Archive for November, 2013

Invasion Year?

I received a report that the first Snowy Owl of the season has been seen at Read Sanctuary in Rye. It was seen on the Long Island Sound shore opposite the sanctuary headquarters at low tide.

When the rain stops and Thanksgiving is just a memory, I’ll have to run over, maybe on Friday, to see if it is still around

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BVD No Longer Needed

Thanks to Sandy Morrissey I no longer need a better view to confirm my Barn Owl sighting. Sandy visited Big John’s Pond at Jamaica Bay the day after I was there and provided the following evidence.

Barn Owl in Nesting Box 1

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Barn OwlBVD
For several months there have been reports of a Barn Owl being seen at Big John’s Pond in Jamaica Bay. A owl nesting box is strategically located about 40 feet in front of a viewing blind. The nesting box is big, about 2ft. 3ft. x 2 ft. with a 6’ diameter entrance hole. Reports said the owl mostly stayed inside the box but occasionally it would look out the hole.

I’ve never seen a Barn Owl in the wild before, so on my bird walk we definitely had to look for it. Locating the nesting box was easy. We focused a couple of spotting scopes on the box sure enough I saw a bird staring out of the hole. Barn Owls are pale colored with flat, heart-shaped, almost human looking faces. In the dark they appear ghost-like. That is what I saw in the box. I think.

This would be a “life bird” for me. So I wanted to be certain. I asked myself the key question “if somebody didn’t tell me it was a Barn Owl, could I definitely identify it myself just based on the look I had. As much as I wanted to believe, I just couldn’t.

So I had to place this sighting in the category labeled BVD. No, it has nothing to do with men’s underwear. BVD stands for Better View Desired. I need a better view so I can positively ID it on my own.

I still think about it, and I can almost convince myself that it was a Barn Owl. And actually it probably was. But couldn’t be sure.

Maybe, next time.

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Cardinal - 6 in Snow

Recently, I came across an interesting factoid – a N. Cardinal may have 80 offspring in its lifetime.

Cardinals produce 3-4 eggs per clutch, 2-3 clutches per year. An individual cardinal can live over 10-12 years.

If you do the math, a cardinal family reunion after only, say, 3 years, including kids, grandkids and great-grandkids would be an enormous gathering number a couple of hundred cardinals. That could be a sight.

Unfortunately, most young birds do not survive their first year of life. That is the only reason we are not swamped by cardinals.

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Signs of Winter? Already?

This weekend I saw both Juncos and White-throated Sparrow. Haven’t seen either one for at least six months. So in one way, it was nice to see them again.

On the other hand, both of them are known as winter visitors who summer farther north in Canada, and return to Westchester when colder weather invades the north. Everyone knows Westchester is a warm place to spend a winter. Juncos are also called “Snow Birds” because they appear just snow is possible.

I am hoping that the appearance of these two winter visitors is not a signal that cold winter weather is just around the corner. It is not even Thanksgiving yet.

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Nature surrounds us.

Nature is everywhere. In the city, it is sometimes hard to see. Even in suburban Westchester most people miss it. They notice houses, apartments, office buildings, highways, strip malls, parking lots. They see everything except nature. Yet it is there. Close by.

This thought struck on my last bird walk. I led our group to Hommocks Conservation Area in Larchmont , a natural area surrounding an inlet of Long Island Sound containing tidal marsh, wooded areas and open fields – a natural setting with well maintained trails and boardwalk. Non-commercial and no neon signs.

Almost 1/3 of the people on that walk said something like “You know I only live about a mile from here for many years and I never knew this place existed. Now that I know, I’ll have to come back more often.”

Our lives are busy, filled with many activities (some of them actually important) and chores. But I feel it is valuable to occasionally “wake up and smell the roses”. Notice the natural area we pass by on our way to someplace more important. Get out of your car and just walk for ten minutes in a natural environment. It will improve your entire day.

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