Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter at Montezuma Audubon Center

Red-bellied Woodpecker (male) by Dave Spier
It’s been pretty quiet and predictable at the Montezuma Audubon Center (MAC) the last few weeks. Below-normal temperatures and a steady influx of snow with periodic breaks has limited trail access to the use of snowshoes. (Bring your own or rent a pair at the center.) Mostly, the same birds have been coming to the feeders each day, but there’s a good mix of Mourning Doves, Downy Woodpeckers, goldfinches, redpolls, House Finches, titmice, a chickadee and one or two White-breasted Nuthatches. One day a male Red-bellied Woodpecker added a touch of color, not from its salmon-colored underside, but its flaming-red crown and nape. I was able to photograph it through the window in the north-end door that overlooks the bird feeders.

[edited in February] The steadily growing length of daylight will begin to trigger changes in wildlife. The weather was better the day after Groundhog Day, with lots of sunshine.  We didn't see a woodchuck, but this is the time when males leave their burrows and search for females before returning underground to await spring.

Winter photography is a matter of staying warm. Dress in layers (always good advice for any outdoor winter activity), but also keep your camera warm by putting it under your coat until needed. If you have one of the larger DSLR cameras with a zoom lens that’s too big to fit under your outerwear, at least carry a spare battery inside a pocket. Cold weather quickly saps battery life. Also carry Q-tips or wipes to remove condensation from the viewfinder when you accidentally breathe on it. Before returning indoors, put the camera inside a plastic bag to control condensation, or so I've read.

If your camera has exposure compensation, read your camera manual to learn how to use this feature. Intentionally overexposing a snowy scene by one or two stops usually gives you a more realistic image. Otherwise you’re likely to end up with gray (instead of white) snow. Turn this camera feature off when you’re done playing in the snow, or your regular photos will be overexposed.

On Wednesday, February 9, I led a morning nature walk at the MAC, but the best part seemed to be the snowshoeing that everyone enjoyed. We trekked through the walnut grove and turned north on Warbler Walk into the hemlock-hardwoods.  Contact

In other news, Sarah Fleming took over from Doug Gorby as Regional Biologist for Ducks Unlimited, which is involved in many of the wetland restoration projects on the Northern Montezuma Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Savannah. Doug moved to Ohio.

The Montezuma Audubon Center (Route 89 north of Savannah, NY) is in need of volunteers to help with publicity and programs, cataloguing books, caring for the reptiles and other indoor activities. A gardening committee helps with planting native vegetation to benefit wildlife (including attracting more birds) in the spring. For information write to

For more information about birds and birding in the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, visit the website and for additional birding content, visit (the official website of the Eaton Birding Society, based in Geneva, NY).

No comments: