Sunday, February 9, 2014
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
Posted by LeOrmand at 8:32 PM
Monday, January 20, 2014
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.
Posted by LeOrmand at 8:48 PM
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Late this afternoon my wife and I ventured to Dune Road since we were already out east. So far I am 0-3 this season trying to find Snowy Owl's alone - and my wife is batting 1.000. I already had heard there were multiple owls along Dune Road from a fellow photographer so I figured it would be a lock, and sure enough my wife spotted the bird in the marsh (though we were tipped off by some birders who had literally parked their car in the middle of the road). The bird was pretty far out, and I have quite a few good images of this species so far so we moved on hoping to find another or at least something else of interest.
When we reached Quogue, we turned around and headed back scanning again for birds - aided by the lack of direct sun blinding us. I noticed a female Kingfisher perched on a telephone pole and figured I would get my obligatory kingfisher on a telephone pole image (I probably have hundreds). The bird was perched above a small watering hole and I was about to give up hope that it would do anything interesting when it swooped down and hovered about 10' above the water. I photographed the bird from my car snapping away as it flapped its wings for what seemed like a very long time compared to other times I've seen this species hover. It never ended up diving for a fish and flew to a different perch, but the result was very exciting as I have longed for photos like these of this species since I started photography over 5 years ago.
After scoring the shots of the kingfisher, we continued east along Dune Rd. when I spotted a Northern Harrier. This is another species I've had an extremely difficult time photographing in flight (particularly along Dune Rd) but the stars appeared to be aligned today because I pulled off this shot
The Snowy Owl was still in the marsh - but by this time the sun had just about set and it was still a distance away, so we packed it in. Below are a few photos I got earlier in the afternoon at the inlet where there was a nice mixed flock of Scoters and Eiders as well as some monster waves in the ocean and a very large flock of gulls fishing. The best of them all is the immature male King Eider I photographed (by accident really). This is a species I have hoped for years to get, often spotted in single numbers off of Montauk Point. There have been reports of multiple king eiders (male and females) at Shinnecock recently. I was lucky that the ocean was rough and brought these birds inside the cut and even more lucky that I photographed this one without really knowing what I was looking for
Here is a "beachscape" showing off the large number of gulls present
Lastly - an Immature Common Eider with some food
If you want to learn more about the natural world that is Long Island - check out this book by John Turner which features many of my photos