Sony a7ii


I really love my Olympus gear, but I can’t ignore the full-frame fuss any longer.   So, I took the plunge and bought a (used) Sony — not the latest model and certainly not the most expensive — but one that Digital Camera World recommended as a very capable and affordable full-frame, as long as you don’t do video (

Although still a relative newbie to the world of photography, I’ve had enough experience with The Big Three (Sony, Canon, and Nikon) to know that I won’t mess around with either Canon or Nikon anymore, because Sony has many of the features that I love in my Olympus gear, especially the color technology.

P4200290The Big Three all sell mirrorless systems, but I was pleased to see that Sony was well represented in the list of full-frames on the Digital Camera World website.

It’s so weird.  Olympus has state-of-the-art technology packed into their camera bodies, yet they struggled financially for a couple of years before being sold to JIP (Japan Industrial Partners).  But this very technology — lightweight bodies, 5-axis IBIS, lag-less electronic viewfinders, live composite, etc. – could not keep Olympus Imaging afloat. . .ironically, this technology is precisely what the Big Three are scrambling to include in marketing their new mirrorless lines, even though such things have been around in Olympus bodies and lenses for years.

P4200531Sheesh, Sony’s a7ii is the first of its cameras to feature 5-axis  “Steady Shot,” but their gear is so heavy that it’s pretty meaningless.  You still need to use a tripod — or at least balance the camera and lens on a pillow placed strategically on a rolled-down window or the top of your car or on a nearby tree limb.

The “steady shot” technology isn’t new to Olympus.  Even their entry-level bodies (such as the EM10) have IBIS.

And their gear is light enough so that 5-axis IBIS is usable without a tripod.  With it you gain about 3-5 stops of handholding.  Tripods aren’t necessary unless you are pushing the limits of the system.

Even handheld “silky water” shots are possible! Let’s see you handhold “silky water” with a (much heavier) Sony system or worse, with a Canon body wearing a long L lens!  Or with that silly overpriced Nikon p1000 with a lens that you can’t fully extend without it jiggling and ruining your photos.

Go figure.


B&H had a good, affordable used a7ii, and I also picked up the G 200-600 f5.6 – 6.3 G OSS lens.  This lens is great but very heavy (2412.5 gr) when compared to my Olympus 100-400.  The Oly lens weighs in at 1325 gr, and even when paired with a 2.0 extender it’s still almost 2 lbs lighter than the Sony lens.  Plus, you get much more effective reach from the Olympus — a whopping 1600 full-frame equivalent!

Oh, well, I guess that’s what tripods are for! (see above)

P4150992The argument against M4/3 has always been the small sensor, which measures 17.3mm x 13mm.  These proportion out to 4:3, thus the name micro 4/3.  Both full-frame (24x 36) and APS-C sensors (25.1 x 16.7), despite their differing size, proportion out to 3:2.

All of this is very nice, but what does it mean?  It’s not so much the proportions, it’s the size.  The full-frame sensor measurement of 24mm x 36mm is considered “standard.”  Everything else (for our intents and purposes, anyway) is smaller.  The APS-C used by Canon measures 25.1 x 16.7; the Nikon DX is slightly smaller at 24 x 16; the Sony cropped sensor is a tiny bit smaller than that at 23.5 x 15.6, and the Olympus is smaller still at 17.4 x 13.

(I’m not even going to consider the sensors employed in bridge cameras, which, except for the Sony RX10, measure less than an inch!)

Anyway, these smaller sensors are assigned a “crop factor” by a mathematical formula that calculates how much of an image is lost when compared to the same image produced by the standard full-frame sensor.  Nikon’s DX sensors and Sony’s have a crop factor of 1.5, Canon’s APS-C sensors 1.6, and M4/3 (Olympus, Panasonic) figure in at 2.0.

All of the above photos were taken at a safe, non-stress-provoking distance, courtesy of the Olympus EM1x wearing the 100-400 f5.6 – 6.3 lens and a 2.0 extender.

DSC03507This grainy photo of a song sparrow, though, is the reason I am not concerned with bridge cameras.  Their sensors are so small that their crop factor averages around 5.6!  In fact, the only ones with sensors smaller than that are in cell phone cameras — they are reallyreallyREALLY tiny with a crop factor that hovers around 8.  Both the bridge cameras and the cell phone cameras are great in good light but on a gloomy, dull day not so much.

Crop factors are both good and bad.


Good:  Crop-factor sensors require less focal length to fill the frame of the image.  So, a 600mm lens used on a full-frame camera produces 600mm of focal length.  But a 600mm lens used on a Canon body with an APS-C sensor yields an equivalent focal length of 960mm (600 x 1.6).  Even better for M4/3 systems:  Their crop factor of 2.0 produces an equivalent focal length of 1200mm when you use a 600mm lens, as this decent mallard shot testifies.

Yes, I do shoot ducks — but only with a camera.  That’s how real men and women shoot animals.

So, if you are a nature photographer and want to get more focal length for your dollars, M4/3 is for you.

P4220421Bad:  Smaller sensors have smaller pixels — and if they don’t, they have less of them.  Since pixels are what admits light, smaller sensors can’t admit as much light as the larger pixels on a full-frame sensor.  Even if they have the same number of pixels, they have to be smaller to fit into the smaller cropped sensors.  That means that in low-light situations, users of smaller-sensor cameras have to fool around with the exposure triangle to make the most of the available light.  That means either increasing the ISO, opening up the aperture, slowing down the shutter speed, or using some combination thereof to make the most of the available light.  Each of these options poses its own problems. Even though I made several attempts to compensate for the distance and low light in the sandhill crane photo, it turned out blurry and just awful.  (Even phase detect AF needs some sort of contrast to work properly!)

When I reviewed the dozens of bad sandhill crane photos I took that day, I could hear a Sony full-frame calling my name.

Even worse:  The larger, full-frame sensor with its larger pixels also has a wider dynamic range that can detect and produce more color.  Which makes it even better at low-light photography than most crop sensors (except for the ones in Olympus cameras)

P4040008But it was only after getting some really bad photos of a mostly brown red-tail hawk sitting on a mostly brown nest in a mostly brown tree in a mostly brown forest on a mostly gray day with my beloved EM1x that I decided to try full frame.

Because, even after switching the 100-400 for the 300mm f/2.8 PRO I still had to bump up the exposure in the EM1x by several stops if I wanted to get any detail at all, the trade-off being a completely blown-out sky and some very pale trees. And whatever detail I managed to capture was lost if I cropped the photo even a little bit.

