Squirrel Scuffles

When several squirrels arrive at a bird feeder, a scuffle invariably occurs. These battles for dominance and feeding rights are usually brief, harmless — and blurry! Two or more squirrels (reds and/or grays) will suddenly leap, run, roll and whirl around as the alpha gives chase. Within a second or two the matter is settled and feeding resumes.

I never fully appreciated this scenario until recently, when I decided to crank up my camera settings and attempt to freeze the action of a Gray Squirrel scuffle. There was more going on than I realized – ears back, eyes closed, a knock-down – amazing!





An alpha caught in the act, raiding a bird feeder – with no competitors in sight!



Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Winter … or Spring?

It’s spring, but we’re still hunkering down under the influence of bitter cold, wind, snow and ice. However, photoperiod prevails, and the lengthening days have livened things up. Large flocks of noisy “blackbirds” arrived last week, and the male Wild Turkeys are beginning to strut in the presence of hens.

The blackbirds – there are 50 to 100 descending upon my feeders at frequent intervals now – are mixed flocks, comprised mostly of Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds.






These strutting turkey gobblers, sporting impressive beards and spurs, were part of a flock of 10, most of which were hens.



Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Doves at Rest

Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), common over much of North and Central America, are frequent visitors to bird feeders in winter. They’re ground feeders and typically flutter into a feeding site from a high perch, eat a large quantity of seed very quickly, then burst out of sight, bullet-like. The consumed food is stored temporarily in a pouch or “crop” in the esophagus, and is digested later from the safety and comfort of an elevated perch.



Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Village Lights

Earlier in the week, a failed attempt to capture the full moon led to experimentation. Home-sweet-home, lit up by the scenic byway corridor and the prominent historic buildings in the center of the village, became my subject.

Dedicated to the Madison Hall Preservation Committee.


Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Snowy Songbird Portraits


Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), female


White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) invading the space of a                   female Cardinal


American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea)

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Backyard Squirrels in Winter


Squirrels become habituated to bird feeders in winter, to the point of becoming a nuisance. Gray Squirrels will travel considerable distances from their preferred woodland habitat of mature deciduous trees to eat bird seed. Red Squirrels have a smaller home range, but can dominate feeders too, especially if their habitat of choice is present in the landscape – mature coniferous trees such as Norway Spruce.


Red Squirrel in its escape tunnel in deep snow near a bird feeder


Red Squirrel feasting on bird seed


Red Squirrel raiding the suet in a wire mesh woodpecker feeder


One of a dozen Gray Squirrels visiting 2 backyard bird feeders


Gray Squirrel digging through snow for bird seed

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Almost Spring!?

I like to document natural events in my photo journal. Two days ago a brief warm spell had melted much of our snow, to the point that bare ground was attracting hungry deer, turkeys and many species of birds.


Snowy Owl on March 11, 2014

Abruptly, a nasty, unwelcome winter storm arrived, bringing frigid temperatures, sub-zero wind chills and 10 inches of snow. Brrrrr. And spring is just a week away!!!!


“Beefers” on March 13, 2014


Farm on March 13, 2014

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Flying Squirrels!

Imagine a private residence that lies next to a woodland with a mixture of mature conifers and nut-bearing, deciduous trees. Many trees, alive and dead, have hollows or cavities. This is good squirrel habitat, and it may very well harbor more than one species.The bird feeders in the backyard of the residence, filled earlier in the day to feed songbirds and Gray Squirrels, are filled again – at dusk. Within minutes, something glides overhead, tree to tree, high to low, making its way to the smorgasbord of seeds and grain. Within the hour, a dozen small mammals, (maybe more – their lightning-fast movement makes an accurate head count impossible), are at the feeders like a swarm of bees. The tiny gliders are Flying Squirrels.


I’m familiar with most of the mammals native to this part of North America and can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything, large or small, move as quickly as a Flying Squirrel on a tree trunk. At least a third of my photos captured the tips of tails, or nothing at all. During “rush hour”, the peak feeding frenzy shortly after dark, 10 – 12 squirrels worked the feeder simultaneously and I was determined to capture a group portrait. Two evenings, two hours, and 100 shots later, I had the image below.


Anyone who maintains bird feeders is all too familiar with several of the diurnal members of the Sciuridae family (including Gray Squirrels, Red Squirrels and Chipmunks in this region). In a woodland setting however, the Flying Squirrel might also be using the feeders, coming and going in the cloak of fading light and darkness. Little known and seldom seen, their unique nocturnal habit keeps them off the  grid!



Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Rushing Spring

One of the more common rodents in North America is the Groundhog (Marmota monax; also called Woodchuck, Whistle-pig). True hibernators, they eat continuously in the warm season to maximize fat reserves before going into their underground burrows. The hibernation period is 5 or 6 months, October to March.

I often see Groundhog tracks in the snow in March, but this year I’ve already had several early sightings of animals out and about, wandering across open  fields in the snow. They must be hungry, because I see little survival value in a large brown rodent, a favorite food of coyotes and foxes, wandering around in the middle of a snow-covered field with no escape holes.

This animal actually stopped in the middle of a field and tried to dig through the snow and frozen ground to open a burrow. It then continued wandering, this time in the general direction of some farm structures.


Groundhogs will eat the bark of woody plants at this time of year, but they’re much too early for the fresh greens that they’re seeking. Under these conditions, some will probably crawl back into a burrow, accepting the fact that the life of a vegetarian living off the land can be pretty challenging in the snow belt!


Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.