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A Few More Birds from Dunkirk Harbor

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White-winged Scoter

By: Pat Coate

The pictures in this post were taken at Dunkirk Harbor this past winter.

In our area, the white-winged scoter winters on Lakes Ontario and Erie. It is becoming a bit more common due to the invasion of the zebra mussels, as mussels (and clams) seem to be one of its favorite foods.

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Dunkirk Harbor

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Gulls

By: Pat Coate

During our unusually harsh winter in Western New York open water for ducks and gulls was hard to come by. Dunkirk Harbor on Lake Erie usually has a good bit of open water due to warm water discharge from the nearby power plant. But with the prolonged cold spell even the harbor had very limited open water this year, making competition for food fierce.

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Brecon Beacons, Wales

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Brecon Beacons

By: Pat Coate

Brecon Beacons is a national park on the border of South Wales and Mid Wales. Its highest peak, Pen Y Fan (2907′), is also the highest mountain in southern Britain.

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Long-eared Owl

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Long-eared Owl

By: Pat Coate

This long-eared owl was another life bird added to my list with grateful assistance from Jim Adams (http://ayearinoatka.blogspot.com/). The owl was seen at Oatka Creek Park, Monroe County, NY.

The prominent ear-tufts give the long-eared owl a similar appearance to the great horned owl, though its tufts are more towards the center of the head than the great horned owl. Also the long-eared owl is much smaller (15 v. 22 inches) and has a more slender build.

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Virginia Rail

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Virginia Rail

By: Pat Coate

Many thanks to Jim Adams (http://ayearinoatka.blogspot.com/) for recently helping me add a couple life birds to my list. One was this Virginia Rail, seen at Mendon Ponds Park near Rochester, NY.

Normally a secretive bird, this one was easier to find than usual due to a shortage of open water this winter. Virginia Rails feed by probing shallow water and mud for insects, fish, frogs and other aquatic animals. The small area of open water where it was forced to feed is near a hiking/cross country skiing trail in the park which allowed for unusually good views.
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Some birds of St. James’s Park, London

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White Pelicans

By: Pat Coate

While in England traveling with my daughter we spent a day in London. We took the train into Waterloo Station and spent the day walking all over taking in the sights – Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, The Eye, Piccadilly Circus, the National Gallery, and Trafaglar Square. Despite a February visit, London was filled with tourists and vacationing English families (schools were on break). Despite the crowds, London’s parks were full of wintering waterfowl side by side with the captive exotic waterfowl. These pictures were all taken at St. James’s Park.

King James I, in the early 1600s, was the first to keep exotic waterfowl in the park. White Pelicans arrived in 1664 as a gift from the Russian ambassador. The pelicans are looked after by wildlife specialists, receive a daily feeding, and are quite friendly. Other exotic waterfowl we saw included Black Swans and Red-crested Pochard.

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In Search of Robin Hood…Robins and a couple other birds of Sherwood Forest

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Robin

By: Pat Coate

Had a marvelous opportunity to spend two weeks in Great Britain traveling with my daughter. One stop was in the Sherwood Forest/Nottingham area – the land of Robin Hood. Whether fact or fiction, we had lots of fun walking through hallowed Sherwood Forest, visiting Nottingham Castle and Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, and checking out Edwinstowe where legend has it Robin Hood married Maid Marion.

Though certainly not a main purpose of the trip, there were many wonderful birds along the way and it would have been a shame not to try to capture a few photos. One bird we saw throughout was the Robin – a very cheery, friendly bird. It is much smaller and daintier than our American Robin.

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Rough-legged Hawk

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Rough-legged Hawk

By: Pat Coate

Besides the Snowy Owl, we have another Arctic bird of prey wintering in our area – the Rough-legged Hawk. These birds breed in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America, Europe and Asia. In Europe and Asia they are known as Rough-legged Buzzards.

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Snowy Owl Harassed by Common Ravens

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Snowy Owl being harassed by Common Ravens

By: Pat Coate

I recently sat in my car with the window down observing and photographing a snowy owl perched on its usual utility pole. I heard and saw a lone raven flying from the north, quorking (one of the common raven’s vocalizations) as it flew. The snowy owl seemed to hear the raven too as it immediately flew directly over my car and landed on the ground along the driveway at the gravel pits.

Another car drove into the gravel pit driveway spooking the owl which then flew off across the frozen quarry.

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Snowy Owls

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Snowy Owl

By: Pat Coate

As we all shiveringly know there has been an amazing influx of frigid Arctic air this winter, reluctantly causing us to add the phrase “Polar Vortex” to our vocabulary. But, thankfully, the Arctic region has provided us with more than just frigid temps this winter – it has also provided us an influx (or more appropriately an irruption) of one of its stunning birds of prey – Snowy Owls.

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2014 Blizzard


Most of Western New York has been shut down tomorrow due to this storm moving through. It is the first Winter Storm Warning in almost 20 years. Even though they say don’t go outside, please take the time to feed the birds . . . . they could use your help.


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Happy 2014


New Years resolution again is to try and post on the blog more. Hope everyone enjoys 2014!!


