Melting Ice and Snow

Early Spring means melting snow and exposed fields, melting ice and open water. Wild animals, many struggling to survive, seize the opportunity to feed and recover. Others continue their journey northward as habitats and food sources become available. Photographers are also recovering and more mobile. After months of donning multiple layers, feeding the wood stove and hunkering down in storms, seeing winter in the rear-view mirror is a joyous occasion!

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Melt water enhancing a small stream and waterfalls in the hills

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Gull foraging in puddled melt water in a harvested corn field

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A pair of Wood Ducks at rest in a temporary pond (same as above)

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Canada Goose  heading for its nesting territory in a cattail marsh

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Canada geese at rest

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Great Blue Heron silhouette, one of two flying northward

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Open water in lakes and ponds means Osprey can go fishing!

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Large numbers of hungry deer are foraging in cultivated fields; these were alarmed by a barking dog but won’t go far.

Photos by NB Hunter (March – April, 2018). © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

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A Solitary Siskin

A Pine Siskin, alone at the feeders, lingering on its winter range. It’s 14 degrees F with snow cover… that may have something to do with this unusual sighting.

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Photos by NB Hunter (7April2018). © All Rights Reserved.

Robins and the Endless Winter

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I’m seeing flocks of migrating robins in thickets and sheltered creek drainages. They’re back, but food is scarce in our snowy, semi-frozen landscape. The persistent fruit of staghorn sumac is a staple this time of year, for many species of birds. It is an emergency ration that helps keep them alive when winter refuses to let go.

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Photos by NB Hunter (4/5/2018). © All Rights Reserved.

 

Diving Ducks

Faced with nasty weather, I took a short road trip in search of wildlife that might be out and about in freezing rain: perhaps an insulated, waterproof species, at home in the icy water. To my surprise, that turned out to be dozens of ring-necked ducks on a local reservoir. They were feeding, sometimes diving in unison. These little ducks are always a treat, but especially so in a cold and dreary landscape.

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Photos by NB Hunter (3April2018).

Lasting Images of March 2018

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Wood Ducks 6March2018

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Wild Turkey gobbler searching for waste grain 7March2018

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Mature Bald Eagle feeding on a road-killed deer 8March2018

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Desperate wild turkeys searching for seeds in old burdock 8March2018

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Young deer, now relying on fat reserves for survival 11March2018

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Foraging muskrat, seemingly oblivious to the snow and cold 17March2018

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Evidence of the spring thaw at Chittenango Falls State Park 31March2018

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A Rough-legged Hawk hunting over melting snow in the fields

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Vultures: a Mating Pair

The pair of Turkey Vultures that I see in my travels arrived from their southern winter range a couple of weeks ago. As mentioned in last week’s post, an old abandoned barn is a favorite roosting and perching site. I’ve encountered them there twice, warming in the mid-morning sun after a bitterly cold night.

Yesterday morning was my most recent encounter. The male was perched on one end of the roof, the female (shown here) on the opposite end. I stopped the truck a short distance away to observe, thinking about flight images with the blue sky as a backdrop. The female was clear of obstructions and afforded me the best opportunity for action shots, so I focused on her and waited.

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Just as I started to lose patience and question my decision to watch vultures rather than search for eagles, the male started to grow restless as well. I was sure the pair was about to take flight. Instead, I had the rare opportunity to witness and document the breeding behavior of vultures from close range.

The initial phase was hilarious and totally unexpected. The restless male started inching his way along the ridge line of the roof, occasionally having to spread his wings and steady himself, like a tight-rope walker. I was sure he was thinking flight, but he had something else in mind: procreation! His approach had been slow, steady and nonchalant, as if he was testing the receptivity of his mate.

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She never moved from her original perch, suggesting a willingness to cooperate. And she did. The huge dark wings of the male, spread above his mate and contrasting with a robin-egg-blue backdrop was spectacular.

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Photos by NB Hunter (3/24/2018). © All Rights Reserved.

 

Spring Arrivals: Vultures

Almost Spring? A deep, crusted snow lingers on a bitterly cold, four-degree (F) morning. Old Man Winter has a death grip. Soon, there won’t be a hungry vulture in the county.

This sequence, my second sighting of vultures this season, was captured at a small abandoned barn and traditional vulture roosting site.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.