Sunday, January 17, 2016

January 17 - Close & Far

With my plans for a long day of driving & birding out at Long Island's Montauk Point deferred until next weekend, I started this morning with a local hike.  The Newark Watershed area of Clinton Reservoir is a great spot for birds, and just 15 minutes from home.
I hiked along Hank's Pond for about an hour simply to get some fresh air and stretch my legs, but still hoping I would see some good stuff.
On the hike out I saw my absolute favorite resident bird of New Jersey in the Pileated Woodpecker.
Click on these fantastic images to enlarge !

credit: John McKean
credit: Kevin Smith

Later I heard, then saw, a few White-Tailed Deer flush about 75 yards away.  To my surprise I then saw a Black Bear!  I guess we can thank this year's El Nino once again for the mild weather that has kept this bear from hibernating as of yet.  That will finally change this week as the temperatures and weather are quickly turning toward their normal patterns.

During the hike back I got what I was hoping for as a Ruffed Grouse flushed from the trailside in an explosion of noise and color.  Unfortunately this reddish morph bird flew far away, through the mountain laurel and blueberry bushes, and across a ravine.  I had not seen this bird in several years, so it was nice to see they are still breeding in this area.  Here'a a stuffed bird, showing the colors.

After a quick lunch at home, I then took a ride up to Ulster County, New York.   I went to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR in search of the Short-Eared Owl.  This grassland area is a very reliable spot for these Owls.   I had hoped that the overcast skies would result in the Owls starting their feeding early, and I was correct.   Just minutes after arriving around 2:30 I saw the first of the Owls chasing one of the several Northern Harriers.  Within 30 minutes there were about 5-6 Owls flying about, and often times coming close to me, within 75 yards.
Click to enlarge this fantastic image !

Credit: Tam Stuart