Tuesday, December 03, 2013
From the Tropics to the Tundra
Tons of Snowy Owls popping up all over the tri-state area. They are definitely one thing I would miss about winters in the US. I spent the day walking Island Beach State Park and was rewarded with three Snowys. One was pretty shy and would only allow 200 yards, but the other two were very cooperative to 100 yards. From what I can tell they were working their way down the beach towards Barnegat, hunting along the shoreline. The birds made several forays onto the beach to scare up either a gull or peep. Nearby was this decapitated loon with the breast cut out. Scanning around I found the remains of this waterbird arm, and this tail from a yellow shafted flicker. I also found quite a few Snowy Owl tracks! But why would these birds be hunting birds along the shore and not all the rodents around? Just inland I realized why. Island Park has a lot of foxes so far less rodents around. This is also the reason they crossed the inlet to Barnegat, no foxes over there. As they worked their way down the beach I set up in front of one hoping it would cross in front of me. I just sat in the sand and waited. The key is to not space off while you are waiting but the bird needs to feel comfortable with you there. So sometimes you just sit and sit, in this case almost 1 hour. The best tell is the body language of the bird will change before she flys off. In this sequence, she went from dozing till suddenly a bird on the beach catches her eye and she locks on. Just before it flew off, its head bobbed and it stood up. From there it was a 1/2 second till this. Just a very special day under special circumstances. If you go, please dont get to within 100 yards and also respect the dunes. On the way out, I collected about 20 lbs of plastic garbage.