11/19/11 – Ponds, Lakes & the Hudson River

Hooded Mergansers

Saturday was a very eventful day.  To help take some of the stress off my knee, I continued traveling to the local ponds and lakes to keep a look out for waterfowl.  I got to a total of six locations: Morgan Lake, Overlook Park, Vassar Farm (front pond area only), Wappinger Lake, Norrie Point, and Mills Mansion.

The first stop was Morgan Lake in Poughkeepsie.  The only species I spotted on the lake were a few ring-billed gulls, a great blue heron, and several dozen canada geese.  I also had a turkey vulture circle over me, and not much else beyond that.  I hung around for a little while, and the only thing that happened was that about half of the geese decided it was time to fly elsewhere.

Cedar Waxwing

The second stop was Vassar Farm.  My time was limited in the morning, so I only explored the front pond area.  The only waterfowl I found there were a few mallards and the lone female wood duck I spotted the last time I was there.  I also happened to run into a large foraging group of birds which included northern cardinals, white-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos & cedar waxwings.

The next stop was Overlook Park in the Town of Lagrange.  This was the highlight spot last weekend with the ruddy duck and ring-necked duck sightings, so I was hoping for another shot of luck.  This time, there were two ring-necked ducks along with ring-billed gulls and a great blue heron.  The ring-necked ducks proved worthy adversaries, as they constantly dove underwater every few seconds.  After 20 minutes of observing and photographing, it was time to head elsewhere.

Next came Wappinger Lake off of Rt.9.  I stopped at two parks that hug the lake, Fisherman’s Park and Veterans’ Memorial Park.  From Fisherman’s Park, I saw 1 female common merganser and 8 hooded mergansers.  The hooded mergansers were a real treat, as I’ve never seen so many together before.  They were pretty far away, but I managed to keep a steady hand and remained patient as they dove underwater frequently.

Common Mergansers (males)

At Veterans’ Memorial Park, I had a different view of the lake.  From there, I spotted 2 male common mergansers, 12 mute swans, plenty of canada geese and ring-billed gulls, and a single great black-backed gull.  The gull in particular stood out from all the ring-billed gulls, mainly because they are nearly twice as large!  Wappinger Lake was easily the hotspot of the day.

Getting tired, I almost decided to hang it up there, but instead drove to Staatsburg to observe along the Hudson River at Norrie Point and Mills Mansion.  It turned out to be a great decision…

Bald Eagle

Right as I pulled up to the environmental center at Norrie Point, I could see a huge hulking bird perched at the top of one of the trees.  It turned out to be an adult bald eagle!  For the next 30 minutes, I sat and observed the eagle in all its glory.  On the river, I didn’t see any additional waterfowl.  Mills Mansion was the same story.

All in all, a superb day of sightings.  Many of the ducks I photographed I’ve only seen a few times ever, and any bald eagle sighting is a treat in my book.  I’m going through the photos tomorrow and will hopefully have everything worth posting on the blog later this week.  Hope everyone had a great weekend!

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