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.

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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.

A Winter Walk (March, 2018)

Finally, after three storms and several feet of snow, the sun came out. I buckled up my snowshoes and set out to accomplish three things: pack trails for future walking and access to the property; capture some unusual, late winter scenes; and share this lovely late-winter day with friends who might be unable or unwilling to navigate waste-deep snow cover.

My woodland walk started at the house, followed a trail dating back to the construction of a small dairy farm in 1854, then looped back to the house. The adventure covered less than a mile but was nearly two hours in duration.

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Home; the “1854 House”

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A Wild Apple Tree

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164 year-old farm trail with a packed snowshoe path in the center (1 of 3)

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Chickadee feeding on White Spruce seeds in a windbreak/wildlife habitat planting (1 of 2)

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Return trip down the woodland trail

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Wild apple tree in snow and morning light; mission accomplished!

Photos by NB Hunter (15March2018). © All Rights Reserved.

Hoodies

While digging out from the third Nor’easter in two weeks, my thoughts drift to recent wildlife sightings and survival in the wild. Hooded Mergansers are popping up wherever surface waters are free of ice and seem to be weathering the storms well.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Wetlands in Ice and Snow

Deep snow, rising melt-water and stressed animals have caused me to observe and photograph from a distance, often using my truck as a blind. Two storms and forty inches of snow blanketed the landscape in early March, leaving an interesting mix of “signs of Spring” … ice … and a blanket of snow.

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Open wetland with seasonal water

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Hooded Merganser in a hardwood swamp

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Muskrat feeding on submerged vegetation

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Hardwood swamp teaming with wildlife (location for the remaining images)

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Muskrat in a hardwood swamp, browsing Northern White Cedar (1 of 2)

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Wood Ducks cruising along in a hardwood swamp; 1 of 3

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

March Snowstorms and Wildlife

Before the storm. Taken during a hike on February 28, this photo of migrating geese marked the end of a winter thaw and bare ground.

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The storm. Over the next 24 hours, “Winter Storm Warning” messages appeared, predicting the collision of two approaching storms, high winds and the accumulation of deep, heavy snow. We escaped the damaging winds, but received 25 to 30 inches of snow on March 2. Hazardous roads and a travel ban kept me home, but that worked to my advantage. I shoveled often and took frequent breaks to observe and photograph wildlife around the bird feeders.

Blizzard photography. Photographing wildlife in a snowstorm is no small feat. I was photo-bombed three times! First, by a “white-out” of blowing snow that ruined a cardinal portrait……..

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Then, by a another cardinal that blocked an attempt at a starling portrait….

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And, finally, as often happens when there is a lot of songbird activity in late winter, a Cooper’s Hawk decided to visit my “fly-through restaurant” and hunt songbirds. This is the most dramatic sort of photo bomb, because dozens of songbirds can disappear in a wink when a hawk appears… and they’re in no hurry to return.

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It was nearly an hour before things returned to normal. The feeders were again bustling with activity, and I got some portraits.

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After the storm. Lengthening days and more intense solar radiation soften the impact of these late winter snowstorms. The snow melts faster and lots of critters are thinking ahead to Spring. This chipmunk tunneled through deep snow near the feeders, assumed a vantage point on the high ground, and “chucked” repeatedly, as if to say “Spring is in the air…and this is my breeding territory!”. The snow didn’t seem to be quite as deep or heavy after this heart-warming encounter.

 

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Photos by NB Hunter (Feb. 28 to March 3, 2018). © All Rights Reserved.