Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May Migrants

May and October are the most fun times to be an avian photographer on Long Island.  Migration is in full swing, the temps are good, the bugs aren't around and you never know what you will find, or where you'll find it.

While migration is always better in Nassau and NYC (due to geographical reasons and the concentrated areas of open spaces), Suffolk County has some good spots too even during the worst parts of the day.

Today I was doing some work near the Forge River and took a quick hike to see what I could find.  There were some wood ducks, which as always were very skittish, plenty of Towhee's with their distinctive call and ground movements, catbirds, jays and a slew of woodpeckers.  While there weren't many migrants I had the excellent fortune of having a Black and White Warbler pop up right in front of me.

After the Warbler flitted off up river, I noticed something on the other side - a Swamp Sparrow looking for bugs.  The vibrant greens of the newly emerging vegetation made for some excellent scenery of this bird as it successfully nabbed insect after insect.  I wish I was closer - but the distance wasn't too bad.

Aside from those birds, there were a few Blue-grey Gnatcatchers, buzzing away rather high in the canopy.  Though it was a small sample of birds, it was a fun afternoon walk and a great reminder that Nature abounds - even if it's only a few minutes of walking north of a major roadway.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nassau Screech Owls

On Saturday I made a rare photography foray into Nassau County after John Turner (author of Exploring the Other Island: A seasonal guide to nature on Long Island) urged me to make a visit to his "backyard" - Massapequa Preserve.  He had mentioned that I could get good photos of Eastern Screech Owls and that while he can't guarantee anything in Nature, he could "almost" guarantee I would see one or two Screech Owls (grey morph and red morph) with little effort.  I've historically politely told him thanks in the past as he usually suggests places upstate or deep into Nassau - but since I was going to Massapequa on Saturday anyway I figured I would indulge him.  When he gave me the instructions as to where to find the birds, I jotted them down half-heartedly because it seemed far too easy to find these birds.  When we arrived, my wife and I walked down the path and following his directions as if they were a treasure map we struck gold.  Grey morph Screech, up in the Maple tree just where he said.  After I got a record shot I checked on the other "X" from the treasure map a few yards down the path, and sure enough there was the Red Morph bird, sunning itself in the warm spring afternoon.

Unfortunately the birds were a bit high up and there were some branches and other elements that prevented "the perfect shot" but considering the only other time I'd ever seen a screech is when I found one sitting in a pine tree in my back yard (despite many years of dutifully checking every tree crotch, rotted branch and small hole in the woods) I was happy.  Maybe I should take John's advice more often....

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Sunday Birds

This afternoon my wife and I travelled to Dune Road to see what was around - reports of Snowy Owls have diminished significantly over the last month or so though I had heard of one hanging out on duck blinds.  Sure enough, this is where I found the bird ("I" because my wife gets credit for all the other ones we have found this season, so I'm proud I got one of my own!") quite a distance from the road. The ice covering the bay(s) no doubt has allowed these birds to expand their hunting and roosting grounds which I'm sure partially explains the decline in reports.

Dune Road itself held a few Black-Crowned Night Herons staring patiently into the little ditches along the roadway hoping to find some food.  Two Great Blue Herons were also present, attempting to the same hunting strategy.

The inlet was quiet and very calm - a large number of birds were off the northeastern jetty - likely scoters or eiders.  Some more birds were in the ocean or in the bay but nothing nearby.  As we went over the bridge, I looked at the big tower at the Coast Guard Station hoping to find a Peregrine (the only reliable place on Long Island where I've ever seen them).  Sure enough, there was a Peregrine sitting in a location I've seen one in many times before.  A nice way to close out the day