Deer Antlers

Regardless of the number of whitetails observed throughout the course of a year, antler growth on large males continues to amaze, entertain and educate. Antlers are shed in late winter and in a few months new ones appear, often larger and more complex than the year before. They’ll be fully developed, calcified and glistening in the sun by late summer.

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Developing antlers grow faster than any other organ in the animal world, sometimes an inch (several centimeters) a day in a healthy, mature buck.

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The key ingredients for this amazing spectacle of renewal are age, nutrition and genetics. The buck in this series, photographed last evening, is sporting impressive antler development but it will be 3 or 4 years before he reaches his peak size. He’s foraging in farm fields, in this case alfalfa, so I doubt that his summer diet is limiting.

BuckAM29June18#5710E3c8x10I hope he sticks around and continues to forage in good light because I’d love to finish his story in September, showing the finished and polished product!

Photos by NB Hunter (29June2018). © All rights reserved.

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Whitetails in Early Summer

Recreational interest in deer increases dramatically in early summer. This is especially true in farm country where visibility is good and deer are constantly on the move in response to the growth and management of crops. Patient viewers are often rewarded with sightings of nursing fawns (about a month old now) and bucks in velvet.

Following up on a report of fawn triplets and a mature buck on a local dairy farm, I set out to investigate fields of waist-high corn and uncut hay.

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Damselfly on the tall grass of an uncut hay field

Deer were moving into the fields almost immediately after a tractor and loaded hay wagon left for the day. They grow accustomed to big, noisy farm machinery and know precisely where the most nutritious and palatable crops are located on any given day. The adaptability of whitetails never ceases to amaze me.

This buck, approaching the fields from thick bedding cover, detected me before I was set up and bolted for his swampy retreat cover. He is a large, mature deer and I heard the pounding of his hooves on hard ground before I saw him.

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Photos by NB Hunter (June, 2018). © All rights reserved.

The Wonderful Month of June

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A favorite freestone stream in the mountains, alive with aquatic insects and foraging trout

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A massive White Pine with centuries of stories locked within

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Tiger Swallowtails “mud-puddling” to ingest nutrients and improve reproductive success

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A chatty House Wren, rewarding me for the nest box I hung on a garden post

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Taking a grooming timeout while guarding the nearby nest and solitary eaglet.

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Ruby-throated Hummingbird incubating 1-3 eggs; they’ll hatch in about 2 weeks

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An egg-laying Snapper; she dug her nest in roadside gravel near her swampy habitat 

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A month-old whitetail fawn learning about mobility

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Wild mustard colonizing a fallow field on a dairy farm

Photos by NB Hunter (June, 2018). © All rights reserved.

Happy Earth Day

Celebrating Earth Day with images from April, 2018.

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Starlings searching for spilled grain on an active farm

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Mallard at rest on a wintry spring day

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Ring-billed Gull foraging in a flooded field

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Mature whitetail after a long, cold rain

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Turkey Vulture cleaning up a road-kill

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White-throated Sparrow with a kernel of corn

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Breeding Wood Frog in a vernal pool – today – a month behind schedule

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Wild turkey (a young gobbler or “jake”)

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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.

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.

 

Squirrel Watching

Faced with a 30 degree drop in temperature and the arrival of a snowstorm, we all turn to our survival checklist. I was headed to the woodshed. Cream Puff, the resident red squirrel anomaly, was busy eating – and burying – sunflower seeds.

The firewood could wait – I had to watch and photograph Cream Puff in action. She had an impressive routine, which she repeated for an hour: grab a bite at the feeders, put a sunflower seed in her mouth, sprint 40 feet, bury the seed, sprint back to the bird feeder, and so on. She moved fast and the light was poor, so I tried my best to “pan” the action, swinging the camera at her pace.

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At one point the snow was so heavy that it overwhelmed my auto focus. It was winter again and the squirrels were fat, happy, and well prepared. On the other hand, I now had to shovel several inches of heavy, wet snow in order to get firewood to the house!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.