On New Year’s Day after all the birders’ lists reset in a moment much like Anti-Christmas (instead of getting everything on your list, you lose it!), Tara and I returned to Sandy Hook hoping to repeat last year’s successes. It was just the two of us: the other six people intending to come along didn’t make it for various reasons.
This year we did not have our own videophotographer, nor did we have a repeat of 2014 success. I say that, then I fact check it and I’m off. In 2014, we had 22 species (+2 other taxa) whereas this year we had a grand total of….. 36! Another year under our belts and a scope makes a world of difference.
I believe the first bird of the year was a Sanderling. It may also currently be the most photographed bird of the winter. I was continuing to play with the borrowed Nikon 3200 and the rented Sigma 500mm.
A second day with the camera saw improvement. This time I had a sense of where the camera wanted to focus. Generally not where I wanted it to! We’re continuing to work through our differences.
It was a very small outing and a very cold day. We typically start off at Lot B and scan the shore and ocean. Well, Tara scans and I take photos of Sanderlings. Lots of Sandering photos.
Then we head over to the bay side where we discovered pretty much the same species as we did four days earlier. I chased sparrows while Tara scoped out the ducks. Sparrows were camera shy, but a disgruntled Greater Scaup put up with a few photos (and a misidentification!).
Next we headed to the forest interior. I was searching for owls while Tara was searching for everything else. (We typically use the divide and conquer method.) There were reports of a Northern Saw-whet Owl, but we dipped.
However, we did find some other species. We heard the Cedar Waxwings before we could locate them. Eventually they moved into the trees directly above us and I attempted to photograph at an 80 degree angle. It was challenging. My arm was trembling from fatigue! It’s challenging to hold up a 5 pound lens. So I decided to lay down on the cold, paved ground and shoot from my back. It’s more effective than shooting from the hip when using a camera.
Along the path that follows the road we discovered a few Northern Cardinals, a sprinkling of White-throated Sparrows, and a devoted Downy Woodpecker. In the photo, note the nictitating membrane covering the eye, protecting it from bits of flying wood.
We scanned Horse-shoe Bay picking up Common Goldeneye and a Greater Scaup somewhere along the way before heading out to the North Shore. We opted to walk all the way out to the shoreline. By this time I was carrying all the gear (scope and the camera!) through very loose sand. What a workout. Warmest part of the day. We got there to see there wasn’t much.
However, upon inspecting the grassy dunes behind us we witnessed formations of feathers. I was curious to see how well the camera could handle flight so I snapped away.
As we were watching, we noticed that sometimes the flock looked…. different. Eventually I got a photo confirming our suspicions. There were multiple flocks flying around the dunes. Above you can see the Snow Bunting Brigade while below you have the House Finch Posse.
I like the way they’re flying directly at the camera and the complete chaos. Eventually, the sun worked it’s way down the sky and we called it a day. January second would bring a 6am flight to Florida and there was packing to do.