Straggler

This straggler missed his flight. It appears he will be the last to leave the party. He lingered at his winter abode. There were four snowy owls on the beach. On the day these pictures were taken and the previous day, he was the only owl sighted. Have his three other beach mates started their journey back to the far north Canadian Arctic?

When I arrived he flew along the shore ahead of me and landed on this tree branch. He was there when I left.

I asked him where his friends were. I told him it might be time to head north soon. I hope his internal clock works well. A fellow female photo buff told me she went later and could not find him. Did he listen to me? I doubt it. They do fly between neighbouring beach areas.

Lots of different birds in the midst of migration to catch this owl’s attention.

All these photos are taken with a long lens and cropped significantly.

About a minute. That’s all I had with this light. Before and afterwards it was dark and cloudy. It was the best minute of my day. Appreciate even small time blocks of sunshine. Stay safe and stay healthy.

Ice Boating

Today I did something I never would have imagined or even attempted previously. I walked on the Hudson River on top of the ice. A co-worker was telling me about the ice boating near Athens, NY last winter. Since the weather was cold for several days I decided to venture up that way to see if I could catch this activity.

A man poising with his 1800s era iceboat.

I stopped locals and asked where to see ice boaters. They pointed me north of town to the boat launch. There were several people on the ice and I reasoned if they can do it, it must be safe.

Many of the boats I saw are antique and still going strong. Some were built in the 1800s. The time period when ice boating, or ice yachting was in its heyday was 1880-1910, however there are stories prior to that time frame when it is documented that ice boats were used for work or pleasure. Franklin Delano Roosevelt raced an ice boat, mainly during his university days.

Getting an assist

The weather today was ideal in some ways, but not in others. The sky was clear and it was bitter cold. This is great for ice. However, it snowed the previous day, and snow on top of ice does not appear to make good conditions for this activity. In addition, the wind was intermittent, not good for maintaining movement. When conditions are right these ice boats I am told can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour.

Moving unassisted
Sunlight direction was not always ideal
This boat had several hangers on.

There are people who walked across the river. I saw a couple walk up the river between 1/2 mile and a mile north, but not too far from shore. I try to stay on the safe side.

A kind of sled that goes on ice.
Young and old were all enjoying the ice.

Someone there said they are expecting temperatures above freezing during the day for a few days during the week, which may make for the creation or more ideal ice conditions, especially if the temperatures drop again after that and they don’t get more snow. It sounds like they only have a window of a few weeks to ice boat.

So if you want to see this, I would suggest stopping by Athens next weekend, or check out the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club website and seeing if they are on the ice. Sometimes if conditions are not good on the river they may take it to a lake. It may be cold, but seeing this rare winter sporting activity is worth it. Get out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Sleepy Snowy Owls

What do snowy owls do during the day? Most of the time by my observations they sleep or go between sleeping and waking up. A few times I have seen them fly to catch prey. The appear to be mostly sedentary during the day.

Owl after I arrived
Start of a yawn- owl before I left
Wide open mouth next to a log

I saw two different owls this day. This is the same owl when I arrived and before I left. I was there around 4 hours, but watching them maybe less than half of the time I was there. They appear to have remained in the same locations from the time I arrived until when I left. All the photographers seemed to be respectful and keep a distance.

Nature is fascinating. Enjoy it from a distance.

Male or Female Snowy Owl?

Can you tell if these are male or female snowy owls? At the website Allaboutbirds.org it says “Male Snowy Owls are barred with dark brown when they’re young and get whiter as they get older. Females keep some dark markings throughout their lives. Although the darkest males and the palest females are nearly alike in colour, the whitest birds—including the ones that played Harry Potter’s Hedwig—are always males and the most heavily barred ones are always females.

#1 on a log
#2 on the end of the jetty
#3 on the land end of a jetty
#4 in a tree

These four separate owls were all in the same general area , not far apart, on a beach one day. Some of these owls may be juveniles, born this year in the Arctic and may still be changing in colour. What do you think? Which ones are female and are any male?

Snowy Owl on Jetty

It was not a good day light wise, but we are having cloudy and rainy conditions all this week it appears. However, this trip I saw four snowy owls. Below are pictures of one of them. I know there were four because I was watching one not far away, then two flew in to hang out at opposite ends of a jetty, shortly thereafter a fourth flew in and hung out on a nearby tree.

This female snowy owl flew in to hang out on the end of jetty for a while.
She did not like this wave. She got splashed then took off.
On to other places.

Even when you think the weather may not be ideal get out , explore, and enjoy nature. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Snowy Owl Return

Many birds leave the northeastern part of the United States and Canada this time of year and head to warmer locals where finding food is easier. Loons migrate to the Long Island Sound and points south. Most Great Blue Herons and Ospreys have headed south. Can you name a bird that treats New York and New England as their Florida in the winter? One bird is the snowy owl.

This snowy owl is sitting on some kind of plastic debris. It was huge.
Behaviour Around Snowy Owls

Some snowy owls from the Arctic in Canada arrived early this year. Some were seen as early as October. If you hear of them on one beach hanging out multiple days and you don’t see them head to a neighbouring beach. Don’t bring a dog. I have seen them fly off at the sight of one. Keep your voice down. Unfortunately I witnessed a man last year yelling near an owl twice and he caused it to fly off both times. Don’t go too close. Move slowly within eyesight of it and don’t make sudden moves.

Although I was able to catch this one with its eyes open several times. Its eyes were closed a lot.
Snowy Owl Habits

These birds spend most of their time sleeping during the day. They tend to fly and start hunting right before sunset. Usually they are here from around December through March.

Stretching the legs.
Always keep at least one eye open!
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This owl was perched on a huge plastic container of some sort. I don’t know if it is something boats use or if it is industrial debris. Kind of sad, but it is one more sign of how prevalent plastic debris is.

I enjoy seeing the many faces of the snowy owl. Get out and enjoy nature. Follow the rule of trips in wild areas: carry in, carry out.

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