Monday, January 27, 2014

Coming in for a Landing!

I recently read an article in The Economist in the Science and Technology section that confirms my own personal observations. Flocks of birds land together in the same direction without any collisions and apparently they are aligned with the Earth's magnetic field as demonstrated in the pictures I found online above. Their preference is to land on the north-south axis regardless of weather, time of day or year or environment.

For the latest research on this subject, read on:

For the original article in Frontiers in Zoology by H. Burda
see :

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Quest for the Snowy Owl Continues

After checking various blogs and calling several NWRs, we drove 50 minutes from Cape May to Forsythe NWR last weekend, January 18th, as a Snowy Owl had been sited that morning on the 8-mile Wildlife Drive, right at the first curve. There had been even one the day before spotted on the roof of the headquarters there. This is where most of the owls have been spotted and
I hoped we would be lucky.

It was our first visit to Forsythe and it was amazing with an expansive sky view, rich feeding and nesting areas and about 1,500 acres of fresh/brackish water marsh habitat created by a dike system that can be manipulated depending on the seasons, not to mention 5,000 acres of woodlands and 46,000 acres total.

I shot anything that was white, just in case . .

After we drove the first 5 miles or so, my heart started to sink, but then our attention was drawn to the 1000's of snow geese taking off and their undulating flight patterns . . .

for them to then just settle down again a few meters away . . .

This Peregrine Falcon got the most of attention at the time we drove through, with many stopping to take shots. A Snowy Owl had been spotted in the same location just a day before.

And at the end of the drive was a pair of Common Pintail . . 

The closest I'm going to get to a Snowy Owl this year is this lovely print I found at the West End Garage in West Cape May. 

Perhaps, I will have better luck next year. According to Clay and Pat Sutton's Birds and Birding at Cape May, Snowy Owls can be seen in the area annually. (page 150-151)

During the quest, I learned more about how to access more current information through Twitter and sites listed on the right column of my blog under Useful Birding Links, which I will continue to add to. Project SNOWstorm is especially worth a peak, as transmitters were attached to several owls to track their movements and the findings are exciting.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Quest for the Snowy Owl

(pic from

Starting in mid November, numerous Snowy Owls have been spotted through out the United States, beyond their usual habitat in the Arctic, including as far south now as Jacksonville, Florida. This is not that unusual an occurrence and can be caused by increased numbers or lack of food.

What is unusual, though, is the numbers of owls reported with over 3400 spotted in the US thus far, with the spike beginning November 15 from 0 to over 2400 and then beyond. Pete Dunne stated that over 20 had been seen in NJ during this irruption up to the end of December.

Please see the ebird site for the range map through the end of
December of 2013:

and explore the data yourself:

This is all very exciting and we had hoped to see one for ourselves last weekend. An owl had been spotted at the Cape May Point State Park on the dune, but was gone when we arrived.

The next day, we visited the 2 mile beach at the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge,

where another owl had been spending some time, but again with no luck, but the NWR was new for us and an excellent place to explore more.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Excellent Nature Photography Site

I recently took some wonderful photography classes with 
photographer Valerie A. Hoffman 
(she is on facebook) and she sent me a link to an excellent ebook offered by this
nature photography site which I have found very helpful.  

I enjoy shooting birds, and this site offers 
and amazing images, such as this one: 

Here are some other helpful sites: