Shawangunk Grasslands

This past Saturday I went with the Waterman Bird Club to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge to look for Short-eared Owls. We got there at 3:30 in the afternoon, and it was already cold and windy. It got colder and windier as time went on, and I was really chilled by the time we left just after sunset. Apparently the owls are sometimes out early, but on Saturday none showed up until well after sunset when it was already getting almost too dark to see. We could see there long, white wings against the distant trees, but that was about it. However, until shortly after sunset, there were numerous Northern Harriers hunting low over the grass or flying high in the sky.

Sunday was warm, sunny, and only slightly breezy, so Stephen and I went back in the afternoon. I wanted to show him what a beautiful spot it is, nestled beneath the Gunks and spread out over 565 acres of beautiful grassland. We wandered around some of the trails and watched Harriers hunting and some perched calmly on posts or branches. The owls came out a bit earlier, though still not early enough for me to do any sketching. It was light enough, though, for me to see their large, floppy-looking wingbeats and the black markings on the wings. We also saw them hunting, flying low over the grasses like the harriers, repeatedly rising and dipping.

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