Friday, February 27, 2009


Last night, as the night before I did a 10pm round of our conifers, mainly the ones in the grove opposite The Mount. But I also checked the pines that surround the Redemptoristine Convent, especially where they slope down towards the river. All I saw were the gleaming red lights bouncing off our "curious noctural grazing deer". No Long nor Short Eared owls. No Saw Whets either. Fr. Gene has told me that the huge conifers between our two entrances along 9 W have "hosted owls" in past years. I will check tomorrow. There are mere patches of snow on our fields and meadows. I would like just one good week of snowshoeing. Let's see what the midnight brings.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


This oak I guess was "born" more or less when we bought 200 of these 400 or so acres from Robert Livingstong Pell in 1904. I see it as "welcoming". It welcomes all who come to see our beatiful property, to look at our birds, our deer, our abundant wildlife...It ALSO "has welcomed" many of my Redemptorist brothers and sisters who have been lain to rest in our Mt. St. Alphonsus Cemetery which is located just northwest of the orchards and just above one of the two large ponds that then feed off through the pastures into the Acre Pond.

Just southeast of our orchard with this imposing oak is the remaining silo of a barn torn down last year. It will be rebuilt way out in Montana I am told. Well, that barn and the horse stables where a "much younger Hudson River Birder worked".... that will be for a future blog. Please be patient (as those phone messages always tell us).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The disadvantage of being a birder here at The Mount is that our property from Highway 9 W to the River is about a half mile wide. The reason for this title, Jealous of Central Park is that my friends, Bob and Deb De Candido, Brian and others have been seeing these White Winged Crossbills for the last month "down there". But up here, scouring as I am our Conifers, and we do have many, I have yet to see one. We have "barrels" of Eastern Bluebirds. The Red Winged Blackbirds have been down on our marshes leading into the Acre Pond. We have many Downy Woopeckers as well as Red Bellied, Flickers and at least one Piliated Woodpecker that nests near the dock on the Hudson. So maybe I shouldn't be complaining. But I am! I don't know that the Central Park Owlers would consider it ethical. But I have this nice big flashlight. And I plan to check our conifer spots tonight around 10pm. If I "hear a hoot" that flashlight will light him/or her...up. Well, just for enough time for me to see them...

This is the first time in the ten years that I have been back from the Dominican Republic that I "am truly enjoying winter". I really am. Buying these snowshoes was the best investment in my winter health and good cheer I could have ever made. Many times I have seen our or an "other" Bald Eagle overhead or one of our local immature, maybe first year Red Tailed Hawk...right overhead. God bless winter...and the other three seasons that will follow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Friends Brian, Bob and Debra

Today I added a link to my favorites. It is to Debra Allen's Bird Photography Site. Bob De Candido and Debra are well known birders in Central Park, NYC. I met them in 1997 when I was up on a inner city parish mission in Bushwick-Brooklyn and East Harlem. It was September. I had discovered a nice old set of binoculars and wandered over to Central Park where I discovered the "Hawk Watchers" (..and "Counters"..) On the top level of Belvedere Castle (which is right below the park's Great Lawn and Turtle Pond, and right beside the Delacourt Theatre Bob, Debra, my friend Brian and many others like Richard, Eva, Lloyd,.... watched the huge Fall Migration of Raptors. I was "hooked on hawks", and I was making some nice new friends like Bob, Debra and Brian who has also come to see our Esopus lands here at The Mount. Bob and Debra are also naturalists. Debra is a wonderful nature photographer as you will see when you visit her website. Both of them have spent time in Central America, in Thailand and in places like Pennsyalvania taking part in various studies of hawks, nesting habits and the like. Bob will just "love" my new gmail address. Because it has the name of a raptor that he and Debra are presently studying in New York City--- the American Kestrel or "sparrow hawk" as they are also known. When I lived in the South Bronx I discovered one of their nests and Bob and Debra came to photograph it. I never told them this. But I once wrote a story about Kenny and Katherine, two inner city kestrels that "watched people"....for instance....people like ME who were watching them.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I would like to tell you something about how this Hudson River Birder got to live on this Hudson River-front property. I place I love to visit is what we used to call "Pells". It is the northern-most border of our property that was owned until 1904 by Robert Livingston Pell. Nearer to On that property which had at one time ten artificial lakes back in the 1800's Pell grew grapes, and planted the famous apple called the "New Town Pippin". He sold the best apples for as much $30 per barrel. He had at one time 20,000 of these apple trees 40 years old. The first and second quality apples were barreled. And with the third quality apples he at one time produced at one time 300,000 barrels of cider. In 1908 my Redemptorist missionary congregation acquired the Pell Estate and in 1908 built in Mt. St. Alphonsus ("The Mount") which one of us once called My Grey Grandmother on the Hudson. It was a seminary until 1987 and then became this Retreat Center, continuing to be....."a wildlife and scenic wonder.."

These apple trees are about all we are growing these days. As I said they are near our Giant Oak. We have been told that our soil is wonderfully rich. What Pell did in the last century seems to bear this out. (People from winery have encouraged us to grow grapes that, they say, would produce a tasy Pinot Noir wine. Maybe it will happen.) Meanwhile I visit the grave of Amanda on the small cemetery that must have been one of the young daughters of those who worked for the Pells. I say, Amanda, what do you think is going to happen to this beautiful land that your family worked so long ago. It is as beautiful as ever. You remember the Eastern Bluebirds, Amanda? Well, for many years they disappeared from here. But about ten years ago people began placing birdhouse. Now they are the delight of our winter.