Spring Scenes and Winter Landscapes

A rainy, overcast day with dirty snow and mud seems like a good time to reflect on the month of March and illustrate early spring in Central New York. I’ll emphasize wet places and some of the birds that frequent them.

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Hooded Merganser

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Canada Goose and a pair of ring-necked ducks

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Canada geese grazing in a farm field

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Killdeer grooming at a spring seep

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A pair of mallards under the reflection of deep snow

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Great Blue Heron over ice and Canada geese on open water

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A solitary Snow Goose in a flock of Canada geese

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Migrating snow geese above farm fields, refueling on waste grain

Photos by NB Hunter, March 2017. ©All Rights Reserved.

An Opportunistic Immature Eagle

Yesterday afternoon the March sun was blinding…and deceptive. Temperatures didn’t get out of the teens and strong, gusting winds were bone-chilling. This immature Bald Eagle braved the elements – perhaps a youthful mistake in terms of energy conservation – to rip into a frozen deer carcass.

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Photos by NB Hunter. 22March2017. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Birds in a Blizzard: Snow Buntings

I ventured forth during the tail end of the Blizzard of ’17, after the state of emergency and travel restrictions were lifted. Despite poor visibility and hazardous travel on country roads, I discovered a favorite winter bird: snow buntings!

The diminutive snow birds, 20 or 30 in all, were foraging on weed seeds protruding above the deep snow. Like their arctic neighbors, snowy owls, snow buntings thrive in winter conditions that force most animals to shelter in place: windswept, snow-covered fields with wicked cold temperatures and wind chills. I don’t ever recall seeing snow buntings when the weather was photographer-friendly, i.e. warm and sunny with blue skies!

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Snow buntings access seeds by walking, perching, jumping and fluttering. It’s a fascinating, sometimes comical scene of constant movement and occasional bickering.

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There are many things to love about these little songbirds, but what impacts me most is their journey, the way it connects me to another part of North America, the realization that the males will soon morph into breeding plumage and be staking out frozen tundra nesting territories in another month. I never cease to be amazed at the wonders of nature and, after this experience, am grateful for snowstorms and weeds.

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Photos by NB Hunter. 15March2017. ©All Rights Reserved.

Winter’s Grip

I’m mindful of migrating waterfowl and have been searching surface waters for an interesting subject. Needless to say, snow,  frigid temperatures and the return of ice have made that close to impossible. Of late, I’ve spent more time in my “truck blind” than afield.

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Mallards in a snow storm

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Canada geese on ice

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Hooded mergansers on a precious spot of open water

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Hoodies

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Streamside ice on a moss-covered rock

Brrrrr!!!

Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

The Solitary Doe

White-tailed deer are social animals, and multi-generational family groups of does and fawns are the norm. That said, this young doe has been alone since last fall (I see her once or twice a week while trail walking) and is now including the bird feeders in her daily routine. I suspect the family group was broken up due to hunting season or highway mortality.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Canal Waterways and Resources

Many of my posts are linked, directly or indirectly, to the elaborate water transportation system engineered in New York State in the 19th century. The network of canals, reservoirs, feeder canals and associated wetlands that once transformed the movement of coal, agricultural products and people across New York and Pennsylvania are now critical wildlife and outdoor recreation resources that define the Central New York region.

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Wood Duck on the Chenango Canal

A small section of the Chenango Canal (originally a 97 mile long feeder to the Erie Canal that operated from 1836 to 1877), has stood the test of time. It is now listed on the National and New York State Registry of Historic Places. The massive, chiseled stones in this aqueduct provide a vivid historical perspective: Immigrant workers from Ireland and Scotland, aided by mules, oxen and horses, built the entire canal by hand. At the height of the construction, there were 500 laborers per section, toiling for $11.00 a month.

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The remains of a 19th century aqueduct on the Chenango Canal

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Scanning the Stubble

Certain that the arrival of cold, wind and snow would lead to sightings of migrating snow geese in fields, I’ve kept a watchful eye on proven habitats: harvested corn fields. Crows, Canada geese and barren landscapes have been the rule; no snow geese to date.

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Crows in the stubble

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Wild Canada geese on a dairy farm

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Pasture tree in a storm

Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.