Snowy Owl on Beach

I went to this location after it stopped raining for a short trip. I was lucky. I saw this owl flying over a wetlands being chased by seagulls on my way in. I parked in the parking lot and only walked a very short distance and the same owl it appears flew over my head being chased by gulls. It landed on the beach. There were kite surfers there and it appeared to frighten the owl a few times into short flights. The gulls kept watch on it throughout my time there, flying close to it.

Looking at either a seagull or one of the kite surfers whose kites were behind me.
At the end of a jetty

The conditions were very windy. It made it hard to stay still. It was hard to get sharp in focus images. All of these were taken with a 150-600 mm zoom and are heavily cropped. Get out and enjoy nature! There is so much around you if you stop to notice.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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