Saturday, February 5, 2011

At The Shore

In January ...

Gulls are year round residents.

In winter they can't steal french fries from bennies and need fend for themselves.

Bummer for the crabs.

More bad news for the crabs ...

Loons are winter visitors, heading north before the crowds return.

They're also a bit camera shy.

Another winter visitor, snow buntings in my experience are generally very camera shy. Usually seen in small flocks, fleeing as one approaches.

These two were atypical, relaxed in front of the camera, letting us approach to within ten feet. Very cool.


I grew up at the shore, four blocks from the water, but have always preferred the empty beaches of fall and winter to the crowds of summer. Perhaps growing up in New York City metropolitan area, at some of the closest beaches to the city, with the attendant traffic jams, litter, and utter lack of space on the beaches, soured me a bit. But I'd rather spend the day in the company of a few friends and whichever species of wildlife which would care to join us. How about you, what do you prefer?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Raptor Fest*

Southern New Jersey is a well known spot for raptors, birds of prey. There is the famous Cape May Hawk Watch, the spot to be for raptor migration. But not all of the birds continue south. Some decide to spend the winter in my home state.

Like this red-shouldered hawk. Until this year, I'd only seen this species in Florida. This month alone I've seen eight individuals, including this very cooperative bird, which sat in the tree and let me walk right up under it. Very cool.

Merlins have also been surprisingly common this year. Supposedly rare in New Jersey in the winter months, I've seen five this month. Including these two (I think the prey bird is a dark-eyed junco).

Who you looking at?

Bald eagles have become quite common, with over eighty mating pairs in the state. I've seen over twenty this year. Almost a trash bird.

I was planning to go to Conowingo Dam in Maryland last Saturday, but conditions, in the form of ice covered roads, led to a change in plans. And a jaunt about Cumberland County ensured. That's were I saw all of the birds shown here. At Conowingo one can see 100+ eagles at one place. Still on this trip we saw seven. Not bad for New Jersey.

Northern harriers, like this grey ghost, where actively hunting at every stop we made. Fun to watch, but hard to photograph, as they glide over fields. A lucky shot, this.

And there is the ubiquitous red-tailed hawk, like this one, who as also featured in my Sometimes post. They are starting to pair up and can often be found sitting together this time of year.

Also about, but yet to fly in front of my lens, are rough-legged hawks, kestrels, peregrine falcons, and several species of owls. Maybe I'll get some this weekend.


*This year is the 10th anniversary of the Cumberland County Winter Eagle Festival, to be held this Saturday (February 5th, 2011). In its early years it was known as the Raptor Festival. Rumor has it the name was changed because too many people came looking for dinosaurs ...