Wednesday, March 4, 2015

This Winter Takes a Heavy Toll

Two fattened up Horned Grebes headed for release
This Winter has been very hard on wildlife. Persistent below zero temperatures and deep snow has been a challenge for land animals, but diving Ducks, grebes and loons have taken an especially heavy hit as the fishing areas that they rely on as winter habitat and as migratory stopovers have remained frozen tight. These weakened, starving and/or disoriented birds have been landing in fields, parking lots and roads, where only a few fortunate ones have been rescued and brought in to wildlife rehabilitators. Grebes make up a surprisingly large number of the casualties – primarily Horned Grebes and Red-necked Grebes. 
Two Horned Grebes in a bathtub at Woodhaven Wildlife Center
This Red-necked Grebe came down in a parking lot, but later was unable to be located
Horned Grebes released on the Mohawk River - immediately began fishing
Lots of flapping right after release
Initially the stayed close to the release site and then moved downstream 
There were lots of ducks downstream - "Ducks along the Mohawk"
Last week I released 2 Horned Grebes into a large open patch of the Mohawk River. There were a number of diving ducks feeding there so I surmised that the grebes would be able to find enough fish. Last year a similar ice-up on Lake Ontario and Lake Erie caused a die off of tens of thousands of waterfowl. It is thought that this winter will kill many more since the ice cover has been more extensive. Raptors have also been dying off – primarily from starvation and vehicle impacts. These causations are linked, since during times of deep snow, raptors spend time more hunting on road sides where their rodent prey is more likely to emerge into the open. These hawks and owls are then struck by vehicles when they peruse prey into the road.
Last week we had an Eastern Screech Owl roosting in one of our nest boxes
Bald Eagles are frequently seen in the few places that do have open water
Our beaver Pond have been iced over now for many weeks - the dam has a large snow drift over it
We've tried to keep a hole open in the ice near the dam - This way we've been able to supplement the beaver's food supply
We assume that there is still some food in the beaver's underwater food cache, but there's no way to confirm that
Care packages of poplar and willow branches are gratefully accepted

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