Conditions were better the following year, when we finished the
day with seven species, adding Canada goose, greater scaup, common
goldeneye, bufflehead and common merganser to the list. More birders'
names were added too — Grace and Earl Bergendahl, Rena Dodd,
Susan and Neil Roberts.
Our "big year" — 1995 — produced 12 species,
adding green-winged teal and redhead to the composite list.
As for individual numbers, the Canada goose has been far and away
the most common winter visitor, even though the species was absent
from both the 1984 and 1994 counts. Give or take a few, we've counted
38,610 Canadas over the remaining 21 years! High count was 8,519
in 1992. For birders who witnessed the electrifying chase along
the Hudson off Roe Jan Creek, however, just one nameless goose epitomizes
our observations of the species.
That is the hapless Canada who somehow got singled out by an immature
bald eagle and was pursued up the river and down the river. The
poor goose, flying for its life, was pumping its wings at least
three times faster and harder than normal. At least that's how it
seemed to those of us standing thunderstruck on the river's snowy
bank, our hearts in our mouths. For we could see the young eagle,
flying with apparent ease, steadily gaining on the big goose.
Finally the victim fell into the water, exhausted. The eagle plummeted
down on it, but, to our surprise, made only a superficial hit. A
few feathers flew into the air and the goose hunkered down. Then
the immature eagle flew off to perch near an adult on the west bank
and paid no further attention to the goose. It, in turn, laid low
and eventually drifted on the tide downriver with several hundred
of its kind.
For me, the really memorable rafts of waterfowl have been those
of the canvasbacks. We've come upon this handsome species on 12
of our 23 counts. Our banner year was 1998 when Elisabeth and I
found more than 3,000 individuals bobbing along on the icy water
between Germantown and Cheviot. In 1992, Nancy, Carol Whitby and
Owen Whitby joined in counting a raft of 2,000 off Cheviot Landing.
Some species have been identified only once in all the years we've
counted: common loon (1 in 1998); great cormorant (1 in 2002); gadwall
(1 in 1991); long-tailed duck (1 in 1997); ruddy duck (1 in 2006).
No species is recorded for every one of the count's 23 years,
American black duck and mallard lead the pack, with each reported
22 times. Next come Canada goose and mute swan, listed 20 times
each. Common mergansers and common goldeneyes are recorded 18 and
16 times respectively. After that come canvasback (12 counts); snow
goose (eight counts); northern pintail, greater scaup and bufflehead
(four counts each); hooded merganser (three counts); redhead, ring-necked
duck and red-breasted merganser (2 counts each).
Some years weather has been the predominant feature. Nancy remembers
the year the thermometer read 22 degrees below zero when we started
out. Debbie Shaw was along the year we scraped ice off the inner
surface of the windshield of Nancy's car. Carol Whitby has photos
of picnics in the snow at Clermont Historic Site. One year —
I can't recall when — about eight of us collapsed in a snow
bank alongside the railroad track as a train roared past; the snow
whirled and blew and when we stood up we all looked like Abominable
For those who shudder at the thought of cold weather birding,
consider that it takes place in the same temperature range as downhill
and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing and mall hopping!
Though we've yet to come across a Starbucks in Columbia County,
we can list coffee, doughnut and sandwich stops between Stuyvesant
Landing and Clermont Historic Site, including those with warm restrooms.
Birders are not averse to creature comforts!
One of the greatest benefits of our repeated river outings has
been learning those sites offering public access. They are not as
numerous as one might expect, so every one is precious! I hope the
list will not be lost, that it will, in fact, grow longer. Presently
we can access river frontage at Stuyvesant Landing; Ferry Landing,
Nutten Hook; Stockport Landing; Hudson Boat Dock; Squatter's Island,
Hudson; a bit of Greendale Ferry; the mouth of the Roe-Jan Kill;
Lasher Park, Germantown; "Apple Landing," Germantown;
Cheviot Landing; Clermont Historic Site.
Like the river, the productivity of inland sites varies with the
weather. With open water, Bell's Pond, Old Pond and Copake Lake
are worth birding. Open streams are good, for example, the Valatie
Kill at North Chatham, the Stein kill at Chatham; Stockport Creek
at Columbiaville; the Roe-Jan, and North Creek in Ghent,
Each year, the results of our ADBC count are reported to the New
York State Ornithological Association (NYSOA) for publication in
its journal, The Kingbird. Bryan Swift, of NYS Department of Environmental
Conservation, coordinates the Region 8 count.
That brings us to 2006. Five of us — Nancy Kern, Bob Carroll,
Suzanne Carroll, Marion Ulmer and I — completed ADBC's count
on Tuesday, January 17. With Owen Whitby, for years our "official”
counter, unable to participate, the weighty responsibility was delegated
to Bob Carroll. Thank you, Bob, for a great job.
This year we counted nine species, up from our 23-year average
of 7.7 species. They included snow goose, Canada goose, mute swan,
American black duck, mallard, common goldeneye, hooded merganser,
common merganser and, for the first time ever, ruddy duck. Scanning
with her telescope across the Hudson from Lasher Park Landing, Nancy
found the little female swimming just off Embocht Island, with confirmation
sightings by the Carrolls and me. (Marion birded inland at Chatham.)
Some years ago, another component was added to the January Waterfowl
Count when Peter Nye of DEC's Endangered Species Unit asked participating
clubs to broaden their count to include Bald Eagles. That is a story
entire of itself, one to save for a future edition of The Warbler.
From The Warbler, Volume 48, Number 2, February