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Archive for August, 2013

Last night I went to the 2nd Annual Nighthawk watch at the Bedford Hawk Watch Platform. And, just like last year, I did not see a single Nighthawk. I had to keep checking the image below to be remember what they look like

Common Nighthawk

Other birders at the watch did see a few Nighthawks about 20 minutes before I arrived. But my record is still 0 for 2.

If I don’t see one next year, I have completely struck out.

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The Geese Police

I heard the tale of a small town in China that was plagued by a series of night time break-ins to small businesses. The thieves targeted businesses on the edge of town. They stole whatever was available: money, inventory, office equipment… whatever they could carry and resell.

The police tried guard dogs, alarms and other deterrents. Nothing worked.

The final solution was low-tech. They deployed flocks of geese in the potential target businesses. When thieves broke in or climbed the fence the geese would put up a terrible racket – as loud as any burglar alarm. The geese would swarm around any intruder honking, hissing, snapping their beaks and flapping their wings. Scared the heck out of potential thieves.

If you have ever approached a flock of geese, or a single goose with goslings, you understand just how protective geese can be.

The Geese Police were effective in putting an end to the crime wave.

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We are now entering the peak of hummingbird season. More hummingbirds are seen in Westchester during the last week of August and the first half of September than at any other time of year.

ruby throated hummingbirdWhy? All the hummingbirds that spent the summer in New England are migrating south. They fly south and soon run into Long Island Sound. Rather than fly over the sound, they head west along the Connecticut shoreline until they can fly south again over land. And that land is lower Westchester.

This summer customers have been reporting more hummingbirds than in recent years. Now when we add in the migrating hummingbird we should be seeing a lot of hummingbirds in the next three weeks.
Keep your eyes open. Be sure you feeder is full. And watch the feeder and nearby flowers. Only a few weeks left to see hummingbirds

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Common NighthawkLast year I tried a birding activity I had never heard of before – a hawk watch for migrating Common Nighthawks. Bedford Audubon Society sponsored this event at the Chestnut Ridge Hawk Watch Platform from 6:00PM until dusk.

Nighthawks are not true hawks or even raptors. They eat flying insects, not small mammals. As their name implies much of their hunting takes place at night (actually twilight). You might think of them as the night time counterpart to swallows, zipping and zagging in the evening sky chasing flying insects. I often see them during night baseball games where they are chasing insects attracted by the bright field lights.

The Nighthawk watch took place on a pleasant late-summer evening. After I climbed the hill to the bleachers I joined about a half-dozen other birders plus two full-time hawk counters.

I love the setting of the hawk watch platform high on a bluff with unrestricted views. You can even see Long Island, 23 miles away. And I like to say, you don’t see a single man-made structure for as far as you can see.

We scanned the skies from 6:00 until just before dark around 8:00. In that time we saw zero Nighthawks. In fact, we did not see any birds at all, maybe one Grackle. Yet it was a lovely evening and I found it tremendously enjoyable.

I just received a notice that we will try it again this year. The 2nd Annual Nighthawk Watch will be Tuesday evening, September 27th from 6:00 until dusk at the Chestnut Ridge Hawk Watch Platform in Bedford Hills.

I definitely plan to be there. Join me if you can. (Call or email for directions). I’m hoping we will see more birds than last year. But I can testify that it is a great experience even with no birds.

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Hurray It Is Fall!

My calendar correctly indicates that the official end of summer is still a few weeks away, September 12 to be exact. Some people equate Labor Day with the end of summer. For others, it is the 1st day of September or the first day of school.

Personally, I am declaring that summer is over today. In many ways it hasn’t been a good summer, so I’m glad to done with it. And fall has always been my favorite time of year. So, welcome to fall.

July and August are good for getting a tan but slow for bird activities. In fall activity picks up. Shorebirds and wading birds have started heading south for past few weeks. At least a dozen species of warblers are being seen. This is the time when the most hummingbirds are seen in Westchester. Broadwing Hawk migration peaks in mid-September, as many as 10,000 birds have been seen in a single day. Red-tailed Hawks and Osprey number a few weeks later, followed by warblers and other songbirds.

I’m glad it is Autumn. At least in my warped mind, life feels better already.

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I awoke on Saturday morning with a spring in my step anticipating the store’s August birdwalk. But when I opened the front door I noticed it had rained overnight and it was still spitting some.

I am pretty much a fair-weather birder, so I was certain no one would show up for the birdwalk. I was wrong. The weather clear just enough and 8 hardy souls (plus Doug and myself) arrived at Lenoir Preserve for a slightly wet underfoot walk. Fortunately no rain or drizzle materialized. But the birds were smarter that humans and stay hunkered down in dry spots rather than venture out into possible rain.

(Aside: I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to be a little bird flying along minding its own business and suddenly WHAM, out of nowhere a huge raindrop smacks it in the head. That must hurt.)

Most birds remained sheltered, so we didn’t see much – about a dozen common species. Chipping Sparrows were the only species that might be considered not common.

Despite the absence of interesting or unusual birds it was a very enjoyable walk, thanks to nice people, good conversation, and pleasant, natural surroundings.

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Good-Bye July

July is history and I’m glad it is gone. I confess that during the oppressively hot, muggy weather I did absolutely nothing. Not a thing. Didn’t even think about birding. Just continually searched for A/C. Even when cocooned in a cool environment I lacked energy to do even the simplest activity.

So good-bye July, welcome August. Although it has the reputation as the “dog days of summer”, there is bird activity. Despite what the thermometer indicates, south bound migration has already begun, especially for shorebirds. They are the first to head south. Maybe because they nest and breed the farthest north. For example, a bird walk to Jamaica Bay last Sunday tallied about 50 species and over 5,000 shorebirds.

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