Sunday, March 8, 2015

Sandy Hook 3/8--Horned Lark

North Beach, Sandy Hook
The target bird today was Vesper Sparrow, a bird with an eye ring like a whitewall tire and which has been hanging around B lot for what seems like all winter. It was there today, but not during the two times Shari & I spent looking for it. We saw lots of Song Sparrows, flying from the dunes across the bike path to the little weedy patch but none came close to VESP. Brief excitement when I spotted a Savannah Sparrow.

We hunted for about an hour before giving up and came back later, sitting in the car & scanning through the windshield because I was little too optimistic that winter was on the wane--it was very windy--which got me to thinking that detective and spies, would probably make good birders because they're used to sitting around during stakeouts waiting for one thing to happen, something that I don't have the patience for. At least today there were other birds to look at.

We ran into a birder we know who was also unsuccessful finding the bird (even more unsuccessful than we were, this was his 3rd try of the day and he'd missed it on previous days) who gave us a tip about K lot so we drove up there and got our consolation specie--a fairly large flock of Horned Larks feeding in the muddy field.
 But look at that bird in the upper left. Here it is blown up about 2X and cleaned up a little:
It wasn't until we got home and I looked at the picture on the computer that I noticed there was a Snow Bunting in with the larks. Snow Bunting this time of year is considered rare. "Considered" is the operative word there. It does, though, raise an epistemological question.

I know that I saw the bird because I counted the flock. But if you see a bird and don't know that you've seen the bird until after you get home and see photographic proof of your sighting have you actually seen the bird?  I know there's a style of birding of shoot (photograph) first and then figure out what you've shot later but that is a little too retrospective for me. I want to know what I see when I see it. I'll give myself a pass on this one, though I shouldn't have been too lazy to set up the scope to get a better look at all the birds. It was the wind, as always, that discouraged more thorough inspection.

Our little list for the day. (Shari saw a cardinal fly across the road in addition to our 16 species.)
Canada Goose  100
Surf Scoter  10
Black Scoter  500
Long-tailed Duck  50
Red-breasted Merganser  10
Turkey Vulture  1
Killdeer  2
Herring Gull  100
Rock Pigeon  1
American Crow  3
Horned Lark  24     
American Robin  100
Northern Mockingbird  3
Snow Bunting  1     
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  20

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