Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ocean County 1/3--Snow Goose, Great Egret, Sharp-shinned Hawk

The trouble with chasing geese in late December is that when the calendar turns over to January, you have to start all over again. The Snow Goose I had on December 31, my last Ocean County bird, doesn't do me any good in January.

I didn't expect to get any birds today. The day started out cold and rain was predicted, but simultaneously I received a text regarding the Ross's Goose on Marshall's Pond just as I had decided it warm enough to go out. My original hope was to go over to the pond not only for the rare white goose but also to get another look at one of the Cackling Geese that are still there--my look on the first was in fading light and I'd like to get better with i.d. skills on that species. Unfortunately, despite 5 people looking intently at 300 geese, none were good candidates. However, my first Sharp-shinned Hawk of the year was a fly-over just as I was getting out of the car.

There was a report of a Pink-footed Goose up in Point Pleasant. That would be a nice one to get in the county, especially since the other pink-footeds are up in Monmouth and Mercer Counties. We were all a little dubious about the source of the report but then a confirming text came in so a few of us abandoned the search for the cackler and took the long drive up Route 35 to Point Pleasant. And didn't find it. Found nothing on the lake except for some Hooded Mergansers, a lone hen Bufflehead and a flock of gulls I didn't bother to look at. It had also started to rain.

If the goose wasn't on that lake we speculated that it may have flown south to Lake of the Lilies, about a 5 minute drive away. Or, really, we'd rather it be there than in one of the more likely ponds along the north shore in Monmouth. A drive around the lake, which is usually crammed with geese & ducks, turned up only small numbers of both and nothing in the rare category. However, I did add the Great Egret that Shari & I saw there in December.

By now the rain was steady and I was thinking just how much fun birding was. I drove on home, stopping at the pond on Schoolhouse to see if the last year's Snow Goose had reappeared. Of course, it hadn't.

Around 3 PM, Shari, who is on Facebook (I'm one of the few on the planet who doesn't understand what Facebook is about) said that a Snow Goose had been reported on our local lake, about a 10 minute drive away. So despite the downpour, we drove over there. I stood in the rain, started on the left and when I got to the middle of about 47 geese, there was the immature Snow Goose I had seen on Wednesday. I may be the only one who thinks Snow Geese are hard to find in the county; they may not be but I was still happy to tick it on the list.

Considering I had no expectations for the day (I don't really have any for the week, considering the forecast of both rain and then frigid weather) I'm pleased with my 22 species, including the great looking Cooper's Hawk that landed in our backyard oak, giving the stink eye to an either very stupid or very brave squirrel.

Locations birded: 35 Sunset, Crestwood Village, Harry Wright Lake, Lake of the Lilies, Little Silver Lake, Marshall's Pond, Toms River

Snow Goose     1
Ross's Goose     1
Canada Goose     372
Mute Swan     2
Gadwall     5
American Wigeon     1
Mallard     56
Bufflehead     1
Hooded Merganser     20
Pied-billed Grebe     1
Great Blue Heron     1
Great Egret     1
Turkey Vulture     5
Sharp-shinned Hawk     1
Cooper's Hawk     1
American Coot     6
Ring-billed Gull     60
Herring Gull     20
Great Black-backed Gull     5
Rock Pigeon     2
Blue Jay     1
American Robin     20
Ross's Goose among the Canada Geese

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