Sunday, December 13, 2009

Birding in a Snowstorm

If you ever get the chance, go birding at the beginning of a snowstorm. I forgot the science behind bird movement and fronts and low pressure systems, but bird activity was crazy today with birds trying to find shelter and food. I decided to stop by the Betar Byway since it's along the Hudson River and figured the waterfowl would be out as well. Just...bring gloves with you. I did not...my hands were so stiff and red within 10 minutes! It didn't help that it was probably 25 degrees. Also bring something to keep wiping your binoculars off with, since the flakes will be sticking to them. :)

The American crows were out in full-force and I think I undercounted at only 12. I'm pretty sure another flock moved in further down the river. Six ring-billed gulls looked like they were fully enjoying themselves, swimming around on the Hudson. At the end of my walk I saw two adult gulls with a juvenile, and wondered if it was the mom and dad and teen gull family I saw not long ago at Hovey Pond. Four mallards flew over at some point and I later saw two adult males and two adult females swimming in pairs. I only counted three blue jays bouncin around quietly in the branches. Lately I've been getting a kick out of how I can never see their eyes, always hidden by a branch. Out of sight, out of mind?

The female downy woodpecker searching diligently for food on a trunk was a great sight. A white-breasted nuthatch was just below her, running circles around the trunk and then straight down about a foot. I saw two more white-breasteds further down.

I was pleased with seeing many of the popular winter birds all around the same area today. I counted about 11 black-capped chickadees, 4 tufted titmice (both species of birds people tend to describe as drab and bland grey in color, but all I noticed was the orange-y and creamy yellows they have), and 4 dark-eyed juncos. I was also completely fascinated with the picture-perfect view of a bright red and black male northern cardinal sitting in the open on a perch, chipping away, with the snow falling all around him. I later counted 5 more hiding and chipping. Two American goldfinches flew overhead at some point.

The river and riparian habitat was really busy in this storm. I spotted a pair of hooded mergansers quietly allowing the flowing river to carry them north. There were three unidentifiable ducks, and from my view looked possibly like American black ducks. They were certainly in the vicinity, I watched 10 of them standing in the only part of the inlet that was not frozen. One section near the river got about 20 noisy American robins that refused to sit on any perch for more than a few seconds. They kept calling a loud, sharp "tut tut!" A flock of 15-20 cedar waxwings stopped nearby for about a minute before flying off back across the river. A female pileated woodpecker clung to a tree and hammered away at an already fairly deep hole. Another woodpecker nearby, which I could not ID, had a softer, shorter, yet very rapid steady rhythm.

Just before the snow actually began to fall, I was surprised by about 150 Canada geese flying southwest overhead, over the river. I would not doubt that they were headed to Moreau.

I took an extremely brisk walk back up the Byway, hoping to not have to drive on the roads when slippery and by the time I got near the entrance, I was bombarded by the sounds of about 30 house sparrows moving in. It was a little odd hearing the sounds of spring and summer on one of our most winter-y days.

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