So, I bought the Sony a7ii and went back to visit Mamma Red-Tail.  And I found a definite improvement.


Compare the results (above) with my later attempt on an equally dull day (we have a lot of those here in western NY) with the a7ii (below).

DSC00013 Even at a distance, there was enough clarity to see Mamma Red-Tail sitting patiently on her eggs, her dark head rising just above the edge of the nest.  

The overall effect is sharper, and the sky isn’t blown out.

I was even able to crop the image, which I had to do because of the disparity between the full-frame 600mm lens and the 2.0 crop on the Olympus lens (see discussion about crop sensors, above).

I suppose I could get better results if I trudged into the woods and got a little closer. . .but that would be wrong.  Mamma Red-Tail deserves to feel safe in her home, and I am pleased that she is willing to tolerate my visits-from-afar.  The edge of the road is a respectful distance that allows her enough privacy to continue incubating those precious eggs while allowing me a glimpse of nature at work.

Still learning. . .

. . .but now I have some new toys!  And better photos!  Win/win!

Spring, Montezuma Style


Winter is slowly losing its grip on western New York. Eaglets are hatching, osprey and herons are nesting, and ducks, geese, and swans have found their mates.

Although spring arrived meterologically on March 21, it wasn’t really spring for us nature photofolks until April 1st, when the gate to Wildlife Drive swung open.

Today was sunny (and warm!), so I packed a lunch and a couple of cameras into the car and headed south on Rt 89.


After last year’s no-water fiasco, it was gratifying to see decent levels in all the pools and marshes lining the Drive, decent and deep enough to have attracted much of the wildlife that have been driven away over the past four summers of “mimicking nature” by “simulating drought.”

(For the uninitiated, see Montezuma Waterfowl Refuge? here on this blog.)

Although I saw no muskrats, there were so many lodges that I stopped counting at 22.


Muskrats are clever little things — they build their houses with cattails and sedges, so in times of need they have a ready stockpile of food.

They are quite generous in sharing their homes with geese and ducks, who nest on the top floor.

Muskrats need to be in and around the water, though, so seeing so many lodges is a hopeful sign of healthy water levels.


The Eagle Tree was empty today, but I did catch a juvie resting nearby. Earlier he had been fishing way out in the main pool, frightening both the fish and a couple of osprey who were also hoping for a meal.

There weren’t many egrets; in fact, I saw only one, but it did not disappoint.

I saw only one great blue heron, and this on a brief fly-by; nobody else was fishing except for a single pie-billed grebe.

There were a few ducks foraging for vegetation and, of course, there were Canada geese squawking and nesting, but all in all it was a quiet day on the Drive.


I did see a couple of Fish and Wildlife agents doing bird counts, so I rolled down the window to ask whether they had plans to “simulate drought” this year.

The gentleman replied, “We aren’t going to drain the main pool, only a couple of the smaller ones.”

He said this was necessary to ensure an adequate supply of duck-friendly vegetation for the fall migration.


This is where the conversation became interesting.

When I asked why they were concerned about getting enough food in for the fall migration but apparently had no worries about the supply during spring migration, he thought about it for a minute before admitting “That’s a good question,”

His companion, though (I’ve seen her before, I think her name is Jackie), had a ready answer. The harsh winter weather, she said, would prevent anything from growing on the marshes. Instead, “The spring migrators forage on local farmland.”


When she said that, my eyes rolled so far back that I could see my brain.

On local farmland? Does she really think that the “harsh winter weather” affects only marshes and not the surrounding farmland?

Does she really think that “local farmland” is planted with a winter crop of duck food each year that flourishes despite the “harsh winter weather,” just to help the MNWR attract ducks?

She was unable to tell me exactly where I could find “local farmland” crowded with foraging ducks.

What planet is she from, anyway?


In any event, these two agents very clearly dispelled the myths surrounding the MNWR managers’ penchant to “maintain the marshes [under their care]” by “replicating natural weather cycles” and “simulating drought.”


“We get our money from duck stamps. We have to document that we are doing everything we can to make this a duck habitat in order to get that money.”

When I protested that this practice supports ducks but exploits water-resident species and the wildlife that feeds upon them, he retorted, “this isn’t for your entertainment.”


What planet is HE from?

My point is an important one. But it lies way beyond his grasp.


For those who may not know, the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Service has a website where they explain “If you hunt migratory waterfowl and you are 16 years of age or older, you are required to purchase and carry a current Federal Duck Stamp. . .” 

No duck stamp, no license.

No license, no hunting.

At $25.00 a pop, the sale of Federal Duck Stamps generates a small fortune for the national wildlife refuge system — 98% of the stamp income “goes directly to help acquire and protect wetland habitat,” or so says the U.S. FWS.

Since the Montezuma people definitely want their share of that 98%, there is no doubt that they will continue to distort the marsh food web by “simulating drought” year after year to ensure a good supply, not only of duck food but of ducks — not necessarily for the duck stamp money, but ccertainly for the November hunting season.


Which will ensure the very fish that the U.S. FISH and Wildlife Service are supposed to protect, are dried up and killed.

And that the very wildlife that the U.S. Fish and WILDLIFE Service are supposed to protect, will have to find food sources elsewhere.



Query: If a duck-hunting season was established to coincide with spring migration, would MNWR officials be motivated to lure the ducks from “local farmland” by ensuring a food supply directly on the marshes? Just like they do in the fall? Asking for a friend.


Anyway, I circled the Drive a couple of times before the temperature dropped and storm clouds gathered.


And then I shook my head sadly all the way home.

Because I realized that I had been lied to.


Here’s the scoop: According to the advocacy group, National Wildlife Refuge Association, duck stamps are only one source of refuge funding, and a minor one at that:

Nearly all the funding that the Refuge System receives is through the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) portion of the federal budget. Other smaller contributions to national wildlife refuges come through legislation like the federal transportation bill, Great American Outdoors Act funding, supplemental funding from things like hurricane or fire relief”,through%20the%20Congressional%20appropriations%20process.

P5150390 - yellow warblerThe income from duck stamps is one of several federal programs that provide grant funds, not operating funds.  These dollars pay for wetland restoration and refuge expansion.  (A portion also goes towards “philately,” and since duck stamp artists don’t get paid I assume that this money is set aside to produce the duck stamps). 


“Wetland expansion”is where our friends from Ducks Unlimited jump in to the duck stamp fray.  They explain it like this: 

All proceeds from federal duck stamp sales are deposited in the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF), which was also established by the Duck Stamp Act. Duck stamp dollars typically account for 40 to 50 percent of funds in the MBCF; import duties collected on arms and ammunition are another major funding source.

