Overlook, our holy mountain, is looking over us, a mostly silent witness to our wintry travail. I say “mostly” because there is never total silence outdoors in our part of the world. Even if for just a short while you were able to walk deep enough into the woods to separate yourself, however temporarily, from the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, to eliminate the sounds of vehicles, wheeled or winged, you might be surprised how much life is around you. Particularly in any south-facing location, evidence of life will abound in our seemingly-lifeless wintry desert.
Among our true local birds that don’t migrate are the intrepid small-birds — wintering bluebirds, the raucous bluejays, cardinals, chickadees, assorted sparrows, wrens and the like will all be found in their ﬂuffy little down-jackets, racing from bush to ground, turning up lost seeds from last year, as well as snacking on groggy insects woken from a thaw.
The pileated and other woodpeckers never really stop in their endless quest under the bark of dead and dying trees. The local winter “clean-up crew,” consisting of crows, ravens and the newly-returned vultures, are doing just ﬁne on the remains of gray- and red squirrels that don’t know how to cross a road properly. And perhaps, if you’re very still long enough you may see a deer mouse or meadow vole stir under the dried leaves, trying hard to feed their incredibly high metabolisms.
Watching over it all, whether circling high or observing keenly from a tree-branch, will be a wintering hawk, eyes peeled and eager for those same small rodents to show themselves, however brieﬂy. Everything about our local cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, red-tails and red-shoulders is tailored by millions of years of evolution to deftly listen and watch keenly for the slightest leaf-rustle, to quickly and silently swoop down, even race brieﬂy across the ground, dinosaur-like, on taloned feet for a short stretch, and grab its hapless prey. Right now, with no snow-cover to somewhat protect them, all of the small rodents are at a disadvantage. I say “somewhat” because even if there was snow, all of the hawks — in addition to extraordinary eyesight — have incredible hearing which can readily penetrate the snow. This is true as well with our local owls, maybe more so, since their hearing is even more acute. We are also blessed to have a mating pair of bald eagles that has wintered in Waghkonk for several years now.
Have a safe season. Watch for remnants of ice on the hilltop trails (always bring traction devices) and plan for winter while hoping for spring (always have a light, dress in layers, wear a hat and gloves, as well as warm, waterproof boots).
Contact Dave Holden at 845-594-4863 or write firstname.lastname@example.org/rangerdaveholden on Instagram or Woodstock Trails on Facebook/www.woodstocknytrails.com.