By KAREN RAPOLLA
The Monmouth County Audubon Society will hold a winter bird walk on Sandy Hook on Saturday, Feb. 11.
There are many seasonal varieties of birds that will be sought when accompanied by the experienced guides during the walk. Some of the rare species that have been spotted during the winter season include Snow Buntings, Northern Harriers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Long-tailed Ducks.
The trip will be led by accomplished birders who are very familiar with Sandy Hook and its birds.
The Monmouth County Audubon Society officials believe that Sandy Hook is an excellent and favorite year-round birding location for the New Jersey Coast, with the bayside providing seasonal refuge for waterfowl, while other seafowl and loons reside along the ocean.
“Many species of ducks which breed in the Arctic spend the winter in the area,” explained Linda Mack, field trip leader and past president of the organization.
“They seek protection in the coves along the Hook and usually remain most of the season. In addition, hawks continue to hunt here all winter, and they’re fascinating to watch. And we don’t discount the possibility of seeing some really rare birds,” she said. Snowy Owls are from the Canadian Arctic and rarely seen along the East Coast.
Winter varieties and rarities appear at Sandy Hook each year, making the expedition always exciting as well as unpredictable. In recent years, rare sightings of species such as the Pacific Loon and Eared Grebe, both of which are Pacific, Western birds and not at all common in the East, have made for a memorable moment.
“One of the exciting possibilities about birding at Sandy Hook is the potential for rarities and vagrants. You never know when a truly rare bird will make an appearance,” said Mack.
A favorite among birders in February is spotting a Snowy Owl, Townsend’s Warbler or Long-billed Murrelet.
Anyone interested in participating in the event can meet at 10 a.m. in parking lot near the old Visitor Center. The lot is just north of the old Sea Gull’s Nest restaurant.
The trip is open to both members and non-members of the Monmouth County Audubon Society, and participation is free. Advance registration is not required. Participants should dress appropriately for cold temperatures and windy conditions, which are common along the coast. Binoculars are essential, and a field guide is helpful.
The Monmouth County Audubon Society, a chapter of the National Audubon Society, is dedicated to the enjoyment and study of nature, wildlife conservation, habitat protection and education.
Meetings are held the second Wednesday of each month September through May at the Knights of Columbus, 200 Fair Haven Road, Fair Haven. Guest speakers address a wide variety of nature-related topics, and refreshments are provided. In addition, the group sponsors at least one field trip per month, and members receive “The Osprey,” the club’s bi-monthly newsletter.
Further information can be obtained by visiting monmouthaudubon.org.