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!

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.

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.

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.

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.