Winter wildlife viewing opportunities

By SCOTT RANDO
Posted 1/15/20

Winter is the time to see eagles in or around the region. Not only are there lots of migrant eagles from Canada wintering here, but the ice formation on area waterways from cold weather forces the …

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Winter wildlife viewing opportunities

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Winter is the time to see eagles in or around the region. Not only are there lots of migrant eagles from Canada wintering here, but the ice formation on area waterways from cold weather forces the eagles to search for food in specific open areas of water. Places like the Lackawaxen confluence (Zane Grey) or the Mongaup area are always good bets to see a number of eagles during the winter months.

However, eagles are not the only wildlife to be seen during winter. Birds such as pine siskins and snow buntings can be spotted locally over the winter, and redpools can be seen during some winters in search of food. Raptors, such as short-eared owls and rough-legged hawks, are only found in the region during the winter. Both can be found over fields, as well as meadow and wetland environments. The Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in Orange County, NY makes for a favorable habitat for both these species.

Aquatic mammals have to contend with any ice that forms in their habitat, and this frequently enhances wildlife-viewing opportunities, as they use shelf ice along the shore to rest or move around on. Muskrats and otters can be easily spotted on the ice. Of course, most mammals are usually easier to spot when there is snow on the ground. Mammals such as the porcupine can be seen in pine trees feeding on bark and twigs because vegetation on the ground is sparse during the winter months. 

Even if the critter count seems to be low during an outing, there are usually lots of clues that are on the ground in the form of tracks. Animals such as turkey, opossum and deer are common in the wild and leave distinctive footprints in the snow which even a beginning tracker learns to identify quickly.  Seeing coyote tracks is getting to be common, and you may even run across bobcat tracks in some areas. Look hard enough and you may even see a “snow angel” made by a hawk pouncing through the snow for a mouse. 

Enjoy the hike!

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