Friday, November 28, 2008

Seeking White on Black Friday

It is now clear to me that I will never see a Snowy Owl. Until recently, I assumed that Snowy Owls were only found waaaaay up north in the Arctic and that it would be a reeeeaaallly long trip and we would neeevvveeer spend that kind of money to see an owl. Then came the Internet. Postings, reports and photos abound on the Internet about Snowy Owls in New Jersey, New York, and even Delaware. In the past, I would see the posting long after the Owl had left the area and be mad that I didn't check the web sooner. Last year, Connie and I read that there was one at Forsythe so we drove down to see it but didn't see anything. And this week, I tracked the Internet postings of a Snowy Owl at Liberty State Park. It was seen as recently as Wednesday. I figured that the omission of Thursday was due to Thanksgiving.

As of Thursday night, I couldn't decide whether to risk another let down or go chasing the bird. I didn't decide to actually go until 6:30 AM. Maybe that was too late. I got the Google directions, the "gear" and the dogs (yes, I still have Sammy) and headed up the NJ Turnpike to Liberty State Park. I arrived at 8:30 and found no other birders. No scopes of other birders pointed out at the wharf. Nothing but fisherman launching their boats in search of Striped Bass.

I did see the Statue of Liberty from the ferry dock. And, I did find a park ranger. I asked him if he knew anything about where the Snowy Owl was. "What?" "Snowy Owl, you know hoot-hoot." Yes, I said "hoot-hoot". He said that he hadn't heard any hooting. OK. I headed back to the boat launch. I barely parked the car when the ranger pulled up beside me. "There used to be a white owl. Is that what your looking for?" Let's see. . . Snowy Owl, white owl . . . He went on to tell me that he got real close to one - 3 years ago. Thanks for nothing. ( I think it was sweet that he tracked me down to help but the sarcasm sounds better in a blog)

I took the opportunity to explore the north Jersey area and decided to check out Sandy Hook. Another thing that I learned about on the Internet. I have been reading the Rare Bird Alerts for years and read alot about Sandy Hook. Now, thanks to eBird's rare sighting connection to, it's even easier to find birds in any state that are deemed "rare" either because they shouldn't be there at all, or not at this time of year. That's how I found the Snowy Owl this time. That's how I knew that it was at Liberty State Park near the boat launch. Lapland Longspurs were reported at Sandy Hook. That's why I decided to check it out today since I was already in north Jersey.

Sandy Hook must get mobbed in summer, but it was pretty empty today. I met another birder, Ken who helped me get the lay of the land out at the end of the hook. Ken grew up around Sandy Hook but lives in New Hampshire now. He was searching for an Orange Crowned Warbler in the brush. I took the dogs and headed for the beach. Ken told me that I had a good chance at Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and the Longspurs. I did see a pretty good swirling flock of little birds. They came pretty close and I could tell be the black and white wing patterns on some of the birds that they were definitely Snow Buntings. That was worth the drive. I also saw plenty of Yellow Rumped Warblers and Horned Larks. Seems like I can't get enough Horned Larks this year.

I stopped at another beach parking lot on the way out and got good looks at Surf Scoters close to shore in the rough surf. One adult male with his big white and orange schnoz and white patch behind the head, and about 8 immature male and females. It was too windy for the camera, so no photos today.

It was alot of driving, but I got gas for $1.69/gallon. I cannot remember the last time that happened.

Oh, did I mention that I ended up down the Parkway at Forsythe again? Third time.

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