Chris Evers, Animal Embassy Director & Founder, often takes advantage of the winter season to photograph beautiful winter migrants. He keeps his camera close by for those rare sightings of raptors in our area. He recently visited Jones Beach State Park in Nassau County, NY, where he photographed one of the area’s most elusive winter visitors in this ocean dune/beach ecosystem, the Snowy owl. Chris observed this Snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus), pictured above, with binoculars. It is vitally important that we preserve open space and unique habitats like Jones Beach. Snowy owls are still in the area and should be here for another week or so.

 

Chris also takes his boat on the Long Island Sound each winter to observe and photograph wildlife.

The harbor in Stamford, Connecticut is home to Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) in the winter.

 

This year that population seems to have increased by one! Harbor seals have a gestation period of 9-11 months. Pups weigh approximately thirty pounds at birth and are weaned in 4-6 weeks. Wild female harbor seals have a lifespan of 30-35 years, and males 20-25 years.

 

Chris sighted twenty harbor seals hauled out on the rocks around the Greenwich Islands. They will migrate back North soon.

Chris also sighted Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) roosting at the Stamford Lighthouse. This bird is likely hunting the abundant migratory ducks, visiting from the Arctic. In city settings, tall buildings offer the falcon a great perch from which to hunt pigeons which they take out of mid-air. Peregrines often roost and nest high up on cliff walls, often near a water source. The Stamford lighthouse, just past the break wall protecting Stamford Harbor, provides these birds with a suitable roosting site and easy access to hundreds of migratory waterfowl, utilizing the Sound for the winter.

When hunting, these birds can dive or stoop, at speeds of over 200 miles per hour. These spectacular aerial assaults are directed at shore birds, bats, pigeons and ducks, in flight! “Peregrine” means wanderer and some of the birds from the arctic tundra will travel over 15,000 miles to spend the winter months in South America. It is wonderful to have these individuals as Stamford residents, at least for the winter months.

Around the top of the lighthouse Chris viewed Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo), too big to be bothered by the falcons roosting just below. These winter visitors will fly back to breeding colonies in Maine on up through Newfoundland.

Chris witnessed an amazing gathering of gulls, geese and other birds. Some of these birds have been on Long Island Sound all winter, while thousands of others are stopping over on their way north from places further south.

It is sometimes nice to have a reminder of how much beauty we can find in our own backyard! 

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