Rick Marsi Diary

Following are a collection of sightings and thoughts.

Sightings for November

November Sightings

Nov. 1, 02 - Carolina wren at sunflower feeder, banging open seeds

Nov. 1, 09 – GC Kinglet in yard, flitting among branches of bare oak.

Nov.1, 13 - I come upon ten Wild Turkeys while exploring the lower woods. First turkey sighting here in several months.

Nov. 1, 14 - Small fork-horn buck walks through the back woods at 8:30 a.m.

Nov. 1, 16 - At Montezuma NW Refuge... Thousands of ducks and Canada Geese. No Snow Geese or Tundra Swans. Ring-necked Ducks and Wigeon in highest numbers. Many Mallards, Shovelers and Gadwell. A few Redheads, Green-winged Teal and Ruddy Ducks. No Wood Ducks, Blue-winged Teal. No shorebirds. One female Goldeneye. Several Harriers (no males). Highlight: Watching an adult Bald Eagle strafe the Main Pool at 50 feet high. Thousands of ducks erupted from concealment in cattails below. Ultimately they formed a huge cloud of birds over the refuge. When the eagle passed, they all returned, landed and disappeared.

Nov. 2, 10 – I watch a nice 8-point buck breed a doe in woods behind house. I have seen this buck 3-4 times in the past week.

Nov. 2, 14 - Because we haven't had a hard frost here in Central New York, many leaves still are clinging to their brnaches. These include Silver Maple, Norway Maple, Japanese Maple, Sycamore and Red Oak.

Nov. 2, 16 - Observed five Blue Jays at once on the feeder, plus a male Purple Finch (which we haven't seen here in several months).

Nov. 2, 17 - Nice 8-point buck and a single doe in the ay this morning at 8. At noon, a fork-horn buck appears. The breeding season has begun. 

Nov. 3, 09 – Red-bellied woodpecker female at sunflower feeder many times. A first for Brier Hill. Bird took single seed, flew to nearby ash tree and cracked it open in a fork. 

Nov. 3, 12 - Three Pine Siskins at the feeder. Many have been sighted locally this fall.

Nov. 3, 14 - Walking at a local wetland, I observed numerous clusters of Swamp Holly, a shrub found growing in soggy ground at the edge of fresh water swamps. Brilliant red berries covered the shrubs, which had lost their leaves, creating a blast of crimson.

Nov. 3, 16 - Paddled the river in 65-degree weather. Bald Eagle adult and juvenile seen soaring. Several Pileated Woodpeckers and Blue Jays. Fifteen Hooded Mergansers floating together, joined by 5 Common Mergansers. American Beech tree foliage at peak, in shades of orange and yellow.

Nov. 4, 08 - Floated Chenango from Brisben to Greene. Gauge at 3.75.  Cloudy. 60 degrees. Many mallards,  a few wood ducks, hundreds of geese. Several kingfishers, and two great blue herons. Encountered small flocks of bluebirds several times. Three or four cardinals. One red-bellied woodpecker. Fished with crayfish. No bites. 

Nov. 4, 09 – Bear came to feeder in the night. Male purple finch at repaired feeder in afternoon.

Nov. 4, 10 – Thirteen turkeys eating cracked corn under the Scotch Pine.

Nov. 4, 11 - Female red-bellied woodpecker at suet. First in the yard in many months.

Nov. 4, 12 - Fox Sparrow at the feeder. Feeder activity very high.

Nov. 4, 14 - Paddled on Whitney Point Lake. Temperature above 60 with 10-15 mph southeast winds. Discovered a Horned Grebe diving in a sheltered cove.

Nov. 4, 15 - Eight Mourning Doves feeding on ground under feeders this evening.

Nov. 4, 16 - Heard a noise high overhead - bit like a crow cawing but higher pitched. It was a Raven soaring in circles.

Nov. 5, 12 - Pulling out of the driveway, I see a male Pileated Woodpecker fly in front of me and land on a dead tree by the roadside. I creep forward until I am beside the bird and watch it up close - clinging to the tree trunk - for several seconds before moving along. 

Nov. 5, 11 – Fisher appears in back woods for third time in a week – at  8 a.m. 

Nov. 5, 13 - Visited Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge near Seneca Falls. On the main pool... Numerous Green-winged Teal, Shovelers, Gadwall and Ring-necked Ducks. Three or four Northern Harriers hunting just over the marsh. At Knox-Marcellus Wetland... Immature Bald Eagle. Thousands of Canada geese and Mallards, plus hundreds of Snow Geese and Green-winged Teal, dozens of Tundra Swans and at least a dozen Sandhill Cranes. At wetland outside Savannah... Hundreds of Coot, plus a Northern Shrike perched on phone wire beside refuge.

Nov. 5, 10 -  Male red-bellied woodpecker coming to the sunflower feeder regularly now. At Brick Pond – Mockingbird, Caroline wren and several White-throated Sparrows.

Nov. 5, 14 - On Rte. 26 just north of Whitney Point, two adult Bald Eagles, keeping close company, soared low over the car. As evening approached 3-4 flocks of Ring-billed Gulls (flocks numbered 20-40 birds) cruised onto the lake, moving north to south. Migrating flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds (30-40) and  Robins (10-12) also set down for the night. At 3 p.m. I saw a pair of Bluebirds perched in a hardwood tree. One of them dropped to the ground, perhaps in pursuit of an insect.

Nov. 5, 15 - Looking out the kitchen window, I noticed at least a dozen crows flying about near tops of large spruces across the road. Going outside, I heard the commotion they were making. A moment or two later, a Red-tailed Hawk streamed over the house, with the crows in hot pursuit.

