On frigid winter evenings, the hooting of a barred owl (Strix varia) serves as a reminder that the darkened forests of the Northeast are still very much alive with activity. Their nocturnal calling emanates from favorite forest haunts, including along lakeshores, swamps, and rivers. But the sound of an owl late at night also conveys a certain eeriness. Or perhaps we are simply conditioned to feel that way. Owls have generated feelings of awe, fascination, and fear for millennia, and their lives and sounds feature heavily in our collective imagination. [Read more…] about Owls: Common and Fascinating Forest Residents
Winter is a great time to view bald eagles in New York State. Viewing from a safe distance and at planned observation sites can offer an exhilarating and memorable experience. Wintering eagles began arriving in December and concentrations peak in January and February. Most are heading back to their nests by mid-March. [Read more…] about Bald Eagle Viewing in Winter
In 1844 New York State published a volume on birds in Natural History of New York. Written by James E. DeKay with hand-colored lithographs by John William Hill, it was the State’s first attempt at a comprehensive scientific cataloging of New York’s birds. At the time about 301 species of birds were known to be present in the state.
Sixty years later another effort was made to bring together the State’s bird knowledge. The first of the two-volume of Birds of New York – Water Birds and Game Birds – was published to much acclaim. The book was a collaboration between wildlife artist Louis Agassiz Fuertes and author Elon Howard Eaton. Birds of New York listed an additional 100 species – several of which were then “well known,” but unknown in the 1840s. The book would serve as a model for those that followed.
Mornings are quiet now. Gone is the loud chorus of bird song outside my window that I awoke to in spring and summer. While we brave the cold, snow, and bitter winds of winter by donning extra layers or throwing another log on the fire, most of our summer birds have departed for the warmer temperatures and abundant food of more southern latitudes. [Read more…] about Bird Migration: Where Are They Now?
Some of the most important trees in your woodlot are the ones that are no longer alive. Large, standing dead or dying trees are an important part of healthy forests and a critical habitat feature for wildlife. They provide places for many birds and mammals to forage, den, nest, perch, and roost. [Read more…] about Keep Standing Dead Trees in your Woodlot
As winter settles in, people watching their birdfeeders hope to catch a glimpse of something out of the ordinary – perhaps a visitor from the Far North. Nothing satisfies this desire like the bubbly and charismatic common redpoll.
A member of the finch family, this small songbird is similar in size to the American goldfinch. While they breed in the Arctic and northern boreal forests, common redpolls sometimes flock into the northern United States – or beyond – on a winter quest for food. [Read more…] about Redpolls: Visitors From The Far North
As winter approaches and snow coats the ground, the tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) will again become a ubiquitous backyard visitor. Familiar to even the most casual observers of nature, titmice readily come to feeders, especially those filled with sunflower seeds. Like many other birds that spend winters here, they seem to relish any cold-weather handouts, and I welcome their presence in my yard. [Read more…] about The Tufted Titmouse in Winter
For many birdwatchers in New York, November 30th is an important date: the day that backyard bird feeders can go back up. To avoid conflicts with bears, DEC highly recommends only feeding birds from November 30th to April 1st. [Read more…] about Feed Wild Birds Safely and Responsibly
I can’t seem to pass a hollow tree without stopping to snoop. If there is a cavity within reach, an investigation is in order. Wear and tear around a hole, evidence of food items on the ground, or simply sounds from within tell of the tenants inside. One of my favorite tricks is to power up my camera, flash on, and poke it inside a tree cavity for a quick snap. My most memorable and rewarding discovery came while lying on my stomach at the hollow base of a huge, dead maple. [Read more…] about The Hidden Life in Hollow Trees
Although it’s captivating to watch a big prehistoric-looking woodpecker chisel away at a rotten snag in the forest, the same performance loses its charm when it jack-hammers a hole in your perfectly sound tree. The thing is, no matter how healthy that tree may appear, it is definitely not sound, and may in fact be quite dangerous. Your “vandal” is alerting you to this fact by installing windows in the tree trunk. [Read more…] about Pileated Woodpeckers: Miscreants or Messengers?