Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Trip To Croton On Hudson with QCBC.


We did our annual trip to Croton with a pleasantly good turn-out for the trip. 14 people braved the cold temperatures of 10 degrees, but mitigated by little to no breeze.

Bald Eagles were everywhere! We started by finding a tree across the railroad tracks that had six birds perched in it. As the day went on, it was equally easy to find Bald Eagles in trees, on the ice, and flying past. Also from this general vicinity we heard many Fish Crows, while just a short ways away we had American Crow.

On the river we had the usual suspects but a Great Blue Heron was a surprise. Moving on to Croton Point, we hiked the camp ground but found no owls. At the lot some thought they heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch, but no one could locate it. White-breasted Nuthatches were present however, in expected numbers. Birds were quiet in general though. I found a less than typically friendly Golden-crowned Kinglet YB1. Along this stretch we had a Brown Thrasher, and a Grey Catbird, for YB2. At the feeders we had a Fox Sparrow, always a welcome sight.

Fox Sparrow

We hiked over the landfill, the first good bird being a Savannah Sparrow, and then a half dozen Tree Sparrows partaking of some exposed soil; most everywhere else covered in snow and ice. Moving up to the summit, we spotted a flock of mostly Snow Buntings and some Horned Larks. We didn’t get the chance to sift through them though as a park employee in his truck inexplicably decided that it was necessary to drive over the hill, and flush the birds.

A Dunlin and a Pelican on the landfill
After checking some more locations in the park we tried the feeders at the nature center. We added Carolina Wren for the day,  and the naturalist on staff invited us to have our lunch in the warmth of the building rather than the frigid picnic tables our cruel leader Avian had envisioned for us.

The last stop in the park was the model aviation field where we had been told there was a Screech Owl, and my current nemesis: a Red-headed Woodpecker. Eagle-eyes Dunlin spotted the Screech before it ducked down into it’s hole, leaving only one eye and one tuft barely visible. We all thanked her for spotting it for us and then I chided her for having the Eagle's eyes, reminding her that her so-called 1/32 Indian blood did not excuse her for removing and possessing them. We even saw Eagles flying around using a Walking Cane! Avian said they were nesting material though... what does he know?

Yes, there is a Screech Owl peeking out at us!
But the woodpecker was another story. Or the same story, if by that one means we could not find it. What’s up with this bird? I have missed it here for the past 4 or more years. Sheesh!

Our next stop was Croton Gorge where the ice an snow made exploring out of the question, but we did see many good birds including Ring-necked Duck, Hooded and Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, and Coot. The reservoir offered beautiful vistas and a deer carcass, but no takers during our visit.

We moved on to Verplank, George’s Island, and Indian Point where we gorged on more Eagles, and had nice looks at Great Cormorants, and a fly-by Peregrine. Here new member and Scopier Matthieu B. made sure we all finally got to see Ravens, particularly since JuncoLins was seeing them everywhere while the rest of us languished Raven-less. YB3.

At the end of the day we estimated at least 80 Bald Eagles, and a total of more than 53 species. Not bad for February and frigid temps.

But for Avian, Dunlin, Matthieu and I, the day was not quite over. With ample light and enthusiasm, and Matthieu’s drop off location being ever so close to Pelham Park, we decided it was worth an attempt to see the Red-headed Woodpecker by the driving range at Turtle Cove.

It sure seemed like a good idea at the time, but the parking lot we had to cross was a sheet of ice and Dunlin wisely turned back and waited in the car. The rest of us foo... er, enthusiastic birders continued on in the difficult conditions. The top of the snow was an inch thick crust of ice that cracked under your weight, to expose the powder below that had similar walking quality to that of loose sand on the beach.

We did make it to the location where we had seen them on the Bronx CBC, and scanned the trees. Then as if on queue, a Red-headed came flying in! It perched prominently in the same trees we had seen in back in December. YB4, and nemesis no more!

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