Good news, bird lovers! Not all birds are leaving New York for the winter. This beautiful bird, the Rough-legged hawk or roughy, spends its summers in the Arctic tundra, but when winter comes along he or she takes up residence in Southern Canada and the Northern United States, including New York State. So this winter you might see them circling high above or sitting at the highest point on a tree scanning an open grassy field for a bite to eat. These birds prefer to hunt on open grasslands, farmland, and large open wetlands. This type of habitat is similar to the grassy tundra of their summer homes. State Parks you may see a Rough-legged hawk are Jones Beach State Park, Golden Hill State Park, Chimney Bluffs State Park, Point au Roche State Park, and Clermont State Historic Site. Other northern visitors that you may encounter while looking for roughys are Snow buntings and Short-eared owls – they also prefer the same type of open land to find food.
Some characteristics to look for when identifying a Rough-legged hawk are the dark patches at the bend of the wing and a dark bellyband and a white bib around the throat (and no red tail like one of its cousins). There are light and dark color varieties of this species, so a bird book should always be on hand when searching for this and other bird of prey!
Roughys search for food from utility poles or while hovering over the ground. They use their powerful eyesight to spot small mammals like mice and voles far below in grassy fields. Then they swoop down to catch the food in their talons.
Don’t be surprised if you look up and see one (or two) of these high flyers in the next few months.
Some people are drawn to water and some are drawn to dramatic landscapes, Chimney Bluffs State Park on the shore of Lake Ontario has both. Located in Wolcott, New York the park’s namesake bluffs stretch for ½ a mile revealing its ever-changing ancient past.
During the last ice age from 2 million years ago until about 10,000 years ago there were a series of glacial advances and retreats that formed the Great Lakes that changed the landscape of the north-central part of the United States in many ways. One of the clues that glaciers leave behind are called drumlins. We see drumlins as elliptical hills. These hills are blunt on the upglacier end and taper into and elongated tail on the downglacier end, similar in shape to a teardrop. Drumlins form parallel the direction the movement of the ice. These hills usually form in clusters; the exposed upglacier end of the drumlin at Chimney Bluffs State Park is one of roughly 10,000 drumlins located south and east of Lake Ontario.
The term drumlin refers to the hill’s shape, not its composition. Some drumlins are solid rock and some are composed of glacial till. Till is a mixture of different sized rock fragments and sediment deposited as glacial ice melts. The drumlin at Chimney Bluffs State Park formed when one glacier melted and deposited the till, later a south moving glacier reshaped the material into its present shape.
The north end of the drumlins has been eroded by thousands of year of wave action, wind, rain and snow. As the north end erodes the exposed material is carved into magnificent and ever changing formations. The bluffs are constantly changing source of beauty and danger.