Local Photographers Capture Birds' Returning to Onondaga Lake

Original story by WAER 88.3

The latest exhibit of photos taken by local photographers of a diverse range of birds returning to Onondaga Lake is coming up this weekend. The photos were taken in recently restored and enhanced areas along the lake shoreline.

Photographer Greg Craybas of Camillus started snapping photos six years ago after he noticed bald eagles on the commute to his dental practice on University Hill.

Photos that are part of the "Images of a Restored Habitat" exhibit that are displayed at the Visitor's Center.

"Driving back and forth to work you look to the left and you see that there is a lot of activity. It was an invite that I took advantage of and got down to the lake. That’s where everything started."

Craybas says it takes plenty of time and patience to get just the right photo.  Then there’s just plain luck.

"You come down and spend time on the lake. You’re surprised that something pops up right in front of you, and you’ve got to be ready. There are plenty of days when you come to the lake and you’re photographing and you come up and you don’t have anything. But you still come back."

Greg Craybas captures an eagle staring at him on Onondaga Lake shoreline.

And he has.  This year, the milder winter has made it a bit more of a challenge to capture the eagle. Craybas says colder winters make them more active.  But, luck was on his side as he ventured into a newly restored area and spotted one in a tree.

"You’re now looking at an eagle and an eagle is looking back at you and staring at you," said Craybas. "It’s a pretty intimate, up close, personal moment where it’s just you and the bird. To have the national symbol of the country to be able to look at you, and you’re in Syracuse, New York, it’s pretty inspiring."

Chris Lajewski is center director at the Montezuma Audubon center and points to the restorations as the reason for the increase in the bird population.

"Because over 70 acre of wetlands and shorelines have been restored, these wonderful birds are starting to come back to these habitats," said Lajewski. "Over 80 species of bird are using these restored areas. Many of them are threatened with extinction still in New York State. So species that were not found here 40 or 50 years ago are now finding a home here."

He says that includes birds of prey from eagles and falcons to red tailed hawks and the northern harrier who are now seen along shorelines and in the lake’s surrounding wetlands. 

The photo exhibit runs Saturday from 9 to 4 and Sunday from 1 to 4 at the Honeywell visitors center off I-690 in Geddes.