Weathering the Storm

A Tufted Titmouse occasionally visits our feeders in winter, but it’s unpredictable and rarely lingers. This visit was different, influenced by harsh wind, snow and subzero wind chills.

The little songbird was in survival mode: it found shelter and food, put its back to the wind, puffed its feathers for insulation and hunkered down.

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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American Tree Sparrow

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Slate-colored Junco (1 of 2)

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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.

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Downy Woodpecker

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White-breasted Nuthatch

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Red-bellied Woodpecker

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Bird Feeder Survey – 20January2016

Friendly, cheery, perky, chatty, cute – there just aren’t enough adjectives to do justice to the uplifting presence of a social flock of chickadees, especially on a dreary, bitterly cold, winter day.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus; temperature 8 degrees F, wind chill minus 5 degrees F)

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Bird Feeder Survey – 14January2016

Winter weather isn’t always conducive to outdoor photography. There are times when cheating, i.e. setting up beside the wood stove and observing wildlife over bait, is the more rewarding (and sane) thing to do. Mindful of that reality, but wanting to work with the special effects of snow, I decided to create a photographic record of the wild visitors to my “bird” feeders this winter. My goal is to present each visiting species, bird or mammal, popular or unpopular, in an aesthetically pleasing way.

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European Starling

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White-throated Sparrow

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“Stubby” the tailless, three-legged Red Squirrel!

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.