Sunday, February 23, 2014

Eagles on the Hudson

     I remember when I was a kid how bald eagles were endangered and how they were fighting to make a comeback. DDT, a pesticide used before my time had an adverse effect on animals aside from insects. One of which was top predatory birds. The pesticide made egg shells brittle, many eggs were lost, making it very hard for eagle, osprey, falcons, and other raptors to incubate their eggs and successfully hatch out a new generation of birds. DDT was banned and since then, raptors have made amazing strides in regaining their numbers. Just because these birds are back, doesn't mean we should ignore environmental problems that may effect their numbers. Being top predators they have an important role in the ecosystem but can also greatly suffer the effects of any problems that occur within their habitats.
     My husband took me to Iona Island today, in Bear Mountain State Park, along the beautiful Hudson River. The ice and snow were plentiful up here, but the temperatures were very pleasant. We saw so many eagles, at least 5 or 6 just in this one location. Iona Island is not open to hiking as it is a sanctuary for eagles, so there is limited places to view from, but we were able to see plenty of eagles. You sometimes need eagle eyes yourself to see these birds because they get a lot of altitude as they soar. These birds were very much up there, so my photos are not the best, but it was so thrilling to see these birds in the wild amongst (very) beautiful scenery.
Bear Mountain behind us.
There is going to be a very "blue" theme to all these photos. They were way up there! 
The Hudson River froze over this winter. The ice is breaking up on a day that reached into the upper 40's. It looks like a scene out of Hudson Bay in the Arctic, though!
Immature eagles have a mottled brown plumage, as opposed to the mature adults in their contrasting white and dark brown coloration.
Two eagles. This is a cropped photo, so that guy on the left is wayyyyyyyy way out there!
Three eagles!
Bald eagles are bald, because it refers to the fact that they are piebald. Large areas of white on the birds body that are of a different color.

More eagles in the distance. 
Not the best photo but it almost looks as if we are making eye contact. Best part is for eagles, they don't need binoculars or a zoom lens, he/she can probably see me and all my features just fine.

Another immature eagle.

I played with the editing tools a bit on this one...
The ice cannot support a human, but eagles, despite their large size do not weigh as much as they appear. Hollow bones, feathers, and their beak allow them to be light enough to take flight. So landing on some slush on the Hudson River is no big deal.
And joined by an immature bird.

Here is some more information on Bear Mountain and Iona Island. This part of the state is never ever a let down, always gorgeous and always something to see.

Friday, February 21, 2014

There's Hope for Spring!

     Yesterday I went for a short walk to Prospect Park with my good friend Robin, who also happens to be an animal enthusiast too. We walked over to the little bit of open water at the lake in the hopes of seeing some good waterfowl, and we did. The Mergansers were very visible and we even got one of those cliche swan heart poses from the mute swans.
     Photographing was hard as the sun was bright and behind all the birds, but oh well. The good news was I got to wear a light jacket, the snow was melting, and the sun was out. It felt like spring was trying to get its foot in the door. Extra bonus was that people were actually barbecuing in the park- so it even smelt like spring! I very much look forward to warblers and WARMTH!
A common merganser male

I think the hooded mergansers are my favorite- I love their gold eyes and the contrast in color on their plumage.
The most unoriginal swans on Earth. Well I learned today that swans do this in real life and not just on computer wall paper or Valentine's day cards.

And then there is always "that guy." Way to ruin the moment, mallard.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A good day for birding!

Prospect Park: the lake is almost totally frozen over, except for one small area. Don't try walking on it, leave that up to the waterfowl.
     I had an early, cold, but fantastic walk in Prospect Park. I saw two new birds that I can check off in my field guide, the fox and tree sparrow. Saw some fast-paced, peregrine falcon action on the lake. Heard the red-winged blackbirds singing, which gives me hope that spring is coming. Then got caught walking home in some gently falling snow.
     I made two friends today on my walk, Giselle, who ID'd birds and watched waterfowl with me on the lake, and Rob who is President of the Brooklyn Bird Club.
     Enjoy the sights, snow, and snapshots:
New bird for me- American Tree Sparrow. The spot on the chest gave it away for me.
Another new one for me - the fox sparrow. If you're wondering what this fox says, look here.
I find sparrows a challenge because they from are are all brown birds of the same size and shape. They have noticeable differences, but you have to observe carefully their specific field markings.

These geese were on the southern end of the lake that is frozen. They flew over to the only area of the lake that did have open, fresh water available.
A white throated sparrow talks with his beak full. White throated sparrows do have a white throat, but are not to be confused with the white crowned sparrow. Whole also happens to have white visible on the top of its head.
A female hooded merganser leads two males. This is the only available freshwater for the waterfowl, it is very crowded but a very valuable resource.
Ring-billed and herring gulls splash and bathe. Ring-bills are smaller with a dark ring around their bill. The herring gull has the red spot on their bill and is larger in size (look to the top left).
A male Northern shoveler.
A female ruddy duck just chugging along.
ring-billed gull looking gorgeous in flight.
A younger ring-billed gull, shows off all those flight feather.
Crows were opportunistically feeding on a gull who lost the battle against this harsh winter.
The gulls on the lake got restless and all took flight.
Because a peregrine falcon crashed their party.
These falcons feed on birds. They are fast flyers and in a stoop (dive) can reach speeds of up to 200 mph. Their bodies are adapted allowing them to do very amazing things.
Appropriately blurry, as this bird was on the move.
Absolutely gorgeous! 
An American black duck appears to give a sigh of relief as the falcon moves on to other places.
An American coot shows off its lovely lobed feet.
A group of male ruddy ducks. Easily distinguished by their white cheeks, and later in spring, by their blue bill.
A female mallard fluffs up for warmth as the snow begins to fall.
A male mallard collects snow.
A mute swan, who is clearly ready for their close-up.
Stay warm, Mr. Merganser- the falling snow signals my departure home.