A Snowy Owl and More at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Like every other birder in North America, we decided that this winter was the best chance we would ever have to see a Snowy Owl.  So we went to Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge at the Jersey shore, the location near here likely to be the most reliable for finding them.  There were a number of other birders who had the same idea, and the way we spotted the owl was to look across the marsh from where about a dozen cars were parked, their occupants outside with binoculars, scopes and cameras ready.  We joined them.  Fortunately for the bird, she was quite a distance away, probably more than a hundred yards, with water and marsh grasses between her and her admirers. She seemed to be undisturbed by the attention she was getting.

Snowy Owl in the marsh at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Snowy Owl in the marsh at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Based on the amount of dark barring in her plumage, my best guess is that it was a first year female. (If you can correct me, please let me know!)

Snowy Owl, probably a first year female

Snowy Owl, probably a first year female

She spent much of her time alertly swiveling her head from side to side, often with her eyes partly or mostly closed; her hearing may have been a more important tool in monitoring  her surroundings.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

She did take time to fluff out her feathers

Snowy Owl fluffing out her feathers

Snowy Owl fluffing out her feathers

and for some grooming.

Snowy Owl grooming (Checking for under-wing freshness?)

Snowy Owl grooming (Checking for under-wing freshness?)

At one point she looked ready for a nap.

Snowy Owl - yawning?

Snowy Owl – yawning?

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

Forsythe is always a productive birding spot. On this day, Northern Harriers hunted the marshes, and flocks of Dunlins fed together in the mud flats.

Dunlins

Dunlins

Great Blue Herons hunted in the channels along side the road.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

So did a few Buffleheads.

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Seeing this pair of Hooded Mergansers was a treat for me.

A pair of Hooded Mergansers, male on the left, female on the right

A pair of Hooded Mergansers, male on the left, female on the right

Hundreds of Snow Geese flocked together in the ponds and marshes.

Snow Geese at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Snow Geese at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Snow Geese

Snow Geese

Even a dark morph Snow Goose was present.

Snow Geese, with one dark morph bird

Snow Geese, with one dark morph bird

Flocks of American Black Ducks swam in the pools, dipping their beaks just below the water surface searching for food.

American Black Ducks

American Black Ducks

American Black Duck, feeding

American Black Duck, feeding

Northern Pintails fed together in the shallow streams.

Northern Pintail pair, female upper left, male lower right

Northern Pintail pair, female upper left, male lower right

Female Northern Pintail

Female Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail, male

Northern Pintail, male

Northern Pintails

Northern Pintails

Northern Pintails

Northern Pintails

Finally it was time to leave.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

Not a bad day!

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

23 thoughts on “A Snowy Owl and More at Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

  1. Oh Mary Anne,
    What a thrilling set of photographs! If I don’t get to see a snowy owl myself this winter, at least I’ve enjoyed your amazing detailed compositions!
    Congratulations, and thank you!

  2. Oh Mary Anne, what a thrilling set of shots! Even if I never get to see a snowy owl, at least I will have seen your amazing compositions.
    These are all such beautiful, detailed photographs. Congratulations, and thank you!

  3. Sounds like an excellent outing! I’m jealous of anyone who gets shorebirds in the winter. It’s too cold here for them….we have very little open water this year.

  4. If you ever organize a road trip back there, I’m in!! I used to see so many shorebirds in Delaware near Rehoboth, but very few the last several years. Would love to see these guys…

  5. 🙂 AWESOME!!!!!….I went on the bird watching trip with Merc and SLNC…..it was alot of fun and the only one I don’t remember seeing is the Owl….thanks!

  6. What a beautiful picture of a snowy owl! I learn so much from your blog. I am glad to see you are linked up to Bowman’s Wildflower Preserve – a perfect match.

  7. Ever the accomplished naturalist and photographer, Mary Anne! Thanks for capturing the bright side of this cold, snowy winter :>)

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