Well, the holidays have arrived and I hope they are great for all of you even though we have been “dampened” by the virus. A recent adventure around the marshes after a fresh snow showed me a lot and brought back many memories of years past. Knowing that most of the waterfowl has moved out of our area and that the main deer season was closed, I knew there would not be much activity but, still, nature seems to always have something to show us even in the “slow” times.
I noticed a fair number of vehicles parked around the swamp before the Dec. 22 closing of the bow and muzzle-loading deer seasons. The weather recently has been cold and there were some pretty windy days added to the mix, but those diehards were still out there.
I hear the deer take was pretty good this year, with a lot of nice trophy bucks taken. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has been pushing hunters to pass on taking younger bucks, to allow the bucks to get another year on them and grow larger antlers. Many hunters are doing this voluntarily now and it seems to be paying off.
However, at the same time, hunters need to be taking more does, because the overall population is getting too large. If the deer numbers are allowed to get too high, then Mother Nature steps in and that can get real ugly, with diseases, vehicles collisions and environmental destruction. Pennsylvania has gone to an antler-size hunting restriction that allows yearling bucks to survive their first hunting season so they may grow bigger racks and it seems to be working. Maybe that will be in our future also.
On my recent adventure, the fresh snow showed that local trappers were out running their “lines” especially for muskrats. Not many people trap any more due to the low price of furs, but it is still an important wildlife management tool.
Trappers have always been criticized for their sport but these guys really love nature and know more about it than most. It is a rough sport with a lot of walking, carrying and tolerating brutal winter weather. They don't do it for the money but for the love and challenge of being out there. I know, since I once was a very dedicated trapper.
And, as I mentioned, trapping is a great wildlife management tool. An overpopulation of muskrats can ruin a marsh. Land animals like raccoon and fox can develop diseases when their numbers are too high, and their overpopulation can raise problems with other wildlife as well. We have influenced Nature in many ways and so it is now our responsibility to manage it so that it is healthy. Controlled trapping and hunting are the tools.
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Now that the marshes are frozen, waterfowl have moved south, or at least to larger, more open water bodies like the Great Lakes and Niagara River. However, some of our resident Canada geese are still in the area and will remain until they can no longer find food in the harvested crop fields or find open water to roost in. The second part of duck season opened Nov. 28 and runs until Jan. 3 but waterfowl hunters will need to go to those bigger, unfrozen open waters to get any action now.
Goose season opened again Dec. 21 and runs until Jan. 3 in the West Central zone (Orleans and Genesee counties); in the South zone (Niagara, Erie and Wyoming counties) the season runs until Jan. 9. Of course this part of the season offers pretty slim pickings for goose hunters.
As I traveled around the swamp on my photo adventure, I took notice of the large number of small bird nests in bushy areas along many roads. The recent snow had put “white caps” on all these songbird nests, so they really stood out in the brown brush. For some reason I never noticed so many along the roads before. There always seems to be something new out there to see and photograph. I suppose that is why I never tire of it.
Here and there, I saw mink and fox tracks in the fresh snow as they searched the marsh edges for snacks. Several pairs of bald eagles were hanging out near their nesting territories, as they will start laying eggs around mid January.
Various nuts and berries still lingered on their respective plants and that made some interesting photos for me, but most of that food will be gone soon as it's eaten by birds and squirrels.
A lot of rabbit tracks marked the snow near the bushy areas, and here and there were the tracks of a crow that was searching for something to eat.
There is always something to observe in Nature, even in the winter, so you don't have to spend all your time cooped up inside. Get out and enjoy the holidays with Nature!
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .