By Jason Beale, Abbott’s Mill Nature Center Manager
The chilly morning air was mediated by a beautiful clear blue sky and abundant sun. The honking of Snow Geese greeting us as a flock of a few hundred passed over. Throughout the morning, four flocks of similar size worked their way from east to west, presumably from Prime Hook NWR. This Delmarva spectacle is unpredictable around Abbott’s Mill, with daily sightings for a week or so, followed by weeks without any and seems to depend on where the winter wheat is up and where local hunting pressure is.
Abbott’s Pond held a Belted Kingfisher perched on a stump and an adult Bald Eagle was perched in the “Eagle Tree”, a prominent loblolly pine on the southwest pond edge. In discussions with local residents, it seems we have at least four separate adults and few juveniles in the area. Otherwise, birding was quiet, but we did encounter a few Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Cedar Waxwing throughout the morning.
The recent rain and frost heaves have left the soil in great condition to record the calling cards of many animals, including free-roaming House Cats (Top) and Red Fox (Bottom). Last night, I read in Whitaker and Hamilton’s Mammals of the Eastern United States that these species tend to have a limiting effect on Long-tailed Weasels, a species that local residents used to see from time to time, especially around chicken houses. As Coyote populations increase, they in turn limit the Red Fox and Feral Cats. Will we begin to see more Weasels as we see more Coyotes?