Sunday, January 29, 2017

Holgate 1/25--Snowy Owl

I did a Blanche DuBois this morning at Holgate, relying on the kindness of  a stranger. After 2 1/2 days of rain, I was ready for a good walk and at the suggestion of Mr. Robert Auster, I decided to walk the beach at the southern end of LBI. I figured there were a few new birds I could possibly get and there was always the possibility, as Bob pointed out, of a rarity.

The weather, for winter, was decent, in the 40's with only a breeze instead of a wind. I  wasn't long into my trudge through the sand when I stopped to scope the bay side. A great raft of Brant was floating out there and on the mud flats, along with the various gull species, I spotted my first year bird, Black-bellied Plover. It seems pretty late to finally get that one, but I'll take it.

I walked the beach, zig-zagging to scope now the beach and ocean, now the bay. I saw a huge flock of Dunlin and a little flock Long-tailed Ducks, but nothing I was hoping for (e.g. oystercatcher, White-winged Scoter, Lesser Black-backed Gull) was showing up.

I had walked a little over a mile when I saw a black pick-up truck approaching from the south. Since Holgate is so long (3.4 miles according to my latest information) I sometimes find myself wishing I could drive the beach, though that would obviate the exercise I also want. Usually the trucks give me a wide berth, but this one crossed a little rivulet and drove right up to me. Guys in pick-up trucks are usually not going to have anything interesting to tell me, but here, here was the exception. "There's a Snowy Owl down at the tip," he told me.

"That figures," I said. I didn't think I was going to walk another 2 1/2 miles to possibly see an owl and then walk all the way back, probably in a disgruntled state.

But then he said, "I'll drive you down there, if you want." Don't tell my mother, but I got into a truck with a stranger without even thinking about it. What would have taken me about an hour to walk he drove in 10 minutes, plus he knew exactly where to look. He positioned the truck just close enough for me to get some decent photos while not spooking the owl.

I knew an owl had been found on Holgate about two weeks ago, though the poster (a birder I know) delayed his post. This was the rarity Bob was alluding to. I also delayed my post to eBird, as I did this entry, and cropped the photo above so that the obvious landmark is not shown. I don't want the responsibility of an army of photographers crawling on their bellies to closer, closer, closer to the owl. If they can't see its pupik, they're not happy.

He drove me back about 1/2 way up the beach and I walked the rest of the way. I found a few more ducks and some loons, but nothing out of the ordinary. And I have exploded theory, held by a birding friend of mine, that black pick-up trucks are essentially evil. Meanwhile, my "eagle/pick-up truck" law still holds, since it states "if a guy in a pick-up truck asks you if you've seen any good birds..." while this driver told me about a great bird. And delivered me to it.
14 species
Brant  1000
Canada Goose  30
American Black Duck  15
Long-tailed Duck  20
Bufflehead  4
Common Loon  12
Black-bellied Plover  2
Sanderling  20
Dunlin  800
Ring-billed Gull  5
Herring Gull  500
Great Black-backed Gull  75

Snowy Owl  1
Boat-tailed Grackle  5

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