This morning was chilly (the temperature was in the 30s) but sunny and clear. Most trees had lost their leaves, with the few recognizable exceptions: American Beech, Norway Maple, White Oak, Tulip. The forest floor and parts of the trails were covered with brown leaves from oaks, maples, sycamore, sassafras, and other trees. The group this month consisted mostly of Saw Mill River Audubon affiliates, plus a member from the Weinstein family.
The first half of the hike was so quiet that it was more like a nature walk than a birding walk for us birders. We didn’t observe many species. The regular members of the winter flock included a few chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches; unseen White-throated Sparrows; and a couple Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers. Blue Jays cried here and there. We heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet flitting around mid-story but didn’t get a chance to see it. At the pond we counted ten Mallards. For a certain time, we made more noise than the birds, crunching leaves as we walked.
During our ascent to the power lines, a Turkey Vulture and then the lesser common Black Vulture soared behind the trees. Mike – hike leader – found a few Barred Owl feathers on the trail. They felt very soft. Since Barred Owls don’t usually leave their feathers around like this, we guessed a Great Horned Owl must have tackled it and carried it off somewhere to eat.
Rudy – the sanctuary caretaker – checked one of the nest boxes and found a square-shaped bluebird’s nest.
At the power lines were more white-throated sparrows, a couple cardinals, an acrobatic mockingbird, a Carolina Wren, a couple more TVs, and a far away screeching Red-tail Hawk. I expected American Tree Sparrows. They would have been first-of-season for me. It was about they’d begin to show up in Westchester. A few were already sighted at the Croton Point landfill a few days before. I didn’t observe any here. I did see this dead Box Turtle, which had been in the same spot since Sunday, according to Mike (we moved it off the trail.)
We reached the section of the power lines trail that goes back into the sanctuary. Pishing happened, disturbing a chickadee feeding on wild lettuce. And then out came a Fox Sparrow! It perched on top of a bare bush for up to a minute. Very agreeable of it. This sighting was my second for the season, but I welcomed the sight of a Fox Sparrow to enliven the birding. I don’t often see them.
The rest of the hike had much more activity. I observed more of the same birds from before, but more numbers of each species flitted around and foraged for food. The Dark-eyed Juncos especially revealed themselves more, venturing onto the path. We saw at least a half dozen Cedar Waxwings and a second Fox Sparrow. A Common Raven flew overheard and croaked. A Northern Flicker “pew”-ed. A couple more Carolina Wrens trilled.
Overall, I observed 23 species of birds: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32502820.