01/16/11 – Peach Hill Park, Vassar Farm Hike

White-Throated Sparrow

Last night, my intention was to get up early to go hiking.  My body had other plans.  I rolled out of bed close to 11:00 am so exhausted and I made the decision that today would be a day of rest.  Once again, that didn’t happen.  At 12:00 pm, I was in my car with my gear on my way to Peach Hill Park.  What can I say, I love the outdoors. 😛

Before I made it out of the parking lot, I spotted a single white-throated sparrow.  As I got closer, he came out of hiding and began picking at berries.  It was one of the best looks I’ve ever had and he didn’t mind me watching him at all.  I knew it was going to be a good day.

As I made my rounds at Peach Hill Park, I never knew how gorgeous the park was with snow covering everything!  It was the first time being here with snow, and I’m glad I came.  It was by no means an easy walk though.

Things started off like most of my recent Peach Hill Park walks, with white-throated sparrows and a few mockingbirds.  Once I hit the orange trail, I began to hear bluebirds, carolina wrens, and a downy woodpecker.  They never appeared.  I looked to the sky and saw a cooper’s hawk and two red-tailed hawks (1 adult, 1 juvenile).  I watched them until I couldn’t see them anymore and continued up the hill.

I ran into a group of american tree sparrows on my way up, but they didn’t stay out in the open for too long.  There were a couple of black-capped chickadees that I managed to photograph, but the day was a little slower than I expected.  Thankfully, reaching the summit provided the great views that I needed to press on.  I even got a quick look at a juvenile red-tailed hawk on the way back to the parking lot.

Back in the parking lot, there were a few open grassy spots that were filled with birds.  I saw more white-throated sparrows, a couple of juncos, and even some song sparrows.  As I stood watching them, one white-throated sparrow in particular literally hopped about 5 feet from me!  I positioned myself closer to the ground to get better photos, and he didn’t mind at all.  Maybe it was the same one I saw when I arrived?  Either way, I got extremely detailed photos of the sparrow and I left for Vassar Farm.

It was already 2:30 pm in the afternoon, so I just went out into the fields to photograph some birds.  I was hoping to see some hawks, but I was greeted with some cooperative american tree swallows first.  After a few photos, I heard the cry of a hawk.  I looked up to see another juvenile red-tailed hawk.  He was circling towards me and it resulted in an interesting photo of the hawk with the moon in the background.  Then, he made a straight line towards me!  I tried my best to photograph him, but he was moving too fast.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

I continued to the field station, and after waiting for a little bit for some activity, I made my way back.  I literally was about to get to the parking lot when I noticed a hawk sitting on the wooden gazebo by the community gardens.  The sun was setting behind the trees at this point, so it was sitting in the shade.  I took a picture and I thought it was a cooper’s hawk.  But then it flew up on a telephone pole where the sun was still hitting, and it looked different.  I snapped as many photos as I could before a car startled it.

Looking at the photos,  it looked more like a red-shouldered hawk, a bird I’ve never seen before!  It will be added to the guide as soon as possible.  The photos from this hike will be put up soon, so please be patient!

Full sighting list (‘P’ for Peach Hill sighting, ‘V’ for Vassar Farm sighting):

  1. Canada Goose (V)
  2. Mallard (V)
  3. Cooper’s Hawk (P)
  4. Red-Shouldered Hawk (V) *First sighting for me
  5. Red-Tailed Hawk (P)(V)
  6. Mourning Dove (P)(V)
  7. Red-Bellied Woodpecker (P) – Heard Only
  8. Downy Woodpecker (P)(V) – Heard Only
  9. Northern Flicker (P)
  10. Blue Jay (P)(V)
  11. American Crow (P)(V)
  12. Black-Capped Chickadee (P)(V)
  13. Tufted Titmouse (P)(V)
  14. White-Breasted Nuthatch (P) – Heard Only
  15. Carolina Wren (V)
  16. Eastern Bluebird (P) – Heard Only
  17. American Robin (P)
  18. Northern Mockingbird (P)(V)
  19. European Starling (V)
  20. American Tree Swallow (P)(V)
  21. Song Sparrow (P)(V)
  22. White-Throated Sparrow (P)(V)
  23. Dark-Eyed Junco (P)(V)
  24. Northern Cardinal (P)(V)
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2 Responses to 01/16/11 – Peach Hill Park, Vassar Farm Hike

  1. Elaine Andersen says:

    Your description of the park’s beauty brought a
    question to mind: would you consider adding a
    landscape section to your wonderful site?

    • Derrick says:

      I always feel bad not taking landscape photos when I go out, I battle with it every time. I have become so paranoid about switching lenses because I’ve missed so many great wildlife opporunities doing just that.

      I’ve been thinking of taking a point and shoot camera with me for that very reason. I’m pretty sure I have an old Nikon I could use, which would be perfect for the blog. I plan on looking for it this week. 🙂

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