Happy Thanksgiving 2019!

When winter weather and deep snow cover arrive, chipmunks retreat to their burrows and cached food and more or less disappear from the landscape (they’re not true hibernators). This year, mild weather and the absence of continuous snow cover have kept them above ground, foraging and storing food later than normal. Chippies are a joy to watch and just one of the many things I’m thankful for at Thanksgiving.

Photos by NB Hunter (Nov., 2019). © All rights reserved.

Hummingbird Highlights

Having a hummingbird feeder suspended in front of a kitchen window, adjacent to a sand cherry perch, affords an opportunity to observe and photograph the nuances of daily behavior that might not be possible in a more natural setting. Despite the many obstacles to quality images – the haze and imperfections of glass in small windows, undesirable background elements, the ever-present contrast of sunlight and shadows – I sometimes shoot scenes just to capture the fascinating behavior that results from several hummers visiting the same feeder.

We see males and females throughout the day, probably two mated pairs.

The typical sighting is a single bird, male or female, at the feeder at any one time. On this occasion (2 images), a female was on the back side of the feeder when a second female arrived. There was obvious tension in the air, as the feeding bird stared menacingly while the incoming hummer put on the brakes and hovered, not sure whether to feed, fight, or fly.

Unlike the females, males are notorious for their aggressive defense of feeders and flowers. There is a feisty little male in our group, and he has an abundance of attitude. He defends the feeder aggressively, often poised for combat until it’s too dark to see him. When perched near the feeder, his head is on a swivel, looking in all directions for an intruder. Should one show up, a spectacular chase ensues and, in the blink of an eye, the feeder is ours again.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.


Nest Building – Chipmunk Style

A natural landscape – one with a chemical-free lawn, stone walls, brush piles and weedy edges – provides habitat for a surprising array of wildlife species. Add bird feeders to the mix and the response from seed-eating animals can be overwhelming. The Eastern Chipmunk is one such critter. Stone walls become condos and dirt-free entrances to burrows, tunnel systems and nesting chambers seem to appear overnight.

Despite decades of observing chipmunks underfoot, I was unfamiliar with nest-building  behavior until April of this year. A chipmunk popped up from a tunnel entrance in the lawn, checked for threats, then scurried a few feet and picked up a dried oak leaf that had persisted through the winter.

Ok – now what? That leaf is difficult to carry and too big for the tunnel. Of course – chew it up and use the cheek pouches for storage and transport!

The oak leaf project was repeated over and over again. The shredded leaves appeared to be the primary nest-building material and I assumed the work would be done when the last shredded leaf made its way into the tunnel.

I was wrong. Should have known. Shredded oak leaves aren’t all that warm and cozy. The nest needed a liner, and the solution was soft, dried grass, literally plucked from the lawn.

Chippy spent the best part of a morning hauling leaves and grass into its hidden, underground chamber and constructing a nest….in the dark! That was several weeks ago, so I imagine the hard work is now paying dividends.

Photos by NB Hunter (early April, 2019). All rights reserved.


“Bird” Feeder Survey, December 2018

In the snow belt, harsh winter weather and snow cover trigger aggressive feeding by resident wildlife. Bird counts and squirrel activity at artificial feeding stations reach an annual peak, a phenomenon that is most apparent in the midst of a snow storm. At various times throughout the day, chaos reigns as dozens of birds and mammals converge at feeders, providing wonderful opportunities for “wildlife watching” …and photography.

Chickadee and Downy Woodpecker feeding on a block of suet and grain.

Red-breasted Nuthatch at rest near feeders on a frigid winter morning

Blue Jay evaluating its feeding options

A pleasantly plump Gray Squirrel eating …. because it can!

White-breasted Nuthatch, an upside-down favorite

Red Squirrel digging for grain under a layer of fresh snow

Squirrels are notorious for their creative gymnastics around elevated “bird” feeders

Perhaps our most popular winter resident, cardinal sightings are down this year, and we don’t know why

Woodpeckers (Hairy and Red-bellied) squabbling over access to a suet block.

The Tufted Titmouse is expanding its range northward, influenced by artificial feeding and global warming

Photos by NB Hunter. © 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.

Juncos Dawn to Dusk

Slate-colored Juncos are by far the most common winter visitor at the feeders. Dozens arrive in the early morning hours, usually before I’ve finished my coffee and want to brave the elements to scatter bird seed.  The predawn flock of small, dark objects hopping and fluttering about is my signal to get moving. Once outside,  the soft, barely audible twittering of the flock gives me pause. If I needed a reward for my efforts, that would be it.

They’re common, they’re not very colorful, they don’t dazzle with aerial maneuvers….they’re just juncos. But, they have a special place in my archives.







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


Weathering the Storm

A Tufted Titmouse occasionally visits our feeders in winter, but it’s unpredictable and rarely lingers. This visit was different, influenced by harsh wind, snow and subzero wind chills.

The little songbird was in survival mode: it found shelter and food, put its back to the wind, puffed its feathers for insulation and hunkered down.






Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.