I did my now annual raptor photography trip yesterday to Orange County's
Black Dirt region and to the Wallkill Refuge straddling New York and New
Jersey. The effort now includes a count, which I enter into HMANA's (Hawk
Migration Association of North America) winter raptor survey database.
Yesterday's tally included 9 Rough-legged Hawks, all along Pumpkin Swamp
Road and the fields straddling Route 6 south to Sidoti Lane (so none in the
Wallkill (I don't cover Shawangunk)). Of the 25 Red-tailed Hawks tallied,
all those seen well enough were typical Eastern birds. It's a small sample
size, but does it suggest that few or no dark Canadian birds came down this
year? I've not seen the one that wintered around Flushing Meadows in Queens
the last two winters, either. We know Rough-legs are irruptive and variable
in numbers. I'm not sure if anyone's thought about that in regard to
Red-tails, but it might be something to think about.
The rest of the count: Black Vulture 3, Turkey Vulture 12, Northern Harrier
11, American Kestrel 2. I did see two Bald Eagles for the day - these seen
on my way home. They were flying over Route 9 , in the vicinity of Croton
Point. There didn't seem to be much ice in that area anymore, but a lot
still just south of the Bear Mountain Bridge. It remains to be seen how that
bodes for the upcoming Eaglefest. I did my eagle trip on January 20. Just at
two stops - Verplanck and Charles Point - I counted around 75. Hopefully, a
bunch will still be around.
For those that are interested, I saw little in the way of grassland
passerines in the black dirt area. Flocks of 3 and 4 Horned Larks were it.
Perhaps the current lack of snow cover allowed them to spread out.
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