New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Friday, January 9, 2015

2014 and starting 2015 Highlights

 (A Quick Look Back)-February 9, 2014- Sachuest Point NWR, Middletown, Rhode Island-

                                                      "One Hour-Three Species of Owls!"

 It was chilly at 16 degrees F......and you would never know it by looking at the long line of photographers and birders lining up along the wooden rail along the western side of the parking lot at Sachuest. You could feel the heat being generated from all the excited anticipation as the last minutes of the day ticked away! For the last few weeks, the late afternoon has produced and amazing Owl spectacle, with a few Raptors added to the mix. There have been three Snowy Owls, maybe two or three Barn Owls, and two Short-eared Owls have been hunting the lower fields during the last minutes of light of the days. Top that off with a spectacular showing of a Harriers (including a beautiful gray ghost), Rough-legged Hawk or two, Red-tails, Accipiters, Peregrines and Merlins, it was a birders bonanza!

      Jen and I arrived about an hour before sundown and found an opening in the line of nearly fifty birders and photographers along the rail. We knew many of them and chit-chatted a bit, but everyone was looking out of the corners of their eyes to the brushy edge of the field......soon we all thought, soon!-

  While we waited, a trio of Harriers which included the stunning gray male buzzed the field giving a great performance.

                    What seemed like a minute later, a Merlin flew in and landed atop a nearby tree.

 A long wait and the rapidly dropping cold temperatures may have taken a toll on some of the birders and photographers as some started leaving, followed by a few more. Within a few minutes, half of the original group had left. I muttered under my breath (which cast a plume of smokey condensation) you might want to wait a few minutes! No one had seen a single Snowy Owl that afternoon, that may have discouraged some since the Owls had been keeping a regular afternoon schedule. But it was much colder this day, it was possible the Owls were holding up a little longer conserving their energy reserves. A minute after my thought.....the first Barn Owl appeared over the bottom left of the field coming from behind the brush at the bottom. Against the snowy landscape, this Owl appeared even more stunning!-

Several times it would land on the ground or land in this one lone tree. The Owl(s) also disappeared into and re-appearing out of the brush.....maybe different Owls?

  The Barn Owl put on a fifteen minute show, than all at once it disappeared into the brush, and didn't re-appear. Many of us started getting a little bit anxious thinking it was now getting to the time for the Snowy and the Short-eared Owls.

 I mentioned to Jen that I had a hunch.....we should go down to the marsh at Third Beach and look there. Maybe the Snowy Owl was there, and we had a good shot at maybe seeing the Short-eared Owl flying over that section of the marsh. When we pulled into the Third Beach parking lot, Jen spotted the Snowy Owl standing on a rock off the beach about twenty yards, and one hundred yards down the beach. I took a brisk walk down the beach to get a few shots of the Snowy Owl from a safe distance, and then hurry back to the parking lot to (hopefully) get a look at the Short-eared.-

  I left the Snowy Owl (as you see it above) after a few minutes and after taking maybe two dozen shots of it. In my hurry to get down to the Snowy and back with only a little light remaining, I forgot to take an extra camera card with me. With the last shot of the Snowy Owl, that all too familiar blinking light indicator "Card Full" on my camera reminded me of my stupid move. So while I scurried back up the beach, I managed to delete five blurry images of the Snowy Owl leaving just a little space on my card....just in case! It could not have been planned better, and another one of those birding circumstances of being in the right place at the right time Just as I opened my car door the Short-eared flew right by! I took the last five shots from the deleted space on my camera card, and managed three quick shots of the Owl as it flew by. It was almost dark at this point, and thanks to the automatic setting on my camera,I am amazed that any of the shots came out at all! The first two were blurry, and the last three showed the Owl passing over the parking lot turning right towards me.! I cropped the images, and lightened the last shot to see the Owl better. This was a very memorable day.....Barn Owl(s), Snowy Owl and Short-eared Owl, all within an hour!-

  (Another small look back)- June 1, 2014- "A Touch of Irony" - "The Bird Feeding Tree"-

  In my front yard right outside my office window stood a big Mountain Ash tree. This was the tree I would hang my many bird feeders and suet feeders in. Well a couple of years ago, the tree was toppled by the hurricane. The tree was cut up for fire wood leaving only the stump behind. Today I looked out my window and saw this Pileated Woodpecker tearing the heck out of the stump looking for grubs! Looks like this tree was still feeding the birds a few years after it was gone!





                    "Highlights 2014 and 2015" continues......................

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