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Saturday, January 10, 2004

Croton Pt. Park and George’s Island with NYCAS members

At 7am this morning the temperature was 1 degree, the wind was out of the north at 14mph and the wind chill was -13. Despite the arctic conditions 7 intrepid (or insane) souls met for a New York City Audubon Society field trip to Croton Point Park. We also drove to George's Island, a short distance north of Croton. In addition to the expected Bald Eagles there were a few other highlights to reports.

Today's frigid, dry air created a dreamlike "sea smoke" effect over the water. As small flocks of Bufflehead, merganser and other waterfowl emerged from or disappeared into the warm shroud of fog someone in the group described the image as looking like a Japanese watercolor.

Acting on a tip from Irene Warshauer's report on eBirds, we began the morning by checking for a Tundra Swan near the Croton railroad station. It seemed like an auspicious start to our day as, even in the the low mist, the small swan's profile was fairly easy to pick out. Thank you Irene.

Our next stop was George's Island where we hoped to locate our first Bald Eagles of the season. Before even getting out of our cars we spotted an adult and immature perched in the trees. Our combined excitement seemed to make the air temperature rise. As we began to see others flying in it got even warmer. When we spotted a flock of Eastern Bluebirds near the southeast corner of the parking lot it got downright balmy.

Back at Croton Point Park the idea of walking the entire trail over the landfill would have been, in my opinion, an exercise in masochism. There were reports of Rough-legged Hawk and a pair of Short-ear Owl on the meadow but we opted to only walk a short distance as the exposed location was brutally cold. We did manage to flush one harrier, however.

The primary goal of the regular winter NYCAS trip to Croton Point Park and George's Island is to locate and observe Bald Eagles. On the drive to Croton from George's Island we spotted a single immature eagle flying low over route 9. We located a couple more as we entered the park and, during the course of the day a few more adult and immature birds. Probably the most interesting experience was watching an adult eagle repeatedly "buzzing" a Bufflehead near the edge of the ice. I never realized that Bald Eagles ate waterfowl but I looked it up when I returned home and learned that they are, in fact, on their menu. As we watched this drama unfolding, Louise pointed out a bird feeding a few feet away from us. On the complete opposite end of the size spectrum, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet was "stalking" prey that were so tiny that they were invisible to our eyes.

Another interesting behavior that we observed today was both species of nuthatches feeding on the ground within flocks of sparrows. At one point I had approached within a yard of a Red-breasted Nuthatch before I noticed it.

Also of possible interest was an Eastern Towhee...not a bird I would expect to see in arctic-like weather.

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Croton Pt. Park/George’s Is., 1/10/2004
Mute Swan
Tundra Swan (Near Croton Pt. Park)
American Black Duck
Common Merganser
Bald Eagle (approx. 14)
Northern Harrier (Croton Point Park)
Red-tailed Hawk (Croton Point Park)
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Both locations)
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (Croton Point Park)
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Croton Point Park)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Croton Point Park)
Brown Creeper (Croton Point Park)
Carolina Wren (2, Croton Point Park)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (2, Croton Point Park)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird (6, George's Is.)
Hermit Thrush (Croton Point Park)
American Robin (Croton Point Park)
European Starling
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Towhee (Croton Point Park)
American Tree Sparrow (Common)
Fox Sparrow (Croton Point Park)
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow (Abundant)
Dark-eyed Junco
American Goldfinch

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