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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Smith's Point Snowy

This afternoon my wife and I took advantage of the somewhat decent weather (compared to what is coming anyway) and the holiday and went for a walk to the "new" old inlet.  This breach was created when Superstorm Sandy broke through a narrow part of the barrier island and has remained ever since due to its location within the National Seashore meaning the federal government would have to OK the closure.  We had hoped to find some fox which another photographer had reported seeing in the area (I would really love to get photos of them in their winter coats) but we kept an eye out for Snowy Owls given how frequently they have been found this winter.

We stopped to take a look at an area which had been flattened by the waves - rolling hummocks of grass and sand marked the landscape with no large vantage points.  I started to scan the area and thought to myself that these birds blend in so well I would probably step on one or spook it by mistake.  Not long after having that thought my wife exclaimed she had found one (not terribly far from where I was walking).  The bird was next to a small shrub and flushed easily - taking a very short flight to a nearby hummock that actually provided better views.  It was there we got some nice photos of the bird with the surrounding landscape.  After leaving the bird we walked to the breach and scanned the other side and the small islands, finding nothing but gulls.  On our return walk the Snowy Owl had moved once again this time quite a ways up the beach - perched in a similar location and blending in beautifully.

Aside from the owl - there were of course plenty of deer (in the parking lot anyway) as is typical with fire island beaches.  No other birds of note and unfortunately - no fox, but I'm happy seeing/photographing the 8th Snowy Owl of the year.  Before this winter I had seen a snowy owl on two separate occasions, so this season has been a smashing success.