Mandarin Duck

One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong.

Sesame Street
Mandarin Duck in a New England pond. Only a male was present amongst a group of Mallards.

I kept thinking of this song when I went to a pond this morning that a friend let me know about where a non-native duck was seen. This lone Mandarin duck has found his crowd amongst a group of Mallard ducks along with two swans. They stuck together on the same section of the pond. Another Mandarin Duck two years ago showed up with a group of Mallards in the Central Park Pond. Like that duck, this one most likely was bought by someone and they either released it or it got away.

Mandarin Ducks are native to East Asia including Korea, Japan, China and other places. They are also becoming more common in parts of Europe. In some Asian cultures and religions the Mandarin duck is a symbol or marriage loyalty. It is said they mate for life.

I’m glad this duck found some other ducks to hang with. It is too bad he does not have a female Mandarin in his group. The other ducks seemed to treat him as one of their own. Regardless of the circumstances, I feel happy to have been able to catch a glimpse of him.

Jones Beach Owls

This is a public service announcement on my part. I went Jones Beach today and had shocking encounter with two people. They acted like I was too close to the owl. I was not. One claimed she was from the Audubon Society. She said the rule is 500 feet. I told her the signs at the park say 100 feet is the limit of how close you can get. She said there are no signs. I told her there were two I saw. She said the park did not put them up, someone just did that on their own. The man was yelling at me. First, they said I was closer than 500 feet. After I said the rule was 100, then they said I was closer than 100. I was not.

The owl got spooked twice when these people approached. The first time because two people approached from the side opposite me and at a pace that was too fast. I had been there a while and the owl had not moved. As soon as the two people approached quickly, he flew off. I was still and more than 100 feet away. The owl flew off to another dune. The second time the owl flew off was because the man started yelling again. He was standing right next to me. Again I was a lot farther than 100 feet watching the second dune he landed on. The man’s yelling spooked the owl. While he was yelling and the owl started flying, he made sure he got pictures though.

Sign one. It is poor quality due to weather fading, but clearly readable. 100 foot minimum. Department of Environmental Conservation. I was told by one regular photographer here that this is not even the rule at some other places. They post it here. I looked for info on the DEC website about Snowy Owls. A short search did not yield a 100 foot rule. I will still follow it as I have done.

I took pictures of the signs and went into the park office near West End 2 . I told them what happened and asked what the rule was. The lady inside at the desk said 100 feet. She said they put the signs up. She told me not to listen to those people and she was sorry that happened to me.

Sign 2. Clearly readable . 100 foot minimum. These are both at the entrances of the two foot paths to the beach. One is closer to the West End new building. It was on a snow fence. The other I believe was on a pole on the path walking from the building the restrooms are in.

I could say more about what they said and did, but I am trying to hold my tongue. Their actions later did not match up with their 500 foot rule needless to say.

Moral of the story, if you plan to go to see the snowy at Jones Beach follow the 100 feet rule. Do not let these two bully you. They are wrong. One would think yelling near an owl and approaching quickly from a second direction would be major issue if you really cared about owls.

Snowy Owl and Photographers

2020 was the year of the owl for me. Started off spring through summer following a barred owl family, then in early December watching short-eared owls, and before the end of December catching a snowy owl. These are night photos from my first trip to see the snowy. I hope for another trip soon. All of these on this post were taken around sunset or shortly after from a distance. I have a zoom, but its largest aperture opening is 6.5 so I cannot do what the big boys and girls do with the camera. These photos are heavily cropped as well.

After sunset the owl flew down off the dune to the beach. She played with a branch for a little while, then at blue hour flew to a sign where the beach meets the path back to the parking lot.

Teasing the photographers by acting like it would fly before sundown.
A lot of people , but I only saw early on one who was low crawling up the dune the snowy owl was on. The rest of the time people seemed to keep to a respectful distance.
Late afternoon sun.
The photographers are actually a respectful distance. They are on another dune. more than 100 feet away. Snowy owl paparazzi.
Walking around on the beach after a short flight.
I missed it flying. I was climbing down from another sand dune where I was about to give up and start the long trek to my car. Sure enough on the trip down she started to fly.
She landed on the beach.
She spent a lot of time playing with this stick on the beach.
As all the photographers started to leave, she flew to the sign by the path from the beach to the parking lot. Either she was saying good-bye or was seeing us out so she could hunt without an audience.
Yes! Now I have the beach to myself!

Follow the rules when it comes to snowy owls. I believe the sign at the beach that said you can not come within 100 feet or it is a 250 dollar fine. I understand some pros try to flush them out to get them in flight. Do not do that. These birds are dwindling and we need to protect them.

Snowy Owl

Jones Beach is known for its 6.5 miles of white sand on the
Atlantic Ocean on New York’s Long Island. It is also known for its outdoor concerts in warmer months and drive through holiday lights display November through January. What is it also known for this year? It is known for some snowy owls who are visiting from a much colder climate.

The owl mostly slept all morning on top of a sand dune. Once in a while it would open an eye slightly.

Jones Beach is a barrier island encompassing 2,400 acres on the south shore of Long Island. It is a state park that includes the West End Energy and Nature Center at West End 2.

