A Late Winter Blast

A week of bitterly cold and snowy weather has reduced my outdoor activities and wildlife sightings. But, I still have enough images to get the attention of friends in warmer places, especially those who enjoy winter in the snow belt, vicariously!

The snow pack is several inches deep, with powder over a fragile base. Snowshoes aren’t really necessary, but they provide stable footing and easier travel on the crusty base, drifts and uneven terrain.

Red squirrels have mastered winter survival. When not foraging on a cache of spruce cones or at the bird feeders, they scurry in and out of cozy snow tunnels for shelter and predator avoidance.

Bad weather sends critters to backyard feeders, birds and mammals alike. Mourning doves flutter in and explode away often, consuming large amounts of grain during their brief visits.

March is the most challenging time of year for deer, especially when snow cover restricts mobility and buries food. Deer browse woody plants in winter, but it doesn’t take long for this staple to disappear as well. A five to six foot “browse line”, evident on this Northern White-cedar, indicates that deer have eaten just about everything within reach.

The big picture: a late winter landscape in Central New York.

Photos by NB Hunter, 2019. © 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.