There’s a bit of a debate underway on our local birding discussion list about Snowy Owls. Some say we’re experiencing an irruption year, while others maintain that this year is really nothing out of the ordinary.
At this writing, there have been seven Snowy Owls reported in New Jersey over the past 2-3 weeks. That’s right – seven!
Above are my not-too-great photos of the two most persistent owls at Sandy Hook. I’ve been birding for several years now – over 10 years actively and with these two birds I have doubled my number of Snowy Owls. Amazing.
After tracking down both the owls, I decided to try for another rare winter visitor – Lapland Longspur. Lapland Longspurs will occasionally show up in very small numbers and are most often found associated with flocks of Snow Bunting. A large flock of Snow Bunting was hanging out in these dunes yesterday and, from time to time, they would briefly fly from one location to the next. It took over 90 minutes of watching and waiting before the flock stayed airborne long enough to spot not one, but two, Lapland Longspurs.
I spent the remainder of the day hiking along the beaches, watching flocks of gulls and ducks loafing and feeding in the waves. It was a cold, brisk day near the water but there were still a few fishermen trolling the waters near the beach.
With the addition of Snowy Owl and Lapland Longspur, My New Jersey Big Year count now stands at 309 species with a month to go!
Until next time, Good Birding!