Nov. 6, 01 - Glowering clouds gradually are swept away by brilliant blue sky. The classic tug-of-war between the two ensues, as gray gives way grudgingly and gradually. The first blast of sun into my office, through south-facing windows, hits like a blinding meteor. My mood, and the room, brighten instantly. No need for lights in the room anymore.?By mid-afternoon the sky has become brilliant. Pale blue, almost white if you let the clean air scrub it. Low sun. Always low at this time of year. Hell when you are driving but wonderful when it shines on the last aspen leaves, or tamarack needles. The gold deepens as the afternoon wanes. Even brown oak leaves take on a hint of gold toward sunset. Spots of yellow on the hills are highlighted by the bright sun. Aspens and larch are the spots. More Norway maples glowing bright yellow in the flatland suburbs. Norway isn’t warm at this time of year. Why do these trees keep their leaves and their color so long. Goldfinches crowd the thistle feeder. No more empty perches. You need a reservation now – with cold weather here and in force. Siskins also appear from the north. I hear a n evening grosbeak overhead. Big buck at 8 a.m. Before he appears, we watch 10 does and fawns parade across the back yard. Sometimes a large doe turns quickly and stares out of the picture – out of our view. We assume she is looking for a buck who is following her scent, nose to the ground. When this buck appears, I can see his huge rack easily, although the light is still subdued and he walks 30 yards in the woods. Maybe it is the purpose with which he walks that attracts my attention. He walks with his neck slightly lowered, his snout pushed forward, his gait lurching almost uncontrollably from nervous walk to ungainly trot. He would walk through  semi if need be to follow this doe. His antlers are huge – spreading and tall, a foot or more over his head. How does he walk through the woods with those things, Jan inquires. Sniff and walk. Sniff and trot – nose hardly leaving the carpet of leaves. He follows the estrus trail out of my sight. The wind cuts, my breath steams in a steady north wind. I clean gutters, scoop oak leaves and shingle grit out of aluminum channels. Two crows fuss above. I look up. There, a redtail soars low, not much over treetop level, harassed by this gain of two. The crows, as they do, get quite close but not too close for comfort. The hawk, as it does, seems oblivious at first, hoping they’ll just go away. Even when they persist, the bird barely acknowledges its life has been altered. When dive-bombed, it banks, catches air and sweeps away, belly cream-colored in bright sun, tail russet almost beyond telling. Mow the lawn one last time, shunt the leaves in windrows, which I’ll rake up when dawn brings tomorrow. It is cold on the mower – 40 degrees as the sunset approaches. Red-breasted nuthatch clings on the suet feeder, picking chunks and not leaving – swallowing, then picking another. This tells me the night will be increasingly long and respondingly cold. The nuthatch is bulking up. For the past two weeks it has seemed to prefer sunflower seeds. But this late afternoon, it can see to the future. This future, up here, where we haven't got leaves, demands it digest fat to prosper.

Nov. 5, 16 - Looked up while working ouside this morning to observe a Sharp-shinned Hawk migrating south. Flight pattern was distinctive. To gain a little height, the bird would flap three or four times. Once height had been gained through flapping, the hawk would glide forward. Also saw a nice 6-point buck following a doe in woods behind the house.

Nov. 6, 12 - A female Golden-crowned Kinglet flew into a flower box two feet from the window and began foraging for insects. It did this for at least 60 seconds, its yellow crown clearly visible.?? Nov. 6, 15 - Ravens have been calling around the place the last several days. One I heard today made a loud cry I have never heard a raven make. High-pitched and clear, it had none of the gravelly growling quality I associate with most ravens sounds I have heard.

Nov. 7, 05 - I awake with no quilt so it must not be too cold outside. Temp around 45 degrees. It has clouded up overnight, keeping temperatures warm. I needn’t have trucked my petunias into the bed of the pickup. Only one hard frost so far would have killed them. I return them at 9 a.m. adding a few colorful, small squashes to the window trays the petunias have held by themselves all through summer. Now they must share them with pumpkins and these squashes, all bumpy, rock-hard, yellow, green, black, emblematic of autumn. Driving down to the Bagel Shop at 8:30, I am wrenched from just being alive to becoming aware. A hawk sweeps into view from the side of the road – right beside me. It then takes a hard left, to avoid me, no doubt, and finds itself coursing down the hill by my side, 10 or so feet from the truck. Maybe it does this for two seconds before veering back into the woods. During those seconds, I stare at it intensely. I see its brown tail – immature bird that tells me. I then see a belly band of vertical streaks on an creamy white breast. An immature red-tailed hawk, perhaps chasing prey when it zoomed into sight, perhaps merely clueless about how roads carry vehicles hawks would be wise to avoid. At 4 p.m. I drive through the hills coming home from a trip to Lowe’s. On top of a hill, on a large pond in front of a well-maintained house – within sight of five or six other houses – a flock of 40 or so geese eat grass. How long will they stay? Are they the same geese who raised young here this summer, camped out here, defied one and all to usurp their claim to this place? Granted, I do not have to walk through goose droppings daily. If I did, I might hold different thoughts. But mine on this day are that seeing wild geese on a November afternoon, three miles from a Lowe’s, where  traffic and people conspire to strip one of nature, is a good thing to see, a good thing for someone who needs nature. A few more bright flashes on the drive home: clumps of yellow apples on a tree devoid of leaves; weeping willows on an opposite hillside. Weepers are last to drop their leaves, first to grow them again in the spring. These bright spots counterbalance the somber shades I noticed today as drove by the river: bleached seeds of box elders, clumped on leafless branches; bleached leaves of silver maples, dried out and curling, dropping to float down the river. When I reach Fuller Hollow Road, and can look across the hollow to the hillside where my house is located, I note the clump of aspens just south of my house – the ones that let me know exactly where my house is located when they explode at this time of year – have just about lost all their leaves. I can’t see my house when I look across this valley. It is obscured by hardwoods year-round. The hill is one big forest, so I need to find landmarks that let me know where the house stands. When bright aspen leaves fall, I will revert to locating my house by tall Norway maples across the road. I rake laves from 4 to 5 p.m. The sky has broken up a bit, the wind still blows. Just at sunset, on the southwestern horizon, a break in the clouds allows me to glimpse the sun setting. My window is brief. In the course of a minute or two, the sun drops below a dense gray line of clouds, reveals its entire golden disk and then falls below a hill that has turned almost black with the coming of darkness. I rake, hearing only the tines scratching earth. Fallen aspens leaves catch my attention. I pick up three, twirl their square stems, feel for their waxy exterior, which is there, but already diminishing. All three leaves I’ve picked up feature small splotches of green, thumbnail sized, where chlorolphyll still fights the good fight. I rake, start to sweat and thank someone somewhere I am healthy enough to rake leaves and prefer it to buying a blower. I feel my upper arms strain – stomach muscles, too - as I pull. I heap leaves in a cart, then rake them out of a cart into a pile that grows big but will shrink when the snow piles upon it. I thank someone somewhere that I’m able to watch a gray sky in November turn black.

