Resident Geese

The large numbers of nonmigratory Canada Geese in Central New York are as much a part of our winter landscape as the corn fields that sustain them.


This morning I watched as two flocks, about 150 geese in all, flew overhead in a northerly direction. They hadn’t lost their bearings at all: their destination was harvested corn fields and waste grain, not a warmer, southern climate.




Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Waterfowl in Winter: Dabbling Ducks

The second post in my 3-part series on “Waterfowl in Winter” features two species of dabbling ducks: Mallards and Black Ducks. Unlike the diving mergansers in my last post, dabbling ducks splash around near the surface of the water, often turning upside down, as they forage on aquatic vegetation.


Mallards feeding in a snowstorm


Mallards, hen and drake


Mute Swan guarding open water; mallard hen


Black Duck


Mute Swan and Black Ducks


Mallard hen

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.






Waterfowl in Winter: Mergansers

The gloomy, overcast weather lingering over Central New York has driven me to my archives in search of something seasonal to perk up my blog. I’ve had a lot of fun observing ducks, geese and swans in their winter habitats and decided to share some of those memories.

I’ll begin with American (or Common) Mergansers on local surface waters. These are streamlined, narrow-billed ducks that dive for fish.





Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Native Shrubs for Wildlife

Staghorn Sumac is a native, thicket-forming shrub that can reach the size of a small tree. The fruit is very persistent, providing a source of food for birds throughout the winter. It is more an emergency than a staple food item, habitat that sustains some species in late winter when natural food sources have been depleted or are still buried in snow. I have, for example, observed small flocks of hungry (starving) wild turkeys and flocks of returning robins feeding on sumac fruit in late February and early March.


Black-capped Chickadee foraging on a Staghorn Sumac fruit cluster

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Deer in a Snowstorm

The snowstorm that I alluded to in my last post (“Calm before the Storm”) arrived right on schedule. Yesterday, deer were bedded on bare ground; early this morning, I was clearing 8 inches of fresh snow from around the bird feeders and the kennel. According to the evening news, we’ll have 15 -25 inches before the system moves out this weekend.

Some of my most memorable field experiences have occurred because I could not sit still and enjoy a good winter storm through a window. Today, I bundled up, tucked my camera inside the bulky wool coat, and shuffled along quietly through 10 inches of snow. The trail intersects good deer habitat and my goal was to find and photograph deer in the midst of a Nor’easter, behaving naturally.


Everything was covered in snow, and much of the weaker vegetation was bending under the weight. There was also snow in the air, so visibility in thickly vegetated areas was less than 20 meters. These conditions are magical, even more so when a fresh track is encountered. Assuming the wind direction is favorable, a fresh deer track in the middle of a snowstorm means there is a rather large mammal within a stones throw of where you’re standing. Predator and prey, silent and invisible; who will be discovered first? I lose myself in these tense moments of hope and expectation, so focused on my surroundings that it almost hurts. What a rush!





Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Calm Before the Storm

A serious coastal storm is approaching, bringing rain, then a couple of days of heavy, wet snow. Animals sense these events and react instinctively.

This doe and button-buck fawn, captured yesterday afternoon about 24 hours prior to the storm’s arrival, were at rest, grooming and chewing their cud. As is the case with cattle, sheep, antelope, elk and other ruminants, the complex, 4-part stomach of deer enables them to eat a wide variety of food, including woody twigs, in a short period of time, then seek cover from threats like coyotes and severe weather. While at rest, the consumed food, fermenting in the stomach by microbial action, is then regurgitated as cud and chewed again to improve digestion and complete the process.

Deer8Dec14#010E3c4x6 Deer8Dec14#022E2c4x6

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.