When one intends to embark on a Big Day, one brings along their own cinematographer, no? If you haven’t tried this I highly recommend it. Mind you, it wasn’t my intent. That would have been very pretentious.
I was embarking on New Year’s Big Day 2014 with a friend from grad school. When I arrived at her house to pick her up, she asked if I would mind if a friend of hers tagged along who studies cinematography and was interested in filming the day. So three of us embarked for Sandy Hook. Between the late start and one of the party needing to catch a flight, we had a very small window.
Upon arrival, we headed out to the tip, to North Beach, which we frequently don’t get to bird much there is usually little time left by the time we arrive. But ebird suggested that was the place to be with reports of good winter birds.
Our official first bird of the year was the Long-tailed Duck. We crested the dune and right in front of us, close to shore swam a fine looking male.
It was quickly followed by a Northern Gannet, the three gulls (Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed). Watching the Long-tailed Duck swim south, we scanned and quickly came across a Red-throated Loon.
What a start to the year!
I was lying on the sand, working on capturing the loon and the duck, when a sanderling flew past twice, then landed and ran past.
As we moseyed down the beach, we realized we were being trailed by at least 100 people. A very bizarre moment. Like a tour bus spilling its occupants out at Times Square. Then it happened.
We were walking north and I spotted a white spec in the brush on the horizon. Could it possibly be? So snug and smug! Not a sentient plastic bag, but a Snowy Owl!
I managed these three images from a safe distance. As we stood there watching, other people quickly became aware of our find. Unfortunately not everyone was as cautious as we were, and the owl spooked. Our remaining looks weren’t nearly as good, but we saw a Snowy Owl!
We didn’t have much time remaining, so we made our way to the bayside where we picked up a flock of 20 House Finches and a number of ducks including Horned Grebe, Pied-billed Grebe, and a Red-breasted Merganser in flight.
So that was the first day of 2014 down. Not too many birds, but enough to whet our appetites. However our cinematographer found birding suitably intriguing, spent the drive back reading the field guide, and is hoping to return in the spring for round two.
I probably won’t get a chance to bird again until late January, at least not here!