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.

HoodedMerg20Mar17#3938E5c5x7

Hooded Merganser

RingNeckDucks23Mar17#4207E2c5x7

Canada Goose and a pair of ring-necked ducks

Geese21Mar17#3966E2c3x5

Canada geese grazing in a farm field

Killdeer18Mar17#3789E3c5x7

Killdeer grooming at a spring seep

Mallards21Mar17#3957E7c5x7

A pair of mallards under the reflection of deep snow

GBHeron23Mar17#4247E9c8x10

Great Blue Heron over ice and Canada geese on open water

SnowGooseCG18Mar17#3806E5c4x6

A solitary Snow Goose in a flock of Canada geese

SnowGeese26Mar17#4573E9c4x6

Migrating snow geese above farm fields, refueling on waste grain

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

Advertisements

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.

Mallards2Mar17#1787E2c5x7

Mallards in a snow storm

Geese11Mar17#2448E3c3x5_edited-1

Canada geese on ice

HoodedMergansers12Mar17#2464E2c3x5

Hooded mergansers on a precious spot of open water

HoodedMergs12Mar17#2469E2c5x7

Hoodies

IceMoss10Mar17#2383E2c8x10

Streamside ice on a moss-covered rock

Brrrrr!!!

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.

farm26feb171692e2c4x6

Crows in the stubble

farm26feb171726e5c3x5

Wild Canada geese on a dairy farm

tree10feb170333e4c8x10_edited-1

Pasture tree in a storm

Photos by NB Hunter. ©All Rights Reserved.

Flying High

I walk for wellness but this morning I came home with a stiff neck! I watched wave after wave of geese flying high and with purpose, all moving in a northerly direction. Three or four thousand birds passed overhead in an hour, many of them so high they were more easily heard than seen, dark specs strung out across the puffy white clouds.

Some flocks were Canada Geese…

geese24feb171606e2c3x5

while others were Snow Geese.

snowgeese24feb171604e5c8x10

snowgeese24feb171585e5c8x10

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

bluejay16dec168610e2c5x7

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

farm9dec168478e2c3x5

“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

junco15dec168530e2c5x7

“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

redsquirrel16dec168601e3c8x10

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

dove15dec168558e2c5x7

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

hawk16dec168642e2c8x10

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

geese14dec168512e5c4x6

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

Marsh Madness!

Many of our surface waters remain frozen, so my search for waterfowl has been limited to small pockets of open water. One site in particular attracts much of my attention: a marshy wetland in the watershed of a large pond.

Geese4Mar16#6291E2c5x7

Canada Geese in a cattail marsh (4March2016)

The morning (5March2016) appeared to be more of the same: ice everywhere after another bitterly cold night; bright, overcast skies; and geese honking overhead. Just as I was about to leave for home, there was movement in the cattails and a ripple spreading across the surface. Probably a muskrat; oh, why not – there’s nothing else going on. The decision to stay, set up and observe  led to a unique experience that can only be conveyed with images.

The disturbance was indeed a muskrat, but …

Muskrat5Mar16#6374E2c3x5

I soon I realized that I was in the middle of something special. Another muskrat appeared, then another, and another – four in all (I think – things got a little chaotic in and around the cattails). Muskrat love?! These denizens of cattail marshes breed in late winter and early spring. The frenzy appeared to be several males battling and pursuing a female.

Muskrats5Mar16#6345E2c3x5

Muskrat chase scene

Muskrats5Mar16#6319E2c4x6

Males battling for dominance and breeding rights

This muskrat left the water in the midst of the action (returned later though). I’m not sure why; was it subordination? exhaustion? … or simply a cagey female sitting back and watching the men behave like idiots?

Muskrat5Mar16#6416E5c5x7

Under normal circumstances, that would conclude my post. However, I omitted one small detail, the most memorable and befuddling part of the experience.

This mink circled the muskrat melee four times during the 45 minutes that I was on site. It moved across the ice, under water and through the cattails in a counterclockwise loop, becoming visible for a minute or so on each loop. The members of the mink family are curious by nature and that might explain the behavior. Or not.

Mink5Mar16#6351E2c5x7

Mink5Mar16#6373E2c4x6

Mink5Mar16#6395E2c5x7

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Families of Geese

My initial post on a family of geese featured fuzzy little goslings exploring a brave new world in the shadow of their parents (“Geese, Geese and More Geese” on May 24).

Grazing Geese 24May2015

Three weeks later I discovered another, larger family (parents and 8 goslings) loafing and feeding along the shore of a private pond. The goslings are growing like weeds, but still cute, comical and irresistible!

One of the few times that I intentionally went for a butt shot!

I think I know who will be the lead bird when the flock flies in formation

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.