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.
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!)
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.
She did take time to fluff out her feathers
and for some grooming.
At one point she looked ready for a nap.
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.
Great Blue Herons hunted in the channels along side the road.
So did a few Buffleheads.
Seeing this pair of Hooded Mergansers was a treat for me.
Hundreds of Snow Geese flocked together in the ponds and marshes.
Even a dark morph Snow Goose was present.
Flocks of American Black Ducks swam in the pools, dipping their beaks just below the water surface searching for food.
Northern Pintails fed together in the shallow streams.
Finally it was time to leave.
Not a bad day!