Saturday, February 5, 2022

NYS Bird Region 7 waterfowl count results, visit from a sharp-shinned hawk, and a fish tale

Well, winter stayed with us for another week. We got a few inches of snow nearly each day and it sure remained cold with temperatures some days not reaching above zero…with a wind to boot. They sure got hammered to the east of us with some places getting two feet of snow and wind speeds up to 99 mph. That will certainly pile up snow in places and bring in waves off the ocean just like a boom hurricane.

Then way down in Florida they had freezing temperatures, and it dipped to below 46 degrees for the first time in more than 10 years. Kathryn Ruscitto, View’s Board of Directors Chair, said the iguanas were cold and falling out of the trees. She said the public was being asked to collect these invasive species and take them to a veterinarian or wildlife rescue/rehabilitation center where they could be humanely euthanized. The low temperature at the Florida Keys International airport reached 46 degrees, breaking a record set more than 65 years ago.

My daughter, Erin, sent pictures of snow on the beach sand on Myrtle Beach, but she said there was not enough to make a snowman. It looks like we might finally get a good bit of snow during the week as a low front is creeping across the country and should reach us about mid-week. No predictions yet, but I may have to get out the snowblower for this one.

Out in California at Big Sur the Colorado forest fire should be fully contained by Wednesday, February 2. The 800-acre fire threatened 225 structures, but none were lost and just one yurt was damaged. The fire started when embers were blown out of a pile burning operation. I believe this was near one of the first fires that a 20-man New York State Forest Fire Crew was sent to fight fire in 1987 and they camped right on the beach while fighting this fire.

Results for the Waterfowl Count for NYS Bird Region 7 were tallied by Stacy Robinson and Ellie George who took over for me as coordinators. It was a good year for me to step down as most of the 18 participants in 19 parties said the weather was brutal as the temperature never got above 10 degrees with a strong wind blowing most of the time. They counted twenty different species of waterfowl for a grand total of 3,670 birds. The largest numbers were 1,357 Mallards, 440 Canada Geese, 734 Common Goldeneyes, and 966 Common Mergansers. Some of the uncommon waterfowl seen were a Northern Pintail, 2 Harlequin Ducks, 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Red-necked Grebe, a Wood Duck, and a Gadwall. I counted 42 Mallards as part of the count which were hiding out in the Inlet Channel. There was a Belted Kingfisher also fishing there eking out a living in the open water, but not part of the waterfowl count.

I had another predatory bird come calling this week. A Sharp-Shinned Hawk came in and grabbed one of my banded slate-colored Juncos. He left me the band and leg after picking the bird clean in the backyard. The Junco was only wearing the band for four days before being caught and eaten. The hawk came through the next couple of days, but I didn’t see it catch anything.

Here is a fish tale for the year. Don Townsend was plowing State Route 28 to the Golden Beach Campsite for the Town of Inlet. He made it to the turnaround at the Golden Beach Campsite entrance and was on his way back when he saw something laying in the middle of the highway. He stopped to check it out (figuring someone had lost something) and what it turned out to be was a 19-inch largemouth bass with a missing head. It’s likely a Bald Eagle had probably stolen the fish from an otter who caught the fish as most everything was frozen up.

The otter probably had it out on the ice and the Bald Eagle stole it, ate part of it, and then dropped the rest when it was spooked by the plow truck right in the middle of the highway. On Don’s next run north, the fish was gone so the Bald Eagle didn’t want to waste that meal and came back to get it when there was no traffic. The cross-country skiing has been great and is getting better, but that’s another story. See ya.

Top photo: Sharp-Shinned Hawk, photo credit: Gary Lee.

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Gary lives with his wife, Karen, at Eight Acre Wood in Inlet where he was the Forest Ranger for 35 years, working in the Moose River Wild Forest Recreation Area and West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. Now retired, Gary works summers for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, observing, catching and banding loons. The author of a column Daybreak to Twilight in local papers from 1986 to 2019, he now writes his Outdoor Adventures a weekly blog. In 2008, Gary coauthored a book with John M.C. “Mike” Peterson, "Adirondack Birding- 60 Great Places to Find Birds."

3 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Great report! Were you able to band the Sharpie while he was eating?

  2. Ginny Alfano says:

    Fun read, Gary. We got a goodly amount of snow here just south of Camden, NY. Our plow man said we had more snow then anywhere else he had plowed. Keeping the birds fed is my top priority. Bought a little window feeder and it gets a lot of use – much to the delight of my cats!! Had a Pine Siskin this morning in that feeder. First one I’ve seen in a few years. He was hanging out with a small flock of Goldfinches. We’ve had a Sharpie here as well. He makes a pass about three times a day. The Bluejays definitely let everybody know 😉.
    See ya!

  3. Regardinig Sharp-shilnned Hawk – on Feb 17, I photographed one as he had just killed a Starlinig in our yard. Photos at my personal website at:
    Joyce Riedinger

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