The primary mission of the Great South Bay Audubon Society is to advocate for the conservation of habitats for native birds and other native wildlife on Long Island.

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2008 Nature Walk/Event Recap and Reports

Gardiner County Park Owl Walk

September 26, 2008

Our first owl walk for the 2008-2009 season was on Friday night, September 26th at Gardiner County Park. The leaders, Alice Heller, Bob Grover, and I, met up with a couple of other people to take the walk. There had been the threat of rain from Thursday through the whole weekend, so unfortunately, I’m afraid that may have prevented others who might have come. Luckily for those who did go, the rain had stopped.

We started our walk down the main trail which leads through the forest towards the Great South Bay, all awhile having Bob Grover whistling the mimic of the ’whinny’ call of an Eastern Screech Owl (Otus asio) while I was mimicking its ‘trill’ and Ken Thompson played both on his iPod. Unfortunately, all the way down the main trail, we got no response. About 100 yards back from the end of where we stopped on the main trail, we came to a cross trail which led east to a parallel trail back to the parking lot. Bob suggested we take these trails, which seemed a bit darker than the main trail. At first, our whistling the screech owl calls got no response. We then decided perhaps we could try for a Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus), since they also reside at Gardiner County Park, and we might get a response from that species. Surprisingly, after Ken Thompson played the hoo hoo-HOO hooooo hoo call of the Great Horned Owl on his iPod, we now started to hear the ‘whinny’ of a screech owl. So Bob started ‘whinnying’ the screech owl call again, and the screech owl started getting louder, suggesting it was coming in closer to us. It got to the point where it was very loud, and using our hand held spotlights, we attempted to find the bird in the upper tree branches around us. Bob got the owl in his spotlight, a gray-phase Eastern Screech Owl, which was leaning flush against the side of a branch, being about the same diameter as the owl, and both now being ~70-75º off the horizontal. The owl stared at us while we were all excited looking at it.

After observing the owl for 2-3 minutes, we decided to move on, continually playing screech owl calls, and heard a second owl, definitely identifiable as such because the call’s pitch was noticeably higher. So the field trip turned out to be a success.

Walking back to the cars, we talked about the fact that the screech owl didn’t start his calling until AFTER the ‘call’ of the Great Horned Owl. This seemed somewhat of a paradox because Great Horned Owls will eat screech owls, and since nocturnal owls hunt by sound, it seemed strange that the screech owl would only start calling after hearing a potential predator nearby. Well, I’m sure Mother Nature knows what she is doing, even if we don’t.


Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Birding and Breakfast

September 13, 2008

This was an interesting ‘field trip’ through the Connetquot River State Park Preserve. We first started with a ‘workshop’ wherein a slide presentation showing those who attended the possible birds that might be found at the preserve during this time of the year, resident, migrant, and Fall visitor. So we had our ‘breakfast’ first while watching the slide presentation, then we headed out into the field.

We saw a total of 32 species of birds. Using their field card, the BIRDS OF CONNETQUOT RIVER STATE PARK PRESERVE, and looking at the Summer/Fall columns (I know, technically Fall wasn’t starting until September 23rd, but since this was very close to the Summer/Fall boundary, some birds may have been finishing their Summer season whereas other species may have started their Fall migration), using the state park preserve’s field card’s presence status categories: A-Abundant, C-Common, U-Uncommon, O-Occasional, and R-Rare, the highlights were Pied-billed Grebe (F:U), Double-crested Cormorant ((Su:O, F:O), Great Blue Heron (Su:O, F:C), Wood Duck (Su:C, F:U), Gadwall (Su:U, F-C), Osprey (Su:C, F:C), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Su:O), Eastern Phoebe (Su:O), White-eyed Vireo (Su:C), Cedar Waxwing (Su:C, F:C), Northern Parula (F:U), Black-throated Blue Warbler (just listed as Common in Spring column, not listed in any other season columns, however, we saw a female Black-throated Blue Warbler), Black-throated Green Warbler (Su:O, F:C), Pine Warbler (Su:C, F:C), American Redstart (Su:U, F:C), Common Yellowthroat (Su:A, F:C), Red-winged Blackbird (Su:C, F:U), and American Goldfinch (Su:C, F:C).

There are over ½ dozen bird species which are recorded only in the Spring and Fall columns. One can see they are just migratory species, some actually being listed as common here as they migrate through in the Fall (e.g. the Blackburnian and Palm Warblers).

For those who would like to visit the preserve on their own, a permit is required to gain access. This can simply be acquired by writing to Connetquot River State Park Preserve, P.O. Box 505, Oakdale, New York 11769, giving name, address, purpose of visit, and the expected number of family members in party. Permits for groups can be obtained by contacting the preserve office at (631) 581-1005.