Monday, January 4, 2016

Holgate 1/4--Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl
Holgate, on Long Beach Island, might be my least favorite spot to bird. I  hate driving there--8 long miles south on LBI's main drag and then it's all sand for 3 1/2 miles. Wind chills in the teens today didn't add anything to my trek, but I was determined to find the Snowy Owl that has been there since around Christmas. The last reports had the owl at around Marker 14. I don't know what these markers measure, but when I saw, after walking for 1/2 an hour that I was at Marker 3, I thought, "O boy, I'm in trouble."

I've walked the length of the Holgate, but in the fall when the temperatures are mild and there's a lot to see in terms of shorebirds and terns. Today, once I got past the entrance which had a few ducks and gulls plus a nice gannet show, it was a desert. I trudged on, half thinking I was a dope, half admiring my determination. So basically, I was a determined dope. If nothing else, I told myself, it's good exercise.

I saw another guy in walking in front of me but what his purpose was I didn't know. I thought I was catching up with him until I realized he was walking back toward me. "Yeah," he said as we approached each other, "we're crazy." He had a good camera and binoculars. "Is the owl up ahead?" I asked. He confirmed that it was. How far? "You see that Jeep?" No. "Well, it's up by that Jeep." I found the Jeep, a tiny block of color in the dunes and walked toward it. Distance is hard to judge on the beach, but it didn't look like it was as far down as Marker 14 would be and it wasn't. I was walking pretty fast on the hard sand to but to get up where the Jeep was parked I had to walk through the deep soft sand. It was worth the effort, because as I crested the hill I immediately saw a white blob on a little mound and scoping it confirmed I had the owl. It is a gorgeous male, almost pure white without the black markings of females or younger birds. I stopped and talked and to the guys in the Jeep who were admiring the bird. They said I was lucky, because usually the bird is much farther south on the beach. After 15 or 20 minutes, I turned around and walked about a mile and half back to the entrance.

Snowy Owl is definitely one for the "Happy List" and is also, obviously, the Bird of the Day.

Before I left the island I stopped off at 24th street on the bay side and there, as there as they often are, were 6 Common Goldeneyes, another good county bird.

A bonus for the day was I added another Wawa I'd never noticed in Beach Haven to my photo collection.

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