But wait, there’s more!  These dollars don’t actually buy land, they buy easements — with assistance from the realtors employed by Ducks Unlimited.  One of these realtors is Randy Renner:

A big part of what our conservation and realty specialists do is to help develop interest in easements among private landowners,” Renner explains. “We also do a biological evaluation of each property and work with the landowner to come up with an ideal agreement for all parties involved.” Renner says DU and the USFWS process over 500 easement contracts annually.

ACR 0696 3-2-finalRenner would like you to think that Ducks Unlimited uses its own money  “to directly purchase easements that are then donated to the USFWS.”  But he admits that DU funds are supplemented by “public funding”  — government grants that are, directly or indirectly, funded by American taxpayers who may or may not agree with DU’s self-serving philosophy and who may or may not purchase duck stamps depending thereon.

So, Ducks Unlimited, a private entity and financial partner of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, promotes its pro-hunting agenda using inter alia taxpayer and duck stamp dollars to supplement what it calls their “philanthropic contributions” to the US FWS.

It saddens but doesn’t surprise me that MNWR thanks its friends at Ducks Unlimited, for their “philanthropic contributions” by using duck stamp dollars to dry up the marshes — under the guise of “wetland restoration” — year after year to grow duck food and thus provide DU (and other) hunters with a good supply of ducks just in time for the fall migration and its concomitant duck-hunting season.

Am I the only one who sees a conflict of interest here?

P5220270 itchy gbhI suppose it doesn’t matter.  Here in Corporate America, Ducks Unlimited is a big business.  And we all know that big business puts the power in the hands of the moneyed few.  My voice is drowned out by the voice of Ducks Unlimited.  “We all benefit from land acquisition,” states another DU employee, who is apparently unconcerned that the DU/US FWS deals acquire no lands.  “So, buy a duck stamp—actually, buy two and do twice the good. It’s a great investment for our kids and grandkids.”  

A great investment for our kids and grandkids who will be trained by DU to enjoy killing ducks.  

Update, May 15, 2022:  Remember those muskrat lodges that I stopped counting once I reached 22?  They are gone, all but a few.  So is the much of the water in the main marsh pool.  Let the fishkill begin!

P5170160 - fish splash

Good-bye, 2021

And not a moment too soon!


The year was a bad one for me. I missed the entire spring-and-summer photography season due to poor health and was sick for most of the year.  I had 6 surgeries, spent some time on life support in the ICU, wore an ostomy for most of the year, and had a course of both chemo and radiation treatment, all of which took some time to recover from.

By December, though, I was ready to formally bid the year good-bye and good riddance by attending a guided nature walk at one of my favorite places, Sterling Nature Center, led by one of my favorite people, Jim D’Angelo.

And it was a sterling event, despite the cold and damp.

DSC01154It was the last hike in 2021, one of the last ones before construction equipment would arrive early in the new year to begin work on a spacious new visitors’ center and meeting hall.

I didn’t expect to see much other than windswept snow, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a variety of winter flora and fauna, all oof which fared much better than I did in 2021.

There was a variety of winter birds hanging around the feeders.  They were the first wildlife we saw before heading toward the Heron Trail.

P3180292The rookery, of course, was empty, but there were plenty of Canada geese.

Who could miss them?  They were making a terrible racket!

Perhaps they regretted their decision not to migrate and enjoy a warmer winter in the south.

Or maybe they just wanted some photographic attention.

In any event, they were duly noted and photographed.

DSC00939There was evidence of beaver activity on the banks of the outlet stream, and it wasn’t long before we saw one in the water.

They look a lot like muskrats, until you notice that they are quite a bit bigger.

And they have a paddle-like tail rather than the long, skinny rat-like tail that the muskrats have.

It was a cold day, and I struggled to keep the camera warm in between shots.  But I was in the sunshine, enjoying nature, appreciating my health, and not worrying about tomorrow.

All in all, a really good day! and a fine way to bid good-bye to 2021 and welcome the New Year.








Frequent Rain, Heavy at Times

anxwybYay for the rain!  Because it’s the rain — not the marsh managers — that is re-establishing the fish habitat at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. . .so keep it coming, Mother Nature!

_7150590Oh, the rains aren’t enough to fill up the main pool, which was drained into mud flats way back in the spring and is now an overgrown grassland.  But it’s enough to fill up the low spots in the main pool as well as to increase the water level in Seneca Flats and a couple of the smaller pools which, until this time, were too shallow to support fish.

Even with the rains, the levels aren’t deep enough to allow osprey, eagles, and other diving wildlife to swoop-and-scoop their dinner, but they are good enough for the waders, who watch, wait, and then plunge for the smaller fish.

_7160294It’s just wonderful to watch the herons, egrets, and kingfishers return!

But nonetheless, the eagles, too, are beginning to return.  Perhaps they instinctively know that the water levels will improve in the fall. . . when the MNWR managers will flood the main pool, just as they have for the past three years, to attract ducks to the submergents that have been growing all summer.

After all, the fall is only nine weeks away!

In the meantime, the eagles can find sustenance in the fish that thrive in the canal running alongside Wildlife Drive.


Kingfisher evaluating the fish potential in the Seneca Canal. In the pouring rain!

No one from MNWR messed with the canal, and besides, the recent rains have increased its water level, too.

So, the eagles won’t have to fear breaking their necks as they swoop-and-scoop fish from these deeper waters.

Today Mother Nature was doing her best to maintain and even increase the water levels, so the shooting conditions were challenging.

Everything (and everybody) was drenched.


They don’t look so majestic when they are wet and muddy.

But it was wonderful to see the wildlife returning in increasing numbers.  Whereas last week I saw maybe one one great blue heron, today I saw 11.

There were no less than 4 adult eagles, and one juvenile.  The eagle tree hosted 3 of them trying to dry off their feathers.

I spotted a single greater yellowlegs last week, but today there were several more.

The word is spreading fast!


Ducks in a row? Nope, these are greater yellowlegs (I think!)

The main pool is crowded with vegetation, and when it is reflooded in the fall there won’t be much room for fish.

So the fish getting this head start in the smaller pools is important both for the fish and the fish-eaters.

There was a lot I could hear but not see on the Drive today.

Too wet to risk my gear outside of the car!


