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.

 

Deer in Mid Winter

Deer in this area have yet to be physically stressed by deep snow. However, more snow is on the way and the availability of palatable food resources will soon reach an annual low. In response, deer can be seen searching for food around the clock, especially in habitats where concentrated food sources like standing corn are absent.

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Deer searching for waste grain in a snow-covered field

Deer tend to throw caution to the wind and frequent bird feeders when natural foods are scarce. This one, young and curious, investigated our backyard bird feeders this afternoon. Two or three others, less tolerant of human activity, will visit in darkness.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

The Color of Winter

We have four months of winter; I enjoy three of them. The earthy colors and vivid contrasts of uncluttered winter landscapes can be very appealing, even spectacular. Winter also affords us the opportunity to observe the behavior and coping mechanisms of resident birds and mammals as they struggle to find sufficient food and cover amidst dwindling resources. The “dormant” winter season is far from static; there’s a lot going on, and much to learn. I’ll share a few winter highlights from Central New York, captured in January, 2017.

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Northern cardinal foraging for grain near a backyard feeder

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Eastern wild turkeys searching for waste grain

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Round bales on a foggy winter morning

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Black-capped chickadee in a lake-effect snow storm

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Hilltop panoramic view of farms and woodlands

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American crow foraging on waste grain

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Morning sunlight on the Chenango River 

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Red-bellied woodpecker feasting on a commercial suet block

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

The Winter Solstice

“We cannot stop the winter or the summer from coming. We cannot stop the spring or the fall or make them other than they are. They are gifts from the universe that we cannot refuse. But we can choose what we will contribute to life when each arrives.”     – Gary Zukavteasel16dec168647e5c8x10

“How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year!”             – Thomas Wentworth Higginson

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“Kindness is like snow – it beautifies everything it covers.”     – Kahlil Gibran

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“There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you. In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.” ― Ruth Stout

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“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.”     – John Burroughs

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“When snow falls, nature listens.”     – Antoinette van Kleef

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“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”            ― John Steinbeck

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“Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments, embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.”     – John Boswell

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Photos by NB Hunter; taken in Central New York in December, 2016 © All Rights Reserved.

The White Admiral

I often encounter White Admiral butterflies in late spring and summer because we frequent the same habitats: woodlands and associated openings, edges and wet places. The caterpillars feed on willows and aspens, common woody plants in the region.

They’re a difficult target: adults rarely settle, fluttering and gliding every which way, in an unpredictable manner. This one fluttered from flower to flower for a minute or so, then, with no warning, just disappeared over the tree tops! Appearing black and white in flight, their brilliant coloration can’t be fully appreciated unless they pause for nourishment and the underside of a wing becomes visible.

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White Admiral nectaring on Dame’s Rocket

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Portraits of a Young Red Squirrel, 2016

Cool, dark days with occasional rain shifted my extracurricular activities from nature photography to firewood and habitat management. Every time I left the house to do something a family of 4 or 5 young red squirrels ran for cover. All but one. I think he viewed my presence as an opportunity rather than a threat: he could gobble up bird seed in the absence of sibling competition.

Needing a break, I got the camera and approached slowly, keeping a low profile. Eventually I was motionless, in a prone position, and he resumed normal activity. Shutter noise aroused his curiosity, but didn’t drive him away. I can now share an intimate, 20-minute peek into the daily life of an adolescent red squirrel!

(PS: the pinkish flowers in the background are Dame’s Rocket, a garden escapee that closely resembles Phlox).

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Nest Building 101

I received these instructions from a cavity nesting songbird, one that serenades me while I’m  working in the garden: the common House Wren.

Step 1.In the absence of a hollow tree, find a small box with a hole in it. Stuff the box with tiny twigs (about 600, give or take a hundred). Leave some room at the top for bedding and the kids. Oh, and in your spare time, stuff every other nest box in sight with twigs to discourage the competition.

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Step 2. Scavenge some soft material for bedding (you don’t want the kids flying around with a stick up their butt). Fragments of insulation from a nearby dog kennel work well.

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Step 3. Sing loud and often to let the world know what you’ve done. And that you own it.

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My biological control strategy for insect pests!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.