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Red House Lake


You have to love early mornings in Allegany State Park. Winter has returned.


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A Couple of Backyard Birds

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American Goldfinch

By: Pat Coate

The American Goldfinch is a common visitor to our backyard, visiting both the sunflower and nyjer seed feeders. And goldfinches never come alone, seems there is always a minimum of three when they show up and often many more. Their song, which they chatter quite effusively, seems so cheerful that I think they must be very happy birds.

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Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Female Wild Turkey with her brood

By: Pat Coate

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving, enjoying family, friends and football!

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Eternal Flame Falls

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Eternal Flame Falls (photo taken in autumn, flame lower right)

By: Pat Coate

I had heard good things about the Eternal Flame Falls hike at Chestnut Ridge Park in Orchard Park, NY. So while in the area with a little extra time I decided to check it out. Here is a description of the eternal flame phenomenon from http://nyfalls.com/waterfalls/eternal-flame-falls/:

“As you approach the falls, the smell of rotten-egg-like natural gas fills the air within the ravine. This is the result of seepage from layers of organically-rich Hanover Shale. … The gasses produced during the decomposition of the organics within the rock deposits are under pressure and push out through cracks and loose layers within the rock. One large fissure is located right within Eternal Flame Falls, in a small grotto that protects the gas seepage from the falling water and any wind, enabling it to sustain a flame when lit.”

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Terns in Myrtle Beach

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Sandwich Terns – Adult with juvenile

By: Pat Coate

Don’t see too many terns in my part of Western NY, so I enjoyed seeing a couple species while in Myrtle Beach. Both were life birds for me.

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Birdie Blog

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Tina, Brenda, Pat, Tammy, Vicki and Chris

By: Pat Coate

Just back from the annual Jersey girls’get away golf weekend in Myrtle Beach. We had good weather, good times and even managed a birdie or two.

There were lots of other birdies to be found too. Below are pictures of laughing gulls and willets. Next week will post the terns.

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Wildlife Rehabilitation & Release: Red Foxes

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Fox Kit – so tiny and cute, and motherless

By: Pat Coate

Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet several wildlife rehabilitators. Each one has been a remarkable, passionate person. Wildlife rehab is incredibly hard work (exhausting really). Often the animals taken in are babies and orphans, and, like newborn children, require attention nearly 24/7. The work is NOT glamorous, IS dirty (and smelly), with a seemingly endless cycle of pen cleaning, feeding, watering, and administering meds. It doesn’t pay well (if at all) and there are a lot of detractors who wonder why rehabilitators don’t just “let nature take its course.”

The payoff, that makes all the sacrifices worth it, is the moment when the animal they’ve worked so hard for is set free to live the life it was meant for in the wild. I had the chance to observe and participate in the release of three foxes – and witness the joy, satisfaction, and really the validation of all the effort, felt by the rehabilitators. Amazing!

Note: All photos from Michele, wildlife rehabilitator located in Ontario, Canada.

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A Couple Life Birds

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Marsh Wren

By: Pat Coate

Picked up marsh wrens earlier this year down in Delaware. These are wetland birds that are partial to cattails and whose diet consists largely of insects. They vigorously defend their territory and will try to destroy the nests, eggs and nestlings of neighboring birds. This behavior is thought to reduce competition for food.

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More “Moosing” in Algonquin Provincial Park

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Moose (adult female)

By: Pat Coate

I am not really sure what it is about moose, but I really like seeing them in the wild. A few weeks ago I was excited to find two moose along Highway 60, though slightly off the beaten track, in Algonquin Park (Ontario, Canada). Given the fact that the two were together in the same bog and that they headed off into the woods together made me think that they were a mother with her first year calf. Calves born this year will generally stay with their mothers for a full year or more.

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Barred Owl

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Barred Owl

By: Pat Coate

Barred owls are found in forests throughout the eastern U.S. They have begun to move into the Pacific Northwest where they are putting pressure on the already beleaguered spotted owl.

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White-tailed Deer in the Fall

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The boys of fall

By: Pat Coate

Recently I’ve observed some interesting deer behavior and learned a couple new words/terms in my readings about white-tailed deer.

Male deer tend to live in groups of three or four except in the mating, or rutting, season. We have often watched a group of males over the summer and early fall as they have fed in a nearby field. Recently this group has been seen (seemingly) playfully sparring, or perhaps testing the waters, while grazing together. Perhaps it will become more serious in the upcoming weeks as the mating season heats up, so to speak, and the group breaks up. I guess it is not too unlike a group of human male friends who become interested in the same girl and the strife this can cause.

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Immature Turkey Vulture

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Immature Turkey Vulture

By: Pat Coate

Vultures certainly don’t fall into the glamour bird category. Their little bald heads and hooked bills have helped them evolve into nature’s perfect clean-up crew. And though we may not like to think much about them or their jobs, in areas of the world where their numbers have significantly declined the services that they provide are now being done by rats and feral dogs. The increasing numbers of these replacement scavengers has led to increases in human rabies deaths.

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