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THROUGH THE WOODS: The blackbirds are back


WE ARE ENJOYING this current warm winter weather and are pleased not to be shoveling snow, and nature seems to think it is already spring. A few days ago I noticed buds coming out and small leaf tips on some shrubs. Our fast-running brooks have no or little ice at this point. Down at the site of my parent’s old farmhouse, the snowdrops are out and cover the ground in white in imitation of the missing snow.

The sun gets higher and more intense this time of year and it is coaxing life to re-emerge. South-facing flower beds have bulbs sending up green shoots. They stopped growing when the temperature dropped one night and the tips were nipped. The first red-winged blackbird of the year is coming to the feeders, plus a large flock of blackbirds on the ground, including many European starlings and some American robins. I don’t think the poor birds know if they are coming or going. Geese are flying north one day and a few days later they are flying south again. I wish I knew what they were thinking. Our deer have their thicker winter coats but are not as furry-looking as usual for this time of year. They are out in the field today eating more grass because it is exposed, and there are nice green patches. The deer are still looking fat.

Male red-winged blackbird. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

I took a ride through Kinderhook a few days ago and did a loop around Best Road, Eichybush Road, and then Route 21 past large farm fields. Many of the fields are harvested cornfields that attract geese, birds, and rodents to dropped corn and other grains and weed seed. One field had about a thousand Canada Geese being harassed by a Bald Eagle. Eagles look for a slow or single bird to grab. An eagle’s strength is amazing and they are probably taking food to a mate on a nest and incubating eggs.

Parked off the road at another cornfield I watched an estimated four thousand mostly red-winged blackbirds feeding, looking like a huge, wriggling carpet of black. At about 4 p.m. they rose up and streamed above the road and headed west toward the Hudson River banks to dive into reeds and cattail beds for the night. Route 9J north of Stuyvesant is a good place at dusk to view this spectacular sight.

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