Sunday, December 2, 2012

Foggy Day Raptors

We drove to New Jersey this weekend for a belated Thanksgiving celebration with Paul's family, and between the festivities, Paul's dad and I found time to continue our traditional (three-years-running) holiday trip to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, a fantastic haven for wintering birds on the Jersey shore. One of the biggest features of the refuge is an 8-mile-long drive along pools and marshes, which allows for close views of the many ducks, swans, and geese (including Snow Geese) that make their winter home in these waters. Or, I should say, this was a big feature.... When we arrived at the refuge this morning, we discovered that Superstorm Sandy had washed away large chunks of the roads, effectively closing the driving loop.

Even without full access to the refuge, however, we were still able to get to some of the marshes via old-fashioned walking trails. The morning was extremely foggy, and though we heard the echoes of distant geese and ducks, these birds stayed mostly beyond our limited sight range. The best part of the visit was when a Northern Harrier came floating out of the thick fog to course low over the marsh:

These raptors are awesome at any time, but there was something particularly cool about seeing this big bird hunting alone in the mist -- this could well be the only bird in an endless marsh:

The Northern Harrier wasn't actually the only bird in the marsh, of course. Several Blue Jays accompanied us on our walk as well, flying low over our heads and making their raucous cries:

We didn't end up seeing a ton of creatures at the refuge, but it was definitely a great experience just to see the marshes cloaked in fog.

On our drive back from the refuge, when the fog had mostly cleared up, we happened upon a very big raptor indeed, perched high above the road:

This Bald Eagle was only minutes from Paul's family's house, an unusualness which made seeing this bird just that much more exciting. The eagle flew off a few minutes after we stopped to look at it -- you can see a green band around this bird's right leg in the next picture, if you look closely:

The Bald Eagle was a lovely surprise to top off another exciting visit to New Jersey.