Nov. 7, 06 - Nice buck with big six-point rack walks through the back woods at 1 p.m. Immature accipiter perched in pine in the morning.

Nov. 7, 14 - Just when I think I have lost my Goldfinches for the year, three appear in maples outside the house. They visit the sunflower feeder, so maybe I will be able to keep them for a while longer.??Nov. 7, 15 - I look up to see a pair of Red-tailed Hawks migrating south over the house. They circle but each circle takes them due south at a quick pace. They disappear over the southern horizon in just a few s econds.

Nov. 8 - Wrong forecast. Forecast at 8 a.m.: A few glimpses of sunlight this morning. Clouding up this afternoon. Reality: Very cloudy all morning, clearing dramatically by 2 p.m. Brilliant sky until sunset. Squirrel antics – 8 in the yard, a new record. They maintain their space for the most part. Occasionally, the spacing agreement falls apart. Two squirrels meet, swirl and twirl in one another’s grasp. Are they biting, clawing? Is there a pecking order I can’t detect because all squirrels look alike to my ignorant eyes? Occasionally, a squirrel climbs the red maple, leaps through the air, strikes the feeder and falls to the ground. A few seeds spill out, which the squirrel speedily consumes, like a vacuum beneath it. Birds continue arriving. To me, this seems like we’ve reached compromise. Waxy aspen leaves, plucked from the ground yesterday, lie curled and drying by my computer. One day after falling, they crinkle like parchment, their yellow fading from butter yellow to the color of hair on old men who once used to be blond. Aspen leaves flutter down on the lawn I raked clean yesterday. Once they fall, they lie as individuals, separated from their fellow leaves, surrounded by grass, standing out as having recently dropped. Low sunlight at 3 p.m. shines through those that have landed perpendicular to the ground lie propped up. The sun courses through them, illuminates their transparency. I see the same thing on a Japanese maple on a street corner, in a neighborhood, an hour later. The sun, even lower, instills incredible crimson in the leaves it shines though. Bradford pear has its best day all year – yellow and red at its finest. It does seem that non-native trees are carrying the torch at this time of year: Bradford, weeping willow, Norway maple, Japanese maple. I rake more leaves. At the edge of the lawn, I rake leaves and uncover dozens of bright red thorn apples on the ground. A bumper year. I think back to a morning two weeks ago when I watched four deer standing in this same place, less than five feet from one another, nosing about in the leaves, eating something. Now I know what that thing was. I drive by two Lombardy poplars. These are wimps in the north country scheme of long-lasting survival. They grow fast, they block wind, then they die before two decades pass. I’m not a big fan, but these two… Ramrod straight, tall as flag poles, their columnar shapes boast yellow leaves that have mostly fallen away on their lower reaches, but remain dense and bright at their tops. Thus I see, when I pass, two great flagpoles with bright yellow flags on the top, against cloudless blue sky. A beautiful breeze, 10 or 15 mph, from the southwest, defies early November. Crows manage it routinely, landing on spruce branches, where they teeter and sway as if this was the norm, and it is. The sky is big now. I look through trees where leaves once blocked my vision. I see the outline of hills that surround me – these hills that define who I am, where I live, what it looks like in all its incarnations. Through leafless branches I watch clouds turn pink at sunset. Contrails blaze through the twilight. White clouds ripple away, turning pink by the second.

Nov. 8, 11  - On the river... Air temp at 68, water temp at 40. Light south wind. One blue-winged teal in channel, along with two ducks I think were goldeneye. One showed white on face as they flew away. At home... female red-bellied woodpecker coming regularly to suet. 

Nov. 8, 12- Six-point buck crosses the road in front of us, 1/4 mile from home. Antlers quite thin.

Nov. 8, 13 - Six-point buck walks through the back woods at 8 a.m. Antlers only six inches above head. 

Nov. 8, 14 - Sitting in the parking lot at Andy Kerr Stadium, Colgate University, we watched a juvenile Cooper's Hawk fly across the lot and up into the rafters of the football stadium. Pigeons love to roost there, except during football games. When we walked up into the stadium for the game, we could see the hawk perched above us looking down. Throughout the game, pigeons flew about outside the stadium. This hawk must eat well.

Cold and flurries have finally arrived. Area Japanese Maples, which have been gorgeous this fall, have dropped their crimson leaves en masse. They create amazing red carpets on the grass below.

