After Saturday’s sightings at Vassar Farm, I was wondering if a follow-up hike could live up to such expectations. I packed up my gear and headed to Hopeland Park in Staatsburg, one of the three planned stops for the day. It was easily the coldest day to date, so I wasn’t sure what would be out.
I started with the Huntington Trail, and it started off dead silent. All I could hear was the crunch of the icy ground beneath my feet, not a single bird singing. It wasn’t until I got to the some trees that I found my first bird of the day, a yellow-bellied sapsucker. She didn’t stick around for too long though. I also heard what I believe was a red-shouldered hawk, but I never saw it. For a majority of the hike, I didn’t see or hear much other than a few woodpeckers poking around in trees.
Then, as I neared Dragonfly Pond, things got interesting.
I ran into a large group of foraging white-throated sparrows, and I thought this would be a good place to watch as the birds passed through. There were several woodpeckers with them too, as I found a downy woodpecker, a hairy woodpecker, and a male yellow-bellied sapsucker. Robins, titmice, chickadee, song, sparrows and cardinals all joined with the white-throated sparrows in search of food.
Just as I thought I’d seen everything, the bird of the day appeared – a hermit thrush! This species is more likely to be found in the summer, but few try to brave the winter instead of migrating. I was only able to snap three photos, and within seconds, the thrush was gone. What a surprising find! I finished my hike shortly later, with my sights now set on Mills Mansion.
Anytime I visit the historic site, I always have my fingers crossed that I will photograph bald eagles. I got a great opportunity last September to get photos of a juvenile bald eagle, but I’ve been praying for a chance to photograph an adult up close.
As I approached the river, there were easily 150 canada geese sleeping on the ice. Their slumber quickly turned to turmoil, as a passing barge created waves which broke up the ice, sending the geese into disarray. To make matters worse for them (but better for me!), an adult bald eagle flew above them. As the geese looked to get moving, I watched the eagle land in a tree, not too far off the shore.
I decided to head further along the river to get a better spot to look for passing waterfowl and eagles. As I was walking, a second eagle, this one a juvenile, called out in a high-pitched cry, something I’ve only heard on recordings. It gave me goosebumps! As I watched the juvenile pass by, I saw the adult eagle in the tree, nearly right above me! I only had moments to react, as it quickly spotted me and took off. I watched the eagle fly along the river, and once it was out of sight, I looked at the camera…
I was in awe for the next few seconds. Did I really get THAT close to a wild adult bald eagle? You bet… and I have the pictures to prove it! Let’s just say this makes up for last year’s chance at a bald eagle photo at the same spot.
After all the excitement, I found a nice quiet spot (minus the ice moving on the Hudson) and sat down to watch anything that passed by. I saw several flocks of common merganers, a few ring-billed gulls, and even some bald eagles land on the ice far away. Minus the frigid wind coming off the Hudson, I had a great time.
I finished the day at Norrie Point and at this point, I was pretty cold and tired. I did manage to see some mallards, common mergansers, and even some hooded mergansers flew off from underneath the marina. Another solid day in Dutchess County!
- Canada Geese
- Hooded Merganser
- Common Merganser
- Bald Eagles (3-5, 1 juvi, 1 adult together; then 2 adults, 1 juvi together an hour later)
- Red-shouldered Hawk (heard only)
- Ring-billed Gull
- Rock Pigeon
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
- Downy Woodpecker
- Hairy Woodpecker
- Pileated Woodpecker (heard only)
- Blue Jay
- American Crow
- Black-capped Chickadee
- Tufted Titmouse
- Hermit Thrush
- American Robin
- Northern Mockingbird
- Song Sparrow
- White-throated Sparrow
- Dark-eyed Junco
- Northern Cardinal