Saturday, December 14, 2013

Snowy Day

My wife and I set off this morning early in hopes of finding a Snowy Owl before Christmas shopping.  Snowy Owls have been coming down to the Northeast area in droves and they are particularly reliable along Dune Road, which is the only place I've ever found a Snowy (both times without the assistance of others).  The fact that it was actually snowing seemed to increase the chances we would see one, and when that bit of logic failed our backup plan was that the CBC was going on for the area so there certainly would be other birders who would have seen them.

We took the long way down Dune Road starting in Westhampton instead of going straight to Hampton Bays which is where the birds are more likely to be.  We made it all the way to I road (just before the inlet) without seeing anything when I spotted a few birders and pulled up next to them to inquire if they had seen any.  They were participating in the CBC but laughed at my inquiry because someone else had just asked the same question and the answer was no. They had started out at the inlet - so I figured I would try to go to the fishing pier park and scan from there.

Once we pulled in the parking lot I spotted something on a nearby island and had my wife look through the binoculars.  Meanwhile I pulled up my camera to scan and lo and behold, a snowy owl sitting at the base of the fishing pier.  Within 5 or 10 minutes the birders we had talked to previously had arrived, and I was happy to be able to inform them that there was a Snowy right in front of us.  The location of the bird was absolutely terrible for photography - no real chance at getting close unless I had a kayak or a boat (not likely when it's 20* out) so I did the best I could and hoped for better chances later this year.

We took a trip down Dune Road again later in the afternoon but ended up empty handed, even with checking some of the beaches via our vehicle (though we did not drive the length of the beach - just poked our heads out at access points).  Aside from a few Northern Harriers there was nothing too special but I did spot one Northern Gannet (odd that it was alone) flying along the ocean from East to West possibly headed to Cupsogue or New Old Inlet for some fishing.

I also captured this Savannah Sparrow while hanging out with the Snowy.  I was standing at a point lower than the road surface so I was able to get a nice low angle.  According to Bob Adamo (a very skilled birder) the photo below represents the subspecies "Ipswich" which is 50% heavier than the standard Savannah Sparrow and breeds on Sable Island in Nova Scotia.

If you are interested in learning more about owls - or are looking for a christmas gift for fellow birding friends - check out this book:

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