Great Horned Owlets

Some action around the nest tonight. A hawk was getting too close and was chased a few times by one of the parents. It did not seem to worry the babies. They spent their time snoozing and watching me. They are starting to look more like owls and less like aliens.

Cuddle time
Sibling love

These are taken from quite a distance away and heavily cropped. I am sure there are others with much sharper images out there. This nest is also on private land.

Great Horned Owls

Sometimes you are at the right place at the right time. I have been following this nest on private property for several weeks now. I knew there were babies as one parent was always sitting in the nest. Then today… poof ….I see one adult perched on a neighbouring branch and two babies in the nest that look quite large.

Owlet gazing at its parent.
Looking regal.
One owlet closer to me I had a better view of and one more I could just see the top of its head and eyes.
The parent had flown off at this point leaving them alone. It may have gone off to find dinner.

I kept a distance. This is one owl you need to give a lot of space to. They will attack people who get too close. I took these with a zoom lens and they are heavily cropped. Get out and enjoy nature. You never know what you find in your own backyard or a friend’s backyard.

New Year, New Life

The Eagles in New York are doing well and in fact throughout the country. Several newspapers including the NY Times reported that the American bald eagle population has quadrupled since 2009. This was based on a US Fish and Wildlife Service report. In 2009 there were about 72,000 bald eagles in the lower 48 states, while now researchers say the population is above 300,000.

Local nests are seeing new life. This week two babies hatched in one nest. Good timing for me as I had some days off this week. The weather may not have been the best, but I will take it.

Incoming! Duck! One parent bringing in a stick. You can see two wee eaglets hatched during the past week. They are the little grey heads sticking out to the right of the parent in the nest.
One parent eyeing one of the eaglets.
You can see what appears to be a bit of fish in the parent’s mouth. Two eaglets in the picture below the parent’s head.
Noticed me for a second.
Bit of fish?
The other parents arrives with more sticks and dirt. Today was nest renovation day.

Go out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Shed Window

There’s a whole world out there right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.”

Charlotte Ericksson
A shed window at the edge of a woods.

I have been really busy with work. I hope to take a few walks this week. Even in these times you can explore the walking trails around your area, walk in the mountains or on a beach, or even go to a wildlife refuge. Go out and enjoy. Happy holidays! Happy vacation!

Same Nest New Year

Covid does not seem to have affected the eagles. Last year it meant less noise around the nest. The same may be the case this year as people are not out and about as in previous times. There are less cars on the roads.

Looking down at a passing truck.

The eagles have been taking turns egg sitting. Local estimates are 7-10 days. I’m hoping for good weather and that more activity falls during during my week off. Would be nice to get a good shot of an incoming fish. I did not have much luck with that last year. Stay safe everyone!

The spouse had a lot to say.

Red Pepper Rasa/ Red Pepper Diner

Never Judge a Book By Its Cover

Never Judge a Book By Its Cover is one phrase one could use to describe the Red Pepper Rasa or Red Pepper Diner. The outside of this Sri Lankan restaurant does not impress, but do not judge by appearances. I’ve come to learn sometimes that hole in the wall establishments can have the tastiest food.

Red Pepper Diner on Route 9D , north of I-84, just north of Beacon in Wappingers. The sides of the building have red vertical stripes.

The server said their meals are all gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free. They ask you when you order how much heat or spiciness you prefer. I ordered my food with mild spice on the first visit. The food was very flavourful.

Sri Lankan Tea with Kithul Jaggery

The first item I was served was Sri Lankan tea with with milk. Sri Lankan tea is Ceylon tea. The country of Sri Lanka was formerly known by the name Ceylon. According to Healthline and other websites there are health benefits to Ceylon tea. Some of the benefits these sites list is it boosts your metabolism, it is high in antioxidants ( which boosts the immune system) and it may help regulate blood glucose. This tea contains potassium.

The Sri Lankan tea came with Kithul jaggery. I was told this treat was to be nibbled on with the tea. Kithul is made from the sap of a fishtail palm tree. They get this sap from the flowers of the fishtail palm. It was naturally sweet. Some websites say this treat has iron, potassium and calcium. It is said to be a remedy for cough and cold, reduces migraines, improves digestion, detoxifies the liver, and cleanses the respiratory tract, among other things. The owner told me that the fishtail palm grows mainly in the centre of Sri Lanka.

This is Kithul Jaggery before it is cut up into pieces.
Appetizers

The next items that arrived were the appetisers I ordered. I chose the sampler, which included fish cutlet, vegetable spring rolls, and vegetable samosa. I prefer these Sri Lankan Samosas over ones I have eaten at Indian resturants. They were lighter and the flavours were very appealing.

String Hopper Kothu Roti

After that, the main course of String Hopper Kothu Roti arrived. This is a rice noodle dish with stir fried onion, ginger, garlic, cabbage, leeks, carrot, and egg. I choose to add chicken to it. Next time I plan to order this I will ask for medium heat.

