Saturday, December 21, 2013

Owl Paddle? Fingers crossed!

Well, WOW. This beautiful shot was taken by Don Riepe, our Jamaica Bay Guardian and head of the NE chapter of the American Littoral Society. My birder friends braved the snow and cold we had last weekend for the annual Audobon Christmas Bird Count and apparently there are snowies all over NYC!

I'd actually been hearing about this for a while. I think they usually go to Jones Beach but this year there are more and they're all over the place. Jones Beach is where I once got to see one - that was funny, we'd gone out for a seal paddle but it was windy enough that a couple of attendees went for a hike instead, in part because one of them was a birder and had heard that there was a snowy in the area and decided she was more interested in looking for the bird than in bashing a boat into the wind for a few hours (that can get tedious). Sure enough, they found the bird. When we all reconvened later, they told us about it. We still had some light left in the day and I asked Prof. M (the birder) to find us the owl. I was TOTALLY kidding but you know what - SHE DID! I was absolutely blown away. To this day I still introduce her as my friend who is such a good birder that she finds snowy owls on demand. 

Didn't quite have the right camera to take a good picture.

Neat seeing one though, even from a distance.

There was a very brief and very unpleasant side to this year's higher numbers and wider spread as these are large enough birds to damage plane engines (ugh) - when they turned up at JFK employees were originally told to shoot them on sight (!!!!!!!!). Fortunately after a flood of letters and petitions they switched to a trap & relocate policy. PHEW. Bad enough that the city does mass goose cullings - this one, I don't know what they were thinking. Anyways, all fixed. Hooray for the Internet. 

I'm especially excited about this one because she's right in the middle of my paddling turf! 

Don's caption: "Snowy owl sightings all over NYC this past week for the Audubon Christmas Count! Out on the boat this morning, we spotted this beautiful snowy owl lady on one of the restored marsh islands in Jamaica Bay." 

I'm taking advantage of a warm and quiet day to get in a nice quiet Antisocial Paddle (a pleasant antidote to all the holiday togetherness, I was toying with mustering up a group all week 'cause the forecast's been looking so sweet, but here on the first day of a week and a half of vacation I decided to give myself a break from commitments and just go when I feel like going). I was going to head out to Dead Horse Bay but I think I'm going to go out around the islands instead, to see what (or whooo) I can see.

Post-paddle update: I still didn't have the right camera, but this is at least better than my last effort at snowy photography, don't you think?

Also saw this lovely pair of loons. There was another pair nearby and they kept calling to each other. Four calling birds? Manhattan in the distance. Click for larger versions of both of these. 

And of course the flocks of brants have all arrived. Here's a sample of the winter chorus of Jamaica Bay!


Pandabonium said...

Beautiful. Reminds me of the owls in Spain as they call out, "Quien, quien". ;)

moonstruck said...

Hi! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. My friend Dot counts birds up here in the Hudson Valley. I always ask her if she is sure that no bird is counted twice??? Best is to watch the bald egales riding on the ice floes. Looking forward to ice boating on Orange Lake. Will let you know,

bonnie said...

Oh dear! Pandabonium, that's not QUITE as bad as moose-ubi but it's bad. Might end up drawing that sometime too.

Moonstruck, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, too! I have not seen the eagles riding the floes but I have a friend who lives up near Poughkeepsie and somewhere on the Internet, there a picture of him in his kayak passing just yards from a rafting eagle - he said they though it was a stump or something until they were practically on top of it. Amazing thing is how huge the bird is - Kam's a tall guy and the eagle is as big as his torso!