Nov. 8, 15 - Male Red-bellied Woodpecker has been making infrequent visits to a suet feeder tied to a tree. No sight of a female yet this fall.


Nov. 8, 17 - First hard frost of the season. Bird bath water is frozen. A Mourning Dove lands on bird bath and pecks at frozen water at edge with its bill. I can see tiny droplets flying.

Nov. 9 - Cold front blows through in the night. Strong wind through bare branches. It moans around corners. It howls in cul-de-sacs where it swirls piles of oak leaves. It makes the night long. One feels vulnerable, even though the house is warm and the log walls impervious to wind of this nature. Four jays in the yard, on the ground, after sunflower seeds. For the first time, after watching a million jays, I note they feature two different types of color: pale purple on the neck and back, with bright blue on the wings and tail. Stiff wind continues through the late morning. Driving along Riverside Drive, I watch a flock of 30 starlings trying to fly into the wind. A gust blows them into disarray. They blow around helter-skelter, like flecks of pepper tossed into the wind. Sun glints on the river, blinding, glaring, even when viewed through tree leaves that have yet to fall. A nuthatch pair spirals down a column-shaped maple on the way to a bird feeder. They both work their way down the trunk upside down. At dusk a turkey glides – looking as big as a cargo plane - over treetops from the woods in the back toward the hollow. Sunset is special: It begins with intermingled horizontal bands of light blue, dark gray and pink. As the twilight deepens the pink bands grow more and more brilliant. 

Nov. 9, 14 - At 10 a.m. a 6-point buck walks through the side woods, having come up from across the road. later in the morning, a small flock of house finches flies up from the road just below out house.

Nov. 9, 15 - Pileated Woodpecker calling loudly from lower woods. 

Nov. 10 - Fork horn buck walks through the woods at 8:30 a.m., head down, trailing scent. 42 degrees on the thermometer at Arena on my way to Upper Lisle. The Norway maples still hang in there, soft and gold in the early morning sun, yellow turning a bit more toward orange. On Jutland Rd., two Norway maples are losing leaves as I drive by. Leaves fall steadily, building a circular mat of yellow on the road. Warm sun and a southerly wind at Upper Lisle. Blue sky and dry rustling of bleached marsh grasses. I walk through a landscape of light browns: flower tops of goldenrod, crinkled, weathered pods of milkweed, dark brown fronds of ostrich fern. I walk through those fronds, among the large round balls that hold next year’s fronds. My foot strikes a milkweed pod still holding its seeds. They fly into the breeze, twirling as randomly as the starlings I saw flying yesterday. The seeds glisten bright silver in the late morning sun. A pair of hooded mergansers float nearly against the riverbank. The bank is high and topped with tall grasses. Male’s bright white head patch clearly visible from 50 years. A pair of wood ducks flush from beneath me, also close to the bank. They cross the river, land by the opposite bank, begin preening and slowly making their way downriver. Kingfisher rattlers. Great blue heron flaps slowly through the leafless willows. I hear the faint scream of a red-tail hawk. The bird lifts from a dead limb and circles. The bird seems almost clumsy for the first few beats of its wings, then finds the groove and circles easily several times before drifting away downriver. The bird seems huge, compared with the broadwings I have been watching all summer and the Cooper’s hawk that has swept through the yard several times in the past fortnight. A hairy woodpecker approaches from across the river. Out in the open, it beats its wings several times very hard, then swoops deeply on folded wings. Coming out of the dive, the bird uses its momentum to rise once again, still without beating its wings. Only when it has reached the same height where it last beat it wings, it beats them again. Arriving on my side of the river, the bird deftly lands on a very dead tree trunk and begins pounding out Morse Code.

Nov. 10, 11 - Adult red-tailed hawk soaring and calling just over the top of lower woods. Pileated woodpecker has excavated a huge opening at base of large decaying red maple at edge of trail in lower woods.

Nov. 10, 12 - Spike-horn buck standing at edge of driveway when I pulled in this morning. Spikes about 6 inches long.

Nov. 10, 14 - 60-degree day. So far this fall, we have seen virtually no Canada geese flying south. At Upper Lisle, I watched one kingfisher chasing another over the river. Both were calling loudly. A dozen or more mallards feeding in shallow backwater of Tioughnioga River south of Whitney Point.

Nov. 10, 15 - Soggy flock of 12+ Wild Turkeys in the yard. Looked like they were feeding on pulled spears of grass. 

Nov. 11 - Cold Sunday morning. Dark at 6 a.m. Don’t want to get up. Start a fire. Slowly the gray begins to lighten. Smoke from the fire swirls. There is wind. Mike and I float the Otselic. The river is low. As I pull it through shallows, snow flurries descend. Many jays. I also hear woodpeckers squeaking and drilling. We see ducks – male common merganser sees us and moseys downriver. Three black ducks and two mallard hens erupt just beyond a grass clump in the middle of the river. Hemlock banks, very steep. We hear scratching feet, see turkeys silhouetted at the top of the ridge. Sparrows flit through riverside tangles. Three wood ducks take off from beneath the protective, tangled branches of an overhanging box elder. Wind kicks up from the northwest, ripping the river, right in our faces. It cuts our bare fingers. In a protected cove, we see 15-20 wood ducks, swimming about. No wind over there. They make us, take off, whirl and swirl in the sky. A flock of 15 geese honks as it makes way to the south on the wind we are cursing this moment.

Nov. 11, 14 - Warm day at 62 degrees. Floated the river. Water temp. at 45. Observed two Red-bellied Woodpeckers and the same two noisy kingfishers I had seen on the river the day before. Five Hooded Mergansers flew low over the river, heading south in a hurry. We got a nice look at a female Harrier crossing the river low, from a corn field to an overgrown field. We also got a very close look at a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron on the riverbank. The bird allowed us to float within 10 feet. Its most striking  feature: a bright orange iris.