An umbrella and a couple of bungee cords will keep your gear dry even in the pouring rain

There were bullfrogs calling and marsh wrens warning and a few song sparrows and eastern kingbirds as well. . .and, of course, the redwing blackbirds — nothing shuts them up for long.

But I certainly saw enough to make the trip worthwhile.  Thank you, Mother Nature!

A few more from today’s excursion:






What drugs are they on? If stepping out of your car to set up a tripod disturbs the wildlife, what do they think draining the marsh and eliminating the entire fish habitat does? How do they hire people at MNWR — do they stand on street corners and ask passers-by “are you stupid?”



Marsh Wrens


Marsh wrens like to splay their legs, often using two different plants to balance upon.

You can hear them in the cattails, but they are very hard to see. 

That’s because they don’t sit at the top, like the song sparrows do; they much prefer to hide at mid-level, where the greenery is at its thickest. 

So, get familiar with manual focus, because autofocus will fail miserably.  

That’s because autofocus will struggle for a while and then settle on the nearest subject.  So instead of getting an in-focus marsh wren, you will get a fuzzy one.  


Song sparrows are drab-colored, too, but it’s easy to tell them apart from a marsh wren.

The marsh grass in front of it will be quite sharp, though.  

Just a little tip from a newbie who learned the hard way  🙂 

Marsh wrens have no distinctive coloring, like the redwings do.  Their muted brown colors blend in with the rush thickets.  

They really like to hide!

But get too close to a nest, and these tiny, drab-colored birds will rattle up a storm of protests!


Noisy little thing!!!

There are lots of small, drab-colored birds that hang around marshes, but there are a couple of features will distinguish the marsh wren from the others. 

Like, their rattly calls.  And their tails, which they stick almost straight up in the air. 

They are feisty birds, especially the males. 

 The males are not monogamous but will mate with two or more females.  They not only build the nest, they will build many of them. 


The nests are hard to spot. This one is in a Maryland marsh,

And they are quite territorial — the males are known to peck holes in the eggs of other birds, including other marsh wrens. 

So, it’s probably wise not to get on their bad side, especially if you live in a marsh. 


The Oly 100-400 f5-6.3


I love this lens!  Just over half the cost of the Canon L series 100-400, it gets an impressive 800mm equivalent view, something that the Canon can’t do without an extender.  And, again like the Canon, it’s versatile with a selection of distance ranges, as close as 1.3m to 6m to infinity.  So, for less money (and less weight!) you get some pretty good results, even if you are a newbie like me.

Olympus makes better lenses, most notably the 40-150 f2 PRO and the incredibly expensive 150-400 f4.5 PRO, but it’s the 100-400 f5-6.3 that will satisfy most budgets.  Even the experienced dedicated hobbyist should be pleased with what this lens can do.


A quick roadside shot in some diffuse light.

I experimented with the Oly 100-400 at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge a few days ago.  Even though so much of the wildlife has been driven from the refuge due to restrictive marsh management, some fauna and flora remain, at least enough for me to practice on.

Working from Wildlife Drive also allowed me to bring all my gear without trekking over a hot, dusty trail, plus it was a lot easier to take notes and make lens adjustments while sitting in the car.


Even at a distance of almost 400′, the Oly 100-400 managed to capture the catchlight in the eyes of this young buck, still in velvet.

Most of the shots were  straightforward point-and-shoots, but some required the additional use of manual focus, another feature that I avoided — until recently.

Emboldened by the success of range switching, I decided to experiment with the manual focus feature as well.  I lost a lot of action shots (not too skilled using the focus ring yet), but the standstills were definitely worth the effort.

Of course, the weather worsened before it got better.  A brief r4ainstorm cleared the cloudiness and revealed bright blue skies with great early-morning light.  Even phase-detect needs good light (and some contrast) to do its best work!  The Olympus OM-D EM1iii color engine has to be the best in the business, and the blue skies and deep color proved it.


Autofocus would have struggled interminably and would likely have set focus on the grassy weeds in the foreground, rendering the bird a hopeless blur.

The combination of shorter distances plus manual focus resulted in some fairly good shots.  Before I learned about these lens features, I would bring a different camera outfitted with a shorter-focal-length lens to get closer to my subjects — a real hassle that is simply not necessary any more!


A tree swallow prepares for take-off. The whites are blown, but at least you can tell it’s a bird!

I think my next purchase will be the Olympus 40-150 f2 PRO, perhaps with an extender, but it’s going to have to wait a while.  Not only am I short, round, and opinionated, I’m also poor.  But in the meantime, I plan to improve my technique with the 100-400.

Sterling Nature Center


Roadside daylily in all its glory

It was supposed to be a butterfly hunt, led by SNC Director Jim D’Angelo, but despite all good intentions it was upstaged by The Bullfrog Chorus, which put on quite a show.

I’m surprised I arrived on time, given the distractions presented to me along the Rt 104 drive. . .distractions that were just too beautiful and intriguing to ignore.  But I didn’t dally too long because I didn’t want to miss the butterflies!

It was a lovely day.  Some butterfly views were captured, but only briefly.  A monarch or two were sighted along with a pearl crescent and a lovely tiger swallowtail.

_6180268The star of the butterfly show was certainly the cabbage whites.  However, they didn’t stick around long enough for a good photo. . .but I took some anyway :-)

Still, the hike was fun, and Jim proved to be a knowledgeable and excellent guide, pointing out the flora and fauna we encountered, including the poison ivy and the poison ivy look-alikes.

_7030079Bypassing the rookery (which is very difficult to do!), we were led to the banks of the beaver outlet stream, and we weren’t disappointed.  The bullfrogs were calling, and their songs were delightful.  And some of them were willing to pose for photos!

Thanks, Jim!  Can’t wait til Dragonfly Days arrive!

A few more takes from the butterfly hike:


Horse nettle


Peek-a-boo froggie


Milkweed beetle (ewwww)


Something pretty growing in the woods


“Come to papa!”


The only monarch capture I could get. Content over quality.


Another roadside view on the way to Sterling — looks like the resident eaglets have fledged!

Montezuma Waterfowl Refuge?


Unfortunately, current practices would indicate that this is an appropriate name change for the (former?) Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.  For the past three years each of its marsh pools have been sequentially groomed to promote a plant-based ecosystem to encourage the waterfowl population — ducks, geese, and swans, but primarily ducks.  This strategy, however, has decimated the fish habitat upon which water waders depend; these include such well-known species as herons (green, black-crowned, and great blues) and egrets.  It has forced these and other resident wildlife, including osprey, eagles, and kingfishers, to seek new sources of food elsewhere.  The Wildlife Drive attracts a large number of visitors each year, but at the time of this writing (May 24, 2021) it features only long stretches of mud flats littered with the odoriferous bodies of decomposing fish. 


