Sunday, April 19, 2015

Plenty of Osprey - and some Eagle Action

The Osprey were out in full force yesterday - I witnessed a pair (from an unknown nest location) mating - the male was nice enough to bring a fresh fish later as well.  The birds on the nest on the banks of the creek shared a fish and flew to their favorite snag across the way to enjoy, while an interloper Osprey came and harassed the established pairs.  For the most part - the Adult BE was sitting in the nest (not as noticeable as the subadult usually is) with the other bird sitting on a nearby tree, preening.

For awhile, the subadult disappeared - we saw a brief chase by an osprey from a nest probably 1 mile to the north, then the bird was gone again.  While waiting for something to happen, one of the Ospreys on the snag across the creek started chirping and took off like a rocket in our direction - we turned around and as expected, the sub-adult was on its way back and the Osprey wasn't having it.  After making its presence known, the Subadult called a few times (as seen in one of the images) and then landed on a tree nearby the nest and well, that was about it.

When Osprey had fish in the area, the subadult wasn't around so there were no chases for food to be seen.  The Eagles were also quite tolerant of a couple boats that passed by - not even acknowledging the noise from the boats (or those working on boats nearby).  At one point, another couple came with their cameras, took a few shots and left.  The most interesting thing we saw was one one of the osprey was eating its fish - a crow landed in the tree, one branch beneath and called incessantly, apparently begging for scraps but the Osprey kept on eating, not even bothering to move or chirp at the intruder.

I hope to get there today - but there of course are no guarantees.  In a week I'll be off on vacation - so I may not be down to check out the Eagles for some time. Lucky for me, I'll be going to a place that has the highest concentration of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 - Seattle and the San Juan Islands!  I'm very much looking forward to it, and can't wait to see these birds in numbers, instead of number 1 and number 2.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

EPCAL - A letter to the Riverhead Town Board

For those of you who subscribe to the NY Bird Listserv - you will have seen a disturbing post by a well respected member of the community.  The past president of ELIAS (and a few others) were harassed by Town Police and given a warning for "trespassing" on the western runway - a vacant runway that has been used by the general public for at least a decade and is the gateway to some of the best wildlife viewing on the island.  After hearing of this absurd response by the Town, I drafted and sent the following letter to members of the Town Board and the Supervisor of the Town of Riverhead.  I urge all of you do draft your own letters and do the same - please contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions or want to know how to contact these elected officials who have decided that PUBLIC LAND is no longer accessible to members of the public.

April 16, 2015

Dear Supervisor Walter and Honorable Council People,

A distinguished member of the birding community and past president of the Eastern Long Island Audubon Society (ELIAS) posted a message about her experience at EPCAL on the New York Birding listserv today.  The message stated that while she and two others were birding the western runway at EPCAL, four (4) police vehicles with a total of five (5) officers showed up and informed the birders that they were trespassing and that the runway was under constant surveillance.  After the officers took everyone’s personal information and issued them a warning, they were told if they were caught offending again that they would be jailed.  While walking is permitted in the adjacent grassland areas, the birders were told they cannot drive or walk on the concrete runway.

This response by the police department is unconscionable.  To threaten members of the community with the prospect of jail for driving their vehicles at a safe and responsible speed on an abandoned runway as they enjoy the sights and sounds of nature runs counter to everything local government should stand for.  As an environmental analyst for the Town of Brookhaven (and avid wildlife photographer), I understand the importance of nature, open spaces and encouraging the public to interact with our natural resources.  

I personally have visited EPCAL countless times over the past six (6) years and have cherished every moment of it, knowing one day it will be altered by development.  I have witnessed short-eared owls hunting at dusk, seen red-tailed hawks soar high above, watched as American Kestrels descend on the property during spring and fall migrations resulting in concentrations of this grassland dependent bird that cannot be found anywhere else on the island.  Discovering a family of fox and their adorable kits was one of my greatest joys I’ve ever had as a nature photographer and listening to the call of the Eastern Meadowlark is one of the truest signs of spring.  These experiences have all been made possible by my ability to traverse the runways in my vehicle in a safe and responsible manner.  In all of my trips to EPCAL I have only once witnessed a vehicle driving at excessive speeds, but on nearly every trip I have enjoyed the beauty that these grasslands offer.

Instead of driving members of the public away (many of them Riverhead Town taxpayers) with big concrete barriers and threats of jail time (for birding!), the Town of Riverhead should be encouraging people to come to EPCAL and enjoy all that it has to offer.  The Town is proud of their efforts to construct a pathway around the border of the property to be used by bikers and joggers alike, but wishes to punish those who want to drive the runways in search of birds, fox, groundhogs and deer.  While it may be easy for some like myself to walk long distances with heavy equipment, there are many others in our community who are not as mobile - nevermind the very real threat that ticks pose to anyone walking in the grasslands.  Driving is easier, safer and allows visitors to see significantly more wildlife.  

It is my hope that the Town of Riverhead can find a happy balance.  Permit vehicles on the western runway from dawn to dusk.  The Town can post speed limit signs and Town police can routinely patrol the area and go after people who are acting in an unsafe manner.  I can assure you that everyone who visits the area would be happy to pay a nominal fee for a runway access permit (with strict guidelines regarding hours, speed, etc.).  If anything, whatever “policy” the Town has chosen for access to the runways should be clarified to the general public.  It is clear that the barriers as installed have not been effective and I can attest that the policies for access have changed many times over the past half decade with no rhyme or reason.  

I ask you, the stewards of Riverhead Town, to please reconsider the policies regarding access to the Western Runway.  Myself and others (particularly members of ELIAS) would be happy to work with you to craft a policy that meets everyone’s interests.  I have attached some of my favorite images from EPCAL taken over the years for you to all enjoy and I ask that you reconsider.  These grasslands are a special resource in your Town and we all know that the land will one day likely be developed - please let myself and others enjoy all it has to offer while it lasts.  Thank you for your time and consideration and I look forward to your responses.  


Luke Ormand

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bald Eagle Update and a noisy warbler

One day you'll be closer... or I'll be in a kayak
Around noon today I found myself in Robert Cushman County Park in Manorville conducting a baseline inspection for a proposed project nearby.  It was a brief hike in the woods (and I managed a few ticks on my jeans) but Pine Warblers were singing in good numbers.... lighting was well, less than ideal, but I can illustrate the difference between the female (drab) and male (brightly colored) with these photos:

After work I took advantage of the nice weather and headed down to the Bald Eagle nest - but to my disappointment the Adult was once again very far away - perched on the washed up tree, just like last weekend.  The Osprey were both on the nest - but after another osprey passed with a fish (see below) and the male pursued lazily after it, the female headed across the river to a favored perch where the Male joined it for a little preening.  A scan back to the Bald Eagle and I found it was missing - only to locate it far far up in the sky hunting over the bay.  Oh well, maybe this weekend!

Osprey with a flounder that appears to have had its head bitten off