Backyard Bushy Tails

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

GraySquirrel25Dec17#6776E2c5x7

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.

Late Winter Faces

Many wildlife stories are unfolding in Central New York as the deep snow and unprecedented cold weather persist.  For now, I’ll pretend the glass is half full, rather than nearly empty, and present selected images from February 28 through today.

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MourningDove3Mar15#017E2c5x7

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ButtonBuck1Mar15#030E2c8x10

Eagles28Feb15#176E4c8x10

Photos by NB Hunter. © ,All Rights Reserved.

Squirrel Scuffles

When several squirrels arrive at a bird feeder, a scuffle invariably occurs. These battles for dominance and feeding rights are usually brief, harmless — and blurry! Two or more squirrels (reds and/or grays) will suddenly leap, run, roll and whirl around as the alpha gives chase. Within a second or two the matter is settled and feeding resumes.

I never fully appreciated this scenario until recently, when I decided to crank up my camera settings and attempt to freeze the action of a Gray Squirrel scuffle. There was more going on than I realized – ears back, eyes closed, a knock-down – amazing!

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An alpha caught in the act, raiding a bird feeder – with no competitors in sight!

 

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Backyard Squirrels in Winter

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Squirrels become habituated to bird feeders in winter, to the point of becoming a nuisance. Gray Squirrels will travel considerable distances from their preferred woodland habitat of mature deciduous trees to eat bird seed. Red Squirrels have a smaller home range, but can dominate feeders too, especially if their habitat of choice is present in the landscape – mature coniferous trees such as Norway Spruce.

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Red Squirrel in its escape tunnel in deep snow near a bird feeder

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Red Squirrel feasting on bird seed

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Red Squirrel raiding the suet in a wire mesh woodpecker feeder

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One of a dozen Gray Squirrels visiting 2 backyard bird feeders

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Gray Squirrel digging through snow for bird seed

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Covered in Snow

Friends and relatives often ask why we live in the snow belt. They see news coverage of the winter storms, the monster plow trucks rolling along in tandem generating huge waves of snow, the annual snow totals of 10 feet, the shoveling, etc.  Yesterday it was raining at lower elevations but here, with the temperature hovering around 30 degrees, it snowed all day. Small flakes stuck together to form giant ones that dominated the landscape, in the air and on the plants they landed on. I took a hike in the midst of it all.These photos say something about why I enjoy seasonal change, and snow in particular. .

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Persistent leaf of American Beech

My exploration started at the house. Triggered by the heavy, continuous  snowfall, there was a lot of activity at the feeders and I had to capture a bit of it before moving on.

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Chickadee perched in a Star Magnolia near a feeder

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Gray Squirrel

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Three (?) gray squirrels at a feeder

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Gray squirrel on the alert!

Large flakes of wet snow flying through the air and sticking to everything in sight has a dreamy, surreal effect that can’t be captured in full through a lens.

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Persistent beech leaves

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White Pine

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Fungus on sugar maple

I didn’t see much wildlife on this hike. A freshly killed cottontail (several hours old) in a brushy apple tree thicket caught my attention. The head had been eaten but the rest of the carcass remained. There were also fisher tracks in the area, not yet covered in new snow. I’ve been investigating these tracks for days now, checking the old growth hemlocks and sugar maples in an adjacent woodlot for a den site.

Deer2Feb13#108E

A whitetail doe disturbed while feeding on pruned apple tree branches

The overall snow depth was about 10 inches, deeper in areas where it had drifted or was supported by shrubs and brush. That’s not all that much, but it was that “in-between” condition where it’s too soft and heavy for good snow shoe travel, and too soft and heavy for comfortable foot travel. So after a couple of hours of walking, I took a short drive to check open waters for ducks, geese and possibly an eagle. I saw nothing on the water, watched two crows in a tree above me for a while and decided to call it a day.

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Common Crow