Once the pool was flooded, this vegetation became duck food. Photo courtesy of×576.jpg

Andrea van Beusichem, Visitor Services Manager at MNWR, explained the pool drainage policy to readers of the Friends of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge Facebook page.  Even though she believes that “[b]iological diversity leads to a healthy ecosystem” she admits that the drainage has a single and restrictive purpose.  “[It exposes the marsh bed] to the warmth needed for plant growth.”   Rather than express concern for the heartless elimination of the fish habitat, Ms. van Beusichem evidently believes that the carnage affects only carp, an unwanted and invasive species.  “[T]he dead carp are being eaten by migratory birds. . .their carcasses are consumed by bald eagles. Carcasses will also by eaten by turkey vulture[s], another migratory bird.”  However, direct observation reveals that this is not the case.  The extensive mud flats that comprise what was once the main pool are littered with dead fish and other water-dwellers.  Even though many photos are posted on Joseph Karpinski’s Facebook site, Birds of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, only two show eagles pecking at dead carp, and there was a single, recently posted 30-second video (now removed) of two turkey vultures circling in the thermals arising over the mud flats.  No significant numbers of vultures or eagles are evident, either in photos or upon observation (at least by this writer), and the carcasses remain largely untouched.  No other photos or videos show any  other predators feasting upon the dead carp.   But there are several photos of great blue herons and egrets ignoring the carrion surrounding them while searching in vain for live food.

Yet Ms. van Beusichem continues to dismiss the fish kill and its consequences.   The droughts, she explains, simply “mimic the natural [weather]  cycle.”  The carp are not subjects of mass slaughter; instead, they are being “managed” by the drainage policies.  Such policies, she states, are necessary to “rejuvenate the marshes” to “allow new plant growth.” And therein lies the problem.  By focusing on a plant-only ecosystem, the fish-eaters lose their food supply.  Carp aren’t the only fish that die when the marshes are “rejuvenated.”  ALL the fish die, as do frogs and other water-dwellers, depriving the waders and hunters of their food source.  True, some will find new fishing grounds, but others will starve to death. 

My question is, why the focus on a plant-based ecosystem to the detriment of a formerly coexistent fish habitat?


Back in the days before drainage.  Photo courtesy of

There are two reasons why this question remains unanswered.  The first (and most obvious) is that Ms. van Beusichem can’t provide an answer.  According to her Facebook page, she is a functional nutritionist, a bootcamp-style coach, and a certified turbo-kick live instructor, but she has no training in biology, ecosystems, or marsh management, even though “anything that has to do with the public at the Refuge, I deal with.”  She is a spokesperson and nothing more. What she says is for public relations purposes only. 

The other, less obvious reason is that she won’t provide an answer, probably because there is a contributing MNWR partner with an intense interest in maintaining the Refuge as a duck-only environment.  This partner, Ducks Unlimited, is self-described as “the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats.”  Their interest and focus are clearly on ducks — not herons, not eagles, and certainly not any other fish-eating species.  They are interested only in ducks and duck habitats.  Period.  

Ducks Unlimited has provided both labor and financing to the Montezuma Wetlands Complex, which includes, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, the approximately 10,000 acres comprising The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge as well as its Visitor Center.  So, while draining the pools at MNWR may disappoint its visitors by polluting Wildlife Drive with noxious odors and offering unlimited views of mud, it is certain to delight the members of Ducks Unlimited, who anticipate lush duck-attracting vegetation come fall.  I have no doubt that these policies, which foster a duck-only habitat, will also foster a long-lasting partnership between Ducks Unlimited and MNWR.


Why is hunting allowed at a refuge? This photo of an MNWR duck kill comes courtesy of

This issue is further complicated by the fact that the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge allows onsite duck hunting.  Hunting as a “recreation” — at a refuge? which is supposed to be a safe place for wildlife? While this practice may be a holdover from a 1930s philosophy, it is important to note that it isn’t 1930 any longer.  Today, in 2021, the US Department of the Interior defines the term “national wildlife refuge” without even mentioning hunting — and for good reason: 

A national wildlife refuge is a designation for certain protected areas that are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These public lands and waters are set aside to conserve America’s wild animals and plants. On top of that, they provide enjoyment and beauty, and they demonstrate shared American values that support protecting and respecting living things.

National refuges, according to this definition (, were established to protect and conserve wildlife, a fact that seems to be lost upon MNWR officials and Ducks Unlimited.  In any event, “protecting and respecting living things” notwithstanding,  Field and Stream (, explains the policy that Ms. van Beusichem fails to address: 

This patchwork of 10,000 federal acres is the first U.S. layover for more than 1 million Atlantic Flyway waterfowl on their fall migration south. Open to duck hunters every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday during the season, Mon­te­zuma requires a reservation, made three days prior to your hunt day.

Ducks-Unlimited-LogoThe dictionary definition of “conserve” is “to protect. . .to keep in a safe and sound state,” and Ducks Unlimited claims to be an organization of “conservationists.” However, they boast that “the majority of its members are hunters,” and they defend duck hunting, which they prefer to call “harvesting,” in unequivocal terms:

Wildlife management, hunting, and habitat conservation in North America are interdependent, and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. strongly supports hunting. The financial contributions of hunters and recreational shooters, through mechanisms such as their hunting licenses and excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition, provide the foundation for conservation funding. . .

I’m not sure how I feel about hunting.  Certainly in times of natural overabundance, a quick death due to a shot in the head is better than a slow, agonizing death due to hunger or disease.  However, I am very sure how I feel about hunting when innocent wildlife, including ducks, are lured to a safe-haven refuge, only to be considered “fair game” to hunters who 1) consider it a “recreation” to shoot them and 2) pay inter alia licensing fees for the privilege.  This is hardly “fair game.”  It is patently unfair, mercenary, and rather disgusting. 

Ms. van Beusichem, though, on behalf of MNWR, remains silent on this issue. 

188844913_913632725848693_4775923309301301946_n-1Instead, she continues to insist that the periodic drainage “replicates nature” and is necessary for the health of the marshes.  The elimination of the fish habitat in favor of providing acres of duck food promotes “biological diversity.” And, of course, she’s already told us that “[b]iological diversity leads to a healthy ecosystem.” It is my opinion that anyone who believes there is “diversity” in a duck-only habitat certainly doesn’t know the meaning of the word.  And if we are to believe her when she assures us that swarms of turkey vultures and eagles will clear up the dead fish component of this “healthy ecosystem,” then we must disbelieve our own eyes.   And noses.  (And what about the absent herons and egrets?)

