Winter Goals: New York

Coastline in Winter - Bailey's Island, Maine

Well, it’s November and the deciduous trees are mostly leafless and most nights we are below freezing.  I guess it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming winter.  As a kid who grew up in Florida, I imagine I am in for quite a long winter considering we already had the earliest snowfall of over an inch.  Except for four years in Maine during my time at Bowdoin College, I really haven’t done much winter photography and even then I was awfully busy with classes and didn’t get out as much as I would have liked.

In any case, I have been thinking a lot about the upcoming winter season and trying to set some goals.  It should be an eventful season as I will be living here in central New York but will also be spending most of January and possibly February in Florida.  Because of these two very different locations, I have put together two different sets of goals.  Here are my goals for the upcoming winter here in Central New York.

  • Northern Finches – I originally had planned to dedicate a significant portion of my time tracking down and photographing the group of birds collectively known as the “Northern Finches.”  These birds are sporadic in distribution each year as they follow their food sources, trees in seed.  The group includes Red and White-winged Crossbills, Common and Hoary Redpolls, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, and Evening and Pine Grosebeaks.  Unfortunately, I read the forecast for these birds, based largely on the cone crop of various spruces and other tree species, and it isn’t looking great.  Apparently the last two years have been great, so it’s about time for a down year.  In any case, I hope to photograph at least 2 or 3 of these species, even if it means I have to drive up to the Adirondacks and into higher elevations.
  • Snowy Owls – Ever since my time in Maine, I have wanted to see a Snowy Owl.  I struck out over and over again on trips to see them during college and it has become a bit of a nemesis bird.  I am determined this year to find and photograph one and am willing to drive a long way to see one.  I’d also love to photograph a Short-eared Owl as I currently only have the Caribbean subspecies in my files.
  • Gulls – Even though I am a pretty intense birder, gulls have never really been my thing.  They are extremely tough to identify at times and aren’t that visually exciting.  Because of this, I haven’t spent much time studying and identifying these birds.  As a result, I could easily build up my life list by five or so species if I put some work into it.  This is a good area where some of the more northern species will show up and Niagara Falls, a half-day drive away, is one of the best places on the continent for winter gulls.
  • Frozen Waterfalls – Enough of the birds!  I have enjoyed photographing a few of the local waterfalls this fall but am really looking forward to photographing them in winter.  Numerous photographers have covered them throughout the year, but winter can create some very different images and provide an extra challenge both in the photos themselves and simply accessing the falls.  It should be a lot of fun and a good challenge.

Check back in the next few days to see my goals for my time in Florida!

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  1. Beautiful photo Drew. Sounds like a great list – I hope you are successful, especially with the Snowy Owls!

  2. Drew,

    Tremendous, can’t wait to see the results of this and will be especially curious to see the Florida goals.


  3. We had a pretty good push of Snowy Owls here in western NY this past winter. I wager we’ll see at least a couple this year too. Winter finches, on the other hand, may be a problem. You missed last year’s push of White-winged Crossbills as well as the previous year of redpolls. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see a profusion of Pine Grosbeaks or something!

  4. Thanks everybody.

    @Mike – Yeah, I don’t have my hopes up for the finches especially. I’ve read all the predictions and it just isn’t looking all that good. We’ll see, maybe I’ll go all out and head up north of the border to see what I can find. Have to pay attention to what’s being seen in Ontario and get my passport renewed!

  5. If you’ve never seen Niagara Falls in the Winter, I must recommend it. Best of luck in achieving your goals!

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