Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Eagles Have Landed -- and Fled!

It was winter-woods wonderland today, with lots of fluffy new snow to ease my snowshoed way over snags and boulders as I descended steep banks to the river. The river ran open out in the middle, but back in the bays it was frozen solid and covered with a thick blanket of snow.

In the middle of one bay near Three Pine Island, park naturalists have deposited a roadkill deer to serve as a feeding station for observing the Bald Eagles that winter along this stretch of the Hudson. As I approached the river, a clamor of caws rang through the woods, and I saw three or four large dark birds -- crows and ravens -- take to the air from where they had been feeding on the carcass. I could see from shore that the area around the deer had been well trampled.

There was not a single trail leading out from the woods to the carcass, so the only feeders so far have been birds flying in from the air. I can almost hear this big bird floomp down into the snow, then hop, hop, hop to join the others at their meal.

Crows and ravens seems to be able to dine together, but they sure don't like it when eagles try to horn in. I missed the first squabbling encounter, but I witnessed the ensuing chase as several corvids harassed an eagle as it soared away upstream. From the size of this wingprint left on the snow, I am guessing some eagle did actually manage to land and partake.

I had hoped to see other evidence of wildlife in the woods, but except for a few short trails left by squirrels or mice, I found no tracks at all. No fox or coyote or fisher or otter or mink. Not even turkeys or deer. But just wait. They tend to lie low for a day or so after deep snow, but then they have to get out there and hunt for food. With that carcass out there on the ice, I can imagine all tracks (of carnivores, at least) will be heading in that direction.


Ellen Rathbone said...

I just love bird imprints in the snow. We had a photo taken by one of the staff at the PSVIC where an owl had face-planted in the snow...and left a perfect imprint behind!

Louise said...

I think it is so interesting that the DEC puts road kill out on the ice for the critters.

Carolyn H said...

I didn't have much of a snow here in southern PA, but it was enough to keep the animals close to wherever they were. Nothing was out and about--except the feeder birds, of course.

suep said...

Not only that, it looks as if that eagle dropped his mitten when he was taking off...

Woodswalker said...

Ellen, I sure wish I had seen that owl print!

Hi Louise. The naturalists at Moreau State Park maintain a count of eagles during the winter, and the deer carcasses attract the eagles to sites where they are easily seen.

Hi Carolyn. I'm surprised you didn't get socked with snow, since the snow this winter seems to be staying farther south than would be expected.

Sue, you always make me laugh!