Sunday, April 05, 2009

A Mighty Wind

Holy crud was it windy yesterday! I led a "Birding for Beginners" walk at Sandy Hook that I was lucky to have 6 brave souls show up for. Now, on a regular day, Sandy Hook is more windy than most places since it's jammed between a bay and the ocean with nothing to really block the wind. But yesterday was different. It was REALLY windy on the mainland and INSANELY windy at Sandy Hook with gusts up around 60 mph by some estimates. Wind + birds + beginners does not a good day make.

Incredibly, it turned out to be not half bad. In the early morning, hundreds of birds were overhead presumably trying to make landfall after being blown to sea. Most were Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, and Brown-headed Cowbirds. Zipping by our group, aided by the wind, it was difficult to get good looks, but it was quite the spectacle. These birds were joined by the star of the day - dozens of American Kestrels were migrating through. Every time I looked up I saw one. Again, it was tough for the group to get on them, but neat to see. The group did get to enjoy several Ospreys, a "Gray Ghost" Harrier, Turkey Vultures, an American Oystercatcher, and some Great Egrets. A few groups of Northern Gannets strayed into the bay and were quite close to shore. It was worth standing with the wind in our faces for a few moments to observe them. I was hoping one would dive, but no luck! We sought some shelter in a wooded area, but the birds didn't cooperate. Only a few robins and crows were around. I did get to spend a lot of time talking about birds and conservation, so that was nice.

Our group also included two kids - 9 and 7. They were enthusiastic and asked lots of questions. They almost got blown away a few times though. All in all it turned out to be an ok day despite the uncooperative weather.

Sorry, no pics today. It was too darn exhausting in the wind to lug around my camera AND my scope.

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