Sunday, November 14, 2004

Wallkill River NWR

American Tree Sparrow

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Dave Klang and I took a trip up to Wallkill River NWR today. I haven't been to Wallkill River NWR since February 2002. Over the last couple of years efforts have been underway to restore the habitat and remove many of the invasive plants, such as Purple Loosestrife. What I remember as a singular sprawling wet meadow now has a huge shallow lake. We spoke with a refuge naturalist who told us that the restoration was underway with a partnership from "Ducks Unlimited". The water level is manually controlled and allowed flooding sections to create a nice winter waterfowl habitat.

-click to learn more about Purple Loosestrife-

Wallkill River NWR

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The southern border of the Liberty Loop Trail is still primarily grassland but the habitat near Oil City Road is very different. Where I once watched groups of Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls coursing over tall grass I now scanned large flocks of waterfowl. A tight formation of a few hundred Green-winged Teals nervously climbed, dove and circled the water before settled down near the Canada Geese. A stealthy Great Blue Heron moved almost imperceptably in the tall grass at the edge of the lake.

Great Blue Heron

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Common Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As we walked along the trail that borders the lake and meadow we encountered a few four legged residents. Well fed Woodcucks waddled through short grass at the edge of the footpath. A pair of muskrats busy eating grass didn't notice me and allowed me to get a nice portrait. Anxious White-tailed Deer tried to hide in the tall grass as distant shotgun blasts reminded us that it was open season outside of the refuge. Near the northeast corner of the rectangular path I spotted a skunk foraging in the leaf litter below a sycamore tree. For a moment I considered getting closer for a photograph but realized that it might not be worth the possible "reward".

Red-tailed Hawk

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The whole time that we were walking the loop trail several Red-tailed Hawks were soaring above us. I counted four adults and two juveniles. I thought about the diet of our urban hawks compared to these "country" birds and wondered if muskrat was any healthier than Norway rat.

-click to learn more about the Wallkill River NWR-

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Wallkill River NWR (Oil City Rd), 11/14/2004
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Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Mallard
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Ruddy Duck
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Wild Turkey
American Coot
Greater Yellowlegs
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
American Pipit
Northern Cardinal
American Tree Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Red-winged Blackbird
Purple Finch
American Goldfinch

Mammals:

White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
Common Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)
Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis)

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