In fairness,  she does offer us an apology of sorts:

We have to make choices. Based on mandates and missions, those choices use the best science available to create, enhance, protect, and monitor habitat for federally threatened and endangered species (none currently exist on the refuge), migratory fish (none currently exist on the refuge), and migratory birds (about 300 species exist on the refuge).”

What happens to fish-eaters in a plant-based ecosystem. Photo courtesy Kelly’s Critters,

An apology, that is, only until you realize that she just about quotes the BASI mandate of the Migratory Bird Act, which was designed to protect wildlife, not to endorse practices that drive them away through habitat elimination.

But I digress.

So, not only are we asked to disbelieve our eyes, we are to be comforted by the fact that the Refuge uses “the best science available” — not to protect endangered species (none currently exist on the refuge) but instead to create a twice-yearly landing zone for migrating ducks, which are then targeted and killed by any duck hunter with enough money to pay the requisite licensing (and other?) fees and enough smarts to make an advance reservation. 


Too-frequent drainage, natural or otherwise, will encourage growth of shrubs and trees rather than grass. The Knox Marsellus marsh was “restored” in 2006, a joint effort of the Montezuma Complex and Ducks Unlimited. Why am I not surprised?

It always makes me sigh when the destruction caused by human interference is defended by claims of “best science available” and “best interests” of the wildlife.  It also makes me furious when marsh managers overuse standard maintenance practices such as ditching and drainage so that the emergent marsh environment they claim to protect remains predominantly in the vegetative stage — with only brief periods that allow the fish to return before repeating the cycle once more.  In fact, Michigan State University, which studies the state’s Natural Features Inventory, warns against a too-frequent drainage cycle because it “allow[s] shrubs and trees to establish and eventually replace emergent marshes” — which appears to be occurring right now at the Knox-Marcellus marsh, in spite of — but more likely because of — the joint efforts of the Montezuma Complex and Ducks Unlimited.  


A once-common but now rare sight at MNWR. There just isn’t enough water to support more than one or two egrets. . . or herons. . .or eagles. . .or osprey. . . the list of vanishing wildlife is a long one.

Furthermore, the University studies point out that “[e]mergent marshes flood seasonally, especially in the spring.”  Such flooding, they state, provides “. . .spawning grounds for fish.”   Instead of mimicking the natural cycle of springtime flooding, which would encourage a coexistent fish-based ecosystem, the MNWR managers choose instead to do the exact opposite by draining the main pool down to mud flats — which they have been doing annually since 2018.  This prevents the fish from spawning and eventually kills them, which in turn displaces the wildlife dependent upon them for sustenance.  Here in the northeast droughts don’t usually occur annually and are most likely to occur in the early summer.  Waiting until then to replicate the natural cycle of drought would make more sense, but it would not allow enough time for sufficient vegetative growth and subsequent flooding to accommodate the fall duck migration — and its concomittant hunting season.  

Is the Flyway limited to ducks?  It will be if MNWR and Ducks Unlimited have their way. As I write this, the fish-eating portion of the claimed 300 species of migratory birds are fleeing the Refuge, a recognized Flyway pit stop, because their habitat has been eliminated in favor of ducks. 

Maybe they should just rename the refuge, “Montezuma National WATERFOWL Refuge, because that is what it is.  



Ms. Beusichem and companion celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, b.1158995765.-2207520000..&type=3

An update, May 27: The controversy is over, at least on Joseph Karpinski’s Facebook page, Birds of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. He has quelled any further discussion by removing anyone who does not subscribe to the drainage policies (me) espoused by Ms. van Beusichem along with another poster (Alyssa Johnson) who perhaps too vehemently defended Ms. van Beusichem and her public relations statements.  These actions were duly  acknowledged by Ms. van Beusichem, who thanked Mr. Karpinski “for allowing me to explain refuge management to you all”.

alyssa johnson

Alyssa Johnson, who gives tours at the Refuge but does not work there.  Photo courtesy of AudubonCenter/videos/760591197808895

 Well, at least the smell is gone. 

The mud flats now (mid-to-late June) sport a thick covering of grassy vegetation, thanks to the fertilizer provided by mounds of dead fish, and re-flooding the main pool will likely begin in late August, thus producing the desired duck-only environment just in time for their fall migration to the south. 

However, facts remain facts.  This process does not “replicate nature” nor does it promote the biodiversity Ms. van Beusichem claims; instead eliminates diversity by destroying the marsh food web and creating a marsh food chain, thus eliminating the fish-eaters and the food sources upon which they depend. The large water kill they create is not limited to carp and is cruel and tortuous to all fish as well as the other water-resident species.  And for what purpose? — so they can sponsor seasonal duck kills every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and thereby collect a good portion of Federal Duck Stamp dollars.


Of a recent visit to MNWR, Field and Stream writes Twenty mallards swing overhead and commit. Bard and Tietjen take out the lead drake. Minutes later, seven birds zip in, and we kill a drake and a hen.” Drake death courtesy of Mike Bard and Clay Tietjen, photo courtesy Field and Stream.


Mike Bard enjoying “recreational harvesting” of ducks at MNWR. Photo courtesy of Christopher Testani for Field and Stream.

It’s not just ducks.  Geese, including snow geese, as well as land animals (turkey, deer, rabbit, and squirrel) are all considered huntable game at the Refuge. Does the Refuge make money on the kills it allows on its property? Are hunters charged a fee for their permits — beyond, of course, the mandatory yearly purchase of the Federal Duck stamp?  Does MNWR charge a fee-per-pound for every dead animal? 


The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge is free to pursue this agenda, despite the damage it causes.  There is nothing I (or anyone else) can do except speak for the wildlife that cannot speak for themselves. 

Feeding the Waterfowl, An Update

nice-try-but-5caf4cWell, this blog has definitely been seen, because Ms. van Beusichem has now issued a brochure, Draining the Main Pool, Feeding the Waterfowl, which is available without charge at the MNWR Visitor’s Center.

Nice try, but in my opinion it warrants no cigar.  She merely repeats the glib arguments that we have already heard, albeit with a bit more cheerfulness.  

