Bird Feeder Highlights

Lingering Arctic weather has driven a variety of birds to the feeders, prompting me to post a mid January update on our backyard visitors.

A small flock of Pine Siskins arrived last week – after an absence of several years.

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These small, sparrow-size songbirds are an absolute joy. They’re semi-tame and approachable when swarming a feeder. But, they can also be pretty feisty when quarreling over ‘Nyger’ seed!

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A Red-breasted Nuthatch, the masked bandit of the feeders, continues to entertain. So tiny and so quick – I know it often comes and goes undetected.

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Red-bellied Woodpeckers sit atop the pecking order when it comes to foraging on a suet block. They visit often, and the “zebra back” always commands our attention.

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Photos by NB Hunter (January, 2018). © All Rights Reserved.

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Doves – Incoming!

Bird activity at the feeders intensified as the weather worsened. More than 20 Mourning Doves are now regular visitors, giving me ample opportunities to watch and photograph flock behavior. Sometimes they flutter down to one feeder or the other, quickly fill their crops, then explode into the air and back to their perches. At other times they linger, drifting back and forth between feeders. This is my best opportunity to capture them in flight, shooting as they brake for a soft landing.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Backyard Bushy Tails

This is an excerpt from the rodent instruction manual for conducting a bird feeder raid on a snowy winter day. Enjoy!

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Scout for predators and nuisance photographers

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Run like the wind

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Take advantage of snow squalls to conceal your mission

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Scout again when the squall subsides – you never know

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Devour everything in sight

 

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But not so much that you can no longer run!

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Run up and down a smooth pole: vigorous exercise after a heavy meal is important

Photos by NB Hunter (December 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Nuthatches!

Moving up, down, sideways and rarely lingering, nuthatches are feeder favorites. Our largest nuthatch, the White-breasted, is a daily visitor, foraging on suet as well as grain. Oftentimes one will dart in and grab a sunflower seed, then fly to a nearby oak tree. There, it can lodge the seed in a bark fissure and “hatch the nut” with sharp blows to the shell from its powerful bill.

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The tiny Red-breasted Nuthatch is special. With a more northern distribution and preference for coniferous forests, it is less common at the feeders than the White-breasted. Several years ago there was one, and it disappeared mid winter; last year there were none. We might have a pair this year and I’m taking every opportunity to document their presence. Love this tiny, colorful bundle of energy!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Snakes Around the House

I enjoy working on the house and property in mid summer, when the weather is warm and friendly. And, I’m not alone in my fondness for warm weather. Seventeen species of snakes are endemic to New York State. At least three of them – all nonpoisonous and harmless – live around the house (stone foundation; compost pile; deep, leafy mulch; loose stone walls, etc.). July is their month to see and be seen!

I’m tripping over garter snakes, and every so often get a glimpse of the beautiful, but secretive, milk snake.

They’re in the lawn…

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The firewood pile…

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The blueberry patch…

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And, just this morning, inside the cellar ….. at eye level!

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This milk snake, a young adult about two feet long, was investigating a shelf in the stone foundation of the cellar where sawdust had accumulated during the installation of a furnace vent. Rodents are a dietary staple, so I’m hoping it eats well (and stays in the stone foundation)!

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“The Essence of Wildlife Photography” by Mike Biggs, IN “Whitetail Rites of Autumn” by Charles Alsheimer:

“Wildlife photography consists of a series of repeated attempts by a crazed individual to obtain impossible photos of unpredictable subjects performing unlikely behaviors under outrageous circumstances.”

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.