Closing out January with an Owl

January is coming to a close with the coldest temperatures of the winter. So it is a good time to stay inside and post some final pictures of the month. The highlight of the past week was seeing roosting Long-eared Owls. I was able to get some photos with my long lens without infringing on them but the results aren’t very striking. They like to roost deep inside evergreens to stay safe. They are only about the size of a crow and are easy targets for Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks and Snowy Owls. It was difficult to get a a clear photo but their safety is more important than a photo. (More on that below.) The first photo shows how snug they can get in the branches. I got the second photo a couple of days after the first one. It was a snowy morning and I am not too good with low light conditions. This one decided to roost a bit more in the open.

Owls are popular subjects and unfortunately attract the attention of people who are not aware of, or don’t care about, the ethics of observing and photographing wildlife. I won’t get into the whole story but there were persistent crowds and even a few people who wanted to flush the owls to get a better view or picture. Eventually the area where they are roosting had to be cordoned off by the Massachusetts Environmental Police. No vehicles are allowed near the birds and there is a perimeter set up to mark the proper distance for people to observe them without stressing or annoying them.

Other birds around the area where the owls roost include Common Redpoll, Snow Buntings (in the snow) and a female Red Crossbill displaying the source of the name.

These are Savannah Sparrows. The second one is a bit paler and might be the Ipswich variety but we aren’t exactly sure since it isn’t quite pale enough. Ipswich Savannah Sparrows only breed in the Canadian Maritimes and winter along the east coast of the US.

Ducks continue to be around in good numbers. The male Mallards have striking colors in the right light. Below are two males on the shore, a male doing a little courting and a female responding. Two female Red-breasted Mergansers were watching the activity.

We spotted a female Long-tailed Duck riding a chunk of ice down the Merrimack River. She did some grooming and settled in for a relaxing voyage down to the ocean. Nice life!

While photographing the cruising duck, I caught some motion out of the corner of my eye and got a quick shot of a female Common Goldeneye flying by. A little later I got these pictures of a male taking off in a snow squall. Those are snowflakes, not spots, on his wings.

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