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.


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……..


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


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.



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.



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.









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!


Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

The Tail End of Winter 2018


Northern Cardinal at the feeders in a snow storm


Abandoned farm buildings and an active hunting shelter


Deer foraging in the corn stubble, a common scene in late afternoon


A matriarch defending her discovery of waste grain


Doe and fawn foraging in a sheltered willow bottom


Mature Bald Eagle, just before dark, in the rain


The resident Red Squirrel with a not-so-red tail


Thinking of warmer days, fake bugs drifting drag-free, and hungry trout


Roots of a centuries-old maple tree, undercut by spring water

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

The Subnivean Zone

Deep, fluffy snow is a blessing – assuming you spend time underneath the protective snowpack, insulated from the cold and hidden from predators. Grouse know about this, as do meadow voles and red squirrels.

Wait for it….



Tunneling in the subnivean zone enables Red Squirrels to thrive in deep snow and survive the harshest of winters. I watched this one for half an hour as it expanded its elaborate tunnel system (with 4 access holes that kept me guessing) under piles of fresh snow. It can now sprint 40 feet, spruces trees to feeders, sight unseen!


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.