Archive for October, 2012

Stormy Weather

As I write this two elements of Hurricane Sandy are competing for attention outside my window. The relentless pounding of rain is attempting to drown out the howling wind. Neither is winning.

Instead my thoughts are focused on the fact that just three weeks ago I was in the exact spot where Sandy is making landfall – the lower tip of NJ and upper Delaware – on a birding trip.

The land is extremely flat, low and near the waters of Delaware Bay and the Atlantic. I recall one side road near Prime Hook NWR that ran right along the water edge. At one point beach sand drifted over the road making driving impossible without 4-wheel drive. That was on a nice day. Can’t imagine what the tidal surge of hurricane would do. The water will rush inland for at least a mile.

Really serious birders love a big storm. Strong winds blow birds far from their usual neighborhoods. Birders rush to the seashore after the storm to look for rarities.
I am happy just to be safe at home, praying that the power won’t go out. I also feel sorry for the poor birds who aren’t as safe and have to survive as best as they can.

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First of the Season

It is official. I saw my first Junco today. That means that the winter season has begun. As you may know, Juncos spend the summer in the great north woods or in Canada. Somehow they sense the onset of colder winter temperatures and then migrate south to Westchester where they think the winter is almost balmy. Amazingly they determine the coming change in weather without the use of Doppler Radar or satellite imagery.

Of course the poor Junco I saw today did not realize that a combined hurricane–Nor’easter will soon be blasting thru the area. That may come as a surprise.

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Below is a listing of some of the upcoming birding and nature activities in the local area during November. These are run by the local auubon societies, parks and nature centers

November 1, Thursday – Read Sanctuary & Marshlands
Meet at Playland Lake boathouse at 7:45 am focusing waterfowl, Great Horned Owl and lingering songbirds. Bedford Audubon Society

November 3, Saturday – Free Monthly Bird Walk – 1st Saturday of each month
Lead by Wild Bird Center. Meet at 8:00 am at the Wild Bird Center store or at 8:20 am at Crestwood Lake Train Station Parking Lot.

November 3, Saturday – Owl Prowl
7:00 to 9:00 pm at Muscoot Farm. Rt. 100, Somers (914) 564-7282

November 14, Wednesday – What’s Up With Westchester Birds?
7:30 pm at Greenburgh Nature Center. Presenter: Anne Swaim, Exec. Director, Saw Mill Audubon. In partnership with the Sierra Club – Lower Hudson

November 17, Saturday – Youth Birding Club Field Trip – Sheldrake Environmental Center/Larchmont Reservoir
9:00 am Meet in parking lot. Sponsored by BR-SS and Central Westchester Audubon Societies

November 17, Saturday – Intro to Backyard Bird Feeding
2:00 pm Irvington Public Library. Presented by Hank Weber of Wild Bird Center

November 18, Sunday – Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Meet at Wild Bird Center at 8:00 am or at 9:00 at refuge. We will be looking for early waterfowl and late fall migrants. Wild Bird Center, BR-SS and Saw Mill River Audubon.

November 29, Thursday – Raptors in the Rafters
6:30 am. Live raptor show in gym of Church Street School, White Plains. Jim Eyring, Asst. Director of Ecology Dept. Pace University and Master Falconer, will entertain and inform. Sponsor by Central Westchester Audubon Society.

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I made it.

Today I ventured into unknown territory and returned to tell about it. The new territory is the newly opened O’Hara Nature Center in Irvington. Neither I nor anyone I know had ever been there before or even knew it existed.

My general impression is that it is big, very big, 400 acres. If you look at a map you will notice it covers 20% of all the acreage in the entire town of Irvington. That’s big.

The terrain is varied with deep gullies, a tall mesa, and jagged rocks. In general, the land slopes down to the Irvington Reservoir. Multiple trails bisect the area but numerous rocks and roots make it critical to watch your step or you easily fall flat on your face. The area mostly wooded but does include small creeks and wetlands as well as the reservoir itself. One spot on the map that we didn’t visit, but sound interesting, is called Hermit’s Cave.

It is a nice nearby spot for a pleasant hike. On this autumn morning the trees were in multi-colored fall shades and leaves continuously rain down in a steady shower of color. But, since the area is primarily wooded, there isn’t much bird life.

As a point of reference I would say OHara Nature Center is similar to Cranberry Lake – a large natural area, good for a walk, but not great for birding.

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On Saturday, Nov. 17th, at 2:00 PM I am presenting a free program at the Irvington Public Library titled “Attracting Birds to Your Backyard”. The program will cover the basics of backyard bird feeding, provides tips and techniques for attracting colorful birds, and answer the questions you have always wanted to ask.

