A Look Back At Winter

 

As we approach the end of winter I have been thinking back to when we said goodbye to fall and prepared for the onslaught of winter. Winter can be a very trying time in New England. This winter was no exception.  With colder than normal temperatures and above normal snowfall across New England many of us have had to deal with out of the ordinary winter related problems.

Rare Green-tailed Towhee along the Rhode Island Coast.

Non-native Green-tailed Towhee found in Rhode Island

 

While the winter produced cold and snow it also produced an abundance of photo-ops related to the season. With record snowfalls in Northern New England and above normal snow totals just about all over the the 6 state region, winter provided some memorable scenes that were recorded by the members of the New England Photography Guild.

For me, here at East Bay Images Photography in Southern New England, the departing winter left me with some lasting memories of once in a lifetime views through my lens.

Short-eared Owl on a kill, Sachuest Pt. NWR, Middletown RI

Weather extremes cause aberrations in the migration patterns. The big, beautiful bay called Narragansett, that makes up a large part of Rhode Island’s geography is home to thousands upon thousands or wintering birds. The relative warmth of the bay waters provide a habitat that produces food and shelter all winter for many species.

Along with the usual species come the variants and wanderers-birds blown off course or caught in storms that wind up here far from their homes or migratory routes.

This year I was able to photograph more non native or rare birds than at any other time in my life. The first, in mid-January, was a Green-tailed Towhee. Native to the west coast and the desert southwest, it showed up here with a flock of sparrows and stayed for about 6 weeks. Many birders from around the region flocked to the 2nd Beach area of Middletown RI to see it.

A Barn Owl Hunting

Barn Owl soars over the fields at the Sachuest Pt. NWR.

Next came the owls. A pair of Short-eared Owls and occasionally a Barn Owl hunted the fields of the Sachuest Point NWR for a good part of the winter, providing people a diversion form the cold, drab winter.

In February, a pair of Bald Eagles made an appearance on the Palmer River, not far from my house. A rare visitor in the past, the eagles have been spotted on a regular basis and there is hope they will nest here. In early March a Peregrine Falcon appeared on the tower of the town hall in Warren.

This elusive falcon is being spotted more and more in recent years. Close on the heels of the Peregrine was a Ross’s Goose. A small goose resembling a Snow Goose, a Ross’s appeared in a field with a flock of Canada Geese after a strong storm went through New England.

Most likely caught in the storm it got carried off course and landed here. Ross’s Geese winter in California, Mexico, and to some extent the Texas Gulf Coast. They summer on the Arctic Tundra. It’s appearance here caused people to drive over an hour to get a chance to see this rare bird.

As I look through my lens at the spring equinox, only days away, I can only hope that the spring will be as eventful as this past winter has been in bringing rare new species to the shores of Narragansett Bay and into the range of my camera.

Butch Lombardi

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