Too many days have passed without me adding to my Big January 2012 Bird List, so on Tuesday I jump in my car and point the nose east. After watching the weather I chose this day to go since it will be the warmest and sunniest day of the week. A snow storm is predicted for Thursday and on Wednesday the temperature is suppose to drop before the storm. After a great first day of birding on January 1, I am currently only at 32 species for the year, far behind where I hoped to be.
It only takes me about 40 minutes to get to Plum Island but I pull of the road at Joppa Flats and start counting birds. The usual Canada Geese are there.
After watching the eagle and a few other birds for awhile I move my car nearer the boardwalk and get out. The sun is playing tag with the clouds and though the air is warm, the wind is cold.
The ocean is calm and quiet today, barely lapping at the shore and in these azure waters I see red-throated loons 3, 4…6 of them! They paddle along close to the shore and dive underwater only to emerge nearby once again. I watch them play along the shoreline for awhile, then finally turn and head for my car. Time to find more birds!
As I drive along the Plum Island road I have my car windows open looking and listening for birds. Most of the marshy areas and ponds are frozen over and I am trying to decide where I should stop next when I see a flock of turkey in a field near a turnoff called “The Pines.” As I pull in and start to snap a few shots off a group of three people come walking down off the Pines trail. It is a young man and two women. They walk past me and set up their spotting scope as I am attempting to turn around. I look up to suddenly see the young man walking towards me. I roll down my window and he asks me if I would like to see a cool bird. I ask if it is a snowy owl and he says yes. I throw my car into park and jump out!
As he leads me over to his spotting scope I look to see this tiny speck of white out on the dike. Yep, it is a snowy owl and if he had not told me, I would never have seen it! I introduce myself and ask his name. I learn that he is a pre-med student at Colby College in Waterville, ME and his name is Keith. I also learn that he was able to see the Northern hawk owl that has been spotted up there in Palmyra recently.
as we are talking another birder pulls in, asks about the owl out on the dike, then tells us that there is one down on the beach at Sandy Point standing over a duck it has just caught. We all jump in our cars and head down there, though I stop on the way to check out a pond with some ducks. I find a small flock of Northern Pintail ducks, my first ever for Massachusetts and another species for my Big January count. When I finally get to the Sandy Point parking lot I discover that you have to hike in to the beach parking lot. It is gated off. I quickly change into a warmer coat and jump out of my car. I hot foot it down the dirt road to the boardwalk, then pause as some song sparrows hop up on the path. Once I am sure of what species they are, I head on down the boardwalk. As I come over the hill I see Keith and his friends standing by their scope. they are waving at me and pointing. I walk slowly down the trail because I do not know where the owl is and I do not want to startle it. As I step off the boards and onto the sand I turn my head and look. Nothing. I walk a little farther and still I cannot see anything. It is not until I am next to the other birders that I finally see the owl.
Of course, I start snapping away, trying all kinds of settings on my camera.
We all keep our distances. I have to say that no one there got too close to the bird. No one wanted to disturb it, at least, not in our little group. We chat some more and Keith tells me there are hundreds of purple sandpipers across the channel. He focuses in on them with his spotting scope, but they appear as little more than lumps to my old eyes.
With the sun rapidly sinking I decide to head for the nearby rocks to see if I can find some there. We say our good-byes and I head off to the north…
As I head towards the rocks I hope I can find my way back to my car without having to backtrack. I had seen another trail heading off to the beach when I parked, but I have never taken it.
because there in front of me I see a flock of purple sandpipers on the sandbar. This is a Life Bird for me! I walk towards them purposefully, hoping to get a better and closer shot. There is a lot of beach and water between us and them, but as I stop to raise my camera…
Though it is getting darker by the minute I find myself drawn to this peaceful place. I feel it calling me and I do not want to leave, but I also do not want to be caught out here alone in the dark, so I hurry towards the path and jump in my car. I turn up the heater and turn on my heated seats. As I travel the road north I come around a curve where I look up with surprise. There, silhouetted against the almost twilight is a perfect benediction to my day…
I thought my day was already as full as it could be, but that night as I sit in my den with with husband watching TV, I keep hearing a strange sound. I pause the TV and listen. Nothing. I turn the TV back on, I hear it again. It is an odd, almost hooting kind of noise. I pause the TV again. Gus is starting to think I am crazy, but then I hear it again, and though the night is cold outside I open the window next to me and I hear it even more clearly. It is an OWL! A Great Horned Owl! I jump up, grab my coat and a flashlight and head out the door. I have not seen or heard an owl since I moved away from Sycamore Canyon near Tucson over a year and a half ago! I am so excited now!
Outside in the cold night the almost full moon glows. I hear the owl calling from behind the house and so I walk down the street. I am hoping I can find it on a rooftop or in a tree but soon decide it is in one of my neighbor’s yards and I cannot be shining my flashlight back there. So I listen for awhile, and then head home. I am really smiling now. It has been so long since I have heard this wild sound and I am so happy. This makes species number 48! I have added 15 species to my Big January Bird List today! (You can click on the link below to see all the latest updates!)