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.








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.


Open wetland with seasonal water


Hooded Merganser in a hardwood swamp


Muskrat feeding on submerged vegetation


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


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



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



Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Whitetails in Winter

Despite extreme weather conditions, fluctuating from one of end of the bell curve to the other, the deep snow that limits wildlife mobility and access to food has been absent. Small family groups of whitetails are feeding throughout the day now, with the luxury of expanding their winter diet beyond the twigs of woody plants.







Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Bird Feeder Highlights

Lingering Arctic weather has driven a variety of birds to the feeders, prompting me to post a mid January update on our backyard visitors.

A small flock of Pine Siskins arrived last week – after an absence of several years.


These small, sparrow-size songbirds are an absolute joy. They’re semi-tame and approachable when swarming a feeder. But, they can also be pretty feisty when quarreling over ‘Nyger’ seed!



A Red-breasted Nuthatch, the masked bandit of the feeders, continues to entertain. So tiny and so quick – I know it often comes and goes undetected.



Red-bellied Woodpeckers sit atop the pecking order when it comes to foraging on a suet block. They visit often, and the “zebra back” always commands our attention.




Photos by NB Hunter (January, 2018). © All Rights Reserved.

Road Hunting in Winter

I often travel on personal “auto” tours to view and photograph wildlife in winter. More often than not, this is the only practical way to capture wildlife images while minimizing hardship – to photographer and wildlife alike. My loops incorporate secondary roads and parking areas near good wildlife habitat (ideally, a variety of food sources in close proximity to dense evergreen cover; sunny, south-facing slopes are critical winter habitat as well). Specific routes depend on snow depth, time of day, road conditions and so on. Valley farms are the key component of most loops.


Rough-legged Hawk hunting farm fields (my first photo of this stunning species)


Mature Eastern Wild Turkey gobbler searching for wild apple drops in a storm


Wild turkeys foraging for waste grain (corn) during a January thaw (1 of 2)



Snowy Owl at rest in corn stubble (1 of 2)



A failed Snowy Owl search – but a landscape memory for the trip home

Photos by NB Hunter (January 4 – 11, 2018). All Rights Reserved.

Snowbirds: ‘Tis the Season

When our winter wonderland settles in for the long haul, bringing bitter cold, bone-chilling winds and snow-covered fields, I start searching for snow scenes and snowbirds. We’re on the southern edge of the winter range of several species of birds that summer in the Arctic region and they seem to thrive in our harsh winter conditions. “Snowbirds” include Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, Pine Grosbeaks, Horned Larks and Snow Buntings. It’s the buntings that I see most often and have opportunities to photograph. And I can’t have this conversation without including a large predator in the mix: Snowy Owls.

Bright frosty mornings with clear blue skies are my favorite time to search, concentrating on open farm fields and fence rows. Waste grain and weed seeds are magnets for the songbirds. In a year of abundance, Snowy Owls irrupt southward out of Canada and large, windswept fields with available prey are preferred habitat.

On this morning it was 17 below zero (F) when I left the house, about 10 or 12 below when I arrived on site. Too cold for me and my gear – I used the heated truck as a blind and a padded, open window as a camera rest.


The Common Crow is indeed common. On a slow day crows might be my only wildlife sighting in the frozen fields. I can’t resist the black, white and tan color scheme and use an opportunity like this to check camera settings and practice!


Perfect! A large flock of Snow Buntings feeding on waste grain near the road. Snow Buntings are the winter equivalent of robins and red-wings in the spring: a sign of the season.


“And over the snow-covered fields, Snow Buntings come swirling like leaves [some say like big snowflakes!] driven by the north wind. Snowbird season is here.” – from “Snowbird Season: An Irruption of Boreal Songbirds” by Marie Read, In “Living Bird Magazine”, Jan. 15, 2009 (pub. by The Cornell Lab – All About Birds) 


The tiny songbirds fed aggressively for several minutes. Then, true to form, they burst into the air in a synchronized, swirling mass, seemingly without cause.





The scene repeated itself over and over until we were photo-bombed by a huge flock of pigeons descending on the exposed waste grain.  Startled from my snowbird trance, I realized the morning was getting away from me and my mission was incomplete. A Snowy Owl would be icing on the cake. And it was!


Photos by NB Hunter (Dec. 31, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018). © All Rights Reserved.