Dessert- Watalappan

For dessert I had Watalappan. This is a custard with coconut milk, palm sugar, cashews, cinnamon cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. I find desserts at American restaurants are overpowering with sweetness. This dessert was mildly sweet, and felt just right.

Second Visit Kothu Roti with Curried Beets
Kothu Roti with shredded curried beets.

On another trip to this restaurant I ordered the Kothu Roti. I asked for medium heat. This dish is considered a roadside speciality in Sri Lanka. This stir fry contains eggs, onions, vegetables, spices with a curry sauce with shredded flat breads. You can add different meats to this dish. On the side I ordered shredded curried beets. This is by far one of the best ways I have experienced beets. It is prepared by flavouring it with coconut milk and traditional spices.

The food at this restaurant was very tasty and I plan to return. I thank my relative, Max, who found this gem. I love experiencing ethnic restaurants that serve healthy food and this spot was right up my alley. Not only was the food outstanding, but the service was too.

On a side note, the owners told me they grow a variety of vegetables themselves. Leeks, tomatoes, peppers, squash, spinach, beans and ocra are among some of the vegetables they grow to use in their recipes. Other items they import from Sri Lanka. Saman Munaweera says their diet includes a lot of vegetables. He attributes the fact that his family is rarely sick with colds or viruses to their native diet.

Pre-Covid Buffet
The above photo was provided to me from the Red Pepper Diner. This photo was taken pre- Covid. This is a sampling of their buffet. Many hope conditions become such that they can have this once again in the future.
Hours

Check their website to see their current hours. I was told they are open from about 10:30-8 six days a week. They are closed Tuesdays. I recommend calling ahead to make sure what their hours are for that day. This restaurant is small. However, both times I visited it was not a problem with Covid restrictions to get in. The hours and menus are limited due to the pandemic. Pre-pandemic they had a buffet and a larger menu. This is typical of many restaurants during these times.

They have photos and art from Sri Lanka on display.
Location

This restaurant is located north of I-84 on Route 9D. Some information online lists the location in Beacon, while other sites list it as Wappingers. The owner says it is in Wappingers. It is very close to Beacon however.

If you are coming by train from Manhattan, take the Metro North Hudson Line to Beacon from Grand Central Station. Taxis are usually available at the Beacon station or look up a local taxi company when you arrive. It is a couple of miles from the train station, but it is along a busy road, so I do not recommend walking it. Beacon station is the closest train station to this restaurant. The next station further north, New Hamburg, is more secluded with no taxis waiting.

Whether you are visiting DIA Beacon, the Hudson Valley, or Beacon itself, if you want healthy, flavourful food with friendly, outstanding service include Red Pepper Diner on your itinerary. It is a hidden gem.

Websites:

Websites:

https://www.facebook.com/Red-Pepper-Diner-1586749234894224/

https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/redpepperdiner/

https://www.yelp.com/biz/red-pepper-diner-wappingers-falls-3?osq=red+pepper+diner

Backyard Visitor

Sometimes doing a good deed leads to danger. I feed the birds behind my place in colder weather. I put out seed this morning and did not hear them. I wondered what was going on. After I looked out the window a few times I saw this hawk. It appeared small to me. I am guessing it is a Copper’s hawk as they are known to hang out by bird feeders and a neighbour has a feeder out as well.

He may have looked in my direction here, but he totally ignored me.
Eying a squirrel jumping from branch to branch, but he did not go for it.

I don’t think he scored any of the local wildlife. About a half hour later he was gone and the birds were back to eating the seed. With the pandemic, my travels involve places to see wildlife within a few hours. Hopefully, things will slow down soon with the vaccines coming out. Stay safe and stay healthy!

Behaviour Around Snowy Owls

One way to avoid spooking an owl is to not approach it rapidly. If you see someone watching it safely from one side, go slowly to the same side person is viewing it from.

I was planted in a spot. The owl was looking pretty content. These are cropped a lot.
The owl turns her head when two people approach quickly from the opposite side from where I was planted.
It spooked the owl and it turned back towards me and flew off.

So the moral of the story is do not approach the owl quickly, or surround it.

A second way not to spook a snowy owl is do not talk loudly or yell around wildlife, not just snowy owls. I saw someone do just that and the snowy owl flew off. I had the opportunity to follow a barred owl family spring through summer last year. If you are quiet, they will allow you to observe from a safe distance. Whenever other people were talking in the woods or were walking a dog you had less luck seeing them.

This was after a man was yelling. It spooked the owl and off it flew. I would rather have pictures of it sitting on a dune.

In addition, if it is known there are snowy owls on the beach do not walk your go there. Two beaches I found snowy owls on had signs saying no dogs. However, that was not being followed. Not sure if it only applied in the warmer months. I saw an owl spooked a third time because someone walked a dog not far from it. The owl took a few short flights to avoid the situation.

Also, keep a distance where you are not stressing the owl. If the owl is stressed back away. Jones Beach had signs saying keep at least a 100 feet away. Those signs were down last time I was there. I would say that is a good distance to be safe.

Snowy owls are beautiful birds to watch. Respect the animals and other people, and you will enjoy the experience.

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.

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.