The Irving Library is located at 12 South Astor Street in Irvington, at the bottom of Main Street, across from the train station.

Everyone is welcome. I hope to see you there.

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I now have a sense of how Lewis and Clark must have felt before setting out on their epic journey into unknown lands. Tomorrow morning I venture to explore O’Hara Nature Center in Irvington. I have never been there before, nor do I know anyone else who has ever been there. It will be a totally new experience.
O’Hara Nature Center is brand new, having officially opened just three week ago. Unexplored territory.

What will we find? Good birding habitat? A suburban dump? Untamed wildlife? Who knows?

Here is what I do I do know: the center contains 400 undeveloped acres on Mountain Road in Irvington. (I never would have guessed there could be that much undeveloped land in lower Westchester) It is a mostly wooded area with a stream/pond/lake. A private group raised funds to build a modern center building and to maintain and operate the grounds and facilities. That’s all I know.

Tomorrow, I will find out more and, if I live through it, will let you know.

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Be an Explorer

Westchester County, especially lower Westchester being so close to NYC, is heavily developed. That is why I was so surprised to learn that the Town of Irvington has just opened the new O’Hara Nature Center. Where did they find 400 acres of undeveloped land with woods, ponds and other natural stuff?
This coming Saturday, Oct. 27th, together with the Hudson River Audubon Society, I plan to explore this new natural area to see what we shall see. I feel like Columbus exploring a new and unknown land.
Join us if you want to discover this new land.
Meet at 8:00AM at the O’Hara Nature Center, 170 Mountain Road, Irvington

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Advanced scouts farther north are signaling that the boys are preparing to soon move south in big numbers.  This, they predict, will be a major invasion years.  Get ready, the finches are coming.

Every 3 to 5 years the wild seed crops in Canada are not up to par.  That means that birds that normally winter in Canada will not find enough food to eat and will head south in search of a meal.  So clean you finch feeders, stock up on thistle (also called nyjer) and prepare to watch for strangers at your feeders.

Already this year there are reports of many Red-breasted Nuthatches in Westchester.  Last year there weren’t any.   Counties a little farther north in NY are sighting lots of Pine Siskins.   Be on alert.  There is hope that Redpolls will also be spending the winter in our area.









Some people are also predicting that Crossbills and Grosbeaks are on the way. 

Of course, those are the same people that predicted the Yankees would win the World Series and the South would rise again.

Still, it is good to have a dream, something to hope for.  You never know.

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A sophisicated palate

Today was the day for a regularly scheduled torture session with my friendly dentist. Actually, he is an excellent dentist and a good story teller so these visits are enjoyable.

Today he told me about a hiker in the northwest who became separated from the other members of his group. He was lost and alone. After a few days of eating only berries, intense hunger added to his sense of loneliness. He had noticed salmon in the clear stream nearby and was determined to spear a salmon using a sharpened stick. He waded into the water jabbing at a few fish without much success. But his aim improved with each jab. As he slowly approached a large salmon resting by a rock, a Bald Eagle swooped gracefully from the sky and grabbed the salmon. Angry and frustrated he picked up a rock and hurled it at the eagle hoping to make it drop the salmon. By shear accident the rock actually hit the eagle in the head and killed it. The fish fell into the stream and swam away. The dead eagle landed at his feet.

“An eagle” he thought “is like a chicken only bigger. And I’m starving, so why not?” He managed to start a fire and cook the eagle, his first meal in three days.
Later that afternoon a rescue team finally reached him in the woods. Much happiness all around. The rescue team couldn’t help but notice all the eagle feathers scattered on the ground. So he told them his story of hunger and his lucky throw. They understood.

However, they explained that it is illegal to kill an eagle. So they were required to report the incident. But everyone was confident that once he told his story to the judge there wouldn’t be any consequences.

Any there weren’t. The judge realized that when you are starving in the woods you will eat whatever food you can. So he dismissed the case against the hiker.

As the hiker turned to leave the courtroom, the judge stopped him with one final question: “I have often wondered what an eagle tastes like. Can you tell me? Does it taste like chicken?”

The hiker, who had a very sophisticated palate, replied “No, it tastes more like a cross between a Spotted Owl and a California Condor.”

That story caused more pain than the dental work.

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The web has a ton of videos, some humorous or semi-humorous and some not so funny. When you are experiencing job stress or a bad hair day, a little laughter can be therapeutic.

When you have a minute or two, follow the link to view “Sh*t Non-Birders Say”. Despite the title it isn’t profane and has some chuckles.

Also, in the right-hand column click and watch “Sh*t Birder Say”

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