Nov. 11, 15 - Our Red-tailed Hawk is still here, viewed today soaring above treetops in back woods.

Nov. 11, 17 - Flock of a dozen or more Wild Turkeys appears in the yard. Haven't seen turkeys here for months. All hens and young of the year.

Nov. 12 - More cold and west wind – high around 40. I hear a grosbeak while hacking dead branches from shrubs. I look up to see grosbeaks and see none. But I do see the silhouette of a buteo, soaring south, slipping not far above treetops, in view only two or three seconds, then gone, over a hill to the south. Most of the leaves are gone. They reveal berries, fruits – yellow apples the deer munch (I can hear their teeth chomping), viburnums (nanny berry) dark purple, gray dogwood, bright white; thorn apples on the ground; autumn olive, pale red. Another fortuitous glance: I look out Chris’s window to watch a brown creeper do its patented upward spiral. Walk in the woods – find a deer skull, a fork horn with spurs, not gobbled by deer mice. Chris has killed 15 deer mice in his house since returning from a three-week trip two nights ago. He puts them on a stump and the crows happily carry them away. They are cute, but they have to go. They eat through coffee packages, dig up the house plants and throw dirt around, eat through juice boxes so that juice drips down walls. Chipmunks still active. When will they go underground? Clearing toward evening. It will be well below freezing tonight.

Nov. 12, 11 - Several small flocks of blackbirds migrating south. Also 20 or so ring-billed  gulls heading south over lake at sunset. Photographed red-bellied woodpecker at suet feeder. Chris reports seeing three river otters in a beaver pond south of Forest Lake is Susquehanna County, Pa.

Nov. 12, 12 - On the Otselic River... Temperature 65 with strong south winds. Flushed a pair of Wood Ducks from a calm backwater. Juvenile Bald Eagle flew downriver ahead of us. Came upon three young muskrats, swimming about at river's edge. These muskrats were the tamest I have ever encountered, letting us get to 10 feet before submerging. One muskrat swam 30 yards underwater before surfacing.

Nov. 12, 15 - At 10 a..m. a six- or eight-point buck with antlers polished almost white trots through the upper woods with its head down. A sure sign that the mating season is in full swing.

Nov. 12, 17 - Two crows hollering in Norway Spruce grove. Soon a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk emerges, and they chase it down the road. Pileated calling in lower woods. I hear Carolina Wren chirping near brush pile in side woods - first I've heard or seen it in several weeks.

Nov. 13 - Hard frost in the morning – mid-20s. Only the second hard frost in a very mild fall.  As I drive down Foster Rd. in the afternoon, an immature red-tail flies off a fence post and flaps low across a mowed field. Very large and very brown. Late afternoon – a doe in the yard, very tame. I note the black that rims the inside of her ears, the black of her muzzle and eyes. 15 mourning doves feed on the ground. They blend with the soil, gray on brown. Then they erupt, surprised by my quick step. From calm to panic, always graceful, wings whistling (which adds excitement to their vigorous flapping.) I walk to the edge of the woods at dusk. Dozens of opened acorns under my feet beneath a spreading white oak. I hear leaves rustling in the woods. It is too late for squirrels and turkeys to be about. Deer are descending the hill. As darkness descends they become even more invisible than normal in a November woods. A flicking white may give one away. I am discovered. One deer stands and stamps, then walks forward a step, then stops again. Then a nasal shriek, and the deer takes two or three bounds back up the hill. I retreat from the woodland edge, as the cold sets in quickly with clear skies over head. Pink and blue streaks slowly fade on the southwest horizon.

Nov. 13, 12 - Six Wild Turkeys trotted into the yard at 8 a.m.  Strong wind and cold front came in overnight.

Nov. 13, 14 - Flock of a dozen or more migrating robins observed feeding on small yellow berries of ornamental fruit tree in city neighborhood. I see birds here every year at this time. Also heard and saw two ravens sweeping over the house, high and headed south to north. One croaked loudly several times.

Nov. 13, 15 - Drove some back-country roads in northern part of the county and checked out the local reservoir. Pretty lean pickings. One White-throated Sparrow and one Red-tailed Hawk on the roads. Forty Common Mergansers and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers on the reservoir (both females). These nest in Canada and winter along the Atlantic Coast. so the only time we have a chance to see them is during migration.

Nov. 14 - Warm day in the mid-50s, with sun and a soft south wind. A large buck chases a doe through the woods around 8 a.m. Both are trotting, she about ten yards ahead of him. Went to Chris’s and cut some small red maples we had dropped two years ago. Then had a campfire around 5:30 p.m. Pine needles thick and very dry. Fire creeps among them as we kick the burning needles back into the flames. We break pine branches for fuel and they burn. The fire quickly dies to a mound of embers with blue flames leaping above them. It is a mild night – no cold air on my back as I face the flames. As usual, we find ourselves moving closer and closer to the flames as the fire dies. I hope to hear a great horned owl but only hear the echoing barks of a distant dog. 

Nov. 14, 12 - At Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge near Seneca Falls, NY. On Main Pool, Benning Marsh and Visitor Center Pool: 100 Mallards, 50 Shovelers, 50 Gadwall, 10 Ruddy Ducks, 5 Green-winged Teal, 5 Wigeon, 2 Pied-billed Grebes. At Knox-Marcellus Wetland: Thousands of Canada Geese, countless hundreds of Mallards, 300-400 Tundra Swans, 200-300 Snow Geese; 25 Pectoral Sandpipers, 15 Sandhill Cranes, 10-15 Tree Sparrows (on road), 4 Great Blue Herons, 1 Belted Kingfisher. The cranes were flying in a tight string, low over the marsh, calling. Highpoint was the arrival of a huge mixed flock of Tundra Swans, Canada Geese and Snow Geese. Watching them appear as specks from the distance, then swirl over the water, calling loudly before setting their wings and landing, was to be part of the migration saga.

