Monday, February 15, 2010

Eagles? Check! Owls? Well. . .

Shinnecock Inlet
I was off from work on Friday thanks to the birthday celebration of the fantastic President, Abe Lincoln.  Now, while the rest of the country is satisfied with combining Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays into a "President's Day", my employer gives each former leader equal respect!  I began my very long day by rising early and shooting over to Shinnecock Inlet where 5 Harlequin Ducks had been reported the previous day.  While the weather conditions were perfect, the birds were no where to be found.  I know now that they WERE in fact there (albeit later in the morning) and I may have simply missed them as I had expected them to be larger in size than they really are (more on that in the next posting).  I photographed some Red-Breasted Mergansers (below) as well as a Black Scoter while searching for the uncommon ducks.  After 15 minutes of searching, I hopped in my car and headed to Syosset to pickup the rest of my crew (Vinny Pellegrino and the President of the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society, Stella Miller) before heading to Croton-On-Hudson for Bald Eagles which had been reported as plentiful.

Croton Point Park
Let me preface the remaining photos with this:  These TECHNICALLY shouldn't be on this "blog" as they were not photographed on Long Island, but. . . they're close enough!

As soon as we got off Rt. 9 the first Baldie was spotted which was sure to set the tone for the rest of the morning.  When we got to Croton Point Park a few Bald Eagles were flying overhead but quite a ways away.  It was a nice mixture of Adults and Juveniles in the area, but the river was mostly free of ice so nothing was to be spotted on the ice floes.  While scanning for eagles, Vinny spotted an American Tree Sparrow in front of us that was nice enough to pose for me.  We next headed to the adjacent RR station where a Red-Headed Woodpecker had recently been seen as well as a flurry of Bald Eagles.

North Croton Harmon Train Station:
The parking lot of the train station was rather productive, with a multitude of duck species (redheads, mergansers, buffleheads, etc.) and a Cooper's Hawk cruising in the distance.  After a short wait, an adult Bald Eagle flew from the south and I got excited hoping it would give me a fly by but it quickly perched in a tree WAY far away and was content sitting there.  Another photographer had arrived but was as ill-equipped as I for photographing it.  He was also smoking, which I found a ironic since it kind of takes away from the natural experience when you are sucking on a cigarette. . . and I doubt he properly disposes of all of his butts, but I probably shouldn't make assumptions like that.  Aside from the WAY off Baldie (see the below, uncropped photo), I got some VERY close photos of a Song Sparrow that was more than curious:

Find the Bald Eagle!

Georges Island Park:
The next stop was Georges Island Park for more Bald Eagles.  As soon as we arrived there were two photographers who had spotted a juvie Baldie flying above (the first photo on this entry, see above) that was circling.  This was the best look that we got this morning and was certainly better than anything I'd gotten on Long Island where Bald Eagles are still fairly uncommon, however their numbers seem to be steadily increasing, especially this year.  Fair numbers of Adults and Juveniles have been spotted on the East End as well as the around the Carmans River and Forge River.  Perhaps it will only be so long before they begin nesting again as they did in the pre-DDT days.  Other than the aforementioned Eagle (which seemingly subsequently perched quite a distance away) there was a (tentatively ID'd) Red-Tailed Hawk that caused a some confusion between the 5 of us that were present there.  I was content calling it a Red-Tailed based on the barring on the chest combined with the white breast, as well as the brown head and shape.  Others were almost certain it was a juvie bald eagle, and were concerned with how dark it was for being a Red-Tailed (which, however, are HIGHLY variable in plumage), so here is the photo, cropped to 100% and you can be the judge.

Pelham Bay:
Now it was Owl time at Pelham Bay in the Bronx where Stella had been quite successful in her last 3 trips this winter, spotting Saw-Whet and Long Eared Owls and getting great looks at them at that.  We began by hiking into the Pine Grove area of Pelham Bay Park.  On our way there were quite a few birds including White-Breasted Nuthatches and White-Throated Sparrows.  Once we got into the Pine Groves we searched and searched but came up empty, however there were plenty of Downy Woodpeckers to keep me occupied, including this male (note the red on the head) I caught preening:

We checked two more nearby locations which had historically provided Owls to Stella and came up with nothing.  One location, it should be noted, was occupied by a Black Squirrel (apparently a common thing in the Bronx) which may have spooked the Saw-Whet.  While the trip didn't produce any Owls, it got me outside and I saw some things I wouldn't have seen in the Hamptons and you never know unless you go.  It also helps if you go with the "right equipment" as these folks did the very next day.  Guess I'll need to pickup a radio transmitter!

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