Raptor Wednesday

A winter trip to Croton Point Park up in Westchester Co. has become a regular thing for Backyard & Beyond. Last week I took a group from Brooklyn Brainery up to see the Bald Eagles. It was the annual Teatown Hudson River EagleFest: there were volunteers with scopes stationed at the boat landing south of the train station (as well as other spots along the river); and a shuttle bus service to ferry us into the park.

On the train heading up, I spied five eagles perched in a little tree-thickened spit jutting out into the river just south of Sing Sing. I had been worried that sightings might be slim, since there wasn’t much ice on the river. A cold winter further north means more eagles heading further south on the river to look for open water. But it was in the high 40s.
Haliaeetus leucocephalusBut there were eagles in the scopes trained across the Croton River’s mouth. Nice to fulfill the mission of the expedition within ten minutes of getting off the train. From there we headed into the park itself, which is dominated by a capped landfill. This is maintained as grassland, habitat vital for various diurnal and nocturnal hunters. Some of our group got a quick glimpse of a Long-eared Owl harassed by songbirds before it flew over the parking lot.

Through the day, we saw a female American Kestrel and at least one juvenile Northern Harrier hunting over the hill. Two distant eagles cavorted over the hill. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks were seen repeatedly in the trees around the hill.Buteo jamaicensisAt one point, the male caught, or scavenged, a mammal and called for his mate with a sound I can’t recall hearing before. She appeared, and there was some dancing from tree branch to tree branch.A food transfer seemed to be in process, although we never saw the actual talon-off.Accipiter cooperiiThe next to last big bird of the day was this Cooper’s (Accipiter cooperii), making for five species of raptors. It was, you will not be surprised to learn, near the bird feeders at the Nature Center. There, a Carolina Wren (the ones around my parents’ house never came to the feeders) was joined by the usual winter crowd of Juncos, Cardinals, Songs, and Downies.

On the return train, we saw a mature Bald Eagle with a fish in claws being shadowed by a hopeful gull. The giant raptor flew low over the water and paralleled the train for a few seconds.

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