Friday, February 13, 2015

The Great Backyard Bird Count: Day 1 of 4 - EAGLES!

     Today, 2/13/15, through Monday, 2/16/15 is the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). I also happen to have a 4 day weekend, so that is perfect!
     If you do not know what the GBBC is, you should, because anyone can participate. The GBBC is a citizen science event, citizen science is science ANYONE can participate in. Any person, scientist, secretary, or student can submit data that is used by researchers and different organizations to conduct various studies and/or look at trends in populations of animals. Being a citizen scientist is important, it's great to be involved in data collection, it is wonderful to know you are contributing, and it's fun!
     For the GBBC all one has to do is go outside, anywhere, and look at what species of birds they see and how many of each, then submit them into eBird. It's that easy! If you are not an expert birder, that  is okay, neither am I! I still second guess certain birds and still rely heavily on my field guide for ID help. Cornell has developed an app, the Merlin app, to help with bird ID's for novices that could help you along your way, if you do decide to have fun participating in the GBBC!
     Since I had today off, and Tim did not, I decided to take advantage of some upstate birding, and specifically was interested in seeking out eagles. I visited 2 sites: On the East side of the Hudson River, Croton Point Park, then on the West Side, Hook Mountain/Nyack Beach Park. It was cold, but I layered, and had a good show in both places I visited.
When I drove into Croton Point Park, I immediately saw a juv. bald eagle, it flew by me a few other times too, but it was a sign that today would be exciting. I was welcomed also by some American tree sparrows feeding with a mixed flock.
This horned lark fed with the tree sparrows and some song sparrows as well. The foot print this lark is in helped to uncover some grass, which these birds need to feed, as they forage for seed.

Ice forming on the Hudson River.
The wind chill today was in the negatives, when I was out, the temperature might have been 9. I had a lot of layers, and was surprisingly comfy.
After a third pass, I finally got an alright capture of the juvenile bald eagle that I saw when I came into the park.
That Ice is the shoreline of the Hudson River.
A downy woodpecker foraging for food.
Next stop was Hook Mountain, in Rockland Co. on the West side of the river. Again, as soon as I pulled in with the car, already had an eagle flying through the trees.
The eagles here were active, perching on Hook Mountain then flying off.
Also had 3 ravens coming through where I stood pretty often 

The Arctic or the Hudson River?

These eagles were very active, they also vocalized a lot. If you ever have the chance to observe eagles in the wild, really, please get out and do it. Listening to AND seeing these birds gave me chills, not because it was crazy cold out, but it's just so amazing to experience!

An adult and juvenile eagle perched atop Hook Mountain.
Bundle up and get your count on! Use the various links at the top of this post to get yourself started in becoming a citizen scientist!