Nov. 14, 14 - The tamarack trees in our woods are dropping needles fast. You can look up at any time of day and see them drifting down. The driveway has turned a pale shade of orange. Heard a raven again today. Couldn't see it, blocked by trees. It was flying over the hollow to our west.

Nov. 14, 15 - Cold, windy and great day, with even a few snow showers thrown in. At 2 p.m., I looked up to see a dozen Broad-winged Hawks swirling overhead, very high. This was a migrating group, taking advantage of a stiff tailwind.

Nov. 14, 16 - On the river. Water temp at 40. Air at 54. No wind. Several Common Mergansers and an Adult Bald Eagle.

Nov. 15 - 20 turkeys in the yard this morning.

Nov. 15, 06 - Large 6-point buck in the yard with a doe. Absolutely at ease eating grass.

Nov. 15, 12 - Pair of House Finches appear at the feeder. Joining them are 15 Mourning Doves, a record number here.

Nov. 15, 14 - Flushed two Common Snipe while walking the edge of a local wetland. Hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls =migrating overhead in small flocks. Three groups of 3 Hooded Mergansers also flying low over the water, heading south.

Nov. 15, 15 - A big six-point buck walked through the back woods at 1 p.m. Very purposeful strides, almost halting, with each step featuring the deer lifting its front legs up higher than usual in the manner of a dressage horse.

Nov. 16, 12 - Walked at Hammonasset State Park on Long Island Sound in Connecticut. Highlight was coming upon a Barred Owl, perched in a small tree at eye level in brushy area 20 yards off the path. The bird did not seem at all alarmed by our presence. Also observed Yellow-rumped Warbler, Carolina Wren, White-throated Sparrow and House Finch.In salt marsh, we watched a dozen Black Ducks settle in for the night, flying just above the reddish-brown marsh grasses before dropping among them. Several Common Loons in winter plumage floated on the Sound. 

Nov. 16, 14 - A flock of perhaps 1,000 starlings swirling around an intersection in Binghamton. perched on building, phone wires and in trees.

Nov. 16, 15 - A lovely river paddle, with water at 46 degrees ad air temp at 57. Low sun makes the water and ripples turn gold. Dead silence on shore. No human sounds. A Red-tail watches us float by, screaming at our approach. Clear water shows many minnows in the elodea. Sun slants through the hemlocks. A Wood Duck lets us pass, then races from the bank, calling loudly as it flies upriver. A juvenile red-tail flies by - finely barred brownish tail - and perches at top of Norway Maple.Trees show their seeds: Sycamore, Box Elder, Basswood and Black Birch

 Nov. 17, 07 - 45 turkeys walk through the yard at 8 a.m. 

Nov. 17 - Returning from Connecticut, Jan and I discover three white-winged crossbills on our thistle feeder. One brick-red male and two females, greenish brown and streaky. The male hangs upside down from one perch to extract seed from opening below. I walk to within four feet of them and they don’t fly. Their crossed bills are difficult to see until you get very close to them. They are bigger than the siskins we also get at the thistle in winter.              

Nov. 17, 12 - Heard a Screech Owl calling briefly at around 4:15 p.m.

Nov. 17, 14 - Cold rain and drizzle. Feels like we're living in a cloud up here on our hill. At 4:30, a male cardinal appears through the gloom at our sunflower hopper feeder.

Nov. 17, 17 - At Montezuma NWR... Clear and cold (33) with a NW wind. Hundreds and hundreds of Greater Scaup sleeping against cattails out of the wind. Many Redheads and Canvasbacks with them. A fair number of Gadwall with a few Wigeon, Hooded Mergansers and Ruddy Ducks thrown in. At Knox-Marcellus wetland nearby... Nearly 40 Sandhill Cranes standing together in an uncut field. A dozen Tundra Swans.

Nov. 18 - Two female crossbills appear at thistle late in the day, but no male. This will be the last time I see them.

Nov. 18, 02 - Three inches of wet snow covering everything this morning. Carolina wren at suet and hopper feeder.

Nov. 18, 14 - A new mammal for our property appeared on the back stone wall behind our bedroom this morning: a mink. It humped its way across the top of the wall, and then under the lowest branches of a tall Norway spruce. Why it appeared is a mystery. However, we did have extreme cold last night. It was 15 here at 8 a.m. Perhaps a nearby pond where the mink was living froze over, forcing it to relocate. In the afternoon, I am swimming laps in a pool in downtown Binghamton. A wall of windows faces south, offering an excellent view of skies over the city. Flocks of starlings are swirling about, as they have been for several weeks. Suddenly, as I am resting at one end of the pool, my eye catches a flock of 30 birds being harassed by a Peregrin Falcon. As the falcon swooped toward the flock, it went into its patented, all- swirl-in-the-same-direction-at-once (and then swirl in another direction a split second later) routine. This apparently makes it difficult for a predator like the falcon to zero in on one bird. The ploy must have worked. The falcon swooped close to the flock several times but never attacked.

Nov. 18, 17 - Cloudy, rainy, 43 degrees. A bit of action at the feeder, including the first appearance in some time by the Red-bellied Woodpecker ar hanging suet feeder.

