Sunday, January 3, 2016

Barnegat CBC 1/3--Eastern Screech Owl, Long-eared Owl, Eastern Towhee, Purple Finch

Purple Finches, Beach Avenue
Today, I participated in the Barnegat Christmas Bird Count, birding around Manahawkin and Stafford Township with Mike & Pete. Pete's been doing this territory for about 40 years, so practically every tree and puddle had a story of a great bird that he had seen there on a previous count.

Well before dawn we checked in the with the count's compiler, Rick Radis at a diner on Rt. 72. He told us that he had heard a Long-eared Owl on Stafford Avenue, which is part of our territory. Getting back into the car I said to Mike that I didn't even know what a Long-eared sounded like--I've only seen them. Mike wasn't sure what their call was but Pete, of course, did know--it's a "barking" sound.

Soon after, about a half hour before dawn, we were at the end of Beach Avenue in the woods, just before it opens up to marsh. Pete was whinnying, trying to call in an Eastern Screech Owl. He wasn't having much luck, and while he paused for a minute, I heard, behind us, a distinct little bark. I heard it again. Pete heard it. It was a Long-ear, my first for the county (and the Bird of the Day). We moved over to the marsh end of the road, hoping to find the Sedge Wren that is often there but wasn't today. However, while we were listening for the wren, the Screech Owl finally responded.

Killdeer, Manahawkin Lake
Sun up found us on Stafford Avenue on the way to the Bridge to Nowhere. We started to pick up the expected birds, but on January 3 a lot of them are year birds so just a bit more exciting that they'd usually be. We moved around the area, finding waxwings here, cowbirds there and so forth. The most notable birds, I thought, were 5 Purple Finches on our 2nd trip along Beach Avenue, 3 Killdeer in the parking lot of Manahawkin Lake, and 6 Eastern Towhees at the start of a road that leads to an abandoned quarry. Towhees are considered "rare" this time of year in the Ocean County, so to find a little flock of them is impressive.

I added 20 species to my year list and for the day we totaled 57 species, pretty good for a winter's day. Mike's tally sheets below:

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