Holiday Greetings from Central New York

Wetland in late evening; 2Nov2018

A mink, busy hunting frogs in a nearby stream and caching them in a den under tree roots; 2Nov2018

Winter arrives early, triggering a frantic search for recently buried red oak acorns; 15Nov2018

A wintry scene on the river; 23Nov2018

Shallow ponds are freezing quickly, leaving little open water for foraging muskrats; 28Nov2018

The main whitetail rut is winding down, but not over;  he’s tending an estrous doe; 29Nov2018

Eagles weathering the storm, with a watchful eye on ice-free surface water; 7Dec2018

After the storm: a red-bellied woodpecker probes dead wood high in the crown of a declining sugar maple; 9Dec2018

Photos by NB Hunter. © All rights reserved.

Bird Feeder Highlights

Lingering Arctic weather has driven a variety of birds to the feeders, prompting me to post a mid January update on our backyard visitors.

A small flock of Pine Siskins arrived last week – after an absence of several years.

PineSiskin14Jan18#8374E2c5x7

These small, sparrow-size songbirds are an absolute joy. They’re semi-tame and approachable when swarming a feeder. But, they can also be pretty feisty when quarreling over ‘Nyger’ seed!

PineSiskin14Jan18#8323E2c5x7

PineSiskins14Jan18#8330E5c8x10

A Red-breasted Nuthatch, the masked bandit of the feeders, continues to entertain. So tiny and so quick – I know it often comes and goes undetected.

RBNuthatch14Jan18#8392E2c5x7

RBNuthatch14Jan18#8408E2c8x10

Red-bellied Woodpeckers sit atop the pecking order when it comes to foraging on a suet block. They visit often, and the “zebra back” always commands our attention.

RedBelliedWP5Jan18#7709E5c8x10

RedBelliedWP5Jan18#7684E2c5x7

RedBelliedWP6Jan18#7786E7c5x7

Photos by NB Hunter (January, 2018). © 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.

cardinal3feb170165e2c5x7

Northern cardinal foraging for grain near a backyard feeder

turks7jan179109e2c3x5

Eastern wild turkeys searching for waste grain

roundbales22jan179662e8c3x5_edited-1

Round bales on a foggy winter morning

chickadee2feb170130e2c5x7

Black-capped chickadee in a lake-effect snow storm

crowhill26jan179876e4c3x5

Hilltop panoramic view of farms and woodlands

crow31jan170031e2c5x7

American crow foraging on waste grain

chenangor7jan179090e5c5x7

Morning sunlight on the Chenango River 

redbelliedwp1feb170085e3c8x10

Red-bellied woodpecker feasting on a commercial suet block

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Bird Feeder Survey – 28January2016

The number of doves at the feeders is directly proportional to the severity of the winter weather and snow depth. A few visit several times a day, but 20 or 30 might appear in the middle of a blizzard. Ground feeders, doves typically flutter to the ground, a few at a time, from nearby perches on tree branches and overhead wires.

Dove25Jan16#4125E3c5x7

Feeding is fast and furious. Seeds and grain are swallowed whole and stored in an enlarged portion of the esophagus, the crop. This “whole grain” food will be digested later, from the safety of a perch in the trees.

Doves2Feb13#117E4c5x7

Sparrows and juncos, also ground foragers, swarm the feeding sites throughout the day. They seem to eat more than is physically possible, or necessary for that matter.

TreeSparrow28Jan16#4265E2c8x10

American Tree Sparrow

Junco27Jan16#4258E3c8x10_edited-1

Slate-colored Junco (1 of 2)

Junco27Jan16#4229E2c5x7

Suet blocks, a commercial mix of animal fats and seeds, are a major attraction. Just about everybody pecks at these things at one time or another. Woodpeckers are the primary users, but jays, nuthatches, chickadees, starlings and other species visit them too. Squirrels devour suet blocks in late winter.

DownyWP19Jan16#3788E2c5x7

Downy Woodpecker

WBNuthatch27Jan16#4232E3c8x10

White-breasted Nuthatch

RedBelliedWP28Jan16#4278E2c8x10

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Winter Birds: the Red-bellied Woodpecker

I’ve been playing cat-and-mouse with a Red-bellied Woodpecker for weeks. Its feeding behavior is best described as a covert operation, designed to thwart any attempt at a quality image. Feeder visits are unpredictable, brief, and likely to be terminated by the least little disturbance.

Red-bellied Woodpecker with suet from a bird feeder (3 images); the busy background in these photos is snow-covered spruce trees; 2/5/2015:

RedBelliedWP5Feb15#034E2c8x10

Historically a southeastern species, the breeding range of this woodland woodpecker has expanded greatly over the last hundred years. It now covers most of eastern U.S. — and New York state.

RedBelliedWP5Feb15#031E2c8x10

RedBelliedWP5Feb15#035E2c8x10

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.