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!

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

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!

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?