Today I led a beginner birder walk at Sandy Hook for NJ Audubon. We had the largest group yet for one of these walks. I had recruited some family members to join the walk along with some friends including our wedding photographer and the Owlman himself. Word spread and other people who I didn't know signed up for the trip. We ended up with almost 20 people, including 2 kids which is always great.
The weather started out horrible with strong cold winds off the ocean and a lot of fog. I tried to lead the group on one path but the wind was too much. The fog began to lift and we headed over to Spermaceti Cove - a boardwalk that juts into the bay. We got great views of an Osprey nest, a male Red-breasted Merganser, a ton of Double-crested Cormorants, and a few Brant. Two distant American Oystercatchers, always a cool bird to see, were enjoyed as well.
The wind was still pretty strong, so I decided to seek shelter in a more wooded area. We headed north to bird the Raccoon Alley area for song birds. This bike path and road through a stretch of hollies, cedars, and hackberries is great for songbirds.
The highlight of the day came when I gathered the group in front of a large expanse of short trees and shrubs. I told them that there was a marsh behind this area and that I was going to attempt to call a Barred Owl even though I found it embarrassing doing an owl call. I pulled out my best "Who cooks for you?" call. A few calls into the howling wind did nothing. The wind calmed for a second and I gave another call. Sure enough, a Barred Owl called back. Now, THAT was what I call a real crowd-pleaser.
Bird-wise, Raccoon Alley held little variety buy quite a few birds. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-rumped Warblers frustrated my new birder friends with their usual behavior. A singing Blue-headed Vireo made a brief appearance. More sedentary birds like Downy Woodpecker and Cedar Waxwings showed their stuff too.
Our last stop was the north end of Sandy Hook and the hawk watch platform. Due to the weather, which had improved a bit by now, there was no hawk counter on duty. From the platform, we saw a few American Kestrels in the far distant sand dunes. We also found a Brown Thrasher singing his head off in a shrub and a few Brown-headed Cowbirds. We ended the trip with a few Sharp-shinned Hawks flying over some of Sandy Hooks old buildings.
Thanks so much to all who attended today! My next beginner walk is June 22. Full trip species list is below.
From 4/20/2008 to 4/20/2008 ~ All Places ~ 47 seen
American Herring Gull
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Species seen - 47