Nov. 19, 14 - Checked out Whitney Point Lake and upper Tioughnioga River for waterfowl. Five Hooded Mergansers on river just below Whitney Point. Ten Mallards feeding just above the bridge at Whitney Point. 500+ Canada Geese at Dorchester Park. On the lake: 2 Ruddy Ducks, 6 Bufflehead, 20 Common Mergansers, 2 Hooded Mergansers. Plus numerous Ring-billed Gulls and one Cormorant. Despite very cold weather, the lake remains open - due mostly to strong winds that have accompanied the cold. Wetland at the top of the lake is frozen.

Nov. 19, 17 - We awake to find a number of pumpkins placed on stone wall by the driveway have disappeared. Last night, driving in around 7 p.m., we observed a large doe standing in the driveway next to half a pumpkin. It's that time of year when food is starting to get short.
Driving by the pond on top of a hill along our run to the coffee shop, we watch a male Bufflehead diving for food. Major cold front with big wind came though in the night, bringing this bird with it.
At 3:45 p.m., a pair of Carolina Wrens at sunflower hopper feeder.

Nov. 20, 14 - On Whitney Point Lake... A Bald Eagle flaps its way down the river channel at sunset. Beautiful low light on its white head and tail. Several flocks of migrating Ring-billed Gulls drift onto the lake from the north. Flocks numbered a dozen or so birds. Also, a few small flocks of migrating Canada geese arrived at dusk. A few Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers feeding on the lake.

Nov. 20, 15 - Two flocks of 15 Wild Turkeys met up in the back woods. The meet was accompanied by much clucking and racing about. It ended when one group started running away and then took flight directly over the house. Almost immediately, the other flock did the same thing, in the same direction.

Nov. 20, 16 - More than a foot snow falls, ending an unusually warm stretch of November weather.

Nov. 20, 17 - A Brown Creeper appears, climbing up a White Ash by our feeder.

Nov. 21, 12 - Two Ruddy Ducks and 10 Common Mergansers on Whitney Point Lake. At Upper Lisle, we  encountered a small flock of Tree Sparrows.

Nov. 21, 14 - Watched a Bald Eagle flapping and soaring over the Susquehanna River as we drove through a parking lot on the Vestal Parkway. Also, we woke to discover a bear had visited our feeders during the night. I mistakingly had put the feeders out again, thinking our recent spell of frigid weather would have sent local bears into their dens. As well as feeding on sunflower seeds, the bear took a large chunk out of a big pumpkin along the driveway.

Nov. 21, 15 - Our chipmunks appear to have gone underground. No sightings the past few days.

Nov. 21, 16 - Pair of House Finches at feeder, following yesterday's big snow.

Nov. 22. Beautiful Thanksgiving Day. Temp around 50. Light-phase rough-legged hawk circling over the house, slowly making way southward. Dark patches near elbows of wing. Dark breast. Light belly and tail, with dark tail band. Light head. All of this very clear, against a blue sky.

Nov. 22, 14 - A Carolina Wren appeared at the yard edge this morning. It made a few brief chirping sounds as it fluttered from perch to perch, never entering the yard.

Nov. 22, 15 - Male red-bellied Woodpecker continues visiting suet feeder, but no sighting yet of a female.

Nov. 22, 16 - Tight flock of 35 Buffleheads floating on Whitney Point Lake. More males than females. Many Juncos, Mourning Doves and Robins observed along roadsides. More than a dozen Tree Sparrows and Goldfinches in weeds and shrubs on barrier road. Photographed Downy Woodpecker extracting a larva from the brown stalk of an Angelica plant. Female Kestrel on phone wire, Carr Road.

Nov. 22, 17 - At 10 a.m. I had the faint "Tea-kettle, tea-kettle" song of a Carolina Wren in the back yard. A pair of Hooded Mergansers on the pond we drive by going for coffee. Male Red-bellied Woodpecker at suet.

Nov. 23. Driving to Albany on Route 88, Jan and I see many red-tailed hawks sitting in trees by the side of the road. Dark and motionless.

Nov. 23, 12 - My son Steve and I drive to Whitney Point on a birding trip. On a hilltop road near WP, we get a great close-up look at a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk perched in a roadside tree. Along the WP Reservoir, we see 7 Ruddy Ducks diving. Ruddies have been on the lake for at least three weeks. Driving along a dirt road by the lake, we see a Ruffed Grouse cross the road 50 yards ahead. When we get to that spot, we get out, and the grouse flushes immediately. It flies back across the road, giving us a great look. It's a red phase, not gray. At Dorchester Park, on the other side of the lake, we encounter three Snow Buntings on grass by the boat launch. They fly to a rock jetty, where we get good looks at them through the spotting scope. Finally, we drive to Upper Lise, at north end of the lake, and track down a small flock of Tree Sparrows, feeding on weed seeds in tangles along the lake. For Steve, this trip yields three life birds: grouse, bunting and sparrow.

Nov. 23, 13. We watched ducks for two days this past weekend at the northern tip of Cayuga Lake. Ithaca and the Lab of Orn. are at the bottom of this 40-mile-long monster. Sunday was unbelievable. Wind was sustained at 25 mph from the NW. Air temp. was 16. If we hadn't gotten in the lee of the point, where the wind was lessened, we couldn't have survived the conditions. But we did and the ducks were flying. That's because all of Montezuma NWR's 15,000 acres of marsh (10 miles away) froze the night before. Many mallards and black ducks in the air, plus hooded mergansers and goldeneye. We also saw thousands of redheads and scaup swirling around in skies over deep sections of the lake. In addition, we got good looks at harriers and the season's first rough-legged hawk.

Nov. 23, 14 - Our little garden pond has been frozen for some time now. Today, I saw something on it I have never seen. A Mourning Dove landed on the ice, then began walking about on it, pecking at the frozen surface I can only assume it was trying to chip off tiny chunks of ice to use as drinking water.

