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From the February 2014 Conservationist

A photo of a chipmunk

Photo: DEC photo


By Eileen Stegemann and Jenna Kerwin

Eagle Food-Fight

Two bald eagles fighting over food

My wife and I made many, early morning trips along the Hudson River in Peekskill, trying to time our visits when the ice floes were moving along the shoreline, hoping to spot a bald eagle. Much to our surprise, we spotted many, and I was lucky enough to photograph this immature eagle tussling with a mature one protecting its meal.

Joe DeMarte
White Plains, Westchester County

That mature eagle isn't going to give up dinner that easily!

Lunch-Time Capture

A mink, standing on the ice, with a fish in its mouth

This picture was taken from the west shore of Cayuga Lake.
I was surprised to see a mink fishing close to shore. He was quite curious and watched me closely. He would jump in the lake, swim a bit, and then jump back onto the ice. He did this a number of times. The last time, he came up with lunch!

Haidee Oropallo
Auburn, Cayuga County

Great photo, Haidee! Mink are generally solitary animals and live near lakes, streams and swamps across the state. As you saw, they are equally at home on land or in water. Medium-sized weasels, adults average 1½-2 feet long and 1-3 pounds in weight. They are carnivores, and will eat a variety of items including small mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, crustaceans, insects and reptiles. During winter, fish are a common meal.
-Jenna Kerwin, Staff Writer

Tailless Pheasant?

A pheasant in the snow with missing tail feathers

Laurie Dirkx of Ontario, Wayne County sent us this photo of a ring-necked pheasant. Note the missing tail. This is not uncommon. You'll often see birds with missing tail feathers. At least one of the functions of these feathers is to give a predator something to grab onto so that the bird may get away relatively unscathed. The pheasant will begin to grow new tail feathers in a matter of days, and will replace its tail in a matter of weeks. Some birds won't replace missing feathers until their next molt.

Unique Company

A coyote stands between two great blue herons on a frozen lake

This was taken from the shores of Onondaga Lake in Syracuse. The coyote was a long, long way out. I thought it was pretty cool to see him out there with the blue herons! He wandered back and forth and up and down the ice for the entire four hours I was there on eagle watch.
Everet D. Regal
Phoenix, Oswego County

You were lucky to come across such a rare and unique sight. It may surprise some of our readers to see great blue herons (GBHs) in winter. While GBHs prefer to feed in shallow water on fish, frogs, crustaceans and insects they catch with their beaks, they will switch over to small mammals when cold temperatures lock their normal dining areas in blankets of ice and snow. If the period of ice cover is prolonged, herons will move south in search of warmer climes. Interestingly, some GBHs will also return north in spring before ice-out, and those herons must also feed on small mammals and other things they find on the ground. Check out our "Community Photos-2011" album on our Facebook page to see a photo of a heron with a chipmunk!
-Dave Nelson, Editor

Hooked on Fishing

A father and his two sons hold thier walleye that they caught ice fishing

We recently had a fun and rewarding day ice fishing at Great Sacandaga Lake. My twin boys landed this 25-inch, 5 lb. walleye (bigger than I've ever caught). At first, I thought they had caught a large northern pike when they were unable to get the fish out of the hole. I ran over and the fish was still in the hole, unhooked, but it was so big that it was unable to swim away. I think it's safe to say my boys are "hooked!"
Howard Goebel

That is an impressive catch! Looks like you have some skilled anglers in the family. It's always great to see people passing on the love of the sport of fishing, and what a fun way to spend a winter day outside together. Thanks for sharing.
-Eileen Stegemann, Assistant Editor