Late Winter Highlights, 2016

The late winter weather has been a roller coaster ride. In just the last week or so, seventy-degree swings in temperature were accompanied by snow squalls; balmy, spring-like days; dark gray skies and cold rains; freezing water; melting ice….and anything else you can imagine. This is the week in review, minus all of the bad stuff!


The Chenango Canal under a thin sheet of ice (Feb. 23)


Cold rain and runoff formed ice along a small stream


A Chipmunk appears above ground for the first time in 2016 –  its enthusiasm  dampened by a cold, winter rain (Feb. 24)



A Canada Goose exploring, and defending, open water (Feb. 25)


Deer moving freely, foraging in the middle of the day;  in most years, movement would be limited by deep snow (Feb. 27)


Stubby the Red Squirrel, with an exciting discovery on the rapidly melting snow cover (Feb. 28)……..



Stubby, dozing in the late morning sun on a frigid day


Eastern Hemlock, “old growth”

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.




Sunlight and Shadow

From my earliest days fishing mountain streams, I’ve been fascinated by the effects of sunlight and shadow on a scene. Regardless of the goal, catching trout or memories, the manner in which form, color, detail and ultimately perception vary with observer position always gives me pause.

These scenes illustrate my point, explain my passion: sunlit subjects with background snow and evergreen trees in shadow.




Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Tufted Titmouse in Morning Sun

This morning was calm, clear and very cold, so I wasn’t surprised to see a few songbirds perching in the morning sun with their feathers fluffed up for added insulation.


Tufted Titmouse coping with the cold on a winter morning

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.


A Winter Walk

In the snow belt, a calm winter day with sunshine and blue skies is precious. When an opportunity like this arrives, temperature is rarely limiting. However, yesterday was different: it was minus 29 degrees (F) at dawn. Trees were cracking and popping, resonating through the deep freeze like gun shots.Even my rugged outdoor hound, my walking companion, wanted no part of it; his feet were icing up. Not to be denied, I walked later in the day – after the temperature had risen 30 degrees, all the way up to zero!

My winter trail walk went something like this, beginning and ending with a photo from the backyard feeders:

Stop #1: White-breasted Nuthatch, about to dart away with a sunflower seed.


Stop #2: Eastern White Pine, the largest, native conifer in the Northeast, and the only one with needles in groups of five


Stop #3: In October, 2014, I heard a Screech Owl in a nearby woodlot. A month later a Screech Owl ended up in the furnace ducts, by way of the chimney (subsequently captured and released). I love owls and installed two nest boxes in September, 2015, to support the local population. I wasn’t terribly optimistic though, hoping for owls but expecting squirrels. Do screech owls eat red squirrels? if so, the pantry is fully stocked.


Stop #4: A small creek drainage, in the shadows of an overstory of Sugar Maple and Eastern Hemlock trees.


Stop #5: Hemlock branches laden with fresh, powdery snow; Eastern Hemlock is in big trouble, threatened by the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA), a tiny, sap-sucking, insect pest introduced from Asia. One environmental factor that limits the distribution and impact of the adelgids is severe cold; in this case, minus 25 or 30 degrees is beneficial.


Stop #6: Young Balsam Fir trees and persistent golden rod stalks with a dusting of snow


Stop #7: Stubby, the tail-less, three-legged red squirrel, in fading sunlight; Stubby is a bit undersized, but continues to hold his own at the feeders and beat the odds!


Photos by NB Hunter. 14February2016. © All Rights Reserved.


Frozen Beauty in Macro

An icy, water-drenched scene at the base of a tiny waterfalls interrupted my morning stroll. It was a bright and cheery little landscape, created by the mist and spray of a small stream tumbling out of a drainage culvert and splashing against rocks.


I deviated from my morning routine for several days, pausing to observe and photograph the development and aging of this miniature phenomenon. One rock in particular, covered in moss and bead-like ice crystals, became the subject of interest.


Viewed closely, the ice formations revealed dynamic patterns invisible to the naked eye. Crystal size, shape and color were in a constant state of flux; even with a burst of shots, no two images were identical.








This post was fun, and the discovery of skulls, zombies, selfies, dragons and other mysterious things under the magnification of camera lens and transparent ice crystals was an added bonus. But, I was also mindful of the deeper, global meaning of the scene.  The key ingredients in the ice-art recipe — bare ground, exposed rocks, running water — were present because of the record-breaking warmth of this winter. I don’t ever recall scenes like this, in early February, during my 30 years in the snow belt.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.