Talons Up Close

Yesterday I had the rare opportunity to see a master falconer and environmental educator at work. The program, “Talons! A Bird of Prey Experience” by Lorrie Schumacher, featured several species of hawks and owls, native and exotic. I locked in on one bird in particular, a Barn Owl, because it’s a native species that I have yet to see in the wild.

Meet “Oliver” the Barn Owl.

Lorrie, Master Falconer, and Oliver the Barn Owl

Barn Owls hunt open habitats at night for mice and other small mammals. Daytime retreats and nesting sites include natural cavities and abandoned barns, silos and other structures. Despite their worldwide distribution, they, like many wildlife species, are vulnerable to habitat degradation and loss.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Arctic Birds, Large and Small

The Arctic weather in Central New York this month has led me to “go with the flow” when searching for nature photographs. Why not hunt for Arctic wildlife when frigid, windy conditions drive everything else to cover?!  And so I did. My subjects were Snowy Owls and Snow Buntings, birds that summer on the Arctic tundra of the far north and typically winter in Canada and northern U.S. I talked briefly about Snow Buntings in a post last February (“Winter Birds – Northern Visitors” 2/7/13) and Snowy Owls in two recent posts (“A Rare Northern Beauty” 12/20/13 and “A Snowy Christmas Eve” 12/24/13). However, I am mesmerized by these charming winter visitors and their amazing adaptations to harsh winter conditions – and must continue to post my experiences with them!

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A flock of over 100 Snow Buntings flying in a synchronized, undulating wave over an open, weedy field

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Part of a small flock of Snow Buntings that was foraging roadside, a common occurrence

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Snow Buntings feeding on weed seeds in an open, windswept field

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An unusual sighting: a solitary Snow Bunting foraging alone; typical of the species, it was walking, rather than flying, from one plant to another

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Snowy Owl on a utility pole surrounded by open, windswept farmland; a favorite perch for hunting and resting

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The low flight behavior and cryptic coloration characteristic of Snowy Owls

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Snowy Owl canvassing a field of corn stubble for prey, possibly a Meadow Vole

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.