A Wildlife Smorgasbord, Served Cold

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”   – John Muir

Squirrels, both red and gray, are frequent visitors to our bird feeders. But, they must do more than eat: avoid being eaten! A Red Fox has also been cruising the neighborhood, and small mammals are a dietary staple.

Morning doves, as many as two dozen, flutter in to feed several times a day. But, they too have natural enemies. Cooper’s hawks learn to hunt bird feeders (their fly-through restaurant), and doves are a favorite target.

Coyotes prey on deer, especially young, old and unhealthy ones. However, the greatest threat to deer in winter is a population that exceeds the carrying capacity of the habitat. Over time, excessive browsing by hungry deer destroys the forest understory, which has an adverse, domino effect on plant and animal diversity.

The dense vegetation in this scene is misleading. It obviously provides bedding cover, but is virtually devoid of palatable food.

Pileated woodpeckers are thriving in our woodlands, especially where tree mortality from ash decline, beech bark disease and other pests is high. Large dead and dying trees provide habitat for woodpeckers to drill for food and create nest cavities. Later, the excavations become critical nesting habitat for dozens of bird and mammal species – including the Tufted Titmouse.

When winters are severe, with heavy snow cover, a “winter thaw” can be the difference between life and death for wildlife. Turkeys are one species that benefit greatly from a warm spell in mid winter because they mainly forage on the ground.

In winter, blackbirds form large flocks that waste little time finding concentrated food sources. Barn yards and farm fields are favorite dining locations.

Photos by NB Hunter (Jan. – Feb., 2019). © All rights reserved.

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Happy Earth Day

Celebrating Earth Day with images from April, 2018.

Starlings4Mar18#9985E2c5x7

Starlings searching for spilled grain on an active farm

Mallard20Apr18#2710E2c8x10

Mallard at rest on a wintry spring day

Gull12Apr18#2322E2c5x7

Ring-billed Gull foraging in a flooded field

Deer19Apr18#2569E2c5x7

Mature whitetail after a long, cold rain

Vulture19Apr18#2615E2c8x10

Turkey Vulture cleaning up a road-kill

WTSparrow19Apr18#2666E3c8x10

White-throated Sparrow with a kernel of corn

WoodFrog22Apr18#2752E2c5x7

Breeding Wood Frog in a vernal pool – today – a month behind schedule

TurksGobbler21Apr18#2735E5c8x10

Wild turkey (a young gobbler or “jake”)

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.