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Let's get this out of the way: The title of this post is not a reference to any large white owls that we found. It's a reference to the winter wonderland that was the 34th Sandy Hook Christmas Bird Count. About 3 inches of snow fell Friday in this part of NJ, followed by freezing rain. This made the roads at Sandy Hook equivalent to the ice at Madison Square Garden and the beach and dunes look like an arctic wasteland. As usual, our area was the "north end" of Sandy Hook which includes the infamous "death march" - a 3/4 mile walk out to the Sandy Hook's northern tip looking towards New York. Did I mention it's probably the windiest spot on Sandy Hook too? As my buddy Mike put it, it's like we've been banished to Siberia. You can see our area in the map above.
The wintery conditions turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The frozen sand made traipsing up and down the dunes much easier than walking on the usual soft sand. Unfortunately, the birds were smarter than us. Birds were scarce, but the ones we found were terrific. Highlights form our group included:
- A Common Moorhen that's been around throughout the fall - a count first!
- The only Ruby-crowned Kinglets of the whole count
- The only Orange-crowned Warbler
- The only American Coots
- A young Red-shouldered Hawk - a nice winter bird at Sandy Hook that was also seen by another group
- 100's of Long-tailed Ducks - a ferry drove by in the distance and sheets of Long-tailed Ducks leapt off the water to escape it
PS - in case you're wondering, I didn't bring my camera because the weather report called for icy rain. I brought a small point-and-click, but forgot the memory card. D'OH!