Have you ever watched Sanderlings feeding along a wave line? A wave comes in – they scurry up the beach. Wave goes out – they chase it down, grabbing tidbits of food along the way. And like this group of Sanderling I photographed yesterday, I am always a little amused as I watch them run up and down the beach.
Yesterday was an amazing, and nostalgic, day of birding. Some time ago I decided to finish My New Jersey Big Year the same way I started, with a North Shore birding run. Back on January 1st, 365 days ago, I started my big year alone in a cold parking lot in Belmar, New Jersey. As I watched the sun rise above the frozen horizon, I had little idea what the new year would bring. The havoc of Superstorm Sandy had left some of the best birding locations in New Jersey, like Sandy Hook, inaccessible and off-limits to everyone and had damaged others beyond repair.
Due to the heroic efforts of the park service and dozens of volunteers, Sandy Hook re-opened in May. So yesterday, my Grandson and I began the last day of my big year at Sandy Hook’s North Beach. And in this photo my Grandson is scoping out an amazing life bird (the first of two he would see before the day was complete).
Yep, my Grandson got his life Snowy Owl yesterday! And we managed to spot another Owl sitting on the beach about an hour after we saw this one. New Jersey, along with much of the east coast, is experiencing a Snowy Owl irruption and there may be as many as 20 of these magnificent birds hanging out around the state.
After birding several places in Sandy Hook, we continued along the North Shore route until we reached that cold parking lot in Belmar where my great adventure had begun a year earlier. After checking out numerous gulls, geese, swans, and ducks, we headed home and toasted our success with a cup of hot chocolate.
I didn’t add any new birds yesterday and finished the year with a respectable total of 310 species or, as eBird puts it, about 84.24% of the 368 species reported in New Jersey during 2013. While I had some big misses this year, I really cannot be happier about my total. I set a goal to see as many birds as possible and hoped that I would break the 300 species level. To the best of my ability and within the time I was able to spare for birding this year, I accomplished my goal.
I plan to spend the next couple days reflecting on My New Jersey Big Year and putting together some final thoughts.
Until next time, I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year and, of course, Good Birding!!