact that too much of anything can be a problem. One of my aunts once over-fertilized her garden with not-sufficiently-composted chicken or horse manure, and had a terrible summer.
      Thank you for sending this, very interesting.

  3. An entertaining interlude with your stream-of-consciousness comments, thank you! The photos both have a wintry look to me. I used to be in charge of the grounds of an “estate” (the owners liked to think it that) north of NYC. There were wisteria vines that wouldn’t bloom. Researching the problem, I came across a European technique – pang on the lower trunk hard with a bat, repeatedly. Maybe there was a botanical/physical effect, like what you propose, or maybe it just made people feel good! I didn’t try it more than once; we figured out ours were just a bit young, and I think they did bloom eventually.

    • Thank you, I really did just let this one wander off where ever it wanted, didn’t I.
      That wisteria thing sounds like my kinda gardening! Also carpentry, car repair,and jigsaw puzzles – if it’s not cooperating, hit it with something.
      One of my grandfathers had some apple trees that stopped bearing, and he walked around each tree, just at the edge of the branches, sticking a long shovel in the ground, as far as it would go, to sever just a certain amount of the roots. It did seem to jar them into producing a bit more. But no clubbing that I remember!

  4. I was curious about the difference between “rookery” and “heronry,” since I’ve only heard “rookery” used. It seems that a rookery is a colony of any breeding birds, but a heronry is an exclusively heron-inhabited rookery. Interesting. There are a couple of famous rookeries around here that draw birders from around the world; I’ll have to make some inquiries and see how they describe their bird-breeding places.

    I like the first photo, with those bits of red. I wonder if that might be winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Our Ilex decidua looks much the same, once the leaves have dropped. The description I found has this to say:

    “Winterberry is a medium-sized, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub that grows to heights of 5 to 15 feet. The smooth, sharply toothed leaves are dark green in summer, turn yellow in autumn, and fall off by mid-October.

    The highlight of this shrub is the densely packed, bright scarlet-red berries that mature in late summer and persist through the winter. The striking berries on bare stems make an attractive fall and winter display (if not thoroughly foraged by animals). The fruit, though eaten by many species of birds and mammals, is poisonous to humans. Winterberry is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions, including wet soils.”

  5. Love these two moods of a swamp that you have shared.
    We have heronries here. What happened that I saw was that the river changed course a little bit and the trees died from standing in the water. Then the herons came. After a few years the trees begin to fall but by then the river has shifted again and another patch of trees die and the process repeats itself. The nests in the water- surrounded trees offer protection from raccoons and what -not. One area became a marsh because of road-building…sort of an oops. It became so popular with birders that the local Audubon Society put up artificial “dead trees”~and it worked! This has now become a bald eagle hangout, as well.
    And you’ve reminded me of another, equally barbaric practice but for the opposite purpose. My mom had planted a maple tree but it never turned the promised red…so she was told to beat it with a baseball bat to stimulate the coloration!!! LOL

    • Yes, I thought I was corresponding with nature lovers, but just under the surface lurks violets, I mean, violence. If any blue-painted naked people start throwing acorns at us, it’ll be the DDL. (Druid Defense League)
      And baseball bats are made out of ash wood, so using them to hit trees is like…well, not cannibalism, but something like that.

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