Snow Day!

Today’s snow day provided a great opportunity to sit in my blind and photograph birds as they took turns visiting our feeder.

Northern Cardinals are always a welcome sight in the snow and you can clearly see where a Red-bellied woodpecker gets its name, as it appears to do a chin-up in the middle photo.

Dark-eyed Juncos are the original “snowbirds.” During these colder months they travel in small flocks from the evergreen forests, further north, to our backyards and feeders.

Animal Instincts

A Short-eared Owl hunts for food at the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge.
A Northern Harrier, with its long wings and tail, was also seen flying low over the grasslands.
A Short-eared Owl confronted and chased away another in, what appeared to be, a territorial dispute.

“Physical bravery is an animal instinct; moral bravery is a much higher and truer courage.” – Wendell Phillips


This is my favorite duck. And it’s not just because of its name. Okay, it’s because of its name. Buffleheads get their name from their large-headed appearance – apparently, like a buffalo. These beautiful ducks, the smallest of the “diving” ducks, are also quite skittish. If I get a little bit too close, they’re off, in a hurry, to a more secluded spot.
See what I mean? But I do love Buffleheads.

“You can’t see the whole path ahead, but there is usually enough light to take the next step.” – Henri Nouwen

Christmas Visitors

It took me a while to find it, but after a couple of helpful birders pointed the way, I was able to locate this beautiful Snowy Owl sitting, just above the horizon at Jones Beach. I was about one hundred yards away when I took this photo. It was just me and the owl for a little while.
The 121st Annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count resulted in over 90 species seen in the Peekskill, NY area. This Barred Owl flew right over our group before landing in a nearby tree.
This little sparrow created quite a lot of excitement among my fellow birders when it appeared at Croton Point Park this week. It was the first time a LeConte’s Sparrow was recorded as seen in Westchester County. I photographed the LeConte’s on the day of the Winter Solstice.

“If we stop long enough to gaze at what is laid out before us, to let the mystery of beauty and the wonder of the seasons sit deeply in our soul, our hearts cannot help but burst forth in thanksgiving and gratitude to life itself.” – Deborah Adele

The Silent Waiting

After seeing this beautiful barn red building at Croton Point Park today, I thought it would make a beautiful background. I didn’t have to wait long before I an American Tree Sparrow landed on a perch

When I saw the beautiful “barn red” color of this wooden shed at Croton Point Park today, I knew it would make a nice background for a photo. I waited in my car for a little while before an American Tree Sparrow landed on a perch just as the first snowflakes of the season began to fall.

“We find quiet minds as we sit still with our breath, as we make small jottings in our books and as we practice silent waiting. Then one day, “the little ways” open, into broad expanses.” – Mary Hiles

just as the first snowflakes of the season began to fall. Thank you sparrow. Thank you snowflakes.

“Look! Look!”

“Look! Look!” shouted a small boy while emphatically pointing to the moon as it rose above the tree line at Croton Point Park yesterday. But his family was too busy to give the boy (and the moon) their attention. Oh, to be able see the world with the eyes of a child – a great goal for us all.

Earlier in the day, I watched as a Black-capped Chickadee bounced around among the branches of an American sweetgum tree. The seeds are eaten by a variety of birds and small mammals. They remind me of Christmas ornaments dangling from the tree’s branches.

“Paying attention is one of the kindest things we can do – for ourselves and for others.” – Sharon Salzberg

Rare Bird Alert!

Truth be told, I had never even heard of a Tropical Kingbird. But when I was able to get my binoculars on the bird with a flash of yellow, near the Hudson River, I did know that this bird was something special.

I was able to see a Western Kingbird last year, a similar “flycatcher” with a yellow belly. It’s a very rare bird for our area and that was my first thought.

I’m told that this Tropical Kingbird, seen in Dobbs Ferry, became the 501st species of birds documented as seen in New York State.

I quickly shared photos with my very knowledgeable birding friend Julien Amsellem who then raced to the river. He was not only able to see the bird but was able to get a sound recording – a key component to identifying it. “I think it’s a Tropical Kingbird!” he said. (One exclamation point doesn’t really capture the enthusiasm in his voice). “Is that rare?” I asked. “It’s the first time one has been seen in the state of New York!”

Well, word spreads very quickly among birders these days and pretty much every serious birder and ornithologist in the area arrived the next day to see this “mega-rarity.” There were about 100 people here despite a morning rain. Fortunately our bird stuck around.

Some of the birders who, with their binoculars, watched the Tropical Kingbird as it moved among the branches of a large tree in our neighborhood.

Each birder was kind and respectful to each other and everyone wore a mask. Many seemed so grateful to have seen such a great bird to add to their “life lists.” All of us share a love of nature and a love of birds and we all shared our joy at getting the chance to see such a beautiful rarity.

We were able to get a particularly close look at the Kingbird when it landed on a nearby fence.

Appreciative birders expressed their gratitude. “Thanks for the great find!” many said. Of course the bird should get all the credit. What a journey it must be on. And what a gift it was to have it land in our world.

“Nature can help us get close to each other as we realize that others love the natural environment as much as we do. It can also remind us that we’re all part of something bigger than us. This is the role we take on as nature stewards: to protect and respect the world around us, including all of its inhabitants.” – Martin Summer (Connecting With Life – Finding Nature in an Urban World)

Storm of Beauty

American Robin, Rockefeller Park, Pocantico, New York

Tarrytown Lakes, Tarrytown, New York

Red-tailed Hawk, Tarrytown, New York

“When we contemplate the globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars, all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” – John Muir