Sunday, March 02, 2008

Geese and Lost In Yonkers with the Rough-legged Hawks

Six inches of new snow in the Peekskills and we can hear the Woodpecker but somehow, we just can't find the elusive Peekskill Pileated. Though I have to admit, whoever cares for this State Park certainly knows how to attract wood knockers. There is no "cleaning up" these woods. The dead trees are allowed to stand and there are cavities everywhere. The place is downright infested with Woodpeckers. We'll just keep walking and perhaps a Pileated with pop out a head.

Then I realize that there are six Canada Geese across the way, standing around in the snow. Doesn't seem like a terrific idea. What's to eat? Shouldn't they be someplace else?

No actually as it turns out. The streams run fast and feed into the lake and then there are enough spillways so that there is open water.

Though I do note that this member of the flock has one of his webbed tootsies firmly tucked into his down. He's no dummy.

Yes, there are six. I always have to count geese-- in particular. Three pairs. No one has lost a mate. This is silly of course because it's always possible that one of the youngsters from last year hasn't gotten a mate yet and is just hanging with the parents if there is an odd number, or any number of other reasons--like I just don't see them all-- but somehow even numbers make me more comfortable with geese. No possibility of goose grief that way. I said it was silly.

Okay, did I count wrong? That looks like five.

And that looks like a full goose guarding nothing but a goose head.

Ah, the goose head must be connected to a full goose as it's disappeared of it's own volition, but it's still looking like five. What happened?

The goose on the far right turns out to be geese.

One neck curves over.

And the goose tenderly places her bill under the gander's chin. Well, in the place where a mammal has a chin anyway. Avian species not being terrifically prone to chins.

The geese begin to move off, yes there are six if one counts the portion sticking our from behind the toppled snow man. The Pileated taunts us again. Off we go.

Back to the second spill way,

..where two obviously country ducks, instead of swimming over for a snack as would most likely be sensible, we being humans with who knows what goodies in our pockets, they flush out of the water, and zip back in the direction of the geese. Safety in numbers, you know.

Then, BAM, there are three hawks circling above. Three Rough-legged Hawks as it turns out, all dark morphs with the very apparent white patches on their underwings. See the teeny spot center? None were cooperative about having their photo taken.

But it's getting late and tomorrow morning we'll be going back into the city. Possibly no Pileated after all, unless morning brings one, and little chance of another Roughie either.
Boy, was I wrong.
Well, you see, we got lost in Yonkers...
And not only did we take a wrong turn somewhere that took us into Downtown Yonkers, but at least at first we were proceeding in roughly the right direction, but then suddenly, or it seemed sudden to me, a policeman backed by numerous huddled fire engines made all of us make a U turn and go the opposite direction down a very narrow street with tenement buildings with stores on the ground floors. I'm looking at the old buildings with their external fire escapes and, Wow, look at that--There's a hawk coming off that fire escape. It's got to be a Red-tail as she does a Pale Male and flies completely unconcerned to the fire escape across the street. But, it isn't an urban Red-tail. No belly band, the breast and belly are dark, but there are those white patches on the underwing! She's an Urban Rough-legged Hawk.
Either that or she's Lost In Yonkers, too.
I'm in moving traffic, no way to get a picture. Drat, drat, drat!
But I'm thinking about the possibility of Rough-legged Hawks going urban, anyway. I was told the other day by the local rapter rehabber in Wisconsin, while we stood by the dairy case choosing yogurt at the Piggley Wiggley, that Roughies have little feet. They eat rodents, and that's about it as they can't catch larger prey. Their feet are too small. Cities certainly have mice and young rats...

We do manage to go some blocks out of the main traffic of downtown Yonkers, get ourselves turned around, and then of course, we're stopped by a traffic light. But it is completely fortuitous. Because I look up-- See the wires on the right side of the poles. Now find the largest triangle formed by them. Look center, and--that tiny speck is a hawk. And as I'm stopped at a light, I can grab the camera. And guess what kind of hawk she is?

He's an Urban Roughie. Possibly the mate to the first?
Donegal Browne

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