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!
Melt water enhancing a small stream and waterfalls in the hills
Gull foraging in puddled melt water in a harvested corn field
A pair of Wood Ducks at rest in a temporary pond (same as above)
Canada Goose heading for its nesting territory in a cattail marsh
Canada geese at rest
Great Blue Heron silhouette, one of two flying northward
Open water in lakes and ponds means Osprey can go fishing!
Large numbers of hungry deer are foraging in cultivated fields; these were alarmed by a barking dog but won’t go far.
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.
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.
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
Wind chill temperatures have been below zero. The weather forecast predicts a week of daytime temperatures below 20 degrees (F) and bitterly cold nights. It’s Winter, surface waters are freezing and Great Blue Herons are supposed to have left most of New York State for warmer, more hospitable places.
I discovered this bird this morning, perched in the sun on the edge of a small, spring-fed pool. I quickly photographed it from my truck and left. It had to be stressed by the loss of foraging habitat to ice and I didn’t want to compound the problem. Would love to know the rest of the story.
Note: the light brown fluff in the upper part of the heron image is an out-of-focus plant, not abnormal plumage.