“The Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge,” she states, “was set aside for the protection of migratory birds, especially waterfowl — ducks and geese.” She does not explain why the ducks and geese enjoy favoritism over the other resident (and formerly resident) Refuge wildlife, but she does explain the lengths to which MNWR personnel will go to provide for the special needs of ducks:

Just like you and me, there are certain foods [the ducks] love that are most healthy for them. . .we make every effort to grow the plants that provide the very best food for ducks. These plants need moist soil to germinate and grow and will not come up through the water. Thus, we need to allow our marshes to dry out every so often.

Inside the folded single sheet, there are four views of the main pool, all of which feature water and none of which bear a likeness to the dry green acreage that used to be the main pool. Yet it is here, Ms. van Beusichem states, where “sparrows, sandhill crane[s] and others breed” (did she mean “feed?”  because they don’t breed in the open meadowlands).  She then assures readers that the marsh managers “provide habitat for other wildlife as well, like muskrats, terns, great blue herons and many other species that need water through the summer.” There are no photos to substantiate this claim, other than tiny, grainy, undated insets of the aforementioned animals that were clearly taken in better, wetter days.


As the water slowly drained away, the carnage became obvious, both to the eye and the nose; however, none of this is shown or even mentioned in the brochure.

The brochure, an 8-1/2 x 11″ sheet folded lengthwise, looks like it was prepared on a home printer. It is so grainy I could not get a decent photo of it to reproduce here. In any event, it does nothing to inspire confidence in either Ms. van Beusichem or the marsh management she tries to defend. The language is annoyingly simplistic, and the featured views bear no resemblance to the water-barren meadows that cover what was once the main pool bottom. The muskrats, herons, and “many other species” she claims are provided for no longer reside at the Refuge because there is no water to support their feeding habits and/or lifestyle. No mention is made of the destruction of the fish ecosystem or the death, carnage, odors, and mass exodus of the fish-eaters that resulted from the creation of a duck-only habitat — it’s as if none of that ever happened.

However, in Ms. van Beusichem’s world, it all ends happily ever after for her readers and the ducks, because “Come fall, water will be added to the Main Pool once again so the ducks can get to their feast!”  


But it’s not shooting innocent animals, it’s “harvesting” them. And the US FWS, which oversees national wildlife refuges (including the one at Montezuma) agrees.

After which they will be shot and killed by members of Ducks Unlimited.

Wildlife Dried

This used to be the main pool Tschasche is not much better. It now hosts a family of sandhill cranes, which stays well out of the way of photographers.

Writing on Joseph Karpinksi’s Facebook Page, Birds of Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, MNWR spokesperson Andrea van Beusichem advised visitors that Wildlife Drive will be “challenging” this year. I’m not sure if that is the best way to describe it. . .pathetic is more like it. There just isn’t much to see on the grasslands situated where the marshes used to be.

But hey, at least it doesn’t stink like it did back in May! The decomposed fish carcasses that littered the mud flats have fertilized and fed the lush vegetation that now covers the various dried-up pools, including the large one near the Visitors Center and (for the third year in a row) the main pool.


Juvenile eagle — too young to realize he won’t find fish in the “main pool,” which is now only a shallow transitory puddle.

The fish-eating wildlife have mostly vanished to parts unknown, but a few great blue herons, an eagle or two, and some gulls still remain. They obviously didn’t get the memo. The muskrats, beaver, otters, and snakes who lived both in and out of the water are mostly gone, too. Only the ubiquitous species remain — Canada geese, red-wing blackbirds, mallards, some painted turtles, and house sparrows are easily seen along with a few song sparrows, a rare killdeer, and an even rarer yellowlegs. The celebrated sandhill cranes remain, too, but they roam so far out on what used to be the main pool they are visible only as little-dots-with-necks, even with an 800 mm equivalent lens.

Swan in backlight apr 202020

No water at MNWR? No problem! This beautiful trumpeter found better (wetter) accommodations on the east-side marsh on Rt 89 in South Butler.


However, land animals are starting to make their appearance, especially in the early mornings. Last year when the main pool was just as dry I spotted a coyote emerging from the dried-up ditch that runs along the west side of the Drive. One morning last week I was following a gentleman from Pennsylvania who was staring so intently at the dots-with-necks way across the main-pool meadow that he missed entirely a young doe who was standing right in front of us, checking out our cars.

Actually, I feel bad when I see so many out-of-state cars. I’ve seen people from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey who obviously didn’t get the memo, either. It’s too bad, especially with the price of gas these days, for visitors to travel 7 or 10 hours (one way) only to find that Wildlife Drive has become Wildlife Dried.


A curious young lady, taken through the windshield so as not to scare her away.

Still, I never consider it a waste of time (or gasoline) seeking wildlife to photograph. I am one of the fortunate ones who drive down Route 89 South, where you can find wildlife anywhere from Wolcott to Butler to Savannah to Tyre, none of which depend on MNWR water levels for their sustenance — and are doing quite well because of it.

Some views from the Rt 89 Nature Corridor:


Young buck, Rt 89, Savannah


Uh-oh!  Rt 89, Savannah.


Thank goodness, it was only a warning!


Guarding the nestlings from a nearby flock of pigeons. Rt 89, Tyre


Breakfast, anyone? Rt 89 Savannah


Mr and Mrs Ring-Necked Pheasant looking for breakfast in a soybean field. Rt 89, Savannah

Now some views from the Dried-Up Wildlife Drive:


Just in case they forgot, the refuge is for *wildlife*, not just ducks!


A happy little song sparrow


An itchy great blue. . . either that, or he’s looking for his keys.


Wild onion in bloom


Gotta go!


Harassed by a blackbird. . . no wonder four-and-twenty of them were baked in a pie!


Last year’s coyote


An American avocet enjoying what would prove to be the last significant water level at MNWR (2018). The pools have been drained every year since.

Spot On!


Matrix works well when each zone has enough light to naturally fall into that 18% gray area.


With spot metering, of course.

I never had to bother with it before, but in retrospect I  really should have.

Oh, I know how much the camera meter likes 18% gray, but I didn’t think much of it.  Matrix metering — a/k/a evaluative a/k/a zone metering — is the default setting on most cameras — and for a reason.  It (generally) works.

Olympus cameras are a bit snobbish.  Their matrix metering is called ESP, which stands for electro-selective patterning.  Arrogance aside, I like this name.  In any event, it works about the same as the other-named brands.


From Olympus “Better Exposures with Spot Metering and Flash,” available on YouTube

Matrix metering works by dividing the scene into zones (“patterns” in Olympus-speak).

It evaluates the light in each zone and then calculates what it thinks (if cameras could think, that is) is a proper exposure of the combination of lights and shadows.

