Outdoors: How Wildlife Is Adapting to a Western New York Winter | lifestyles

wIt was a mild fall but Mother Nature turned against us in December. I was lucky during the Christmas storm: I didn’t lose power, I had plenty of firewood in the garage and no reason to travel. I took the opportunity to follow up on the photo manipulation, which gave me another look at the gorgeous fall colors we had, the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets earlier and all those geese running their acrobatic maneuvers in the swamps. When I got a little cold, I threw another log on the fire and maybe took a nap.

What about wildlife during the winter? Many birds are heading south to warmer climates – think of the hummingbirds that fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico to South America to spend the winter. Mostly, native waterfowl stay around as long as there is open water in the marshes, and waterfowl that live farther north come down to visit us on their way to warmer climes. This gives us a chance to see birds that we wouldn’t normally see here, sometimes rare birds that have been pushed away from their natural migration route by storms. All these birds move to the south, where the swamps and streams freeze over. Some, especially diving ducks, head to the open waters of the Niagara River or Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

The invasive and unwanted swan sticks around until there is no open water and then also heads to large open water areas. Trumpeter swans do the same, although I think some move south during the winter.

Vultures stay around as long as they can find food, whether that’s a live hunt for small animals or leftovers from road kills and deer hunting season. Eagles stick most of the winter to their nesting grounds, with the nesting season starting early, before the winter season ends. Recently, many of the pairs I observe have been conjoined near their nests. They will start adding and repairing nests next month. If they cannot find enough food to sustain them, they will simply fly into the Niagara River or open lake to forage for returning food as nesting season approaches.

Hawks and owls feed on smaller animals and birds, so they usually stick around because they can find food. Currently, several screeching owls use a pair of my wooden duck nesting boxes around the house. They install two late-feeding cardinals in a feeder each year, as evidenced by their plumage in the boxes; And besides mice, I’m sure they catch some sleeping birds. The great horned owl is a true killing machine, so it has no problem catching rabbits, skunks, and other large wildebeest that venture out during the evening. The great horned owl also begins its nesting season in winter, often before the eagle; This was proven in one year when there was still a video camera in the eagle’s nest in Cayuga Pond and volunteers including myself were able to watch a great horned owl take over the eagle’s nest there. When the eagles returned and tried to drive the owl out of the nest, they were unsuccessful, which shows how difficult this owl is.

Of course, many small birds move south but many others remain, gathering aid from our feeders as well as insects and seeds left over in the winter landscape. In our area we sometimes see northern birds such as the evening raven staying here during their southern migration. Birds that normally move south for the winter, such as the robin, learn to make a living here during the winter and stay put.

Many crows stay here throughout the winter as do some crows. Even unlikely winter characters like the great blue heron would still be around if they could find open waters to catch small fish. Blue Heron supplied me with pictures of the hunt till December, along Feeder Ditch Road, till it froze; And last week, I spotted one along Oak Orchard Creek near the lake.

Some animals, like raccoons, may nap briefly during the harshest of winters, but foxes and wolves have to work hard to make a living. Woodchucks become inactive and take a nap in the winter; Skunks and chipmunks hibernate during harsh winter conditions. Rabbits remain active and provide food for larger predators. Beavers and muskrat have bank dens or build “houses” above the water and remain active under the ice. Mink and otters remain active as does the new visitor to this state, the angler.

Squirrels stay active all winter long, as we’ve all witnessed around our bird feeders. Deer are much bolder now that hunting season is over; They browse not only in the woods but also around our homes. Turks move a lot, eking out a living in harvested crop fields, forests, and forests.

So, with the exception of those moving to warmer climates, beings of nature have a tough time during the winter here. There is no wood stove or shelter to turn around during severe storms like the recent blizzard. Some don’t make it, but those who do are the strong ones who will pass on their survival characteristics to the next generation.

Doug Domidion, a photographer and naturalist, is based in Medina. Call him at 585-798-4022 or woodduck2020@yahoo.com.

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