Monday, April 6, 2015

Warm day for some Spring Birds

One of the advantages  of my job is being able to get out "in the field" every now and then.  Today I had to walk a very large site which may potentially be developed as a solar farm as well as check out a piece of Open Space to ensure no dumping has occurred, check on the status of the vegetation and see if I could spot any new species for that location.  As a bonus, I was able to go visit the Bald Eagle nest at lunch - though it was probably 10 degrees cooler down by the water!

The first site wasn't too thrilling - very thick woods.  I wasn't expecting to see anything, especially this early in spring but there's always the potential for nesting owls or a fox den, however the habitat isn't quite right for fox (at least where I walked).  I did hear one distinct call - a very notable trill but couldn't figure it out.  As luck would have it, a friend of mine posted a video on facebook later in the day with audio of the same call, and with the help of others we determined it to be the aptly named Pine Warbler.  Reading this blurb from Cornell's website certainly confirms this is the bird I was hearing:

The best way to find Pine Warblers is to narrow them down by habitat and voice. Head for a pine forest in the eastern United States (check a range map for specifics), and then listen for a clear, steady, trilling song. Chipping Sparrows and 
Dark-eyed Juncos sound very similar and can occur in the same habitats, so be aware you might find these birds instead. Pine Warblers tend to stay high in pines and can be obscured by tufts of needles, but a bit of patience is likely to be rewarded.

When I got to the second site (AKA lunch spot) I enjoyed a sandwich waterside while observing the osprey on their still shabby looking nest.  One of the birds brought some nesting material before disappearing and I could see an Eagle on the nest in the distance.  After lunch I observed the Osprey fiddling with some twigs in the nest, adjusting their position.  It's really incredible to look at the construction of these things and imagine them being put together by talons and beaks.  I spent quite a bit of time scanning the surroundings my new Nikon binoculars - but couldn't locate the "Adult" Eagle anywhere.  It was confirmed that it wasn't anywhere near me when another pair of osprey (I believe nesting to the west of the Eagles) soared high in the sky chirping very loudly.  If the Adult BE was around it probably would have made its presence known.

Since the tide was low, I was able to take advantage of a spit of sand that juts out into the creek which was covered with just a couple inches of water.  My new waterproof Salamon hiking shoes (which I bought for an upcoming trip) worked as advertised - submerged in about 3 inches of water and not a drop on the inside.  So much better than lugging some overshoes or wading boots around... As I scanned the marsh again (where I saw the Eagle on Friday) I watched as 4 Great Blue Herons landed.  I thought this to be odd, because aside from maybe seeing two together in a marsh, I'd never seen these birds together (especially not flying together).  A quick check of Cornell's website shows that
these birds are solitary except when on migration - so there you have it!

I re-located the two Osprey - busy preening on a snag across the creek, near the Eagle nest.  Not sure if this was intentional or not, but likely making their continual presence and "ownership" of the area known.  With my lunch break over, I headed out to a property known as "Pheasant Meadow" which Brookhaven Town purchased in conjunction with Suffolk County and preserves as a meadow habitat. The property has a wide variety of wildlife (I'll include the list I've made later if I can remember to find it) and is a unique habitat worth talking a walk through if you're in the area.  I wouldn't be surprised if Eagle's began nesting on the southern tip (known as Haven's Estate) within the next 5 years due to the habitat and location.  While wildlife wasn't terribly abundant here - I did see one raptor though couldn't ID it and spent a few minutes photographing the very active Tree Swallows, including 1 who was very curious about a nest box that the Eastern Long Island Audubon Society (ELIAS) had erected.

I love when an opportunity like this presents itself.  With more time and my tripod I could have gotten the "perfect shot" but I'll take what I got considering.  Whenever a bird returns to a perch consistently, and you have good lighting behind you - you pre-focus your camera and wait until the bird approaches before firing off shots.  Sure, 9 out of 10 will be terrible, but sometimes you get lucky!  With at tripod and a remote trigger, this is really easy because you don't have to hold the camera and have both eyes available to see when the bird comes back to the perch.  I hope to try this again sometime soon with even better results.

As my time int he field would down I got two new birds for the property on my way out - a Northern Flicker and a Purple Finch.  And lastly I heard a rustling that I knew I wasn't responsible for and looked down to find this little guy:


  1. Nice read and great shots Luke. Glad you're updating the blog again!