It works great! as long as the zones don’t vary too much.


No problem with matrix metering here! (Can you “spot” the leucistic hawk?

And if your subject pretty much fills the frame when you look through the viewfinder, you will absolutely love matrix metering!

So, as long as I could identify my subjects with a reasonable degree of certainty, I guessed I was safe in using matrix metering.

Matrix is fine when your subject fills (or nearly fills) the scene.But what if there are a lot of dark areas in your scene? and a lot of light areas as well?  Averaging these into an overall 18% gray means you are going to lose either the dark shadows or the brighter areas.  Which is why, by the way, you should be checking your histogram, but that’s another story.


By filling the frame with your subject you won’t have to choose how to expose the lights and darks.

In that case you will have to choose, guided by the histogram, which one to sacrifice, the lights or the darks.

Or you could choose center-weighted metering.  The light meter will still evaluate all the zones, but the center zones will be given priority.


Bright sky + dark tree limbs + white blob in the center = Spot metering!

But what if your scene is full of contrasting lights and darks AND a big white blob in the center, which is going to fly away at any second?

That’s where spot metering reigns supreme.

In spot metering you point at a specific area, and the meter evaluates only the area you are pointing at.

And THAT, my friends, is why this delightfully leucistic red-tail hawk looks so delightful.

Two Home Sites for Sale!

IMG_2862Buy one, get one free!  That’s right, folks, you get TWO home sites for the price of one, both with an expansive and expensive waterfront view.

And one already has a home built on it!

But not for long.   Because that already-built home is an active and well-established bald eagle nest. . .and it will not last long once home construction starts within 330′ of it.

In fact, 330′ is the minimum distance buffer zone proposed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and recognized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, because “[b]ald eagles exhibit greater sensitivity to disturbance when activities occur within full view of a bird.” So if the birds can see what’s going on, the distance buffer is doubled to “660′ for most activities.”  (NYS Bald Eagle Protection Plan, 2015, p. 31).

HPA150174owever, home construction is not included in these guidelines for “most activities”

That’s because the NYS Bald Eagle Conservation Plan (2015) recognizes construction of any building a unique circumstance that warrants its own set of guidelines.  Quoting from p. 33 of the Plan, “Construction of new buildings, roads, utilities or other permanent structures is not recommended within ¼ mile, or 1320 feet of an eagle nest, if there is no visual buffer.”


“If a visual buffer exists and the activity/feature is not visible from the nest, such activities should not occur within 660 feet of the nest site.”

What visual buffer?  I don’t see one here on this property.

So, if I understand this correctly, 1320′ is the minimum distance for construction activities that occur within an eagle eye’s view, but it’s reduced to 660′ if it isn’t.

Even so, perhaps the developer could argue that maybe, just this once, this one home can slip through the regulatory cracks without causing much damage.  I don’t think so.  Because, there are other factors to consider.

DSCN4250What do residents of the lakefront do in their spare time — build docks?  Go yachting?  Or maybe go fishing, either from the dock or in an unmotorized boat?  Or simply enjoy the water and the scenery from the dock or from a kayak or canoe?

These activities are innocent enough. . .as long as you do them while maintaining that 660′ distance buffer from your neighboring eagle’s nest.

Which is impossible unless your home is located well outside of that buffer.  And clearly, any home built on this lot would not be.

DSCN4212It is my opinion (and I hope the opinion of the NYS DEC!) that this plot of land should never be approved as a potential home lot, regardless of whether the nest is currently active.  Which it is.

Because if this nest is ever abandoned, it would become a secondary nesting site — and that would require protection.

According to the Plan, “. . .unoccupied or alternate nest sites also need to be protected from long-term disturbance with buffers, and should be considered part of the breeding territory [because] [a]lternate nests are frequently used in subsequent years” (p. 32).

DSCN0825Apparently this developer is fully aware of the protection he must enforce because a protective barrier was dumped here last summer (2019), providing the required 660′ of protection to this eagle nest.

But the rubble has since been removed, and a realtor’s sign has been placed there instead.

Did the NY DEC agree to this?  Did they give the developer the green light to go ahead with plans to build on this lot?  If so, why?  I am awaiting their response to my query.

In the meantime, I don’t understand how, on October 16, 2020 at 8:39 a.m. (which is when I photographed the Keller Williams sign),  a realtor actively sought buyers for a property that featured, along with a lakefront view, an active eagle nest.

I don’t understand how the developer AND the realtor (Cecilia Capezzuto for Keller Williams Realty, 585-924-5541) can do this, either morally, legally, or both.  Maybe their vision is clouded by dollar signs. . .?

Here is where you can read the New York State Bald Eagle Protection Plan for yourself:


You can click links to federal regulations, including the Migratory Bird Act, from here, the US Fish & Wildlife Service:

The Migratory Bird Act also applies to protection of eagle nest sites, except for a brief period where it was “Trumped” in favor of big business.  Thankfully, the courts overturned that suspension — and not a moment too soon.  One observer wrote, “Had the Trump administration’s policy been in place at the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, for example, British Petroleum would have avoided paying more than $100 million in fines to support wetland and migratory bird conservation to compensate for more than a million birds the accident was estimated to have killed.”  But here, read the opinion for yourself:

UpdateGood news from the NYS DEC!

Correspondence with “Jenny” at the Avon office of the NYS DEC tells a little more of the story.

In addition to the Migratory Bird Act, the Lacey Act, and NY State’s own Plan, there are several state DEC regulations that serve to monitor and protect endangered species, including eagles.  Obviously, the DEC cannot prevent or regulate the sale of property, including property that host endangered species, “but any development of those lots would likely require permits from NYSDEC, including a Part 182 jurisdictional determination.”  Part 182 permits are not handed out lightly; the process is rigorous and the requirements stringent.  In fact, Jenny reports that she recalls only two such permits being issued by the state of NY, “both of which involved projects with a public benefit (wastewater treatment for example) rather than just a private or commercial project.”  Clearly, if this landowner (or future ones) apply for a permit to build upon this property, “the applicant would have to develop and implement a plan that demonstrates that eagles. . .are better off for them having implemented their project.”

So, it looks like it’s two home lots but only one home that will occupy this property.  What a relief!


Many thanks to Jenny for her detailed attention to this issue!  I’m glad that people like her work to protect the eagles and other wildlife in Wayne County, NY.


Three babies were raised in this nest during the 2019 breeding season.  Let’s hope they (or another pair) will raise three more in 2020!

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