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.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A long time coming

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

Thursday, January 2, 2014

White-winged Crow

This morning on my way to Dune Road I came across a Crow with some white-wing bars... pretty unusual (can't recall every seeing this).  If anyone knows more about this, feel free to leave a comment below.

Other than that, Dune Rd. was very quite.  A nice flock of Snow Bunting @ Tiana (bayside) and a couple Loons near the Ponquogue Bridge and that was about it.  Conditions were not pleasant so finding Owls or Seaducks was difficult at best and Dune Road was well flooded which kept me from taking multiple trips down the road.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year? New Bird

Since we stayed at a friend's house NYE up-island, we decided to check out Jones Beach in the morning to see if we could find some Snowy Owls.  Additionally, a Northern Shrike has been lingering and it would have been nice to pick up this species since I'd never photographed it (or seen it for that matter) before.  Upon Arrive at WE2, we saw a gaggle of photographers (in their mossy oak camo) out in the dunes and figured a Snowy Owl must be near... A chance encounter with Stella (from Huntington/Oyster Bay Audubon Society) resulted in a brief conversation about how close the photographers were to what was probably a feeding owl.  I took a walk down the beach and got a few snaps from further away than the other photographers who were "stalking" the owl.  The Bird was mantling which meant it had some prey underneath it.  While returning to my vehicle, a gentleman (birder I presume) informed me that there was another Snowy Owl just to the west in the Dunes, where there were no other photographers/birders.  I got in my car and we drove to the other side of the building then started hiking to find the other owl.  I noticed a bird by itself in a tree not to far off and raised my camera to get a shot to see what it was.  Sure enough, the Northern Shrike and it had looked right at me for the one image I was able to get before it flew off.  This was probably the easiest "rare" bird/first species I'd ever gotten (aside from my first Snowy Owl many years ago before I was really into photography).

We walked along the Dune line and "followed the footprints" as instructed by the friendly man who tipped me off.  I stood atop a little plateau to scan the horizon, coming up with nothing when sure enough, my wife told me she found the bird (she is 4 for 4 this year in Snowy Owl adventures).  We spent some time with the sleepy owl, before heading back to the care.

On the return trip, a large flock of Snow Bunting made for a few interesting photos - it was amazing how close they would fly toward us, chirping all the while.  I let my wife return to the vehicle to warm up while I took a shot at getting a few more photos of the original snowy owl (which had attracted a substantial crowd of photographers and birders).  I got some more images as it ate what was probably a rabbit before leaving for the comfort of my vehicle, passing a few other photographers and birders who were practically running to join the masses, completely unaware there was another bird just down the beach.