I made a quick text post last night [vaguely] about fall migration, but I want to elaborate here, because I just got back from a hike and I have a lot to share.
It being only September, I’m going to have to wait a little longer for those short-eared owls that are ever so elusive. But, in the meantime, plenty of raptors have been making their way through the area. I never took notice of this before, aside from spotting a few more red-tails on the highway, but now that I’m out in the field more often than I used to be, I’m really starting to see all of these species.
Lucky for me, I live very near the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge which has provided me with some of my favorite hiking trails. They work so hard to preserve the wildlife native to the area and the entire refuge is often a favorite area for migratory birds. Today, I finally got the opportunity to visit the Liberty Loop trail, which is about a 2.5-mile trail around the Liberty Marsh in Warwick, NY. It’s a favorite place for fall and winter migrants, which I was lucky enough to see some of today. For the first time, I saw a northern harrier hawk! At least three of them, actually. They’re more common than I thought, but it’s still really exciting to see a species you never have before.
Marshes are some of my favorite places to go birding because of the sheer diversity of species you can find there. You have your common ones like sparrows, crows, starlings, robins, etc; your waterbirds like herons and egrets and a ton of shorebirds that I can’t identify myself; and (my favorite) raptors like hawks, bald eagles, and some fish-eating owls. WHICH BY THE WAY I FINALLY HEARD SOME BARRED OWLS. No sight of them, but I’ve been waiting to at least hear them for quite some time now, hahaha.
I already mentioned that I saw some northern harrier hawks and I heard some barred owls, but that’s not all. I watched a bald eagle soar over the marsh for quite a while, and I may have even seen its nest, although it might belong to some other kind of large raptor. They’re not as uncommon around here as everyone makes them out to be, but it’s still exciting to see one. I saw tons of great egrets, great blue herons, and mallard ducks - flocks of mallards SO HUGE that you could hear them flap their wings from across the marsh! Crazy stuff. But all in all, my favorite thing was seeing those harriers. It’s interesting to see how different they are from the local red-tails and other raptors that I know much better. They have completely different flight patterns and hunting habits.. I don’t know, that kind of stuff is interesting to me, hahaha.
Oh, and back in the parking lot, I saw Herb Houghton, the amazing photographer who took this photo that I shared a long time ago. I didn’t say anything to him.. it was a little intimidating, walking past his 46782348364273 dollar, 4683267483927689 foot-long telephoto lens while I’m holding my shitty little Kodak camera, ahahahaha. I knew it was him though; he spends a lot of time at the refuge during peak migration times.
I’ll share my favorite northern harrier photo later (: