By far the biggest Natural History highlight of late was a rather sad one and had nothing to do with birds at all. We were walking the dogs on Sammy's Beach in East Hampton last week and noticed that the dogs were very focussed on a dark object up ahead in the tide line. As we got closer we could see that the object was a turtle (!), not something you expect to see on a beach in New York in February.
|Kemp's Ridley Sea-Turtle in East Hampton.|
The Riverhead Foundation runs a marine animal rescue operation and sends teams out to help stranded whales and dolphins. In the late fall they also end up rescuing quite a few 'cold-stunned' Sea-turtles that have stayed in the North Atlantic too long and been caught out by the rapidly falling water temperatures. Quickly warming a stunned turtle will kill it, so they've developed a process to gently bring the animal back to temperature and seem to have a good success rate with saving them. After getting a description from me, and asking me to send them photos, the Riverhead folks identified our turtle as a Kemp's Ridley Sea-Turtle, a critically endangered species that has been reduced to just a handful of breeding colonies world-wide. They also unfortunately said that the turtle looked dead from the pictures but they asked us to mark the spot by standing up a stick in the sand and they dispatched a team to collect the turtle to make sure. At the very least the specimen might yield some useful data and this was a very late date for a turtle to be this far North.
On the bird front, not much has changed. I did manage to spend some time with the Hick's Island Snowy Owl today. Of all Long Island's wintering Snowy Owls this one has been the most regular but perhaps the least reliable. It winters on an island but still gets pushed around a bit by clammers, duck hunters, and the like so tends to stay away from the roads and other areas where birders could see it. A lot of birders look for this individual over the average weekend but it's almost never reported on a Saturday or Sunday. Today, it was sitting out in the open, although it was a long way away and my photos were 'record shots' rather than wildlife art.
|Snowy Owl, Hick's Island.|
|Bonparte's Gulls (2 shots)|
So onwards, and looking forward to next week's Pelagic Trip (fingers crossed that it goes) and dreaming of finally getting Atlantic Puffin for my New York State List. Not a bird I'm likely to get seawatching so, as unappealing as an early March trip offshore sounds, sometimes you just have to go for it.
|OK, just one more Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull, this one from Iron Pier on the|
North Fork. I really like this species.