Sunday, April 12, 2015

Kestrels and Ospreys - They're everywhere!

Around 12:30 my wife and I arrived at EPCAL to do a quick drive through and see what was around and looking for any signs of fox kits.  No fox (just a few fat groundhogs) but there were kestrels - everywhere!  It's my guess that there were at least 30 on the western runway - meaning at least double that when taking the eastern runway into consideration.  There were almost certainly more kestrels to the north at the old radar station and at the cemetery, as these are the other large "grassland" areas around.  While Kestrels can be found throughout the year at EPCAL, during migration (spring and fall) the numbers can really swell.

The problem with Kestrels (at least in these parts) is that they're very skittish and seemingly never stop moving.  There are perches for them everywhere (they really love the old common mullien stalks) and I noticed a few butterflies and dragonflies which they surely are feeding on in addition to small birds and rodents.  There were plenty of red-tailed hawks as well, though they were very high in the sky.  Only saw a handful of Eastern Meadowlarks, and none seemed to be calling out which was a bit disappointing, so with only 1 "decent" shot from EPCAL (despite many attempts) I moved on to Woodhull dam in Riverside which I've heard about in the past but never actually had visited.

The dam is on an offshoot of the Peconic River as it branches off south toward Wildwood Lake.  When the alewife run, they concentrate at this dam in large numbers and make it very easy for the Osprey.  As soon as I arrived I could smell fish in the air - and there was someone canoeing/fishing on the other side of the dam - but I couldn't didn't see any fish despite having my polarized dragon sunglasses on.  While looking in the water I heard the unmistakeable "chirp" of an osprey, and looked up - sure enough there was a big ol' Osprey staring at me.  I actually had to take a step back in order to get the bird completely in the frame (just look at those talons!).  The bird couldn't have cared less that I was there and kept cocking its head to look down at the water, just waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting fish.

Unfortunately for me, the bird wasn't the only one who was really hungry - so I left after a couple minutes (another osprey came by and perched a bit further north, imploring the same tactic).  I'd like to come back again in the near future as the very cold winter has kept water temps low and the alewife push hasn't reached its peak yet.

On the way home we drove down Dune Road in search of the Snowy Owl that had been reported as recently as yesterday, but to no avail.  We didn't look to hard but would have been nice to see it regardless.  A few egrets were the only birds of note as we packed it in for the day, deciding not to stop and check in on the Bald Eagle as it was getting pretty late in the day.  I'm hoping to get out once or twice this week in the evening to take advantage of the warm light and sun that sets a bit later each night.

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