Eyes opened! Quick take a shot!

It has a variety of birds that can be seen at different points in the year including oystercatchers, terns, northern harper hawks, plovers, brants, and now the snowy owl. On the day I went I was told 2-3 were sighted there within a few days prior. That day I found one.

At this point in the day the weather would not look promising. Both eyes opened! Ocean is the dark area in the background.

I arrived around 10 in the morning, but took a long break in the middle of the afternoon to warm up in my car. I ended up leaving around 6 p.m. The light varied throughout the day from dark and cloudy to very sunny.

If you go to spot a snowy owl, know they are protected. Don’t make any unnecessary noise and keep a distance. I believe the sign at the entrance says to stay at least 100 feet away. It also stated there was a 250 dollar fine for violating that. I did see one person early on who I think was doing just that as he was low crawling up one side of the dune the owl was sleeping on. I have a zoom lens and these are cropped a lot.

This was later in the afternoon. I stuck to the shady side as it appeared to me the owl was facing this way most of the time. I hope to go again and have the sun to my back. I never heard a sound from this owl. The surf was high that day and it was windy. I think this was actually a yawn.

I was so happy to get this opportunity to see this owl. My friends Andrew and his wife Theresa let me know about this place to view the owls. Thank you Andrew and Theresa! I will post more pictures taken in the late afternoon and evening in another post. Happy New Year everyone!

Owl Catch

Cats take pride in being a predator. They are known to sneak a mouse or two inside as a trophy to impress the human caretaker of their house. Do owls try to impress humans with their hunting prowess?

It sure felt that this owl was trying to impress me when I was watching. The owl kept circling overhead holding onto its prey. I even think he was trying to insure I got a good shot of his kill.

The weather has been mostly cloudy and dark. We had 50-60 mile an hour winds last night. Hard to get good shots when you need to have your ISO up to very high numbers. Wishing for some sunny days in the week ahead. Merry Christmas everyone or Happy New Year! Stay safe!

Short-Eared Owls

Many animals migrate to warmer locales in the winter. Many leave behind northern states for southern ones. Do any animals winter in New York? Yes! One such animal is the short-eared owl. For these birds who come down from northern Canada or Alaska, New York is a warmer change of scenery.

I found 4-5 of these owls in a grassy fields surrounded by farmland. Short-eared owls prefer grasslands, fields, tundra, and marshes.

Short-eared owls nest on the ground. That makes them susceptible to predators such as coyotes, foxes, cats, and dogs. I heard someone talking at this location an they said a dead owl was found. They mentioned possibly a coyote got it.

I found them active in the afternoon. They may hunt in the daylight to coincide with vole activity. They prefer voles, but also eat mice, rats, small birds, and insects.

Short-eared owls arrive in New York around December and leave to return around March. Some areas of northern NY near the Canadian border have them residing there year round.

Flying low
They were talking to each other and flying about each other. Could they be a pair?

I just have a good amateur camera and lens and these birds were quite a distance away. Most images are cropped a lot. The big lens that people near me used made me envious. Hopefully, on another trip I may witness them closer with brighter skies. Regardless, they were fun to watch.

The Last Days of Autumn

Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go. Author Unknown

The pictures below were all taken recently in the Hudson Valley of New York. Some animals stay here the entire year. Others come from regions further north to winter here. Hopefully, I will catch some of these winter visitors soon.

Found this guy on top of a power pole alongside a rural road.
Squirrel stuffing himself silly on a branch in the woods.

Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge

The next photos are from a short trip I took a wildlife refuge. I hope to return there this weekend weather permitting.

Two bluebirds in the field. They followed me around on my walk.
Possibly their nest was in the the hole of this tree.
This hawk flies fairly low over the field then dives to get its prey.
Hawk flying with the Gunks in the background

Fall unofficially ended today with a major snowstorm. We could get over a foot by the time it passes through. Did the animals know a storm would be arriving soon? Do animals sense these things? Can they forecast weather?

Hay Bail Cow

Hay Bale Cow at McEnroe’s Organic Farm and Market in Millerton. NY.

I found another hay bale art piece. This one was also in New York. Some farmers wrap the hay bale in what looks like plastic. This farmer painted the covers for the hay bales. They made a cow. I guess this way the animals can still eat the hay because there is no paint on the bales. We have had a lot of dreary weather. Quite typical for November and December. Stay safe!

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday was started as a campaign to get people to shop at small, local businesses the day after Black Friday. Black Friday is said to be the biggest shopping day of the year and falls after Thanksgiving in the U.S. Some towns promote every Saturday as Small Business Saturday. Regardless, in this pandemic if shops are open, go out and support your local mom and pop stores if you are able. The chain stores saw most of the traffic yesterday. Help keep small, local businesses alive.

Millerton, N.Y. a small town in NY on the Connecticut border, had Santa and elves to greet people coming to their Main Street.

Pandemic Humor

From some memes:

“Sorry folks, the world is closed!”

“I’m not buying a 2021 planner until I see the trailer.”

“Not to brag, but I used soap before it was trending.”

Been busy over the last few weeks with work. I hope to get some pictures in the next few days. Stay safe.