Nov. 23, 16 - Flock of 10 Wild Turkeys after cracked corn under the feeder. They burst into flight when I open the door from the garage.

Nov. 23, 17 - A pair of Ravens high overhead swirling silently in circles. Several hours later, a lone raven overhead, croaking while making big circles.

Nov. 24, 08 – Flock of 15 or so robins flying about at corner of Powderhouse and Murray Hill roads.

Nov. 24, 14 - Record warm today: 63 degrees. The chipmunks are still happily foraging above ground.

Nov. 24, 16 - Pileated Woodpecker working a dead aspen tree, about three feet off the ground in back woods.

Nov. 25, 12 - Working in the garage, I heard a loud whirring of Mourning Dove wings. When I walked out to investigate, a hawk flew from a Scotch Pine tree near the bird feeder back into the woods. That's the first visit by a predatory bird to the feeder this season.

Nov. 25, 15 - Just when I thought all the chipmunks had retreated underground, there was one above ground today. 

Nov. 25, 16 - A deer has eaten a pumpkin we had placed by the side of the driveway. On the first day, it ate the inside. On the second, it devoured the exterior. In Northern Broome County... Adult Cooper's Hawk perched in large shade tree at edge of road on high hilltop surrounded by fields. An odd place to find a forest bird unless it was a migrant. Near this spot, I encountered two Red-tailed Hawks perched next to one another in the same large tree. Also a kestrel on a wire. Pileated Woodpecker seen in back and side yards. Also calling across the road. Sixteen turkeys at the feeder.

Nov. 25, 17 - Pair of Carolina Wrens at sunflower feeder. It seems we have a resident pair. Hoping they'll stay the winter.

Nov. 26, 08 – Pileated woodpecker has been very active the past week, calling and drumming.

Nov. 26, 14 - Flock of 10 Wild Turkeys moving through the back woods. Not a common sight this year.

Nov. 26, 15 - Still taking feeders in at night, due to mild November and past records that indicate bears are still active at this time of year. Birds are going through a suet brick every week. Nuthatches, Downy Woodpecker and Red-bellied Woodpecker are main customers.

Nov. 26, 17 - High of 35 with 10-15 mph NW wind. Best feeder day in months. There Bluejays, 12 Mourning Doves, 6-8 Juncos, several Chickadees and Titmice, Downy Woodpecker and Red-bellied Woodpecker appeared all day.

Nov. 27 - Dawn breaks with a pervasive orange sky – unworldy, the whole sky aglow in brilliant orange. There must be fog in the air, its droplets catching sun’s first rays. The brilliance lasts a minute, then begins fading fast. In five minutes the sky is gray. 

Nov. 27, 12 - At Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge... Hundreds of Snow Geese and Tundra Swans at Knox-Marcellus. A large flock of Ring-necked Ducks at Main Pool. Decent numbers of Gadwall, Shovelers and Mallards on Main Pool. Several hundred Black Ducks along shore of Cayuga Lake. Two huge flocks of Snow Geese in the middle of the lake.

Nov. 27, 14 - Shoveled out from under 8 inches of snow that fell yesterday. Heard two flocks of migrating Canada Geese overhead in the process - the FIRST flocks of the fall.

Nov. 27, 15 - 60 degrees. Only one day with a dusting of snow so far this year. Eight mourning doves sighted flying dense spruce in yard for the night.

Nov. 27, 17 - At Whitney Point and Upper Lisle... 6 Bufflehead (all female) where river channel opens into the lake. 300 Canada geese and 200 Ring-billed Gulls at Dorchester Park. Juvenile Bald Eagle (very light) cruising over the lake off park beach. Six Common Mergansers braving 20 mph NW wind on reservoir. On road above Lisle: one Tree Sparrow flies across road. I call it close for a good look. In large beaver pond... two pairs of Hooded Mergansers bathing in the company of dozens of geese.

Nov. 28 - Crowd of 21 turkeys has been here for a week or more.

Nov. 28, 08 – Two cedar waxwings in maple at edge of yard.

Nov. 28, 14 - Male Red-bellied Woodpecker at the feeder this morning. Let's hope we keep him all winter.

Nov. 28, 16 - A flock of 12 Goldfinches flew low over the house in low sun of late afternoon. Several making their tell-tale squeeze-toy sounds.

Nov. 28, 17 - A pair of Pileated Woodpeckers working trees at the edge of the back yard this morning. A pair of Ravens circling and calling north of the house this morning.

Nov. 29, 14 - Ten Wild Turkeys under the feeder this morning. At Whitney Point Lake... At least 150 Common Mergansers diving in open water. A dozen Ring-billed Gulls and 40 Canada Geese also present. An adult Bald Eagle flew low over the water and the mergansers without any of them taking flight. A pair of Black Ducks on the upper river in Whitney Point. Circling over a large cut corn field: the first Rough-legged Hawk of the winter season, a  light phase.

Nov. 29, 16 - At Montezuma NWR... Main pool open and thousands of birds on it. Coots, Gadwall and Wigeon among others. Plus 20+ Tundra Swans. Photographed an opossum 15 feet up in a tree, eating rose hips from a tangle of multi-flora.

Nov. 29, 17 - After a freeze-up yesterday, small pond on our way to coffee shop is open again. And our pair of Hooded Mergansers is back. They've been here, off and on, for a week or more. 

Nov. 30. Two gobblers appear with 30 other turkeys. They fan, strut. 

Nov. 30, 17 - West Branch of the Delaware River... 60 Black Ducks in various spots, mixed with 30 Mallards. Six Common Mergansers on Cannonsville Reservoir. Two adult Bald Eagles chase each other,  20 feet apart, heading downriver and then swiftly turning upriver. 





 


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