On December 27, 2013, Elaine and I went looking for a Snowy Owl at Floyd Bennett Field. Part of this winter’s irruption, Snowy Owls have been seen regularly at this old airfield, now part of Gateway National Recreation Area; one birder reported eight on December 26. We were delighted to get pictures of one Snowy, and to explore Floyd Bennett’s abandoned runways, grassy fields, and shrubby campsites.
We didn’t have to work very hard at it. Just a couple hundred yards from the Ryan Visitor Center, right on the main runway, we noticed a couple guys with a scope emerging from a parked car. They had to be birders. While they were indeed looking at a Snowy Owl, they did not display the typical birder ethic; they repeatedly approached the owl until it flew away. I satisfied myself with photos I could get from a non-threatening distance.
We saw the owl in the late morning. Only one; we couldn’t find any others.
After lunch, we took another look at the same owl we had already seen. I kept my distance from the sitting bird, and noticed a birder not-so-stealthily approaching him from the other direction. I knew how this would go, so I lay down in the grass, made myself as inconspicuous as possible, and hoped the soon-to-be-flushed Snowy would come my way. He didn’t exactly fly directly overhead, but, setting my Nikon D5100 to the rapid-fire Sport mode, got these of him in flight.
I took all these photos with the zoom lens all the way out to 300mm, then cropped the raw images severely, about one-ninth of the original. Just a slight color-enhancement, and upped the contrast a bit on the distant, hazy Manhattan skyline.