Posts Tagged ‘Croton Point Park’

Depending on your location in New York, upstate and downstate have very different meanings. For those in Albany, the Adirondacks might be upstate while Westchester downstate, though for those on Long Island, Westchester might be upstate (and I guess there’s no downstate). Well, on Sunday, I went “upstate,” if you could even call it that, to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, and to a lesser extent, Croton Point Park, with some hawk watchers from Quaker Ridge. The weather was excellent — a high of 45F was predicted for the day, a nice change from previous weeks in the 20s and 30s.

At Croton we hoped to find some waterfowl, eagles, and maybe even some uncommon birds that had been reported hanging around. Strangely, there was next to no waterfowl at the Croton Train Station, usually filled with ducks. All we saw were some Bufflehead and Mute Swans. We were treated to excellent looks at an adult Bald Eagle perched on a stick poking out from the riverbed on the opposite side of the train tracks.

We had better luck once actually in the park. There had been a Red-headed Woodpecker reported nearby one of the parking lots, so we headed there first. After spreading out and combing the area for perhaps 15 minutes, we headed back to the car, disappointed. Just as we were about to pile in, Mike exclaimed that he had the bird! Sure enough, there it was in a tree not 50 feet away. We spent the next several minutes following the Red-headed Woodpecker from tree-to-tree, shutters clicking.

The best shot I got of the Red-headed Woodpecker. It took a bit of patience before it flew out into some good light.

After the woodpecker, we drove up to a lot on top of the capped landfill-turned grassland. We couldn’t find any evidence of owls in the pines surrounding the lot, and we began to walk down the road toward the water. After a minute or two we encountered a small band of passerines. White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, all the usuals…but wait — a flash of yellow here…and out emerged an Orange-crowned Warbler! There had been sporadic reports of one from that general area throughout the winter, but this particularly hardy individual hadn’t been seen for at least a month (at least by birders who post to the NYS Listserv). The day was turning out to be pretty good, but the best was still yet to come.



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A female Bufflehead coming in for a landing

A female Bufflehead coming in for a landing.

With possibly over a foot of snow forecast starting midday today and into tomorrow morning, I wasn’t sure if it was worth it to go out to Croton Pt for the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). However, I got a good 5 hours of birding in (and as of 4pm, it still hasn’t really started snowing – darn weather forecasters…).

For those who don’t know, the nationwide Christmas Bird Count is an all-day event in which participants tally all the individual birds they see in a set territory. It began in the early 1900s as an alternative to the traditional “Christmas bird hunt” (in which participants would shoot all the birds they could…generally).

Ring-billed Gull

A Ring-billed Gull.

With Mike Bochnik, Ryan MacLean, Paul Oehrlein, and a few others, I birded Croton Point, one of the better spots in Westchester County for birds (especially for Bald Eagles in late winter).

We started out by walking over the capped landfill (now a very nice grassland), which frequently turns up birds like Horned Lark, Snow Bunting, and American Pipit, but all I saw were several Savannah Sparrows and, after glancing out over the marsh, a female Northern Harrier. Some time spent peering into a nearby stand of trees and shrubs yielded Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Gray Catbird, Winter Wren, a flyover Great Cormorant, most of the common songbirds, and a real treat, a Snow Goose, which seemed to be missing some feathers in its left wing, impeding its flight.

One of three Fox Sparrows we saw.

Continuing back up the side of the capped landfill, we found a Swamp Sparrow, but not much else. After getting back to the parking lot, we set off towards the beach area, along the way finding both Ruby- and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Northern Mockingbird, and Brown Creeper. Down by the water, we saw a Gadwall, Mute Swans, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, and a plethora of Ruddy Ducks (740 to be exact!).

Other good birds we found included a Bald Eagle, 2 Redheads, Lesser Scaup, Fox Sparrows, and 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches that were amongst 70+ birds that responded in droves (truly an awesome sight) when I played my chickadees-mobbing-a-screech-owl recording.

Despite the cold, wind, and impending snow (which still hasn’t begun now at 5 pm), I had a great time. Tomorrow should be interesting, when I’m doing the Greenwich CBC after a (predicted) 12+ inch snowfall! I’ll be sure to post something about that.

A Mute Swan.

A Mute Swan on the Hudson River.

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