You have to start somewhere…

5 11 2008

Snowy Owl - Walt Duncan

After a lovely but all too short break back in London, where my parents insisted that I start this blog, I arrived back in the US just in time to start my winter walks for Sunrise Birding.

It was really great to be back in the USA and to catch up with everyone again after a couple of weeks off. The walks are at the point now where it just feels like a load of good friends meeting up for a weekend excursion. Of course as leader the pressure is always on to find something exciting on the day. This weekend however, thanks to my fortuitous selection of Norwalk as the spot to hit, I knew that there would be a magnificent Snowy Owl at Calf Pasture Beach awaiting us. The bird couldn’t have been much more accommodating if it had tried, perched as it was just a few feet away on one of the jettys that surround the pier.

On the day we discussed the age and sex of the bird and my current understanding is that though generalities can be made on assigning gender to Snowy Owls in the field that it is a little more complicated than just heavily barred = female, lightly barred = male. There is an interesting Cornell page on the topic which can be seen here: Here you can see that immature males are not always so easily separated from females in the field. The key features to look for seem to be the amount of barring on the nape and tail as well as the appearance and size of a pale ‘bib’.

Post walk Walt Duncan one of the walk participants sent me the above picture. What a cracker of a bird and what a great capture by Walt. It is easy to see why this stunning and charismatic arctic bird is probably one of the most sought after species by birders (and Harry Potter fans) across the globe.

Hard to really trump that special bird but it was fun to scan through the flocks of passerines looking for something else of note. Also nice to find a good selection of ducks starting to congregate at 14 Acre Pond.  14 Acre Pond is a great place for ducks in fall and winter and is always on my list of stops when I am in the neighborhood (see my Fairfield County Birding Map in the links).

Complete Trip List: Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Great Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egret, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Brant, American Black Duck, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Pintail, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Falcon sp (probable Merlin), Wild Turkey, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, Monk Parakeet, Snowy Owl, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Purple Finch, White-throated Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, European Starling, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Sparrow