Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Behind the Costco in Stafford 2/22--Horned Lark

There's is section of Stafford Township off Route 72 that has interested me for a while, if no other reason than the turn-off from the highway is named Recovery Road which sounds like the way to a sanitarium. On Google Maps it is just a big blank spot behind the Costco in Stafford Mall. A lot of eBird lists have it named Stafford Preserve, but the only thing I could see preserved there is sand and clay, weeds and scrub. I turned off Recovery onto Cook and instead of a sanitarium, I found various Ocean County facilities like maintenance garages, dumpsters, and a recycling transfer station. I did notice that a condo development there is named Stafford Preserve. Maybe they have plans.

I saw a dirt road that looked like it went to an empty area so I drove up and saw that it lead into the condo development, where the road became paved again. I parked where the sidewalk ended in the sand and headed into the field pictured at left.

Believe it or not, the habitat looked good for the bird I was hoping to find. And soon I found one--a Horned Lark perched on the top of a huge sand pile. A few were peeping and flying overhead and eventually, once I was close enough to the sandy hill, I got an excellent look at one.  Horned Larks gravitate to the most degraded, barren areas they can find and this spot certainly qualified. I don't know what the zoning for this blank area on the map is--it looks like the development might expand, or yet another shopping center could be put there, hard by the parkway as it is, but right now it is an excellent spot to find these birds, which are difficult to come by in the county. I suppose birds that associate with larks, like Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs could also turn up there, but I'll let others investigate the area for them. I like out of the way places, but this place was just ugly.

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